Tag Archives | historical travel

Travel notes, May 2016…Kea…

–The short ferry ride from Lavrio to Kea is, despite its single hour, quite remarkable.  As a student of 20th century Balkan History I had heard of, and read about, the concentration camp island of Makronisos, but I had not realized it lay so close to the mainland.  As we slowly sailed past I could see the ruins of buildings and structures…political prisoners, social dissidents and members of the military suspected of being “infected” with dangerous ideas were sent to Makronisos during the Greek Civil War (1946-49).  For a more detailed and moving account of this time, read Kevin Andrews’ The Flight of Ikaros: a journey into Greece.  Ironically, I re-read this book only a few weeks ago…

–Kea is a rugged place.  Smaller than Paros, yet it feels bigger.  The Port of Korissia is small and around the port are a number of meadows heading inland, but only for a short distance.  After that it is a long climb to the chora, Loulida, perched along the ravine.  The streets in the chora are steep and car-free.  It is pretty little town and the archeological museum is supposed to be one of the best in Greece.  It is, however, only open on Friday from 08:00-15:00 and so I will miss it.  Kea reminds me of a smaller and greener Naxos.

–The flora of Kea is very much the same as on Paros and many of the other islands with one lovely exception: the pedunculate oak.  For centuries, Kea supplied the tanners of Greece, Rome, Venice, etc… with acorn caps.  By the end of the 19th century this practice had been replaced with less expensive synthetic processes so the acorn was not needed and the thriving industry collapsed.  Thank God they didn’t cut down the trees!  You know what…go here instead.  These folks know more about it than I do and are a big part of the new sustainable Kea.

–Kea is still a thriving agricultural island and this is evident when one hikes along the well used donkey paths and other by-ways.  Pommes de terre are numerous!   The xcero-lithia that crisscross the island are lovely, beautiful, crafted…some are so old that the moss and lichen that cover them are dissolving them, turning their hard edges round and soft.  New wall construction is in the old fashion, so the technique is being preserved.

–I will have shot three rolls of 35mm film when I leave on Friday as well as  fair amount of digital.  I have been hiking a lot although I did rent a car.  It is a good idea so at least get up and out of town into the interior before setting out walking to a cove or mountain top.  This time of year it is quite empty outside the port, so it has been rare to see anyone else but the occasional goat.  Most of the others I have seen are, I think, French and English.  I cannot be sure.  Athenian day sailors like Kea too.

–If I had brought my mountain bike, I would have rented a car anyway for the same reasons as above.  Mountain biking on pavement is a drag and bad for the tires.  Best to load the bike into a car and drive inland, park, and bike on the dirt roads.  For road biking, anyone who wants constant interval training on hills, come to Kea.  The fun never ends.

–JDCM

Kea walls and oaks                  Kea walls 2

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In the shadow of Vesuvius…

I have just returned from Naples.  I was surprised by many things.  The first was that it is a filthy, rundown, graffiti-stained city unlike any other that I have seen.  True.  In many ways it is a real dump.  Garbage everywhere…rotting, pollution blackened buildings in need of repair and restoration…Spray-painted graffiti on practically every surface you can imagine, including churches.  UNESCO should step in and put a few 100 million Euros into the place.  Or maybe the Camorra could use some of their influence to do something to improve the city at the heart of their criminal organization…Hmmm…

On the other hand, the place is chock-full of photo-ops.  It is an old, old city, dating back to the 2nd millennium B.C.E.  It has withstood the Greeks, Romans, the Bourbons, Napoleon and two world wars.  The most recent left the city all but razed.  Naples was the centerpiece of some of Mussolini’s greatest urban works, his arrogant attempt at a re-invention of the “empire.”  No wonder it looks broken.  It is.  The people, on the other hand seem to be taking it all in stride, as if to say, “we were here first and we will be here when you’re gone…”

Then there is Vesuvius.  Living in the shadow of a constant and active threat does something to a person, let alone a culture.  The volcano is everywhere, looming over Naples, a momento mori :  eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we could all be covered in volcanic ash (Pompeii) or liquified rock (Herculaneum).  I think the Neapolitans are a race all to themselves.  They have an element of piracy about them, an independence romanticized in the buccaneer, the privateer, the mercenary freebooter.  They are a swarthy bunch.

The museums were stunning.  Roman frescoes, mosaics…Caravaggio, Bruegel, et al…Pompeii was amazing.  The food was really superb.  The weather in late January is changeably mediterranean.   There was sun, clouds, rain, wind…Pretty much what one would expect from one of the oldest and busiest seaports in the world.  I will post some images on my Flickr page tomorrow so you can see some stuff that I saw.

