It just continues to be such a full and rich time here, just as I thought it would all be winding down…. nothing of the sort!
I am staying in a really peaceful and straightforward room tucked away from the bright lights (it really is a very small fishing village, but nonetheless, has it’s noisier centre) called Faro’s. Beautiful views of the bay, the sound of the sea and run by a lovely couple. Yannis walks competitively, so we have been comparing thighs!!! We are both grandparents, so it is all very seemly.
I am a short coast path ride away from the more commercial Stoupa, which has it’s fair share of knotted hanky types who can’t get quite so lobstered on account of a bout of weather from the cloudy mountains….. however, Brenda and Bill told me that there is a piano in the Lefktron Hotel, so after chatting to Maria, the hotelier, I am trundling along tomorrow with Beethoven in my bag for an informal session for anyone who would like to come… Norwegians, Paul and Violet; English, Brenda minus Bill who has gone home; Canadian, Beverley and Martie; Italian, Markos and Valentina…. A few of the lovely people I keep bumping into in addition to Burgi-sphere.
But I really, really want to tell you about my day out with ‘The Philosophers’!
Our erudite and intrepid guide, Traudl came to the Mani over 30 years ago before the road was built south of Kalamata… it was just a dirt track that took a whole day by VW van… that in itself smacks of a Leigh – Fermor type adventure.
Traudl speaks of the ‘Ancients’ as though they are contemporary living beings and she took us on the most wonderful roof-of-the-world tour of the Messinian plain and then the ancient site of the city. From the monastery overlooking the enormous plains and Mesiniakos gulf, with 2 of the 3 fingers of the Peloponnese stretching away to the south I had a heart stopping view of the teeny distant temple to Appollo, to the north, which had taken me to such dizzying heights (and dizzying mental depths) so early in my journey here. It was just an almost indistinguishable white dot sitting beneath a sharp peak whence Zeus cast his gaze. Where we were standing, the temple and the monastery are lined up with awesome precision to be in view of one another, as in other ancient cultures, across such enormous distances.
Turning through 180 degrees, brought the ancient city of Messine into view below. Gently rolling, fertile hills and, covering an area of around 9 sq km, remnants of the boundary wall, an incredible 3 metres thick and 5 metres in height, which ran all the way round, reminding one of Hadrian’s wall or the great wall of China. Such a feat of engineering. Such a vast mass of slavery. Such an organisational THING. The preserved bits of massive masonry blocks just looked brand new. We are talking about 2400 years ago.
My German must be improving; while the Philosophers and Traudl babbled, so I sort of absorbed, until it seemed as though I couldn’t really tell what language we were speaking! At the same time as this fabulous commentary, my own wonder at the complete improbability and magnificence of everything I have been experiencing had me dipping in and out of the conversation so that I could lurch between worlds and allow my guts to sing and call and drag me all over the place. Oh blow it, I can’t really begin to describe it, no matter how hard I try.
Then we sped down through the hairpins (I put my co-driver’s cap on to help Bill while I held on tightly to the door … It’s so much faster than a bike…) And faintly arrived at ground level and the ancient site itself.
Absolutely gorgeous. Such FUN to sit in the little theatre, Philosophers one and all where Philosophers had sat before, debating serious matters like ‘ the nature of reality’. Such a great acoustic. I sang my Joyce Grenfell song and Bill did his bit and we were all dreadfully not serious at all….
Another bewildering aside, was that despite being one of the most knowledgeable and ‘qualified-persons-with-registration-card’, Traudl is forbidden from speaking as a guide, as her registration doesn’t come from Athens ( it’s to do with which families own which rights, or something like that, resembling medieaval feudalism) but from Kalamata. So we just carried on discussing Athenians and Spartans and Messinians and Athena and Artemis anyway. One of the special points about Messene, and indeed, Sparti was that women were free, unlike the imprisoned and housebound Athenians, and instead of a shrine to the housewifely Athena, their shrine was to the more independant and free huntress Artemis. We saw a mausoleum to dead warriors with both female and male names inscribed upon the stones.
An appetising table of meze and beer in the Taverna and then a speedy return to Burgmanisztan where we unseriously created a new state with carefully chosen roles for all. Group leader Katerina wore her red head of state head-scarf and I think I am minister for Bach, Beethoven and Bicycles…. probably silliness too, but then everybody was good at that. I was feeling a bit car sick but managed to improvise at the piano for a good half hour or so and then Burgi delivered me back to Faro’s with fond goodbyes to Philosophers, one and all.
Pic 7 Buda Bill…. Enlightenment is very easy in Burgmanisztan!