August22,2015, Euphimia, Cephalonia
Pictures of the Rion bridge and the Melisanni lake in Cephalonia. We have been listening to a BBC recording of reading of CC's Mandolin here in Euphimia. Last night we were serenaded by local and very good Greek singers with bazouki instrumentation, live on the end of the seawall.
Pix in photo gallery.
One cannot help but be entranced by the town name, "Galaxidi". All sorts of celestial images come to mind. In reality it is quite a pretty authentic Greek village with a somewhat delapidated church on the hill but it served us well as a base from which to visit Delphi. The drive takes one up into the mountains crowned by the 2500m Mt Parnassus, which is a winter ski field. Delphi itself lies at the base of some towering limestone cliffs (the Phaidriades) and has outstanding views across the huge valley. The views from Delphi themselves are protected by law. No modern structures are to be visible from the site. Incredible. It probably began in the 14th century BCE and was considered the geographical centre of the world, complete with the omphalos (navel). It flourished between 600-400 BCE with amazing temples, votives, buildings and so on. Travellers wishing to gain advice from the god Apollo bathed in the Kastalia spring, paid a tribute, sacrificed an animal, and then heard the oracles uttered by the sibyl/priestess of the shrine (Pythia). These were interpreted by the temple priests. It seems that the ecstatic ravings of the priestess were induced by the consumption of oleander extract, a well known poison (cardiac glycoside like digoxin). A temple to Athena was also available for the dedicated. A gymnasium and athletic stadium were built for those who had paid the joining fee and monthly instalments. The Pythian Games were held there every four years. For us, it was absolutely amazing to walk the Sacred Way up to the Apollo temple, contemplating the acres of inscriptions chiselled into the stones of the Polygonal Wall and elsewhere. The museum next door was probably the best archaeological exhibit we have visited because of its direct link to Delphi. Restoration and maintenance of the site has been of a high level. The oracle of Delphi was probably wound up in the second century CE under Hadrian.
Back in Galaxidi we sat for a day at anchor whilst a front went over the area. Sustained 30-35kts were tiresome but we did not budge from our position. Then it was on up to the Trizonia island where we again met the crew and owners of Gizmo, a gorgeous and sexy fast catamaran that had shipped from Asia with us on the Lena J. Leaving this island sanctuary at sparrow's, Diomedea headed west for the Rio-Antirrio bridge and the Patras gulf, gateway to the Ionian Sea. The "Rion" is the world's largest suspension bridge at 2.9km in length, like the Anzac bridge in Sydney, only a lot bigger. It cost about Euro630 million to build. Interestingly, the pylons are not buried in the seafloor but sit on laid gravel beds so that they can move in the event of an earthquake. Likewise the bridge deck is relatively loosely bonded to the structure.
We had up to 2kts of adverse current in the 7 miles before the bridge slowing our progress dramatically. There was little headwind fortunately and eventually we cringingly watched as the masthead passed under the span. Our final destination for the day was Ithaca, legendary home of Odysseus, and we made a stern tie anchorage in the delightful Andreou cove on the southern tip of the island. It had been our longest day of passaging for quite some time, 66nm, and we only had 5 minutes of sailing as the wind filled in at the very end. Nonetheless it was good to make the westing as a forecast of big winds to come would have made the trip hard otherwise. Pix in Photo Gallery, RHS.
August17,2015, Corinth Canal
A flat water motor in calm conditions took us from Poros to Palaia (old) Epidhavros. We stern tied in the attractive port against a low cliff. As temperatures backed off, we went ashore for the 15 minute taxi ride to the Doric temple complex of Asklepios built in 380BCE. This temple dedicated to the god of healing was accompanied by a large private hospital, baths and temples to other deities such as Artemis, Aphrodite, and Themis. The imposing amphitheatre was built around 340BCE. It has 13,000 seats and is in excellent condition. It is used today for performances. Sadly none were on during our brief visit.
Asklepios introduced the serpent "python" into medical therapeutics it seems and the snake wrapped around his rod has survived into modern times as a symbol of healing.
This is sometimes confused with the caduceus which is a rod entwined by two snakes and topped by wings. Mythology has the caduceus carried by Hermes/Mercury. This is a symbol of commerce, negotiation and printing. Non-venomous snakes were said to be used in healing rituals at the Asclepion complex. A display depicted a medical record indicating that a young woman suffering infertility attended the temple and was treated with snakes, but we wondered what species. Another Asclepion is to be found on the rather too popular island of Kos, just off Bodrum. This was apparently where Hippocrates treated the ill. All of this is important for us as doctors. The original Hippocratic oath from the 5th century BCE began; "I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods ..." A modern one was written in 1964 with a more secular turn but still referring to God. Yes, written by an American of course. I have, like many others, thought for years that the oath included the phrase, "First of all do no harm.", but in fact the original and modern one do not have this wording. It can be found in a tome from Hippocrates school of medicine I am informed. Nonetheless, it is the exemplary philosophy for medical practice.
This became our penultimate day in the Aegean Sea as we headed off to Corinth for the transit of the famous canal. An abortive attempt at building the canal was made in the 1st century CE but work only really got underway in the 1880s before completion in 1893. The canal is 6.4km long, 21.4m wide at its base and 79m high at its deepest point. It is a maintenance nightmare due to instability of the walls. Vigorously defended by the British, it was ultimately trashed by the Germans during their retreat from Greece in 1944. Repair teams had it reopened in 1948. It always was and is a commercial failure (despite the euro252 we were charged). Irrespective of the chequered past, the 30 minute through trip is very unique and exciting. Just watch out for the bungee jumpers.
With Diomedea in the Corinth Gulf, the new western face of Greece began to reveal herself. Our first stop was the stunning Ormos Dhomvrainos on the northern side. The beauty of this bay held us in her sway for 3 nights as we searched (in vain) for Perseid meteor showers, dived in the mix of fresh water streaming from subterranean rivers into the salt water of the bay, and rode out a thunderstorm. We met the crew of Reflection of Hayling, circumnavigators and OCC port officers. Wonderful folk. The rig cleaning process continued here as well. David has had a nice chemical peel from all the oxalic acid and now looks 20 years younger. Pictures in Photo Gallery RHS of this page.
August11,2015, Idhra island
The density of white caps was increasing rapidly ahead of Diomedea as she made her way towards Seriphos. We had had a pleasant sail after a motoring start but now the wind was building rapidly. The closer we approached the island the greater the breeze. Finally we were sailing along the southern coast in 30-35kts, having furled the headsail just leaving double reefed main up. Blasts from the mountainous interior tore up the water all around. More for practice than anything else we put in the incredibly deep third reef which is designed for storm conditions. It worked really well but slowed us down too much. We slogged into the nicely indented Koutala bay still to find the wind foaming the place into a lather but managed to anchor in what we thought was the relative lee of a small cliff.
Seriphos is famous for its mythology surrounding Perseus, for the alleged muteness of its frogs(?), as a place of exile for Roman politicals, and for a miner's strike in 1916. The island was extensively mined for iron ore and the tailings and factory remnants were clearly visible to us. Unbeknownst to us, the wild winds brought ore-laden dust into our rigging. This was revealed to us a few days later as you will see.
By next morning the wind in our position was steady 30's with gusts into the 40's. Williwaws of water and wind raced across the bay, giving that classic appearance of "smoke" on the water. And all of this on a forecast of 15-20. Clearly Seriphos was a total wind factory. We had to get out. It was thus a rather unusual experience to weigh anchor in such big winds to go to sea. Going around the SW cape of the island was very wild indeed but after we had cleared away by some miles the wind backed off to the 20's and we were set for an awesome sail 50 miles west through the main Athens shipping lane to the island of Idhra on a beam reach. As we had procrastinated our departure until 1.30pm we did not arrive at Idhra till just after dark but we found the delightful quiet Ay Nikolaus bay for the night, awakening in the morning light to find gorgeous limestone crags enfolding us. The water was deliciously clear so we swam and enjoyed our surroundings. It was too good to last naturally, as day ferry boats and various charter yachts appeared with their loads of punters. So for us it was onwards to the pretty village of Limenas Ermioni (Hermioni) on the Peloponnisos. The anchorage is nice but rolly with slop coming down the Gulf of Idhra. The crew of Diomedea enjoyed lunch at a quayside taverna and then walked around the small peninsula with the ruins of a temple to Poseidon. We met another Australian registered yacht, "Amble" and had a lovely chat, getting the gen on our forthcoming destinations, which they had recently visited.
It was a gusty and fluky wind that took us up the Gulf but we still had good sailing in flat water before turning the cape to head north to Poros and trees. Yes, trees. One sees none of these in the Aegean islands so it is a pleasure to view forests once more. A narrow but frantic channel separates Poros from the Peloponnisos. A bit like Swansea channel with its tide races and extensive sandbanks, but with 100's of boats a day transiting its length. Anchorage was made in Navy bay rather than the very congested town quay where boats were rafted up 4-6 deep. Even our dinghy was squeezed off the dock by the press.
It was here that the extent of rust appeared in the standing rigging. You may remember that we had cleaned the rig back in Turkey after the shipping so it was most disappointing to ponder trips aloft once again. Nonetheless up it was with bucket and oxalic acid to remove the rust/salt/grime/dust which had caked everything. Part of the problem with this cruise has been that it never rains. The boat is never really washed despite our efforts with the hose at deck level. Thanks Seriphos.
August7,2015, Paros Island, Aegean Sea
Mythology has it that after Princess Ariadne of Crete helped Theseus kill the Minotaur and escape the Labyrinth, he callously dumped her on Naxos. Despite the amorous intentions of the god (of good living I think) Dionysus, the protector of the island, she either killed herself or ascended to heaven. Ariadne has been immortalised in Strauss' opera of that name.
We could think of worse places than Naxos to be abandoned (read Asia). The crew of Diomedea bundled into yet another magnificent Fiat Punto and ground up the switchbacks of the rather mountainous Naxos interior. After taking in various views we settled in for lunch at Apeiranthos. This town is basically completely made of marble. All the streets are paved in marble. Window arch bars, door jambs, quoins, all marble. In fact much of the island of Naxos seems composed of this abundant resource. Huge mountains of marble have been mined since antiquity right through until today. We visited a closed monastery (EU funded restoration) the Sanctuary of Demeter, (partial restoration) and the long abandoned Khouros figures lying where they were dropped more than 2000 years ago. A short hike took us to a good panorama from a chapel but the real prize was Mt Zas (or Zeus) just over 1000 metres high. After waiting for a morning gale of wind to clear we headed up in the late afternoon for a pleasant ramble to the summit. Endless vistas awaited our eyes and we soaked up the moment. It was most rewarding to look back at one's water track to previous island anchorages.
The planned easy and short reach to Paros proved anything but that. 25 knots of breeze and chaotic seaway made for a testing time, especially as we rounded the northernmost point of Paros. Finally Diomedea was able to turn into the bay with Naoussa town at its head. We chose the Ormos Ay. Iannou anchorage for its outstanding shelter and good holding. As did a multitude of other yachts. Well, it is August, peak holiday season in Europe after all. Pleasant walks led around the bay and out to the lighthouse. We took a short ferry ride to town to inspect the streets, church, and graveyard. The last was remarkable in that every single grave was fully clad in large sheets of Parian marble. Amongst the finest marble in the world it is free of mineral colouration and has a translucent quality. The marble has been used by our good friend Praxiteles (you remember he did the nude sculpture of Aphrodite - see the blog about Knidos) but perhaps most notably it was used in the Nike of Samothrace, which is found in the Louvre today. (Nike is nothing to do with shoes but is "Winged Victory" probably sculpted by Pythokritos of Rhodes in 2nd century BCE )
From Paros we had to decide our further course, whether to dip south to Sifnos or go due west to Seriphos. We foolishly chose the latter.
Pix in Photo Gallery link RHS of this page.
Look at Missing Photos album in the list on RHS of this page. Also new photos for Amorgos .