Tag Archives: Greece

Update #1: Adriatica 2011 – Mission accomplished, returning home

Some five weeks ago I departed from Murter, Croatia, to sail south to the inland sea of Levkada in Greece…

My sailing yacht Helena, a Beneteau Cyclades 39, is very easy to handle and performs well, including the Genaker, one of my trip gadgetsthe ultimate toy. Top speed we reached was 8.7 knots sailing downwind surfing from the waves, faster then the 7.8 knots we reached with the Genaker. I am speeding I think as she was never pushed to before.

The other gadgets are my BBQ – used well – and a Go Pro high definition wide angle video camera. Only my MacBook is not speeding as I wished due to the installation of a Croatian Internet Stick. So I do feel crippled this sailing trip and I cannot upload any of the video’s made.

After 5 weeks one of the lessons I have learned is that I am now an internet addict officially. So my the gadget for my next sailing trip will be  a high-speed satellite internet connection mounted to the boat :-)

Trip Summary

Since last Tuesday I am heading home, after having thrown my anchor at Ithaca, home of King Odysseus, the ultimate destination of my Odyssean Trail, so time for an update.

The Castle of Odysseus on Ithaka

The Castle of Odysseus on Ithaka

From tomorrow I will be heading back to Croatia. But I have learned from the classics and know never to rush things and unplease the Gods like Odysseus did. So I will sail via Puglia in Italy, enjoy the Italian food and maybe sacrifice some of it to the Gods before returning Helena to Croatia.

Croatia

Of the first 2 weeks in Croatia worth mentioning are the waterfalls of Skradin, Ancient Split with its palace of Diocletianus, Hvar still the Ibiza of the Adriatic and Stari Grad, the BBQ in a bay in Lastovo, brutely disturbed by a thunderstorm  (Lastovo was forbidden to enter until the end of the 1990’sand we anchored left to departed submarine bunkers and VHF monitor buildings), Sipan (I will retire there once), and Dubrovnik and Cavtat (Port of Entry) in Croatia.

Weather conditions where light the first week and brilliant the second week where we had 28 knots of wind between Hvar and Vis. Fantastic to sail so much wind just in your shorts. Of the 2,5 weeks in Croatia, only one day was with rain. We did get some anchor showers though

Montenegro

In Montenegro I have visited Kotor with it’s immense city walls from around 1500 and also Tivat, where a superyacht marina is being build currently. Nice to be provided with a personal naval assistant.

Perast and the islands “Gospa od Skrpjela” are impressive. Perast was in ancient times the maritime center of the Venetian Empire and the church on one of the islands served as votive center for seafarers.

I see Sveti Stefan as the highlight of the country. Similar to what celebreties of the 1950’s like Sophia Lorenz thought. It attractiveness declined after the death of Tito and the civil war of yugoslavia but now it is being restored to it’s previous glamour. The visit to Montenegro ended in Bar, where we left the country.

The weather was not in favour of us in Montengro, although always sunny and around 28 degrees, we had no wind for almost 1,5 weeks.

Greece

Corfu Town was the first city we touched in Greece. It was good to be in Greece but the bureaucratic system is something you don’t want to have to deal with. It took me 4 hours of waiting and formalities to enter the country with my Croatian ship. Later it took me about 2 hours to pay 88 eurocents of taxes in some obscure tax office.

After Corfu town, our destination was Ay Stefanou. A very tranquille bay to anchor and come to strength after the crossing from Montenegro (circa 175 nautical Miles, about 50% of the time 15 – 20 knots of wind from the back). Via Gaios on Paxoi (or Paxos) we arrived at Levkada itself.

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Last week it was my intention to have a more holiday oriented week with low profile sailing, just to digest the almost 800 nautical miles already sailed in the first 4 weeks. Finally time to do some decent snorkeling and firing up the BBQ. But also reached my destination: Ithaca.

After Ithaca and having visited the ruins of the castle of King Odysseus (one of the 3 possible locations on the island, not to mention other islands) we went to the Bay of Pandelimon where a Dolphin family was entertaining us during the evening and the next morning. It was the first time I have swum with dolphins.

Weather conditions in the last week was top, no wind in the mornings and around 14:00 the Gods switched on the wind and we got 20 knots of wind almost every day.

Captain Corelli in Greek Cephalonia

When sailing around the Levkas area, anchoring in deep blue bays, hopping around the mountainous islands and mingling with the locals, you don’t think immediately of war and the cruelty people can do to each other in such times. When reading “Captain Correlli’s Mandolin” by Louis de Bernières you will be confronted with life during war and associated crimes in this area based on true facts.

The Facts

tanks-on-the-acropolis-in-athensIn the Second World War the Ionean island Cephalonia (Nisos Kefallínia) in Greece (close to Levkas & Ithaca) was occupied by 9,000 Alpine Acqui soldiers of the Italian Fascists army in 1943. Greece, although a totalarian state at that time and more a partner of “The Dark Forces”, was betrayed by Mussolini who was desperate in need for some success after several fiasco’s in Africa. He didn’t succeed in Greece alone by the way and the occupation of Greece by Italian and German troops was the result.

After Italy was defeated by the English around 1943, the Italian troops in Cephalonia refused to hand the island over to the Nazi’s. For seven days the Italians fought the Germans until eventually the remaining soldiers of the Acqui division, around 6,000 men, surrendered and were betrayed by the Nazi’s and executed, it is said on Hitler’s personal order.

