Monastiraki, Athens, Greece
43mm ISO640 1/80 f/8
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Ithaca – a jewel of an island
Not an early start this morning, but we set out from the picturesque port of Vathy into a perfect day of sunshine and blue skies, with strands of mist whispering to the mountain. We quickly climbed aboard the coach, in time to get good seats with extra legroom and set off up the mountain. It was Hairpins R Us, as the driver took 3-point turns to get round some of the bends. There were a few anxious squeaks and squeals, but the views were worth it.
Our first stop was at a monastery, unfortunately closed, but the location gave a splendid view over the port of Ithaca and we could see our liner bobbing about like a toy on a shiny pond. The goats were funny – big ones, little ones, black ones, whiter ones and every size and colour in between, running about everywhere, clinking and clanging like Tubular Bells on crack.
After driving over the narrow isthmus that links the two parts of the island we arrived at a village that clearly showed the ravages of the 1953 earthquake in scary scenes of ruined buildings and broken lives. A village that previously had a population of more than 1500 now has only 20 permanent inhabitants. Although the earthquake left most of the building in ruins it left the church, with several marvellous old frescoes, intact, apart from downing the top of the bell tower, which has since been restored.
We moved on down the hill to the crossroads village of Stavros, an ancient meeting point for the exchange of goods between the North and South of the island. It was a beautiful village, with a fine state of Homer, looking just like Ted before his haircut. I think Ted has lost his heart to this island – no police, no crime, virtually no traffic. As Billy Connolly once said of the Scottish Highlands, there’s hee-haw but scenery.
A short stagger up the hill brought us to the island museum, whose displays of reconstructed shards from various digs showed the timeline of human existence on Ithaca. An enthusiastic lady curator explained the significance of the findings and waxed lyrical about a particular piece which she assured us proved the authenticity of Ithaca as the home of Odysseus. Perhaps Ithaca isn’t the best place to debate this.
Another half-hour of hairpin twists brought us down the other side of the island, overlooking sparkling waters of aquamarine and turquoise, with picture-postcard rocky beaches, unspoiled by buildings. The only dismal aspect of the journey was the occasional glimpse of broken hamlets, distorted and emptied by the earthquake. Swooping seagulls and soaring buzzards searching out food in the herby thorngrass of the pine-dotted slopes created an ever-changing movie over the heavenly-blue background of the Mediterranean skies. Maybe I’ve lost my heart a little too.
The first part of the day was rounded off by another delicious Greek taverna meal, sitting in the sunshine at the water’s edge, where there was no trace of oil or debris, paradise indeed. (Karmanie)