Sunday, 25 May 2008
Sonia, Jo, Jenny, Mikis and Alexis will remember this story, told to them when they were children by Jim, at dusk, by the olive groves in Corfu. Here's a shortened story for the new generation
Odysseus and his companions were on their way home from Troy, but their boats were blown off course and they were lost. They landed on a small island -nobody there..but they could hear people talking and see smoke on land across the water. Odysseus decided to take one boat and 12 men with him to the mainland. They took with them a goatskin full of wine and other provisions. They found a big cave; someone's home, and waited for them to return. In the evening a huge man, with only one eye (a Cyclops) came in, driving his sheep and goats before him. He rolled a big stone over the mouth of the cave, milked his animals and started to make his dinner. The men were terrified, but trapped. When the Cyclops saw them, he snatched up two of the men and ate them!
The next morning he ate two more of the men, then went out with his sheep and goats, rolling the big stone back over the cave mouth. The stone was too heavy for the men to move. It seemed they were going to all die unless they could think of a way out. Odysseus found a trunk of olive wood that the cyclops used as a walking stick. He and his men cut a p[iece off and sharpened it to a point at one end and then hardened it in the camp fire and hid it in the dung on the cave loor. When Polphemus (for that was the Cyclops name) came back that evening, he ate two more men! Then Odysseus stepped forward offered him some wine, and asked him to let them go. Polyphemus said no, he was going to eat them all, but because the wine was so good he would eat him last. He asked Odysseus his name, and he replied 'I am called 'Nobody'', and offered the giant more wine. Soon he had drunk so much that he fell into a deep sleep. Quietly, the men took out the the pointed stake, heated it up in the fire then crept up to Polyphemus and plunged it into his eye.
The cyclops leapt up and roared in pain and anger, but he couldn't catch the men. The other cyclops living in caves around heard the noise and came running to find out waht was wrong. 'Nobody has hurt me' shouted Polyphemus. 'If nobody has hurt you, we can't help you' they replied and went back to their caves to sleep. Meanwhile, Odysseus tied the sheep in pairs with a man tied under each pair and waited for the morning. At last Polyphemus rolled back the stone, and the sheep and goats trotted out. Polyphemus felt all the animals as they left the cave, but didn't think to feel underneath them. Odysseus kept back the largest billy goat and jumped up under his belly, holding tight to his wool. Polyphemus stopped him and said 'My big ram, why are you last, when usually you are the first to go out in the morning?" Odysseus thought he wasn't going to escape, but the cyclops let the ram past. Odysseus jumped down, untied all the other men, and they ran like hell for the beach, driving the flock of sheep and goats before them.
Polyphemus heard them and stumbled after the men. He tore rocks off the hill and threw them after the boat. The wash almost sent the boat back to the shore, but the men rowed as hard as they could and at last escaped. Their companions were so relieved to see them back again, but shocked to hear what had happened to the six missing men. Dividing Polyphemus' animals between them, they pushed off their boats and continued on their long journey.
Saturday, 24 May 2008
This man is taking his catch along the harbour in Naxos to his cafe. Fresh octopus for lunch.
The little boy lives in this mountain village with his grandparents. Here is with his yayia.
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Santorini is a magnet for tourists from around the world, and there were already plenty of us. The attractions are obvious -its history, the amazing scenery and the style of the towns and villages. Unlike other Cyclades islands, where the little streets are all turned in upon themselves, Santorini's streets and houses are flung open to the sea. They cling to the sides of steep cliffs; many of them burrowing into the rocks, and often there is nothing bwteeen you and a long drop but low parapets. Santorini was the site of the biggest volcanic exposion in human history round about 1500BC, It blew apart the island, leaving the ring of islands, which surround a central active caldera. You can take a boat trip over and bathe in the hot lake in the caldera, but we didn't. Instead, we bathed in the sea from sand the colour of black ash, feeling the water temperature go warm and cold as we moved about. Nothing much grows on the islands except vines, looking oddly as if they are planted in grey ash. Occasionally you get a whiff like burning. But what the island lacks in the way of buccolic beauty is made up for in the architecture of its buildings - rather hobbit like; everything small, rounded and a delight to the eye. Many of them now of course shops,cafes, and tiny hotels
Santorini has a town like Pompeii, only very partially excavated out of the lava that covers it. The site has been closed for three years, and perhaps they are doing lots more excavation work. (perhaps not; we have seen museums closed for 2 years in Greece for minor improvements)
However, there are two great museums where the wall frescos and various other items from this and other lava-covered sites are on display. Many of them very beautiful.
But this is an expensive place, and only so long you can spend admiring the view, so time to move on to Crete, where we'll meet our good friends Rachel and Jim. (They lent us their kagools just before we left Santorini. It is now very warm, and they're probably packed away for good, and just as well. ..We must have been a comical sight; Andreas wearing one much too small, and Sabrina in one much too large!
Unfortunately John we've not seen even a bust of Homer, let alone anything more substantial. And we like the idea that he may have been female but it seems unlikely given the status of women at that time. Can you tell us more about him? We do enjoy reading you writings in the comments bit..so please do write more!
We just learnt how to upload pictures from our mobile, which you will find on the last posting.
Sunday, 18 May 2008
Naxos and Paros, so close together and so similar in size that they are usually twinned in guide books. They are in fact very different: Paros a soft gentle landscape, whilst Naxos is a mass of steep mountains, crinkly at the tops,. Naxos town, where we stayed, is medieaval, built up the side of a hill with 13thC castle and venetian mansions at the top. Every island has an archeological museum, and will tend to have a collection from 2-3 sites, all from around the same period of time. Naxos museum is a cracker. White figurines, the tallest about a foot high, of women, circa 3000BC made of white marble and in near perfect condition. So modern in style, they might have been created by Picasso. Also pottery dating back to 1200-1100BC (Odysseus time); black slip on a pale coloured clay in a wonderful free-flowing style. Mainly of octopi, with tentacles that wave wildly around the pots. Photos not allowed, so Sabrina drew one for future reference.
We hired a little white car, sharing with two young women from Vancouver of chinese origin, taking it up into the mountains and visiting villages there which time has forgotten.. Vanvi remembered having to duck into bomb shelters when the Americans were bombing N. Vietnam, and her family were among the 'boat people', ending up in Canada. Sabrina is currently reading Jane Fonda's autobiography, so we showed her the photos of Jane in Hanoi. Was she a hippy? Sophia asked. Neither of them knew of either Jane or Henry Fonda - fame is indeed fleeting! They offered us thin wafers of seaweed and cashew nut cookies for our picnic, brought all the way from Vancouver. Naxos and Paros are both sources of pure white marble, and we saw the strange site of a mountain cut into vertically, from its pointed summit down a few hundred feet. It looked like a white city.
We decided to spend our last day in Naxos on a beach (it has only just become warm enough to make this an attractive proposition); and took the bus to Plaka, a 2km long stretch of pure yellow sand, backed with sand-dunes. It's a beach where dress is optional; so we slathered ourselves in sun tan cream and made the most of it -hardly anyone else there. So, will post a pic to make you all green with envy when we can unload some memory. Beaches draw us all like a magnet, and give credence to that lovely theory that we didn't come down from trees and make for the caves...(Desmond Morris style). No, we came down to the waters' edges and lost our fur as we waded about in the shallows, babies clinging to the remaining hair on our heads.
So now it's on to Santorini, that most unusual of Islands, where a live volcano still smoulders at its very centre. A great draw for tourists so could be expensive!
Thursday, 15 May 2008
The 10am boat from Mykonos to Paros was another travelling experience for us. A huge catamaran, the first boat we used in the Aegean for just passengers and no cars. It was much lighter and faster. It left dead on time and moved on the calm water as if sucking air and spitting a huge white spray of water from the back. Very smooth, but we wandered how it would feel in much rougher waters? 45 minutes later we landed in Paros and within minutes the Cat was hooting for departure. It is true what they say "... blink an eye and you would miss it!"
The room offering touts were in plethora and waiting for us at the port exit with their placards, some with photographs. At the start of our journey we would have followed our guide book advice and ignored them but after our lucky and very satisfying experience of Mykonos, we were ready for them with prepared questions about what type of accommodation they were offering, where it was, did it have any cooking facilities etc. We again struck lucky with everything we wanted, including transport to the inn, except a kitchenette but a cheap breakfast thrown in instead.
With no cooking facilities, we tried the next door taverna as recommended by our host Alex, a French woman in complete control of the hotel and charm to go with it. We liked the taverna, and the food and the Romanian owner who spoke 6 languages, that we followed our motto of roughing it, and ate there all the three nights we stayed at Paros.
The highlights of Paros for us was the bus ride to Lefkes, a village in hilly central part of the island and a 5km walk from there down to the seaside on a most impressive Byzantine marbled road that was built to carry goods to all the villages from one side of the island to the other. Looked for ancient coins but we were too late. Others must have had the same idea and been more lucky some time ago! Next was the quad bike hire for the following day. The winds were brazing and handling the quad was not easy. It was not a happy experience although it enabled us to visit a number of places that buses do not go, expecially a lovely private museum on the east of the island. It was full of minuture exhibits, all skillfully done by a local fisherman. The acre large yard was full of minute famous churches, ancient temples, oil mills, water mills, ports, potteries, ironmongers, you name it and everything, including the smallest item of such life, was hand made by this fisherman. Inside were some beautifully crafted model boats, ships and trimerenes going back to 500 years b.c.
On the third night we were beaten by mosquitos to b.................... , got up at 6.00am and plunged into the icy sea next to our hotel to escape. We watched the sun coming up and decided to be on our way!!!!!!!!
Naxos was waiting for us. A new experience to enjoy and write about.
Saturday, 10 May 2008
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
Ferry arriving at Limnos at 4.ooam to take us to Lesvos
St. George's day at Therma in Lesvos