Friday, September 21, 2012

Kythera: first impressions

As I drove off the ferry and onto Kythera this was the first thing I saw.  An omen?  A portent of further disaster?  A metaphor for Greece and its future?

Fortunately as the road climbed steeply away from the harbour there were better first impressions to savour; vast empty tracts of rocky wilderness edged with mountains between which, here and there, I caught glimpses through gorges of the distant lazuli sea. Kythera is untamed and largely empty.  There is plenty of evidence of the land having been managed in earlier times but the abundance of long abandoned and ruined stone walls, sheepfolds and shelters bear witness to the fact that no agriculture, baring some goat-herding, apiculture and, in wind-sheltered valleys, olive cultivation, has been practiced here for generations.

Architecturally Kythera is as much Italian as Greek; a legacy of hundreds of years of a Venetian presence on the island.  The narrow twisting alleys, vaulted ceilings and arched windows and doorways of Kythera, the town, have more in common with those at Bari, in southern Italy than they do with anywhere I have been on the Greek mainland. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

ελευθερία (Freedom!)

For far too long I have been chained to a hedonistic merry-go-round. The cause of this not unpleasant state of affairs has been the summer.  Always long and hot here in Greece, summer this year has seemed to me to have been as consistently exceptionally hot for as long a period as I can remember through the fifteen summers I have been resident here.  Short periods of ‘heat wave’ with temperatures rising for day or two above blood heat are normal but this year temperatures have remained in the high thirties and low forties for weeks, from the end of June through to the beginning of September.  My visitors, my family, revel in  the endless sunshine and round of beaches, cafés, bars, tavernas and nights that go on well into the following mornings.  So to an extent do I,  but there comes a time when enough of a good thing is enough; when the mind of a man craves something greater than a permanent state of addlement and his corpus a rest.  To ease a return to a more interesting, fuller, life I have taken a holiday.

I am spending this week recovering in quiet solitude near Neàpolis on the far south eastern tip of mainland Greece.  I had planned to return home after six nights but am so seduced by the ambience of the area - many believe that hereabouts is Homer’s land of the Lotos-eaters - that, instead of driving home, I have booked a one-way ferry passage to Cythera, Aphrodite’s island!