Anchored under the sublime temple of Poseidon at Sounion Head it’s not hard to imagine Aegius anxiously scanning the seas for the black sails that would signal the safe return of his son Theseus from Crete. Sadly the silly boy got everything muddled up and hoisted the wrong sails, his father interpreting this to mean that his son was dead hurled himself off the cliffs to his death into the sea 65m below. The temple does look stunning with the last rays of the sun and a half moon rising above. We think the temple was closed (May Day or a strike), we saw no people milling around the site, yet still there was a car park full. A coach arrived and disgorged its passengers. They snaked their way down the path to the sea shore and then settled as birds on the rocks gazing out to sea. There was an uncanny stillness not often evident in humans who tend to fuss and fidget. It was slightly unnerving. They sat still on their perches, faces to the sun, immobile, communing silently with nature, it was almost cult-like in intensity and uniformity. After about 40 minutes they arose as one and filed their way back to the coach.
We have been back in Greece and on the boat for about 15 days. While still up on stilts in the boat yard, we discovered that all the batteries needed to be replaced, there was torrential rain on day two when a hatch leaked and woke me up wet and unamused, then a storm when I was convinced that the boat was going to come off its stilts and crash to the ground. However that is all a distant memory, the sun is shining and we have begun our exploration of a new area towards the Northern Sporades via Evia.
We were in Aegina for a few days before Noel and Malcolm arrived and got to know its winding streets a bit better and squirreled out the good shops.
It’s the random snippets of life that I enjoy so much. The visit to the Cathedral with its massive brass chandelier, rimmed with images of saints, happened to coincide with the blessing of a child. The couple sat quietly at the back cradling their sleeping baby while an old lady in worn and wrinkly grey woollen stockings lit candles and the rich chanting of the priest mingled in the air with the coloured light. The bearded black clad priest intoned over the child and carried him aloft as the sun shone through red and green circles of coloured glass as he approached the altar.
We have had some great meals, discovered a green called ‘armira’ which looks like seaweed but isn’t, tastes like spinach and is delicious simply with the addition of lemon and olive oil. We have eaten delicious breads, shrimps, aubergines and skordalia, beetroot with skordalia, anything with skordalia - Recipe on application. It’s yummy and we had a good stab at this on the boat between Aegina and Sounion – see picture
Noel and Malcolm arrived by sedate ferry from Piraeus to Aegina and left six days later from Poros on the rather more speedy, insect like Flying Dolphin hydrofoil. In that time we visited a variety of anchorages and ports. We hired a funny little car; he promised us an open top. We all had our own fantasy of what that might be. However when it arrived it most definitely wasn’t. We insisted he honour his promise and he scooted off to return with our open top which turned out to be simply a sun roof – well I suppose that is open and it was very useful because after visiting the beautiful temple of Aphaia and having a delicious lunch on the waterfront at Perdika, we were able to collect our new gangplank and it was funny seeing it arrive sticking out through the sun roof.
The Temple of Aphaia is in a beautiful setting among fragrant pine trees on the north east of the island. Legend has it that Aphaia, a daughter of Zeus and Carme jumped into the sea off Crete to escape the lascivious attentions of King Minos and emerged here in Aegina where she hid in a cave on the site. I have read, and must check out sometime, that Aphaia, the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion Head form a triangle. But is it equilateral or isosceles? I the great mathematician will find out! Later we returned to a favourite anchorage called Russian Bay and Noel swam – the first swim and the bravest of us all.
We went to Paliao Epidhavros. The smell of the citrus blossom at this time of year is striking and intoxicating. We walked through orange, lemon and grapefruit groves to the ancient amphitheatre there, not to be confused with it’s much bigger and grander relative up in the hills behind which seats 15,000 people and has perfect acoustics which we enjoyed along with masses of chattering and hand-clapping school children and singing Swedes. I have to admit that when the crowds had thinned out a bit I had a stab at singing and for some reason chose, ‘My love is like a red, red rose’, I’d pitched it too high but I was committed. It was all a bit nerve wracking but quite an experience to feel the sound resonating in this historic place. Anyway back to the first theatre - on our return, we saw a grizzled old chap working in his orchard of citrus and I asked if we could buy some oranges. He beckoned me in and bade me pick my fill and then refused all recompense. This kindness and openness we have experienced a lot. It helps that we are trying the language. Once we do, and create a thread of relationship we are talked to more openly about the politics and the hardships of the moment. I am reading about the history of this land, about the forced repatriation of Greeks from Anatolia, about the expulsion of Muslims, of the war when thousands starved and the Jews were persecuted and sent to death camps in Poland, of civil war followed by dictatorship and now the difficulties being experienced by ordinary people that lead them to despair of a political system that they see as corrupt. They feel powerless and some so desperate that they wonder where they can go to build a better life. I have read fiction and now I am reading fact in the book called Eleni by Nicholas Gage about his mother who was shot by the communists in 1948. It is harrowing, so much is set within our lifetimes, and it makes me wonder how on earth I would manage in such a situation; all she was trying to do was protect her five children. When you are fighting a common enemy it is clear and simple but when the war is within and the ideology of both sides’ extreme, ordinary people are caught in the middle. It’s happening in so many places, we are a very lucky people.
The moon is full and Andy, for the first time in five years is worrying about tides. Unusually, there is a strong tide through the straits at Khalkis that for some reason we have to negotiate at night but not on a Friday! Oh and we saw a shark yesterday, yes it was small but its’ fin and tail were very black .............. du de du de ....................................
Selkie Dancer on Stilts
Capacity 15,000 !!
Noel & Malcolm arrive by sedate ferry
Drama at Aphaia
“The hydrofoil arriving at platform one is for Athens change at Piraeus”
Not a shark .. A flat fish inspecting our anchor chain - 5 metres down in very clear water
… all gone !!