Join Thor and me as we go island-hopping to explore new settings for my novel-in-progress. And, of course, check out more beaches for swims in the clear blue seas!
As THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT (the sequel to THE ARIADNE CONNECTION) takes on a life of its own, I realized that I really needed to return to Greece to visit and flesh out new settings important to the plot. My agent agreed, and Thor was enthusiastic about returning, as last year on our previous trip he’d also fallen in love with this beautiful, magical country. He volunteered to return to duty as my driver on some crazy, twisty roads, taking us into the rugged highlands as well as to important archaeological sites. In the coming weeks, I’ll share our experiences, along with cultural and historical tidbits. Here’s an overview of our island-hopping:
All trips to Greece should start with Athens, where we renewed acquaintance with the Acropolis and Parthenon, as well as visiting the impressively massive Temple of Olympian Zeus below it.
My continuing fascination with Dionysos, god of wine, ecstatic revelry, and dramatic arts, was fueled by a visit to the Theater of Dionysos at the foot of the Acropolis. These relief carvings backing the stage show some characters from the plays produced here for the Dionysian Festivals. The god and his marriage to the legendary Minoan princess Ariadne provide an important mythic foundation to my novel underway.
Then it was off to the island of Karpathos, mostly off the usual tourist track, for a chance to explore the villages and rugged terrain. We were welcomed on the road by friendly goats, who roam freely over the island.
We drove some of the those twisty mountain roads to the village of Olympos, where many of the inhabitants maintain a traditional lifestyle and dress. Of course, there is an impact of tourism, but it’s pretty low-key.
This sweet matron has converted one of the traditional houses into a shop to sell woven goods. She insisted on showing me how to wrap one of her hand-decorated scarves around my head, so of course I had to buy it!
And of course, Thor found us a secluded pebble beach all to ourselves, where we could snorkel and enjoy the incredibly clear blue water and sun shimmering over the pebble bottom. He spotted a cracked amphora welded by time to the submerged boulders when we swam to the offshore islet to the right in the photo below. Divers still find lots of artifacts in these seas, so it wasn’t terribly surprising, but exciting to dive down and actually touch it.
Next, we returned to nearby Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands, which we had loved visiting last year. This time we stayed on the opposite end from Rhodes Town, at a small village near ancient Lindos.
And, of course, we enjoyed more swims in the gorgeous, rocky coves. At this cove beneath the Lindos acropolis, we found a sea cave to swim into, which was suitably mysterious with the flickering lights and shadows.
We made a trip to Medieval Rhodes Town to pick up ferry tickets for our next leg, and I was able to visit the old Turkish cemetery and the Villa Kleobolus, where Lawrence Durrell lived during the reconstruction after World War II.
Rhodes harbor with its old windmills:
A sunset ferry ride took us to the island of Kos, where Hippocrates taught his new principles of medicine, and a healing center was established to continue his traditions. The ancient Aesculapion, high in the green hills above Kos Town and overlooking the sea, is a wonderfully tranquil spot that indeed feels healing. It plays an important part in my new novel:
Thor had an important mission to visit the Plane Tree of Hippocrates in Kos Town and collect some leaves for a former student, now a botanist doing a study of plants in different environments. We enjoyed the lovely town, which seems to flow gracefully around a wealth of ancient and medieval sites.
Kos, at the midpoint of our trip, was the occasion for some R&R and a splurge on a luxury hotel with an amazing view from its rocky hilltop. When we arrived, they treated us to an upgrade to an even fancier room with its own private infinity pool. We tried not to get spoiled….
Naurally, we had to swim out to the little islet below at Kefalos Beach, next to yet another ruin….
A day trip via a local boat took us to the nearby island of Nisyros, an active volcano on the same line as Santorini, and hiked down into the crater that’s still steaming with sulfur vents.
Afterwards, we wandered the island’s small village, where we found this example of classic island choklakia, black and white pebble mosaics.
Next, we returned to Naxos, the island where Theseus abandoned Ariadne after she’d helped him escape the Minotaur in the labyrinth. But this is the island of Dionysos, and he found her there and married her. They raised a large family, and when she finally died, he set her as a star in the heavens. The famous Portara, the portal of an unfinished classic temple, is usually considered to belong to the god Apollo, but some scholars as well as the local people feel it really belongs to Dionysos, since he was the patron god of the island. It’s an impressively massive portal, about 30 feet high.
Naxos is another important setting for my novel underway, and we wanted to explore the rugged interior, so we set out on more twisty, narrow roads high along the north coast. (Thor: “Just don’t tell me how far down it is over the dropoff!”) We visited the biggest kouros on the island, an unfinished statue still lying in the marble quarry. Again, it’s usually considered the start of a statue to Apollo, but local signs identify it as a bearded Dionysos.
A lovely Roman mosaic on the roof of the town museum:
This year we had cooler weather than last year, with a lot of wind and some rough seas, which might have been the residue of Cyclone Zorba, which wreaked havoc around Athens and through the Cyclades. Luckily we avoided the actual path of the storm until after it had passed, but the sea at Naxos was still churning:
A lovely refuge of quiet in the center of the island was the sanctuary of Demeter:
Our last stop was Mykonos, a brief stay to take a boat trip to the nearby sacred island of Delos, center of trade and worship in the ancient Aegean Cycladic islands.
It was an impressive city stretching across the barren island, the first tax-free port in the area, at one time housing 40,000 inhabitants. Now no one is allowed to live there except a few archaeologists who so far have unearthed only about a third of the extensive complex of houses and temples.
I was thrilled to see the famous Delos lions who guarded the sacred Way:
We climbed the steep hill to visit the Temple of Isis from the Egyptian pantheon. Apparently all gods were welcome to have a temple here.
But the island was chiefly dedicated to Apollo–god of light, reason, and music– and his twin sister Artemis–goddess of the hunt and wilderness– who were born on the island.
Please join me here every Saturday, as we explore the nooks and crannies, and history, of these beautiful islands!
You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available 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 Chanticleer Global Thriller Grand Prize and the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from another research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter at www.sarastamey.com