Cross Section through a Cross Section through a Cross Section through a
Rainbow Rainbow Rainbow
Athens, Corfu, and Rhodes Athens, Corfu, and Rhodes Athens, Corfu, and Rhodes
We arrived home from Greece via New York and St. Louis about noon on Monday. It’s two A.M. in the morning Tuesday, and I can’t get back to sleep. Jet lag from eight time zones has my body thinking that its about ten in the morning. Might as well do something useful. Maybe I will write a report of the trip. Why not?
A Starting Place
As our 29th anniversary approached in 1996, we began to
plan something special for number thirty. Adventure doesn’t come easily, so we began looking for a place for two weeks at one place or two places relatively close together where we could trade two timeshare condominium periods and get back-to-back weeks in the spring of 1997.
I like beaches and had never been to Africa, but nothing was available in the whole Pacific area or in Africa. We decided not to look at Canada or Mexico just yet. We looked at Europe and decided to concentrate in the warmer Mediterranean region. Nothing that fit our requirements was available in Spain or Portugal, but we found back-to-back weeks in Greece - a week on Homer’s Corfu followed
by a week on Rhodes with a day or two in Athens.
This sounded good to me. In the summer of 1962, I had flown out of the US Air Base at Athens as a young Navy aircrewman. It would be interesting to see how things had changed. It had been tough duty - living on Glifádha Beach on the Apollo Coast, visiting the royal palace in Athens, seeing the Evzone guards, climbing the
Acropolis, and walking through the Parthenon. I had also visited Corfu, taking Oúzo and mezédhes under a big oak tree, and had
flown over the islands of the Aegean. The books of Lawrence Durrell had been read in the 60’s and their fire still smoldered. This would be
an opportunity to look at present day Greece from a different
perspective in education and philosophy and to contrast the realities of the present with the memories of the past.
Reflecting on my all-too-short stay in Greece, I had two poems from 1962. One poem describes Glyfáda Beach. The other poem describes a portcall in Corfu now called Kérkyra. Considering the political changes in recent years, it would be interesting to see how Athens and Corfu had changed in thirty-five years and to compare present day Greece with accounts from sixty and 150 years ago.
In the shade of a large oak tree
near the customs house
the Venetian-style new fort looming overhead
we listened to Greek music at a mesedhopolía
feasted on a pikilía of mezédhes -
feta cheese, dried squid, roasted lamb,
and sampled licorice-flavored oúzo to excess.
We were anchored off the commercial Port.
The Pindus mountains and Albania,
an ancient and Cold War adversary,
lay just two kilometers across the strait.
carl July 62
Four thousand years of
poets and kings
trod this beach.
Their eyes have feasted on
hills covered with oak and olive trees
good anchorage in the Saronic Gulf
fair country girls
as they approached Athi'nai from the south. Forty civilizations spilled their blood and seed
on this beach and on these hills.
I came as a warrior
but my summer was spent in peace
in a small family hotel
on the shore looking south
and west across the Gulf.
Up each day to catch the morning, awakened by the soft knock of the maid
who left croissants, jam,
and tea on a terrace.
Alone in the pastel dawn
I watched the sky soften
and the fog lift
Seeing the yellow and white Caroline
anchored a mile off shore,
I wondered if Onasis
was joining me for tea,
waiting for the sun,
listening to the gentle slap
of wavelets at the changing of the tide.
I watched as fishing boats returned silently
oars and nets shipped.
Baskets of squid and cuttlefish
were the reward
of those who correctly answered
the nymph’s question,
"How is it with Alexander?" “He lives and reigns still.”
My war went well
as I dressed for the day's flight. Like Icarus of old
we strapped on wings
and chased the wind east
to Keá and A'ndros
to Sa'mos and Ephesus
north to Ankara
over forested mountains
to the Black Sea beaches.
We raced the sun west
across the Bosporus
down the fields and pastures
of the Ergene Valley
to Xanthi and Dráma.
Banking left, we drifted southward
across the Gulf of Thermaikos,
across the bottomless blue Aegean
under a cold clear blue sky,
over rocky islands and narrow beaches
of oúzo and retsina,
slabs of white feta cheese
fried fish cakes with garlic sauce
beneath spreading oaks,
bif stek and stuffed grape leaves
in tavernas where no Greek was spoken
and drachmas got dollars in change.
Overcast nights were like
a large room with carpeted walls.
Warm breezes filled with the smell
and the sea
as lights of the Caroline
disappeared into the dropping mist.
I waited on the beach
for the dawn
when we would fly again.
