Monday, 5 August 2013

The wonderful Varkarola in Paleokastritsa, Corfu

It's a story I know so well.

Odysseus, shipwrecked after battling with Poseidon who is angry at the hero for blinding his son, the cyclops Polyphemus, lands, naked and exhausted, on the shores of Scheria, the home of the Phaeacians.

He surprises the young princess, Nausikaa, who is taking a break from doing her washing on the shore and is playing ball with her handmaidens. It's a dangerous place, the water's edge, for ancient Greek maidens. It's where they get ravished by gods and demi-gods. Look what happened to Europa.

Anyway, Nausikaa takes Odysseus home to meet the parents, the gentle King Alcinous and Queen Arete. In this video, they make their way along the shore to the palace.
And then, Odysseus tells the story of the things that have happened to him since leaving Troy ten years earlier. The Phaeacians provide him with a boat so he can sail back to his kingdom of Ithaca and his patient wife, Penelope, who has been waiting for him for twenty years.

I know Homer's story well because I studied it at post graduate level. I spent hours looking and describing ancient pots that depicted the highly charged meeting between Odysseus and Nausikaa, the romance that never was.
The story came alive last night, at the Varkarola at Paleokastritsa. Because Corfu, you see, is widely believed to be Scheria, the home of the Phaeacians. And the bay just down the hill from us is claimed as one of the places where Odysseus met Nausikaa. There is even a rock out at sea that looks like the hero's boat, turned to stone.

There is so much I could write about this event but I think I'll save it for the book. A stage on the water's edge, people sitting on the beach, candy floss and doughnut stalls, gypsies selling balloons, tavernas full of people and the sun going down on a neighbouring beach to welcome an early evening planet shining in the night sky.
And then the evening's programme. It was utterly stunning, poignant, surreal, magical and one of the most memorable evenings of our Greek gap year so far. 

The Corfu Choir arriving by boat...
Greek dancers on the stage...
...and the boatmen and divers of Paleokastritsa in the most amazingly moving and powerful spectacle you could ever imagine, culminating in Odysseus' raft catching fire.
Add to this the booming chord progression of Conquest of Paradise, the film score music by Greek composer Vangelis, and you have a very special evening indeed.

And then the fireworks.
Thanks so much to all the sponsors and participants. It was fabulous. It's inspired me to revisit my dissertation.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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