Sometimes I think about what it would be like to be Greek. To have been born on a random island or a section of the coastline, where ancient bronze statues wash up on the shore on a regular day. Every hill around your home village would be an alleged birthplace of some son or daughter of Zeus’ seventh wife. The olive tree in your backyard would have been there when Aristotle was a little boy. Your grandfather would have grazed his sheep on a field where the Greeks once fought the Persians.
The island of Naxos has a lot to see – you could easily spend several fully packed weeks here. This time we only had a day to tour the island on a rental car, but we managed to get a very nice glimpse of the island. We headed east, over the hills, from Naxos town. The further we got from the rugged coastline, the greener and lusher the landscape became.
Our Cycladic adventure had begun from Paros, and now we arrived in Naxos after only a couple of hours’ sail. Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades islands. The main city goes by the same name but is often called Chora (chora means simply “town” or “main town” and there are many Choras all over the Greek islands). The town is situated in a large bay on the northwestern corner of the island, nestled behind a small island with the ruins of Apollo’s temple on it. Between the temple island and the town is a small anchorage, and that’s where we decided to drop the hook.
Archaia Epidauros or Palaia Epidavros, whichever is the official name of the place, was a significant harbour throughout ancient times. According to Homer, it supplied 25 warships for the Trojan war. Today it’s a small fishing village, with a sheltered marina and some tourism. The more popular Epidavros, particularly known for its huge theatre and sanctuary dedicated to the god of healing and medicine, Asclepius, is located about 10 km inland.
The most famous sailor to ever roam the Mediterranean sea was, no doubt, Odysseus. All of us later colleagues have heard of him, and in many ways travelled in his wake. Odyssey, the epic poem of Homer, is a story about a war hero trying to find his way back home from the Trojan war (around 1192-1184 BC). He was the king of Ithaca, and it took him ten years of adventuring to make it back. There are many candidates to every place depicted in the story, including Odysseus’ home island. Some have placed his Ithaca on Kefalonia or Lefkas.
Delphi was once the centre of the world. According to the legend, the Cretans came here with their god Apollo, who had taken the shape of a dolphin, and built the first temple. But the dawn of Delphi’s history goes back much further. Somewhere in the mountains, there was the cave of Gaia, Mother Earth, where the predecessors of Apollo’s priestess Pythia performed their sacred rituals.