This summer it’ll be five years ago that I visited Santorini for what then I thought was the first but now suspect was also the only time. I didn’t know the poetry of Odysseas Elytis then even though he had won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1979 and I did – twice! – graduated in literature. Admittedly, neither of those degrees was in Greek literature but you don’t study literature, in any language, in a vacuum, and my ignorance of a Nobel Prize winning poet seems preposterous in retrospect.
Of the Aegean
The poem below – published in 1939 – marks the beginning of a long poetic career. Given that this was the beginning, does it come as a surprise that the poet won the Nobel-Prize in literature?
I didn’t want to write anything yesterday: for some inexplicable reason, I was feeling blue. So I went to read some poetry and I found this:
…like sapphires in colour, only that it is paler and more closely resembles the tint of the water near the sea-shore in appearance.
(Pliny the Elder: Natural History, XXXVII.56)
I don’t know about you but at around this time of the year, I invariably reach the point when I could murder for sunshine, flowers and the ability to go out without a coat.
(Not to mention it’s Monday.)
So what we need right now is a little sunshine:
Wishing you all a happy sunny Monday! (Click on the images to enlarge.)
Hills are a natural choice as locations for some of the most beautiful structures mankind has ever erected: castles and temples, statues and palaces, lighthouses and crosses – I’m sure you all can think of many stunning examples. Today, in response to Ailsa’s weekly travel theme Hills on her blog Where’s My Backpack, I thought I’d share with you some of the hills I had the good fortune to climb in the Mediterranean. And I chose these particular hills for one reason: what people chose to build on them.
The Old Town of Toledo
The old town of Toledo was built on a hill which is almost fully encircled by the River Tajo. This view shows the Roman bridge across the river with the Alcázar of Toledo topping the crest of the hill. For this view alone, Toledo will always be one of my favourite cities.
Packing for a late season holiday? Or stuck in the office yearning for the sun-drenched Greek islands? Whichever it is, here are nine books you should consider:
Today, a trip down memory lane – in more than one sense. First, the last time I saw the place we’re going to visit (when I took the photos) was in 1988 – I hazard the guess that a number of you weren’t even born then. Second, this is (or was then) a place forgotten by time and the world. And finally… photos from thirty years ago: look at their quality! That is, their lack of it (admittedly not helped by the scanner).
Since so many of you seem to like black & white pictures from around the Mediterranean… 🙂
No pictures of the Acropolis, I’m afraid, because – would you credit it! – on the day we forgot the camera. On the other hand, sacrilegiously, I dared to turn Santorini into black & white. Continue reading “Greece in Black & White”
“The most expensive lunch I’ve ever had in my life,” is how my husband refers to our visit to the island of Santorini – possibly the most photographed tourist destination on Earth – in the summer of 2013. The lunch in question, ferry tickets included, cost us some four hundred pounds. “But it was worth every penny,” he adds.
Today’s miscellany is a picture of some jars. In my defence, they’re beautiful, big enough to fit a fully grown man inside (a certain king comes to mind) and 3500 years old.
What kind of a book would a chain-smoking former Special Operations Executive officer write? A man who at 18 had thought he had nothing better to do but to walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople with a volume of English verse and Horace’s Odes in his pocket? A man who felt equally at home in shepherds’ huts and in aristocratic palaces?…What kind of book?!
And English readers, who know exactly whom I’m talking about, here answer in unison: a travel book, of course.
A travel book, yes. Er… sort of.
The archeological site of Knossos, near Heraklion on the island of Crete, was discovered in 1878 and excavated by Sir Arthur Evans from 1900 to 1935. The palace of Knossos was the centre of the Minoan Civilisation and was abandoned towards the end of the Bronze Age. There’s a theory that the Minoan Civilisation collapsed as a consequence of the explosion of the volcano at Santorini, with the ensuing tidal wave destroying the low-lying coastal areas of Crete and volcanic ash falling over the island; there’s another theory that the Minoans’ downfall was brought about by large scale Mycenaean invasion (who destroyed Troy too). Or you can take the two in combination – how the Minoans, weakened by the consequences of the volcanic eruption, were unable to resist the invading Mycenaeans.
Buenos días • Bongu • Bon jour • Dobro jutro • Καλημέρα (kalimera) • Bon giorno
- Sunrise over Barcelona – Photo by Andrew E. Larsen via Flickr
- The military band en route to the changing of the guard in Valletta
- Sailing boat leaving the harbour of Marseille – Photo by blandineschillinger via Pixabay
- Sunbathers on the Adriatic coast near Trogir – Photo by Mária Dobi
- Table laid for breakfast in St Thomas B&B, Athens – Photo by St Thomas B&B
- Tourists on their way to St Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican, Rome – Photo by Mária Dobi
With thanks to the Facebook page of jotdown.es for the idea of a photographic Good Morning.
If you’ve ever been to Greece, you know that the Greeks are both hospitable and friendly. (They’re also not averse to take the clueless foreign tourist for a ride, but that’s another matter.) And one of the surest way to win their hospitality is to make the effort and speak a smattering of Greek. This generally holds true in any country, by the way, and the more obscure the language, the more your effort will be appreciated by the natives. Take this as travel tip of the week. 🙂
Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
There, swan-like, let me sing and die.
Lord Byron: The Isles of Greece
The Temple of Poseidon was built in 440 BC, when Athens was led by Pericles. The first temple on the site, dating from the Archaic period, was destroyed by the army of Xerxes during the Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC. If you need help to imagine what the temple might have looked like, the Temple of Hephaestus on the agora of Athens was built at about the same time, possibly by the same architect, and is in a much better shape.
Cape Sounion is a promontory on the southern tip of the Attica Peninsula, not far from Athens. You can reach it by coach from Athens taking either the coastal route or an inland route passing by the ancient mines of Laurium (whose silver enabled Athens to build its famous fleet). According to legend, Cape Sounion is the spot where King Aegeus threw himself off the rocks, giving his name to the sea in which he died. Cape Sounion is also famous as the location from which to watch the sun set over the Aegean Sea. There is a path leading down from the temple to the bay below and you can finish your visit with a swim in the crystal clear water. (Shame about the ugly hotel.)
On the northern beaches of Crete, such as Ammoudara, the several kilometres long wide sandy beach directly west of Heraklion in August you see the red flag flying – forbidding swimming – almost every day. (Not that anybody takes the slightest notice.)
The beach is fully exposed to the meltemi.
The Ship with Black Sails: How the Aegean Got Its Name
After King Aegeus of Athens lost a war to King Minos of Crete, Athens had to send seven young men and seven maidens to Crete every nine years to feed the Minotaur – the half man-half bull monster kept in the labyrinth at Knossos. Eventually, Aegius’ son, Theseus, volunteered to go to Crete and slay the monster. With the help of King Minos’ daughter Ariadne, who fell in love with him, Theseus succeeded in killing the Minotaur and escaping from the labyrinth.