‘Tis beauty truly blent
An intense shimmer has been my overwhelming view of recent days. Yesterday’s sunset glowed with apricot and violet and the shifting sea glistened with turquoise, amber and liquid silver. We camped under the stars right on the edge of the beach and felt the pull of the deep waves and the chill of the dark night, watching the intense and shining galaxy above our heads. The milky way stretched out before us in infinite and flowing whorls , blinking constellations of mighty wonder, and we felt the humiliity of our existence before such vast chasms of time and space. Now the sun casts a heavy golden stream, a passage, from horizon to shore while the sea laps tongues of midnight blue and opalescent green. The glinting greens of tree tops are burnished with a bronze and copper warmth and the horizon reflects the summer haze in a gentle and iridescent ivory grey.The colours of the water, nature and light here are so vividly intense and challenging and our panoramic view so encompassing that I am grateful to return to the unbroken white of painted walls and sheets of our room . In fact we have spent several hours abed today resting our eyes and recovering from our exertions
We visited the sanctuary of Olympia, home of the Games ,which flourished from the 10th century BC to AD426 and imagined the excitement of the oiled competitors practising their skills in the gymnasium, wrestling in the Palaestra in punishing heat, then thronging the entrance to the stadium past the sixteen bases of zanes, pediments paid for by atheletes who had been previously fined for cheating at the games. At that time the river Alpheios flowed fully up to the site and bubbling streams filled an arrangement of massive and ornate troughs and bowls dedicated to The Gods by Herodes Atticus for use by competitors, spectators and worshippers.
The most compelling monument of Olympia for me was the enormous temple of Zeus, built by Libon between 470 and 456 BC. The huge Doric columns now lie in atmospheric tumbled piles, weathered wheels of granite, felled by a huge earthquake in the 5th century AD. Inside the cella was the gigantic statue to Zeus, created by the mastercraftsman Pheidias, a chryselephantine monument of gold and ivory, looted and dismembered centuries ago. Pheidias’ workshop remains with his tools in the museum, together with lumps and fragments of most beautiful green and pearlised glass that he had made. Over the remains of the workshop, now stands the remains of a 5th century AD Byzantine basilica. The site is shaded with majestic leafy trees including sacred oaks, the trees of Zeus, towering olives , for the winners’ headgear, giant maples and sweet cypress. It is an altogether magical place and strongly resonates the intensity of its social and cultural significance for the ancient Greeks and Romans.
A trip to the Neda waterfalls was equally intense but very much colder, the icy temperature of the milky green waters coursing down the mountainside is an excellent tonic to revive the spirits of the weary traveller. The journey both up and down to the waterfall is not one that your mother would enjoy, as the vertical mountainside sheers so frighteningly to a deathly drop that you are obliged to grab hold of the treacherously wobbly wooden handrails offering entirely unstable support. Huge and unhelpful nails protrude from the wooden steps to scrape at your flip flops and scour the undersides of your cork wedgies. Undeterred, you climb up and up the limstone crags and then down and down the slippery stones until you are faced with an uncompromising choice, either jump into the deep green and icy pool or.. turn back.. we jumped in.. Brilliant ! Freezing! Temple throbbingly fantastic. The teens jumped in again, I sculled the water gently, marvelling at the elements around me, the rushing white water, the implacable crags, the verdant foliage,the glassy pools , reducing the temperature of my ears to well below zero. Then we climbed up another leeringly vertiginous chasm, a mere footfall from certain death up to a tiny chapel nestled in the limestone, complete with tabernacle, icons, candles to light and Madonna and babe. Incredible. Further along was a hermit’s cave, its entrance, an ill-advised two feet from the edge of the sheer drop-off. Quickly, I took in the experience and returned to the relatively safe embrace of the freezing-cold pool and icy waterfall.
After recovering from the drive home and having many large meals and long sleeps, we decided to take the speedboat out to the Island of Proti, about 20 miles away from the harbour. When it was my turn to take the wheeI, I began to hugely enjoy the un-encumbered road way of the ocean and learnt to skim and skirt the billowing waves, weaving in and out of the swell with increasing confidence and speed. We saw two huge loggerhead turtles on that trip, one in the harbour and another on the ocean wave.
After motoring along in a jaunty and zig zag fashion for about an hour, we arrived at a beautiful bay and were able to see with absolute clarity the shoals of tiny shining fish, waving sea fans and reeds, anemones and urchins and a looming wreck inhabited with all manner of sea growth and a perfect home for the shyly glittering larger fish. We dropped anchor and swam ashore. It proved much further to swim that we had imagined, by the time I arrived, so had two boatfuls of sunworshippers with their excitable children , then a large boat load of divers also turned up and delightedly dove and bubbled all over the shipwreck.
Tonight we bid farewell to friends with a last supper and begin the long process of packing away and transporting ourselves and some delicious home produced extra virgin olive oil, Kalamon olives, marmalades and liqueurs, via ferry and landcruiser through Italy, Switzerland and France, homeward bound to England.
Cheerio from Kyparissia!