Carl July 62
As homework, I reviewed my 35 year old 35mm slides of Greece and read several travel guides including Baedeker’s Greek
Islands, Fodor’s Greece, The Real Guide to Greece published by
Prentice Hall Travel, and Mainland Greece by Victor Walker. I
listened to the Berlitz Greek language tape several times and
relearned a few terms and common phrases. I reviewed reading
Greek and read parts of Homer’s Odyssey and the epic poem, the Argonautica, about Jason and the Argonauts whose author, Apollonius Rhodius, had lived on Rhodes for years.
I tried to find books on the wildflowers, seashells and birds of
Greece with little luck. I eventually found Peterson’s A Field Guide
to the Birds of Britain and Europe and the Collin’s Pocket Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe plus a couple of big coffee table books of European birds. For plants, I discovered Mediterranean
Wildflowers, a Complete Guide to the Plants of the
Mediterranean Area. I looked at Sea Shells of Western Europe by
Bouchet, Danrigal and Huyghens, the Compendium of Landshells
by Tucker Abbot and the Compendium of Seashells by Abbot and
Dance. Tom Rice’s shell catalog offered distribution information.
For modern historical insight, I read Hans Christian Andersen’s A Poet’s Bazaar, recounting a trip to Athens in 1841 and Laurance Durrell’s books, Prospero’s Cell and Reflections on a Marine
Venus, on Corfu (Corcyra) and Rhodes respectively.
Checking with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) I got their latest anti-terrorism briefing and found the terrorist threat for Greece to be moderate.
I checked the medical area intelligence reports for Greece, Turkey, and Albania in the Monthly Disease Occurrence (World- wide), reviewed the Disease Vector Ecology Profiles (DVEP) prepared by the Defense Pest Management Information Center, and called the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) Malaria Hotline. Everything looked like it should with the exception of hepatitis A for which we got an Imunoglobulin shot.
Reservations had been made in September and had gone through numerous minor changes prior to tickets arriving in March. The only significant change was thatTWA no longer flew to Athens.
It’s 3 AM and I’m still wide awake. Maybe a little
more typing will put me to sleep.
Off and Running
I got back from a business trip to Albuquerque about midnight on Wednesday, the second of April. I unpacked, washed clothes, and packed up again for the trip to Greece. We were up at 0400 Friday morning ready to go, but the taxi that was supposed to pick us up at 0430 called at 0435 that they would be a half hour late. Our son drove us to the airport a little after 0500 for a 0710 flight. Since there had been a number of changes since the tickets were issued it took almost an hour to rebook everything. This was completed by 0615.
Cool mist accompanied us off the runway. Dense clouds hid the ground all the way to St. Louis where we changed planes. Takeoff from St Louis was delayed half an hour for a Muslim man who refused to be seated until his three Muslim women were properly seated. He would not allow them to be seated next to men.
Over Indianapolis the cloud cover broke. I could see a trailer park with the trailerhouses arranged in circles like big silver flowers waiting for the next high wind. Snow still covered the fence lines and streams of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
We landed at JFK about 1330 and had a four hour layover. A half mile trek through oval precast concrete corridors as big as a 747 took us from gate 23 to 37. Carol dozed while I watched people and airport operations. I even got to see a supersonic Concorde land.
Loading began about six in the evening, and we leapt into the dusk heading north and east for Gander, Newfoundland. We would be east of Paris for sunrise, then to Rome for a change of planes.
After sunset the Hale-Bopp comet was visible in the northwest.
Saturday morning, I woke south of Geneva to the sight of snow covered peaks and fog-bound valleys of the Alps twenty thousand feet below.
The Alps from the Air
Those narrow twisting roads
through steep, green valleys
around snow capped peaks
of mile-high mountains
present a different aspect
when seen by Phineas Fogg.
Days of driving
in thin, crisp air scented with evergreens
took minutes in sterile shirt-sleeve comfort.
Alps from 30,000 feet
We continued over rugged mountains east of Turin towards Genoa. (The Genoese had raided Corfu twice in the 15th century.)
Early morning bluegreen water of the Mediterranean contrasted with the snow covered Maritime Alps, the tan beaches of the Italian Riviera, and red tile roofs of San Remo and Monaco. There appeared to have been recent rainfall with brownish eddies drifting parallel to the coast.
The little beach
below the Prince Albert Museum
spawned a magic maid
with long black hair
who tossed stones into the water
so her full-size poodle would let us talk.
over a cold sweet vermouth.
As we passed over the northeast corner of the Ligurian Sea towards Pisa and Livorno, a hint of Corsica appeared faintly on the horizon under thin clouds. The outside temperature at 30,000 feet was about -55?F, and the numerous aircraft contrails showed no jet stream and little wind. Contrails were caused when the heated jet exhaust provided condensation nuclei and water vapor to form long, thin man-made clouds.
The Italian coast slid under us, and we continued southward down the coast of Tuscany over a solid cloud blanket. The approach into Rome took us out over the Tyrrhenian Sea. We turned east and