Sunday, 15 June 2008

Sea and Fry Travels

Yesterday night there was a huge silence on the island (and I suppose in the whole of Greece). Greece went down in the football game against Russia and today they wonder what went wrong. The Greeks were probably so obsessed with keeping their European title, that nobody noticed any other news.

It's a shame that the Argo set sail without that any paper in Greece mentioned her launch. An eyewitness in a blog said that the ship left the port of Volos with only ship horns wishing it goodbye.

The project to rebuild the 28.5 metre long boat of the Argonauts based on old technical drawings of war ships took some 3 million euros. The plan to make the original journey, through the Bosporus to Colchis, where Jason stole the Golden Fleece, did not come about because Turkey refused to allow the Argo to sail the Bosporus. According to them the water that separates the European and Asian parts of Turkey, is so busy with tall ships that they cannot guarantee the safety of the Argo that has to row some 3,700 kilometres.

The original voyage of Jason and his Argonauts (it's believed that it took place around 1400 BC) went from Volos, the island of Limnos (which is the northern neigbour of Lesvos), the Bosporus, over the Black Sea to Colchis (nowadays in Georgia) and then back along that same route, over the Danube, crossing what was once Yugoslavia, to Ljubljana (it is said that Jason was the founder of this capital of present day Slovenia), across the Adriatic to Venice, then to the South of France, the Tyrrhen coast, Corfu, Syria, Crete and then back to Volos.

The alternative route of the rebuilt ship that started its journey yesterday will pass Chalkida, Piraeus, Sounion, Galaxidi, Patras, Ithaca, Corfu, Slovenia, Triest and Venice. 50 modern Argonauts will row the Argo in about two months to Italy (22 reservists will follow in another boat).

When the Argo arrives in Venice and Athens they will look out for quite another colourful traveling company: the one of 'Grease to Greece'. This is an alternative rally organized by the Englishman Andy Pag, who already made the papers with his journey to Timbuktu, because his truck was powered by reject chocolate! His latest project, a rally that starts in the middle of August, goes from London to Athens. The cars will have to drive some 2,500 miles on used cooking oil. Only in case of emergency is one allowed to use biodiesel. (see:

The organizer will prove with this rally that you can travel long distances with alternative fuel. And the travelling will be fun. One of the entry requirements is that a participant must know how to explain to an owner of a kebab restaurant in Croatia why he wants his cooking oil. I would love to see the face of a Greek cook, whose kitchen you just enter asking not for calamaria but for the oil he used to fry that calamaria...

When you are looking for adventure closer to Lesvos, I propose a trip to Agios Efstratios, an island that just like the island of Limnos, is part of the Prefecture of Lesvos. When the Argonauts reached Limnos, they only found women. The men had been murdered. Thanks to the Argonauts the population recovered from this tragedy. In Agios Efstratios there is still not so much life: just some 200 people live there. It is a tiny little island.

Its history may be even bigger. In the thirties and seventies the island was used as a prison for political prisoners, amongst them the famous composer Mikis Theodorakis. Last year the island was the subject of a dispute between NATO, Greece and Turkey. NATO planned a big exercise, but a day before Turkey objected, saying Agios Efstratios was a demilitarised zone, so NATO called the exercise off. Then Greece complained that NATO was too quick to believe Turkey.

This year peace was restored and the rocky island with its pristine beaches is a paradise for people who want real peace. The inhabitants are mostly fishermen, so for people who love to eat fish, it will be paradise. There is a daily boat that goes from Limnos to Agios Efstratios. If you take that journey, you may even see the Argonauts passing by...

Copyright © Smitaki 2008

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