The killing of 5,500 Italian soldiers and nearly 500 officers is thought to have been the second-largest murder of prisoners of war during the Second World War, ranking alongside the infamous 1940 Katyn Forest massacre of Polish army officers by Soviet military police.

One of the last survivors of the massacre is Salvatore Di Rado, now 94, who lives in the Abruzzo region of central Italy. He told in the newspaper Il Messagero that he was lined up in a firing squad but the bullets missed him. “I was saved by the body of a comrade which shielded me. I stayed still under all the bodies, pretending to be dead, and then when darkness fell, and the Germans went away, I hid in the scrub, suffering the agonies of hunger and thirst. But I was alive, and farmers on Cephaloni later gave me help.”

The Novel

captain-corellis-mandolinThe novel by Louis de Bernières deals with the above mentioned occupation and historic events of Cephalonia and adds the love affair between the Italian captain Corelli and the young Greek girl Pelagia during the second World War and the arrival of the Germans and the Communist resistance. This book has been laureated and at the end made a movie of it. Although the movie does not have the depth of the book (again the book is so much better), is hard to watch completely after having read the book, the movie does show you some good shots of the beauty of the Greek islands as a book never could do (but a visit would).

Personally I found the book one of the best novels I have read for quite some time. Besides love as a main theme in the book, as a romantic always good to read (and visualizing Penelope Cruz as Pelagia, well casted I would say), it also clearly provides an image of the horrors of war and what it does with people, weak people becoming in power because of the gun and the bestialities in them that open up and what they are then capable of when suppressing civilians. The book also gives you insights in the occupation of Greece in the second world war and the Civil War after WWII had ended of which I was unaware.

Some links for further reading:

History of Greece: two relevant articles, the first on Greece in the Second World War and secondly on the Civil War in Greece after WWII. The role of the Communist partisans in Greece presented in these page are certainly not in line with the view of de Bernières by the way.

The Telegraph – Investigation into massacre which inspired ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ reopened: In the article some actual news is given on the prosecution of the ones held responsible for the slaughter of the Italians on

The Random House – Captain Corellis Mandolin: The publisher  The Random House provides a summary, short analysis of the themes of book of de Bernières and an interview with the author

IMDB – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin: The movie with Penelope Cruz and Nicholas Cage has been rated a 5.8 on the IMDB


Day 2: Sailing from Kalamos to Sivota

Big City Kalamos

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Kalamos is just such a very relaxed, low speed, easy island. The name Kalamos is said to be coming from reeds. If you see the stony island, you know for sure there has to be some very distant explanation for that.

Some people argue that the origins from the name of the island came from the inhabitants flewn from the mainland from a more swampy area. But a more mythological explanation might also be true. This story would make the island named to a son of the ancient God Maiandros (God of the Maeander river), this guy was called Kalamos. In my eyes the island therefore being the home of a god.

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First day of sailing: Lefkas to Kalamos

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The first day we left Nisos Lefkas (Nisos means island in Greek), Lefkas City or Lefkada to be more specific, with as destination Nisos Kalamos about eleven hour. The weather was cloudy and no wind at all. Therefore we knew we had to use the engine for the biggest part of the trip. The distance is about 20 nautical Miles (1 nM is about 1.852 km) and with a cruising speed of 5 knots of our yacht Yannis it would take us about 4 hours to get there.

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Trip from Lefkas to Kalamos in Google Earth, waypoints for the harbours and where we anchored for lunch and one for the city Mytikas

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View on Nisos Kalamos from the direction of Lefkas

First two trivial facts about Lefkas…

Pregnant from Greece

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Back from sailing the Ionian Sea. A week with the perfect combination of sailing, learning, ouzing (which is the verbal form of drinking Ouzo – soon to be found in the Webster dictionary), dining and some nice and spectacular variations in the weather.

Now I am trained in anchoring the Greek small and shallow harbours. I have a better understanding of the influence of sea and islands on wind, weather, rain and windwhirls. My love for the easy way of living around the Middle Sea has been revived – call it Greek, Turkish, Italian I don’t care, just call it ancient (“Wow John, I really had an ancient weekend last week” ).

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Is this ancient feeling – as I will call it from now – the mix of the eating fèta, olives, fresh fish, the drinking of ouzo’s and good coffee or beong in this climate: sun, wind, islands offering the refreshing dives into the sea?

On top of that I do know now how it feels to be pregnant.

So many ideas burbled this week inside my stomach or better my virtual womb about ancient places; ancient babes, experiences and the possible trips & itenaries – the first being more the physical thing the latter more metaphysical. And the enormous urge to give birth to all of this ASAP. No normal working day at the office anymore.

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The first of my births will be posting the logs of the trip across Lefkas, Kalamos and Ithaca with some stories about the islands, a lot of pictures and off course the full Google Earth integration for which I am famous now ;-).

But the most remarkable thing of this week, one of things I am most happy with, would be that I might have found my Argo… I could have found my ship to sail the Ancient Coasts of the Mediterrean to find my Holy Grail. So much more fun when all things fit together.

But first things first, coming weeks I will give birth to the posts about Lefkas, Kalamos, Sivota, Vasiliki, Frikes and Vathi on Meganisi, the cities in the playground of my old friend Odysseus aka Ulysses.

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On va rouler

Bought the marine chart (Greece | Ionian | The Inland Sea G121) for sailing around in the Lefkas area next week.

Published by Imray Tetra, so probably there are some copyright on the picture below, so please don’t tell them and buy your carts from them :-)

As I know the area already – I have sailed there 2 times earlier – every place on the chart provides me a little nice electrical twinkle…