Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Delphi and destinations

There's a sense of no return for us in going westwards through the Corinth Canal.

Looking into the Saronic gulf, from the end of the Corinth Canal quay

Business beyond the canal

The canal is opened by submerging the road bridge

Follow the boat in front - and keep moving

The exit 

As we motored out into the gulf of Corinth, we marvelled that it had taken us this long to make for Delphi. At various times we could have done with a quiet word from the oracle, but perhaps no more so than now.

The valley leading from Itea (in distance) up to Delphi

The Athenian treasury (restoration) at Delphi, looking east

Temple of Apollo 

We'd often talked of flying to Greece in the winter months, of seeing Delphi without the heat and the crowds. But in the end we'd chosen to go elsewhere. I'm glad we finally made our approach from the water, escorted into the port of Itea by dolphins. That beats arriving by rental car any day.

The theatre at Delphi, looking towards the temple of Apollo
Delphi is one of those Big Places you can't really have to yourself anyway. It belongs to the world - the ancient Greeks believed it was the centre of the world. It's still a magnet for those seeking self-enlightenment, but the pilgrims who now make their way up to the mountain sanctuary by tour bus need to be told why they're there, and what they've come to see. Mass cultural tourism doesn't persuade me. I suspect it offers more benefits to those who sell product than to those who buy. But perhaps I'm judging others by my own pitiful powers of concentration - I can never listen to a tour guide for more than a few minutes without my brain slipping into some kind of sleep mode.

Museum pieces at Delphi (and below)

Delphi is the last of the ruins, at least until we get to Sicily. We've missed so much in Greece. I understand this even more acutely because I've just finished reading a biography of the 19th century archeological impresario Henry Schliemann. He dug up Mycenae on the Peloponnese, but it's for excavating Troy and its gold that he's mostly remembered. I stumbled across The Lost Treasures of Troy, by Caroline Moorehead, in a second-hand bookshop in Datca, a town better known for its almonds, olive oil and potatoes than as a literary trove. But believe me, finding such a shop in provincial Turkey was akin to unearthing gold.

Apollo statue from Delphi

The town of Itea is quiet in the late afternoon. The summer heat has kicked in and people take the siesta seriously. But today there's an extra reason for catching up on a bit of sleep. A lot of people were up very late last night watching the World Cup game between Greece and Ivory Coast. The blaring of car horns and whoosh of sky rockets way after midnight let us know that Greece had won.

Bus station on main street Itea

There's a hot southeasterly wind pushing us around on the dock. It'd be nice if it stuck around tomorrow. Typically, the wind in the gulfs of Corinth and Patras comes from the west, and you're up against it if you're pushing out towards the Ionian sea. That's our general direction, but we have a lot of our mind at the moment, anxieties generated from home.  We're not sure how far we want to travel and in what time frame. To keep things simple, we think we'll stick around in the Ionian longer than planned. No hardship.

Phone call from Delphi to Sydney

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Cross purposes

The anchorage on Serifos is far below the old town

I left you in the middle of the Aegean, mumbling something about unstable systems.  We've moved further west, we're down one crew as of yesterday and there's a smattering of foreign attitude on my computer keyboard (alphas, betas, epsilons and the like, of which more later) - but most surprisingly, the air is yet to settle into summer predictability.

Greece vs Spain

I suggested to Freddy that he add "Aegean crossing, east to west" to his CV.  Surely, I reckoned, it would count for something in the corporate jostle...near enough to a Tough Mudder? He will have his own take on that, but when he jumped ship yesterday morning, bound for Turin, his own mother was anything but tough. A real cry baby.

Back on the road

Our route from Naxos to Athens was pretty direct, via Serifos and Poros, and though you wouldn't know it from the inclination of the grinder in the photo below, we had some good fast sailing with moderate to strong winds coming out of the north. A very poor showing on the part of the Greek dolphins however, with only one sighting the whole way across.

Freddy flat out

Enki tracking nicely towards Poros

In Poros, we tied up alongside on a stretch of public dock which, in a de facto fashion, is the preserve of the charter fleet of Greek Sails, but only if they can keep other boats off it. They were happy to have us parked there until Friday when their boats come in, and in this case, our size worked to our advantage. Doing them a favour really (a nice tip from Bunny and Bill of Onset).

Yachts and fishing boats on the Poros dockside

Looking the part is important for some

Navplio, seen from a bastion of the Palamidi fortress
Poros is just across the water from Galatas at the top of the Peloponnese peninsula. This is Mycenean territory. The stupendous citadel of Agamemnon, who commanded the fleet which sailed to Troy to win back Helen, is just over the hills, the same formidable hills which hold the acoustically perfect theatre of Epidavros. I'd set my heart on seeing both these places. Navpoli, where the Venetians built a fortress which runs down the spine of a steep rocky outcrop like scales on an armadillo's back, was a bonus. It's a town for those in the know, I suspect. Freddy, ever alert to a wifi connection, informed us that the director-general of the BBC lives in Navpoli. Who would have thought?

Looking up towards Palamida fortress from the lower Akronafplia fortress
Venetian lion over the gate of Akronafplia fortress 

Epidavros was the pre-eminent healing centre of the ancient world
The athletics stadium at Epidavros and theatre (below) - part of the cure

The Lion Gate at Mycenae 

The entrance to a subterranean acquaduct in Mycenae 

The graves at Mycenae emptied of their treasures (below)

The Poros channel is narrow, but you couldn't pay me to get in that water with its rich notes of raw sewage. To offset the smell, the town has a down-at-heel languorous charm. Ferries, fishing boats, mega-yachts, water taxis.... traffic slides along the channel from early morning till way past midnight. Shades of Venice.

From the aft deck in the Poros channel

On the Acropolis
And so to Athens where, against all odds, we have been caught out by weather. Yes, I know. It seems improbable, this being mid June and Enki being tucked inside Zea marina where nothing, you might imagine, could rattle your peace of mind. But on Sunday, it was close, sticky, hot. Clouds were forming, but we didn't pay them enough attention, and didn't close the ports (the side windows) when we left the boat to go into Athens to the Benaki's Piros annexe (for contemporary art).

That inattention is something we deeply regret. As we came out of the gallery, we heard the thunder.

Resident of the ancient agora of Athens

The storm was vicious and quick. Alex made record time coming back on the train, but the damage was done. Two computers and a phone found swimming on the nav station table and a lot of rainwater in places where it shouldn't go. One computer and the phone were resuscitated, the other computer is confirmed drowned. Ouch.

Drying out

This being Athens, we found a new computer with an English i.e. qwerty keyboard, overlaid with the Greek alphabet. A souvenir. Better than the pictures?

The temple of Hephaestus in the ancient agora

The new Acropolis museum

Before the opera at the Odeon of Herodes Attica (and below)

Old fisherman watching the World Cup  - a regular still at 86

Freddy discusses betting strategy with the bar owner (right)

Without Freddy around we will probably forget to follow the World Cup. He kept us on our toes. Back to cruising, I guess.

Raki o'clock

Ancient sites are an acquired taste (and below)

Here for a moment only