Ithaka, the Ionian island I visited on my way from Athens to Holland. The Island I desperately wanted to visit for numerous reasons. The claimed homeland of Odysseus. Well, that remains to be seen. There are several islands claiming this, and they all have got their point.
I am Odysseus, Laertes’ son, world-famed
For stratagems: my name has reached the heavens.
Bright Ithaca is my home: it has a mountain,
Leaf-quivering Neriton, far visible.
Around are many islands, close to each other,
Doulichion and Same and wooded Zacynthos.
Ithaca itself lies low, furthest to sea
Towards dusk; the rest, apart, face dawn and sun.
As far as I’ve seen, and I’ve been to Paliki (Cephalonia) and Ithaka, the latter does not meet this description. Ithaca doesn’t lie low, but has a lot of hills and cliffs. And it is not furthest to the sea, it actually is close to mainland. There are theories that Paliki, now a peninsula of Cephalonia, used to be a seperate island and then it makes sense. It lies pretty low, compared to the other islands. It is furthest to the sea/West. It has lush meadows and a lot of sheep and goats grazing away. It would be more a kind of island you would want to settle the capital of your kingdom on.
But after all, I don’t really care which island is the real island of Odysseus. As the poem Ithaka already mentiones: it’s all about the journey. Odysseus wasn’t famous for being on Ithaka, he was famous for trying to get there. How I got to Ithaka is described in my previous post, it took me a while. But let me now describe the places…
Because Paliki and Ithaka are without doubt the two most beautiful places I visited in Greece. Not that I’ve visited that many places, but seriously, it is very beautiful.
First Paliki, where I had a great time staying with an older couple near Lixouri. It is very green, has a nice rolling landscape, small paths you can walk on and a lot of sheep and goats. I tasted the local feta cheese and it is so good! It has so much more flavour than the ones we get in the supermarkets in Holland.
And then Ithaka, the rough diamant. A place actually quite hard to get to (as I noticed. And also quite hard to get off again, especially when there’s a storm going on), but that makes you only appreciate it more. The landscape has more hills, it takes a better physical condition to get around. And the natural harbour is awesome. Vathy is build around it and looks a bit like a fairtytale village.
The best way to experience it, is just to go! (Best times are outside season; May, June and September) But don’t make the journey too easy, let it take some effort to get there (there is an airport on Cephalonia, but I think that’s cheating. Travel through Greece, take the ferry to the islands, come closer, be anxious with anticipation). And when there, just gaze upon the natural beauty.