Now I am back on Paros and the scirocco will be blowing most of the week.  Warm air out of the Libyan desert, full of yellow dust, microscopic sand in the air like jaundiced fog.  A sandstorm.  I feel terribly out of shape and need to get back on the bike for some serious work.  I have some printing I must address in the darkroom and the digital lab, both neglected commitments that I must fulfill.  In a few weeks, the gods-be-willing, I will have surpassed the half-century mark.  Busy month.

Detail of a Roman fresco.  Note the chiaroscuro...

Detail of a Roman fresco. Note the chiaroscuro..

 

a wood panel detail by Polidoro da Caravaggio

a wood panel detail by Polidoro da Caravaggio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–JDCM

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Paris…

It’s all bullet points this week…

–I arrived here last Friday evening, in time for a nice dinner with my friend and her mother.  Saturday was sunny and hot, so we strolled around town for a bit.  Checked into the Jardin du Luxembourg (along with almost everyone else in Paris) and saw a lovely impressionist exhibit in the Musée.  Superbe!

–Wifi access in Paris is terrible.  The Greeks are years ahead of the French in this respect.  As a result, I am posting this from the safe, American confines of the Hyatt Regency in the lobby lounge.  I feel like I am in a de facto embassy.  The signal is crisp and brisk, the coffee fine.  In the background a pianist is noodling “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  Not my favorite noodle.  Now that tune from “Cats.’  Is that a Lloyd-Webber construct?  May his fingers wither…

–Sunday was cloudy and cool and the Jardin de Bagatelle was all but empty.  Lovely, really lovely.  Shot a roll of film along it’s green anhttp://johndcmasters.com/wp-admin/admin.php?page=thesis-optionsd quiet paths.  Dinner at home that night.

–Monday was the Louvre.  Big place.  Lots of art.  Mobs of people.  Tough to navigate, but we managed to see all the important stuff…almost–skipped the Middle Ages.  Everyone was gathered around the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo…No one upstairs in the 16th-18th century Flanders/Belgium exhibit.  We had the place all but to ourselves.  That precious Vermeer seamstress…Always nice to know there are better works in the museum than La Gioconda and the Venus.  Really, there are.  Many more.  Dinner that night at Le Dôme.  Table side service and bouillabaisse.  Superb!  It was a rainy night in Paris and we had fish soup.  Nothing better.

–Today was Musée d’Orsay and, I must admit, I enjoyed it more than the Louvre.  Smaller, but loads to see.  Dinner tonight was at Bistrot du Parc, down the street from my friend’s house in Neuilly-sur-Seine.

–To be honest, I am saturated right now with art, so tomorrow we will have a day outside.   It is supposed to be sunny…the Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde, Arc de Triomphe, walking the Champs Elysées…shopping for charcuterie and cheese to “bring back” to Greece.  Mussels, salad and tarte “Grand-mêre” on the menu at home for tomorrow evening.

 

Mona-Lisa

 

–Thursday night I head back to Greece and work–my own as well as the labors of others.

–JDCM

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“…the streets of Rome…”

“Well the streets of Rome
are filled with rubble;
ancient footprints are everywhere.
You almost feel like you’re seeing double
on a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs.
Gotta hurry on back to my hotel room
where I got me a date with Botticelli’s niece.
She promised that she’d be right there with me
when I paint my masterpiece.”
 

That song kept running through my head last weekend.  It began Sunday morning as I left Pistoia and here, in Athens on a warm Wednesday afternoon,  it still echoes…

Thank you Mr. Zimmerman, for the ear-worm

In any case, I left Pistoia with a scratchy throat and by that night I was slightly feverish, congested, et al…I am dubbing this ailment the Tuscan Plague since it attacked all my friends as well.  Each seems to have had some variation on the virus, all miserable.  I killed mine with plenty of bed-rest, warmth and the miracle of modern pharma.  Arriving in Athens this morning I am much improved.  I am also relieved to be back in Greece.  I need the local soul food.

Rome was lovely despite my ague.  I was able to visit the Museo Massimo and gaze upon the precious and lovely Roman frescos; I wandered through the Galleria Borghese and marveled at the Bernini sculptures, frozen motion and pliant, soft marble.  How did he do that?  Truly a high point in sculpture–a divine concoction of craft, skill, artistry, aesthetics, hard work and obsessive compulsive desire for perfection.  Some would say “madness”…”insanity.”

I ate some glorious grub as well.  Roman stuff…fried artichokes, sweetbreads, lemon pasta…Very fancy by Greek standards.  Foreign food.  Western.  Give meat on a stick, tomatoes and capers slathered in olive oil and a plate of fried sardines.

Good to be back in the East.

