The sea is a journey!
...And the journey has always been for me the biggest passion in my life. Even when I could not afford travelling, I was climbing up a high cape and I was staring at the sea.
I was watching small boats engraving its surface and getting lost in the horizon. Through this, my thought was traveling too. The years were passing by and now it is the moment to see myself in such a boat… leaving. I traveled in distant places, I saw new images, I met different people. Mentalities and philosophies beyond ours. I experienced a different lifestyle beyond limits, away from silly agonies and ambitions, away from silly dead ends.
I came closer to myself. Every journey is a new life. Enclosing this material in my soul, I feel as if I have a completely mine, invaluable treasure! A treasure that I always carry with me at work, at home, in my everyday life. A treasure that keeps me alive.
For one more time I found myself bending over a nautical map, counting miles, looking for bays, calculating fuels.
Even before dawn, with coffee in our hands, our bow was pointing the south cape of Corfu, 7nm western.
The sea was wonderful. Not even a wrinkle. We set sail directly to Capo d’Otranto. For an hour of cruising everything looked ideal. We were traveling in 25 knots and we were enjoying the voyage. Absorbed in our enchanting navigating we were already opened enough. But the waves coming from the Adriatic Sea were becoming dense and their height was growing. Their tops started becoming white and we were faced with a strong mistral. We had covered only 30nm and it was a long way to go. We could not see land anywhere. Loneliness in this mess was infinite. Only moist was near us, on our skin. We had to change our route constantly, trying to avoid the bad weather, increasing a little bit the speed engine. The hits were shaking us intensely. We were clenching our teeth and insisting….
After 9 hours of cruising, we entered Otranto marina. We tied up with a lot of difficulty in the wooden floating platform. We were worn out and wet but smiles of happiness were evident on our faces.
The next day we reached Santa Maria Di Leuca, which is exactly on the heel of the italian boot, where the homonymous, compelling lighthouse of 102 meters height dominates. Here, where the Adriatic Sea hands over the baton to the Ionian Sea which in turn, continues up to the centre of the Mediterranean Sea. We visited Gallipoli, crossed opposite Crotone and we finally spent the night in Rocella Ionica. The following day, we walked past cape Spartivento and we arrived right under the hotel "Capo Taormina". In this place, a big part of the film ‘Big Blue’ was shot. The water here is truly amazing with a deep blue color that fascinates you.
About 200 meters higher there is Taormina, as if it came out of a fairytale. Tauromenium as is known for the ancient Greeks. It was built in 358 BC by Andromachus and has always been a prosperous colony. The three sides of the city are consisting of tremendous canyons falling steeply to the sea, constituting an unassailable place. For extra safety though, powerful walls were added on the north and south sides according to the Greek defense system, parts of which are still preserved today. In its most prospering era, Tauromeneum counted 12,000 citizens who talked the Doric Greek dialect. The modern city is considered as one of the most cosmopolitan resorts in the world. Scenic cobbled streets, where you are in the mood of walking the whole day. And when you are tired, stop at one of the three small squares where there are some of the most famous pastry shops in the world.
Wonderful old buildings, very well preserved, with their balconies overlooking at the sea. But also the newer ones, in complete harmony with the historical past, are decorated with colorful flowers in every corner. All these are covered with the charming atmosphere which touches every street, every part of the city. Simple and aristocratic at the same time, it is the “queen” of the coastline of the Ionian Sea. What is distinct though, is Teatro Greco, the ornament of Taormina. The ancient Greek theatre, built in the best part of the city, stands there to remind the gold era of the Magna Graecia. For many it is considered as one of the masterpieces of the Greek art dating back to the 3rd century BC.
From here, the view to the north shores up to Messina but also opposite, up to Calabria, is unique. But what is stunning is the view to the south. Right under, there is the wonderful gulf of Giardini Naxos, under the watchful eye of Etna which constantly “smokes”. The landscape made Goethe describe it as the most beautiful place in the world.
During the summer months, every evening the theatre is filled with spectators watching concerts or ancient tragedies by Aeschylus and Euripides. Full of unique feelings, we went down to the small port of Giardini Naxos where the ribs were anchored.
Giardini - Naxos
The next day was devoted to Naxos, the oldest Greek colony of Sicily. It was founded in 736 BC by Chalkidians and Naxians, from whom it got its name. Its name is preserved until this day with the addition of the name Giardini, due to the wonderful gardens of the city. The main produce of the colony was wine of exceptional quality. This was due to the fact that the vineyards were grown in the richly volcanic soil on the edges of Etna. Despite its significant position near the narrow passage of Messina, the prosperity of Naxos was short. It was looted and destroyed in 403 BC by the tyrant of Syracuse Dionysios.
The local authorities of the modern city have shown exceptional sensitivity for its history. It would not be an exaggeration to point out that throughout the length of the seaside road called Via Calcida Eubea, there are within short distance among them, posters in which, with big letters, "Naxos, the oldest Greek colony in Sicily" is written. On the same road, the bronze statue of Niki was raised. It is the same statue that decorates Chalkida today and which the Greeks see when they cross the Evripou Bridge, a gift of the city to the metropolis Chalkida. Right next to the marina there is also the ancient museum with plenty of sculptures and ceramic findings of the ancient Greek period. The modern city expands along the gulf which is defined north of Capo Taormina and south of Capo Shiso. It is a real seaside resort, a quiet place for vacation which offers everything. A big beach with white sand and clean water, nice hotels and a small port for anchorage. In the evening, the coastal avenue closes and the whole place has a festive atmosphere. A lot of people have an evening walk from the one side of the beach to the other, while a lot of bars play live music with the orchestras standing on improvised wooden platforms. In the small squares there are small summer theatres performing until late at night.
Of course, it would not be possible to omit Etna. It is the legendary mountain where Athena buried the leader of the giants Enceladus. His breaths and groans are translated into earthquakes and explosions of the volcano. On the top of Etna, Hephaestus had one of his workshops while here the Cyclops with Polyphemus lived. Our direct contact with the mountain was one of the basic goals of our journey. So, we rented motorbikes, which we found with great difficulty in Taormina, and we left early in the morning. The whole day we were wandering in this legendary mountain…
The next day we prepared the boat and set sail to Syracuse. In less than an hour we saw the island of Ortygia, which is connected with the land part of the city with a bridge. Here, there are two big marinas. One is in the north of the bridge and one in the south. We sailed around Ortygia and tied up in the south part because there is a 24 hour guard and a gas station in the pier, while the access to the monuments we wanted to visit was easier.
Syracuse was founded by Corynthian colonists in 735 BC. It was the centre of Magna Graecia and one of the biggest parts of the Mediterranean Sea. It got a bigger reputation when they faced during the Peloponese war the strongest nautical power of the era. That is the Athenian Empire, which they beat with the help of Sparta. During the years of tyrant Dionysios, the power of the city became even bigger and took over the leadership of all colonies of Magna Graecia. Here, poet Theocritus lived, as well as the greatest mathematician of all times Archimedes. Two of the main streets of the city have their names. In 212 BC the city was occupied by the Romans. The defense systems invented by Archimedes delayed significantly the conquest of the city by the Romans. The reflectors are also well-known, with which he collected the rays of the sun and set alight the Roman sailing boats. Today Syracuse is a beautiful city with intense traces of the past.