Γεια σας, οι φίλοι μου!
(Hello, my friends!)
Tim and I have just returned from a very amazing two week trip to Greece with two dear friends. It was, of course, truly wonderful. As those of you who have been following my story for a while will know, I fell in love with Greece on my first trip there in 2014, and promptly began learning the language and plotting my return. Since then I have indeed returned each year, creating adventurous itineraries that have led me to remote sacred sites, deepening my lifelong connection to Greek Mythology, and especially the myth of Persephone.
So, this was my fifth visit to this incredible country, filled with ancient mystery, mythology, beauty, epic Nature, wonderful people, and equally wonderful food! (It’s very easy to honour our vegan lifestyle in Greece. So much to choose from, so simple, fresh and delicious.) In this episode of my blog, I’d simply like to share our journey with you…..
We began in Athens, arriving the night before the Full Moon, and enjoyed a late night catch up with our friends on the rooftop of our apartment, marveling at our view of the floodlit Acropolis, and enjoying the sounds of the very active city below. Next morning we all rose early and began our adventures (practicing my Greek at every chance I had!). Our friends had never been to Athens before, so we intended to override our natural aversion to ‘damn tourists’ and head straight to the Acropolis – the crowning glory of Ancient Athens. So we crossed Monastiraki square, passed the ruins of the ancient library, and began winding our way through the lovely narrow streets of Plaka to reach the Acropolis entrance. And guess what we found there? Yep, endless lines of damn tourists!
We all baulked at the idea of standing in line in the hot sun for an hour, so we doubled back, ate a relaxed breakfast of strong coffee and Greek Salad then sensibly walked straight up to the ticket box at the Ancient Agora and bought a three day pass that included tix to the Acropolis, which we decided to postpone to the following day. We then took our time to explore the ruins of the Ancient Agora, which included the well preserved ruins of the magnificent Temple of Hephaestus, (God of Fire, and the master craftsman for the Olympian Gods).
I had a particular desire to go to the Agora, because in the lead up to this trip Tim and had done some Athens research by watching the 1970’s film ‘For the Love of Benji’, which is set in Athens, and focuses on that very clever spy-dog’s hideout at the Agora. Here’s a pic of Benji on location:
And here’s a movie trailer: BENJI IN ATHENS
(Maybe I should offer ‘For the Love of Benji’ themed Athens tours?)
A little about the Agora. This was the market place and general meet-up / hang out zone in Ancient Athens. It was here that men would gather to discuss politics, and women shop. The philosopher Socrates frequented the Agora, questioning passers by on the meaning of life. Crowds of youths, including the young Plato, would gather to listen to him. It was a crowded and busy place, and if you happened to develop a fear of such places, then you had agora-phobia. Yep, that’s where the word comes from! (I love learning those kind of linguistic tidbits!)
We then made our way back to our apartment and began preparing for a very special Full Moon Magic live streamed concert. This was a particularly charged Full Moon concert, not only because there was a full Lunar Eclipse, but also because Greece had just experienced such a terrible tragedy the week before with the fires in Attica where over 90 lives were lost. I had a complex mixture of feelings; deep gratitude for once again getting to spend time in such an amazing city – and having such an amazing backdrop for the concert – and also such sadness and empathy for those who were suffering. Of course, during the concert we made a point of holding space for those affected by the fires.
We’d invited a group of our local friends over to experience the eclipse (and the concert), and all watched in awe as the Moon began to be covered by Earth’s shadow. Here’s a few pics.
A very special highlight of the concert was having the beautiful singer (and my dear friend) Callie Galati join me for a couple of songs. Callie is a feature chorus vocalist on my soon-to-be-released Persephone album. Her parts were all recorded in Athens by another friend, Panos, who also joined us on guitar for the Circle Closing. It was a really special night. Here’s a link where you can view the full concert (The sound quality is a bit dodgy due to loud city noises, and also because we needed to stream at a lower quality due to shonky internet.) Also, if you want to cut to the chase, Callie performs with me on the final two songs. Her voice is truly beautiful.
The following day, as planned, we got up bright and early and made our way to the Acropolis. Didn’t we feel clever as we walked past the ticket booth line of hundreds of people and presented the tickets that we’d purchased yesterday! Although our visit was very quick (because we had to vacate our apartment and move on to the next adventure that day), it was still marvelous. I let my imagination travel back to in time, transforming the swarms of tourists into a procession of beautifully adorned ancient Athenians, honouring the old Gods. There’s so much Magic here.
Later that day we picked up a hire car at the busy Port of Piraeus and drove West for a couple of hours to the magnificent open air theatre of Epidauros to watch a performance of the hilarious ancient comedy ‘The Thesmophoriazusae’ by Aristophanes. Although I had been here before, I was once again awe struck at its immensity, its beauty, made all the more wonderful by the backdrop of rolling mountains and a gorgeous sunset. This was my first experience of seeing a performance here. We sat right up the back, and yet the acoustics were so well designed that we heard everything perfectly, despite the lack of amplification. That’s pretty impressive for a theatre that holds over 13,000 people! I have dreams of performing Persephone there. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
My friend Shiva had surprised us by booking a gorgeous villa in the nearby town, so we spent the next morning swimming in an ‘infinity pool’ while gazing over the azure Aegean sea. We breakfasted on sweet ripe figs from the garden, then made our way back to Piraeus and enjoyed a fabulous late night party at Callie and her husband Antonio’s apartment before catching a very early morning ferry to Santorini. By this stage of the trip jet lag and sleep deprivation were catching up on us, so the long ferry ride was the perfect opportunity to be lulled by the waves into a well earned nap.
