Since my 4-month backpacking trip around Greece–ahem, 35 years ago–I have been longing to return to this magical land of myth, history, and dramatic landscapes. Life always seemed to intervene. So Thor and I decided to celebrate our ten-year anniversary as a couple with a trip to Greece, perfect timing since I needed to research additional settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT. Since many of you enjoyed my blog series about my original trip, I’m launching a new series about my new Odyssey, alternate Saturdays here at Book View Cafe. Some things change–I’m no longer up to carrying a 40-pound backpack for months and sleeping on hard stone–but the beauty and wonders remain eternal. And yes, the Parthenon had scaffolding around it 35 years ago; reconstruction efforts are still underway to save and restore this iconic temple to Athena.
Today I’ll give you a brief overview of our 3-week rambles from Athens to the islands of Rhodes, Santorini, and Naxos, and finally a pilgrimage to the ancient center of the world at Delphi (near Livadia on this map, on the mainland northwest of Athens).
Thor had never been to Greece, so he was awestruck to be standing beside the Parthenon–“It’s so big!”–atop the Acropolis in Athens. We had arrived in time for a heat wave, and were very glad we’d climbed to the top when the site first opened in the morning. One of my favorite images on the Acropolis is of the Caryatids (these are reproductions; originals in the museum).
The Athens Archeology Museum holds incredible treasures, like this archaic marble Kouros, larger than life.
And the famous bronze found in the sea (one of the few bronze statues that weren’t melted down after the fall of Greece and Rome). Originally it was thought to represent Poseidon, god of the sea, possibly hurling his trident, but now experts seem to be leaning toward identifying it as Zeus, king of the gods, holding his (missing) thunderbolt.
The museum had many wonderful fragments of Minoan frescoes. This famous image is one I have visualized as the original Ariadne from Crete, who gave Theseus the thread to find his way from the labyrinth after he killed the Minotaur. She inspired my own near-future Ariadne character in THE ARIADNE CONNECTION.
Next we flew to Rhodes, only about 30 km. from Turkey, where we stayed in the Medieval walled city.
I love the beautiful white-and-black pebble mosaics (some old, some new) everywhere on the island.
We rented a car to explore the large island, and were happy to find that the roads were very good. The ancient city of Lindos, with its own acropolis rising over the deep blue sea, was a must-visit.
Another quick flight to Santorini (the island of Thira), where whitewashed towns cling to the cliffs of the caldera created when the original circular volcanic island erupted in 1450 BC, creating a tsunami that pretty much wiped out the Minoan civilization here and on Crete. You simply cannot escape the incredibly dramatic views everywhere you turn, and the hordes of tourists from every country are snapping millions of photos every year. It’s worth braving the crowds to experience this wonder of the world.
No trip in Greece would be complete without a sea voyage, so we took a ferry to the next island, Naxos. Since key scenes of THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT take place on this island, it was essential to visit it and soak up the setting. This is the island where ungrateful Theseus abandoned Ariadne after she’d saved his butt in the labyrinth on Crete. Lucky for her, Naxos was the home of Dionysos, god of wine and revelry, and his charms soon made her forget her former beau.
For Thor and me, no trip to the Greek islands would be complete without visiting the some beaches for wonderful swims in the clear blue sea. The clarity and lapis/amethyst blue must be experienced to be believed!
The old town of Hora overlooks the busy harbor on Naxos:
One of the many things I love about Greece is that everyone seems to love cats. Here is one of the many strays living among the marble chunks shoring up the harbor, where people put out food and water and come to visit and pet the strays. In the background you can see the famous Portara, the marble gateway to an unfinished temple of Apollo.
The ancient images are still being copied, like this large sphinx in front of the government building in Hora on Naxos.
The last stop was a vital pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Delphi above the Gulf of Corinth. The site of the ancient oracle that influenced rulers and common people alike for hundred of years, the rugged landscape in itself stirs awe, as the dramatic setting for the ruins of temples, treasuries, and statues from numerous Greek city-states. The remains of the central Temple of Apollo dominate the site, which the god of light and logic took over from the more ancient earth goddess, the original Pythia who granted the oracular visions.
The Athenian Treasury building has been restored:
Below the main sanctuary are the haunting fragments of the Tholos of Athena, on the site of the much more ancient original earth-goddess worship:
More treasures in the Delphi museum, including the famous Charioteer bronze statue:
Delphi, and Mount Parnassos nearby, are also important settings in THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT, so Thor and I explored the mountain and the nearby valley and seaside as well as the sanctuary itself. The Korykeian (Corycian) cavern is one of many caves in this limestone landscape, and the realm of the fierce Corybantes, the women warriors in my novels. This cavern is thought to be the location of Dionysian revels in ancient times.
On our last day in Greece, we took the scenic route along the shore of the Gulf of Corinth, winding up and down the rugged landscape, and chanced upon this thousand-year-old monastery, wonderfully preserved and continually active up to the present day. The monks make a living by selling honey and olive oil. It was a wonderful last moment of tranquility and quiet, as we gazed out from their hillside, over their valley of olive trees with not a sign of modern “civilization.”
If your appetite is whetted for more armchair travel, stay tuned for the first Athens installment in two weeks. “Chairete!” (Rejoice)
You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest novel from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: THE ARIADNE CONNECTION. It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?” The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Just returned from Greece, Sara is continuing work on the sequel, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT.