Ithaca

Aug 29, 2018 - Sea Cloud


Early this morning we sailed into the deepest harbor of the Ionian Sea, on the island of Ithaca. It is named Vathi, which means “deep”—and indeed it is not only the deepest but also one of the most beautiful! At the entrance to the harbor sits a tiny island, Lazaretto, with a church on it.

As we listened to our Greek guides narrating, we realized that this was once upon a time the home of Odysseus, ruler of the famous kingdom of Ithaca. So here we were on an island that we know from Homer’s epics—it was incredible to think of this! The story of him fighting in Troy for 10 years, then traveling for another 10 to reach his homeland—and all during those years, his wife Penelope was faithfully waiting for him! This story took place in the 13th century BC and survived, at first, through word of mouth. Yet we still know it today.

We drove around one of the high mountains of Ithaca, Mt. Neritos, from where we were able to gaze down into the port of Vathi, where National Geographic Sea Cloud was anchored. We visited a monastery from the 17th century that was filled with Byzantine icons and frescoes. From a nearby bell tower, we enjoyed a glorious view over the harbor of Vathi, mainland Greece, and the nearby island of Cephalonia.

We followed a mountainous road that led us to one of the oldest villages of Ithaca, Anogi, meaning upper land. The village was built so that it was tucked away from the view of pirates. We were lucky enough to meet the village’s local priest who handed us the key to open up the oldest church on the island which was filled with frescoes from the 14th century.

From here we drove along windy roads to the village of Stavros from where we were able to view the three coves of Ithaca as mentioned in the Odyssey. One can just close the eyes and imagine the world in which Odysseus lived! We saw a model of a building dating from the time of Odysseus. We enjoyed Greek coffee and ice cream while gazing at the view around us, and some of us tried the local rice pudding often offered at weddings.

In the afternoon, we listened to a great presentation on photography followed by tea, biscuits, and more ice cream. As the sun set and the light became more incredible, we enjoyed a Greek dinner buffet on the open deck and listened to music from Zorba the Greek played on the piano.

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About the Author

Laura Giannola

Cultural Specialist

Laura grew up on the island of Corfu, and after high school lived for extended periods in England and Germany. She completed undergraduate studies at the National Guiding College and worked for a number of years as a travel agent on Corfu. She has been guiding visitors to Greece since 1997, often guides VIP guests of the Greek government, and also conducts archeological tours for the municipality of Athens. Her knowledge and effervescent manner have made her a great favorite with our guests.

 

About the Photographer

José Calvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Nicknamed “Indio” (Indian) because of his powers of observation and quiet nature, José has almost two decades of experience working as a naturalist and photography guide; as well as being recognized as an expert birder and nature photographer in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity — over 893 bird species have been recorded in the country. Since very young José spent all of his free time in the outdoors in the forest, where he soon fell in love with the birds. He particularly enjoys listening to their calls, and watching their behavior. Oddly enough, another one of Jose’s passions is science and technology, and because of this, he was among the first in Costa Rica to experiment with digital photography. As the technology quickly improved so did his love for it.  He truly believes that nature photography is the perfect combination of both of his passions.

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