[After reading the Prologue, to continue the journey through Greece, click on the chapter links on the right. The entire book consists of a Prologue, 23 chapters, and an Epilogue. I’m adding chapters to this blog as I find time. Eventually, I’ll post all chapters with a selection of the 1,400 pictures I took while there. In the meantime, to get the full story, you’ll have to purchase either the paperback ($12.00) or the digital version ($4.99). Both are available through Amazon by clicking here. Many other digital formats are also available. Click here. To see a large selection of the pictures, go here.]
Since the age of nineteen when I first encountered Greek myths, I wanted to visit the land of King Oedipus, but the possibility always seemed remote until a recent job loss left me with unlimited free time. My purpose in going was to bring myself closer to the myths of our civilization, to grasp a deeper understanding of the forces working within our society. According to Thornton Wilder:
…myth-making is one of the means whereby the generalized truths of human knowledge finds expression and particularly the disavowed impulses of the mind escape the ‘censor’ of acquired social control and find their way into indirect confession. Myths constitute the dreaming subconscious soul of the race telling its story.1
In the same spirit, I was building a personal mythology that I hoped would lead to recognition and deeper understanding of the truths of my own life. I wanted to use the Greek myths as a catalyst to precipitate truth from confrontation. I went alone to Greece to confront myself with the ruins of my own past.
I had a little money stashed and enough frequent-flyer mileage for a free ticket to Greece. I also knew I couldn’t afford to go through a travel agency, but then I wasn’t looking for the usual tourist fast-in-and-fast-out cruise. I would be on my own. I looked into the feasibility of going to Greece as a traveler instead of a tourist and picked up a copy of Let’s Go: Greece & Turkey to estimate expenses. I learned it was possible to spend two and one half months in Greece for $35 a day, or right at $2,500. Instead of selecting a couple of places to spend my days, I decided on an odyssey about the Greek mainland and islands, even to the western coast of Turkey. I couldn’t afford a rental car and would use the public transportation system instead—buses, trains and ferries—to get from city to city and island to island. I read travel guides and the recently published Balkan Ghosts by Robert D. Kaplan on the history and politics of the region.
I wanted to carry my own weight during my journey, and to me that meant more than my backpack. I hired a tutor and bought a stack of books, many more than I needed, and dived into the language, Ελληνικα, Modern Greek. Since I couldn’t use my frequent-flyer mileage during the summer, I had several months to prepare for my trip and scheduled my departure for the 1st of October. I went without hotel reservations, trusting to luck to find accommodations.
I dislike heavy luggage and opted for a travel pack, a combination backpack and suitcase with a zip-off daypack, which I promptly overloaded in an attempt to satisfy all contingencies. I was traveling the off-season during the months of October, November and early December and would experience both hot and cold weather. I took a security pouch, not so much to prevent the theft of my passport, international driver’s license, traveler’s checks and return airline ticket, as to provide a safe place for those valuables. I wanted to isolate them from my own idiocy and absentmindedness, and I tied the pouch around my neck and took it off only to shower.
On the 1st of October as the University clock tower tolled noon, I completed packing and was nearly ready for the five-block walk to the Boulder bus station. I first sat down on the couch staring at the Rocky Mountains trying to remember any last minute tasks. At the request of my landlady, the thermostat in my apartment was set at 68 F to prevent the plumbing from freezing, my furniture was pulled away from the electric heat radiators, and I had my apartment key in my wallet so I could get in upon my return. Was that everything? Never before had I been on the road for two and one half months. I was going alone.
Quite suddenly I was overcome with the loneliness of leaving. I looked out my front window and in the old elm tree saw the nervous squirrel and heard the fussy chatter of the magpies who had kept me company during all my summer studies on Greece. The trees were turning golden and dropping leaves. Two weeks before, we had received our first smattering of snow. I would miss fall in Colorado, my favorite time of year. Taking a deep breath, I shouldered my pack, locked the front door, and clumped heavily down the stairs.
(You are now ready for Chapter 1. Click here.)