There is a sea, the Aegean, which bathes chapels and beaches with light, sparkles with a thousand-year memory, and goes away. All in all, happiness is a simple thing. It is this revealing and maternal light that, like a call from the forest, binds us. Greece is a magnet of thoughts and poetry, one state of mind which, overbearing, also seduces you from the pages of Greek islands, lay prayer to life and to blue. In Greece, faced with so much grace, so much harmony, we just have to whisper the invocation of the Greek Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis (1911-1996): “Oh, God, you use so much blue that we can’t see you.”
A new “Odyssey”
In that blue we get lost gently because from there myths and history merge, as the texts of Chrysanthos Panas and the images of Katerina Katopis-Lykiardopulo also recall. The Athenian businessman, collector and philanthropist, leaves aboard the sailing boat Aetos together with the photographer, a woman of multifaceted genius with her lives as a marathoner and aviator. Theirs is a circumnavigation of islands, more or less known, and antiquities in which, as Eugenia Chandris writes, in the introduction «the only constant is the intense blue sea all around. The spirit and soul of Greece are linked to this crystalline water, to the white of the breaking waves and to the sunny slopes of the mountains constituting a sort of Polynesia ». To expect the unexpected. Aetos goes between roughness and refinement and the Aegean is the measure of all things with the Cyclades, the islands in a circle around Delos, sacred to the god Apollo, a bridge between West and East. The journey of Chrysanthos and Katerina is an Odyssey that pushes us to leave, in a charge of energy accumulated for millennia and between horizons so perfect that they become familiar.
Tappe a Serifos, Sifnos, Folegandros e non solo
After Athens, stop in Kea and Kythnos, oasis of simplicity, Serifos and Sifnos, up to Folegandros, where the Phoenicians landed at the beginning of the first millennium BC, perhaps for a stop at kalasounapie filled with onions and cheese, or for a pasta dish trouble. The Greek islands are about 6 thousand, of which 227 are inhabited: all different, each rock a personality, a cuisine, its own white, its own declination of philoxenia in opening the doors to the guest, under the gaze of Zeus, perhaps as Katerina does who in Anafi, in her Balcony to the Aegean, every morning makes you find fresh bread and honey that smells of wind. The variety of landscapes, faces, traditions are a further richness of a land, Greece, always lavish. Everything is in an extra-large version. As the linguistic Odyssey of Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) had also shown. One day the poet is on Mount Taygetos, in the Peloponnese, and sees a flower. He asks some children what his name is and no one knows. Then, a little boy claims that Aunt Legnò knows that name. But, when Kazantzakis with the child knock on Aunt Legnò’s door, they discover that she is dead: not only the woman has disappeared but also the name of a flower and she who knows how many others. From that day the poet began a journey between the villages of Crete, where he was born, and the Aegean islands, to transcribe the words of things destined to perish, names of flowers and plants, the lexicon of peasants and fishermen, of the simple people. Whoever saves a word, saves the world. And, in the same way, the glimpses, the faces that Katerina fixes in her lens are a legacy to find peace. On board the Aetos, there is room for everyone: «it is a journey through the history of the world and towards self-realization. Even when it’s done, it offers us the opportunity to enjoy all the pleasures life has to offer without any sense of guilt. It is a dream come true, a poem filled with the breath of the wind, salty flavors and sparkling waters. It amplifies the beauty of life and is enough to convince you that life, as a whole, should be treated and enjoyed as an interminable Greek summer ».
Andar for monasteries (in Patmos and Amorgos)
In the Aegean, animated by the winds, annoying at times, but you learn that this also means freedom and the passing of time, infinite are the pearls: Milos, Kimolos, Amorgos, with the monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa, or Patmos, with that of Giovanni Theologian, or Chios, the island of the mastic, up to Kastelorizzo or Hydra, loved by Leonard Cohen. It is time to raise the sails in this dense, sparkling, prophetic Aegean, on the wave of the eternal verses of the Nobel Giorgos Seferis (1900-1971): «The sea swells slowly, the shrouds boast and the day softens. / Three dolphins sparkle black, the gòrgone smiles, and a sailor beckons, obliviously astride the cage mast ». Forgotten and happy like us, under a Greek sky dotted with stars.
Greek islands, Chrysanthos Panas, Katerina Katopis-Lykiardopulo, Assouline, p. 312, €95