My day started with Yanna poking her beautiful smiling face in my bedroom window.
Give me 5 minutes. Please make the plastic coffee.
Plastic coffee is take away and it was delicious.
Up and out of Vathi over the mountain to the next village with absolutely stunning views of the next harbour and the next and the next. The azure blue of the sea is hypnotic and a good distraction from the small winding road.
Suddenly we were in Stavros. A really lovely village and waiting by the monument to Odysseus was our walk guide, Ester and a group of 5 Italian women who were sailing around the Greek islands from Bolonga. It transpired that one of them was an archeologist which was very useful for this walk. And she had very good English.
The walk was a 4 hour return hike to the archeological site of Homers School where he supposedly taught the art of story telling and writing. Putting Homer in context, he wrote some 400 years after the Trojan Wars, the stories of which had been kept alive by oral storytellers until the arrival of the alphabet. So Homer in effect brings Greece out of the Dark Ages.
For me the context is also one of place. Having been to the supposed Palace of Agamemnon in Mycenae last year, the prospect of finding Odysseus’ palace on Ithaca is equally enchanting. Of course I’m aware that there are many that say the whole thing is a myth and that none of it existed. And while that may be true, for me the fascination is of Agamemnon walking up the palace entrance to reach his demise by the hand of his wife, Clytmenestra, a grisly tale told in Sophocles’ Agamemnon and Aeschylus’ The Orestia and Odysseus returning home to find his dog, his nurse and Penelope, each with a distinctive response to his arrival. Euripides Cyclops has a humorous bent to the saga.
While the palace at Mycenae is huge with its Lion Gate and cyclops stones, the supposed Palace of Odysseus, very rudimentally excavated and far from universal archeological acceptance, is very small and perched high on a hill overlooking two harbours. However as we discovered, after taking the 300 year old donkey track up to the summit, there are some distinctive Mycenaean characteristics. There are cyclops stones, there are beehive tombs and the ruins indicate small storage areas in the lower part of the complex. And significantly there is a Linear B tablet honoring Odysseus not only as a King but as a god which indicates the existence of an Odysseus cult.
Sadly all excavation has now ceased and even the most recent archeological dig is quickly becoming a ruin. Some significant artifacts havebeen unearthed and there is a very small museum dedicated to displaying some of the findings. So despite the contentions from whoever and wherever, this journey to Homers School and The Palace of Odysseus was a great day for me. Beautiful scenery, intellectual stimulation, great exercise and terrific company. Many of you would absolutely love this trek. Perhaps next time.
As a P.S. Our guide has chosen to live in Stavros because it is a fully functioning Greek village. It certainly is charming.