–JDCM

 
 
 
 
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Departures and arrivals…

The crowds have thinned out on Paros.   The roads have become less treacherous and the island is, once again, for those of us who live here.  There is a collective sigh of relief.  I have been biking well, using my new Boardman road bike and loving it.  In a recent post I stated that I wanted to ride at least 125km per week.  I have done that in three days.  I will have to up the ante.  Maybe 200km?  Easy-peasey.  My mountain biking has been vigorous and rugged.  As it should be.

I continue to build a solid portfolio of 35mm portrait pieces for my exhibit scheduled in the fall of 2015.  I think I also have enough ‘cafe-Cafe‘ images for the small show I hope to hang in November.  Now all I have to do is print, matte and frame 12 images. This will begin in October, when I return…

I am leaving for Italy tomorrow.  It will be a short trip, only a couple of weeks, and I will hook up with friends and colleagues for some art, art history and good eats.  I am all but packed with only my shaving kit to stuff in my rucksack.  My camera bag is ready, awaiting my laptop and assorted odds and ends.  I am only bringing two cameras: my trusty, well-used Canon G11 point-and-shoot and the small Pentax 35mm I bought from a friend last July when I was back in America.  I will bring the 50mm and 135mm lenses.  I have been having fun with this little machine and so it feels good to continue the joy.

Cavafy’s poetry continues to inspire and fill me with emotion…

Return

Return often and take hold of me,
cherished sensation, return and take hold of me–
when the body’s memory awakens.
and past desire again runs through the blood;
when the lips and skin remember,
and the hands feel as though they touch again.
 
Return often and take hold of me at night,
when the lips and skin remember.
 

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Cavafy on the beach…

–A friend recently presented me with a small collection of C. P. Cavafy’s poetry.  I am familiar with his work, but not so much with those collected in this small, beautiful anthology.

–Today we lay on the beach on Andiparos.  Waves lapped at the rocks; birds sang in the dry, hot September air; we swam, ate lunch.  We read Cavafy to each other.  I was particularly moved by his poem ‘Ithaca’, written in 1911.   It is of leaving and arriving, the maturation of the soul and that this is all we may wish for as our journeys continue.

–We all come to places, places we have read about in books, or perhaps overheard–they are awed, exotic hushed whipsers.  We all leave these places, hopefully taking with us what we have been given, what we can carry, gifts from Phoenecians…

                      Ithaca

As you set out bound for Ithaca
hope that the journey is a long one,
full of adventures, full of learning.
Of the Laestrygonians and Cyclopes,
of wrathful Poseidon have no fear,
you’ll never meet suchlike on your journey,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if noble
sentiment grips your body and spirit.
You’ll never encounter raging Poseidon,
Laestrygonians and Cyclopes,
unless you bear them in your soul,
unless your soul sets them before you.
 
Hope that the journey is a long one.
That the summer morns be many
when with what delight, what joy
you enter harbours hitherto unseen;
that you stop at Phoenecian markets,
and acquire fine merchandise,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
and all kinds of heady perfumes,
as many heady perfumes as you can;
that you visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from the erudite.
 
Always keep Ithaca in mind.
To arrive there is your destination.
But in no way rush the voyage.
Better for it to last many years;
and for you to berth on the isle an old man,
rich with all you gained on the journey,
without expecting Ithaca to give you riches.
 
Ithaca gave you the wonderful voyage.
Without her you would not have set out on your way.
Yet she has nothing more to give you.
 
And though you may find her wanting, Ithaca has not
                                                                            deceived you.
Wise as you’ve become, with so much experience,
already you’ll have understood what these Ithacas mean.
 
C.P. Cavafy, 1911
 

I will continue reading Cavafy.  I fall into his words, as one falls into a conversation.

–JDCM

 
 
 
 

 

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Impressions of Amsterdam…

Amsterdam is not really part of Holland.  It is an autonomous state within the Netherlands.  They would prefer it if you did not call them “Dutch.”

The weather during my stay has been unusually cool and wet, very much like November weather on Paros.  I am grateful I brought my fleece and warmer, wet-weather clothes.  I have needed them.

People in Amsterdam are so fluent in English as to make native English speakers seem lacking.   I have even heard the locals speaking English to each other.  Odd.  At other times I have heard a very Anglicized Dutch.  An Amsterdammer told me they love to hear visiting Belgians speak Flemish since it is closer to their mother tongue.

The food here is good, if on the heavy side.  In addition to the traditional Amsterdammer restaurants there are numerous Indonesian and Surinamese places, a tasty side-effect of brutal colonization and the Dutch East India Trading Company.  For some reason there are also large numbers of Argentinian/Uruguayan steak houses.  These seem to cater more to tourists.  Another interesting restaurant is all-you-can-eat sushi.  The locals love these spots.  I ate at one twice.  Inexpensive and high quality.

The Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum (modern art) are all superb.  I bought my tickets in advance and avoided the long waits on line.  I also visited the Rembrandt House and the Dutch Resistance Museum.  Both were excellent and worth a viewing, especially the latter.   Ultra-right wing political parties are on the rise in Holland and in Europe as a whole.  We must all take a stand against fascism and all that it means.  If not me, then who?  If not now, when?

I do not think that those who drafted the laws regarding the decriminalization of “soft drugs” in Holland expected the odor of pot smoke to fill the streets and cafes full of college students getting wasted.  There are national movements trying to limit the usage to residents, but in Amsterdam that vote was thrown out.  Too much tourist money.  Still, it is illegal to grow it, illegal to transport it, illegal to sell over 5 grams per day to one person and illegal to buy it in bulk.  Therefore the “legal” cafes are still reliant on the black market for their stash.  So what is legal about it?  I recoiled as if from a hot stove.

As I write this I am out of town visiting friends in the small rural village of Elspeet.  Really lovely.  Quiet, green and flat as a panenkoek.

–JDCM

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Paros, Athens, Amsterdam…

I have been back in Greece since…August 1st? July 31st?…It feels blurry…I remember a 27 hour travel day: cars, planes, boats…my body temperature shocked from a cool New York July 70F to a sweltering Athens August 38C…dehydrated, jet-lagged, sleep-deprived.   I experienced daily periods of vertigo and lightheadedness for almost a full week.  Water, sports drinks, sleep and more water…7 days later I was 100% and feeling fine.  A friend believes I may have picked up a mild virus during a leg.  Perhaps.  At least it wasn’t my suspected Google-diagnosed brain tumor or West Nile Virus.

Paros has been jammed with tourists, as it always is this time of year.  Too much, really, for me to handle.  I found the best thing to do is bike early in the morning, go swimming, have coffee, check email and make sure it is all done by ten in the morning, then hide in my apartment until a reasonable hour, like 19:00 hours…we dine late, 22:00 or even later…

I left Paros last night (this morning?) at 01:30 on the Blue Star Naxos.  The large ferry was mobbed with Athenians returning home after the religious holiday (The Ascension of the Virgin Mary) and we docked just a couple of hours ago.  While on the dock, weaving through the crowds, I heard an American voice say, “How can this be so stressful?  I thought Greece was laid back…”  Ah, yes, the great illusion…

I was tired so I took a cab to the Attalos Hotel, my oasis.  While my room is not ready yet, I am out of the chaos and look forward to snoozing most of the day away on cool sheets.

I am en route to Amsterdam, NL for the week.  My little scheme is to visit some top-notch museums (Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, Rembrandt House, Modern Art), eat some Indonesian food and visit some good friends outside of the city during the weekend.  Pretty simple.  Then back to Greece and Paros for the very end of August and most of September…

–JDCM

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April upon us…

–I have heard from folks in the US that their weather has finally turned spring-like and the snows have ended.  It has been a difficult season for them and they need to put away their shovels and plows.

Slow Art Day is  coming up.  I will be gathering with some friends at a local museum here on Paros and participate.  I was reminded this morning that the average museum visitor spends between 5 and 30 seconds looking at a piece of art and that time is usually when they read the tag on the wall.  During this day we will look at 5 pieces, for 15 minutes each.  Then we will reconvene and discuss what we saw, how we felt, etc…I am looking forward to it.  Too many cultural institutions treat their space like a shopping mall.  MoMA in New York is one of them.  I think I have blogged about this already.

–When I first visited Paros in 2006 as a tourist, I came specifically to see their museum.  It has one of the finest collections of Greek art in Europe.  It only cost me 2 Euros to get in.  It still costs 2 Euros.  I was here for two days and visited twice.

–I continue my own printing in the darkroom.  I am doing well.  Although I may have made some strict goals at the outset, I have relaxed those boundaries.  I seem to be falling within them anyway.  Tomorrow I hope to expose some 4x5s.

–I competed in my second Parian sports event the other day.  It was the Paros Diathalon, held out at Molos Beach and the village of Marmara.  It consisted of a 7km run and then a 12km mountain bike.  My teammate Margaret ran and then I biked.  I had a great time and, once again, felt at home within that diverse community.  I will post some images on my Flickr site.  I am waiting to hear from people who have pictures of me.  Our total time was 63min, 55sec.  I think we placed 5th or 6th in the ‘Teams’ category.

–In a couple of weeks I have a break from work.  I might stick around, I might take off.  I might do both.  Load up the panniers and go…

–JDCM

 

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