I’d heard mixed things about the volcanic island of Santorini, which had made me a little wary of visiting. On the one hand were stories of its epic and unparalleled beauty, but on the other hand, you guessed it: tourists, tourists, tourists! I love secret, out of the way places, and never like to just be part of a throng. But wow, as soon as our ferry pulled close to port, I understood what all the fuss was about. Massive vertical cliffs formed the caldera of the ancient volcano, and perched on top of them the iconic white villages of the Cycladic Islands. Truly a sight worth ignoring a gazillion tourists for! I guess I’d compare it to seeing The Grand Canyon for the first time. Epic and dramatic Nature at her finest.
Our traveling buddies had the foresight to book a villa in the village of Pyrgos, just a few miles inland from Fira (the biggest town on the island) but seemingly a million miles away from the chaos of the Summer hordes. It was a darling little traditional village, all whitewashed and charming, with tiny rambling streets that led up and up and up to amazing views of Sunset and Moonrise. A turn of a corner could lead us to a friendly donkey, a lovely hidden restaurant, or talented street musician playing otherworldy music. Pyrgos reminded me of the island of Amorgos, where I stayed on my first few trips to Greece, and why I fell so in love with this rambling country.
A highlight of our visit was a day spent on a catamaran tour, exploring the volcanic caldera, the result of the enormous volcanic explosion that took place about 3,600 years ago, and is said to have brought about the end of the Minoan civilization of Crete. To be on that boat, sailing over the clear blue water and gazing up at the 300 metre high cliffs was beyond wonderful. We stopped a couple of times to swim, including one place where hot springs warmed the cool sea. And at the end of the trip we got to witness the famous Santorini sunset.
On the day of our departure from Santorini we drove up a ridiculously precipitous road of endless hairpin bends to reach the ruins of the ancient city of Thira, which was inhabited from the 9th century BC to 726 AD. I made this little live recording of my song ‘Odyssey’, from my first album Zero, while up on the ruins.
We then caught another ferry to our next destination, the island of Andros, just to the South East of Athens. It was very different indeed. Quiet, very few people around, mellow, (but very windy!) and much greener than any of the other Cycladic island that I’d visited. We spent a very relaxed 4 days here, swimming each morning down at a rocky cove a short walk from our house. Occasionally there was no one else around and I could swim naked in the clean, bright, heavily salted water of the Aegean Sea. So easy so float, too! I could lie back effortlessly, feeling the Sun beam down from above and the water hold me up from below, like Goddess and God, like the pure essence of each element.
Andros is the home of the Cycladic Olive Museum, so of course we paid it a visit. This lovely little gem is housed in a restored 400 year old Olive Mill. Dimitris, the friendly owner, gave us a rundown on how he had brought this mill back to life, explaining the process of crushing and pressing the olives to extract the oil. Clearly his favourite party trick was handing around a sort of riding crop that was used to urge donkeys of old around the wheel. He made sure every person had handled the crop, and that each of us made a guess as to what it was made out of, before informing us that it was made from a bull’s penis! Nice one, Dimitris! Here’s a pic of me in the old building, and another pic of the press.
On our final day we drove across to the far side of the island, stopping for a short hike along a pretty creek lined with lush vegetation. The cicadas were in full chorus, and I recorded some to use on one of my Persephone songs.
We then continued our trajectory to the lovely town of Andros – filled with elegant pastel coloured houses, cobbled street, and locals enjoying the Summer evening. Our visit coincided with their annual Summer festival, and that night there happened to be a free classical concert at their local outdoor theatre! We joined a good few hundred local folks (including some traditionally robed priests who were given front row seats) and enjoyed a night of orchestral and operatic highlights, all happy and summery. It was so special! At the end the orchestra played a few Greek folks songs, and the whole theatre (except us!) sang along. Really very charming.
We left the next day, back to Athens for one final night of exploring the city (walking through the National Gardens to the modern Olympic Stadium, where the first modern Olympic games in 1896 took place), and finished our Athens trip the next day at the excellent Acropolis Museum, before making our way to the airport for our long journey home (via an overnight stopover in London, and a catch up with our friend Roger).
Oh, and of course we took our travelling Raven, Old Croaky with us. He had a fabulous time too.
What a holiday! I feel very, very blessed, and grateful to our friends who made it all possible.
Now, it’s back to some very focused work on my Persephone album, in time for it’s October 31st release. I’m getting everything ready for the designer to finish the artwork, booklet etc, and in a few weeks I’m making a very quick trip back to Australia for a final day of mixing and then mastering the audio. It’s getting very exciting!
Thanks for reading dear folks. I really enjoy sharing my travel adventures with you.