'We live in the land of legends', is how I began the article recently published in The Mediterranean Lifestyle magazine.
|My article in The Mediterranean Lifestyle magazine|
It was my first published article in more than a year as I've become a bit relaxed about freelance writing since moving to Greece three years ago as a full-time expat. It is easy to get distracted from writing when busy learning how to live in a new culture, a new world. By last summer I'd decided it was time to get off my duff and start writing again.
|Discovering the Peloponnese - our new home|
So a few months ago when I had 'pitched' (freelancer slang for 'sending a query to') the editors of this magazine, I had suggested a travel article focusing on the blending the archaeology and mythology in the Peloponnese. I wanted to take the armchair traveler on a trip through this vast peninsula that resembles an open hand stretching into the Mediterranean.
|The Peloponnese a Land of Legends|
The editors liked my idea and I was given a deadline. I had 1,200 words in which to tell my story (that is about two sheets of 'letter-sized paper', or 'A4' on this side of the Atlantic, single spaced).
Because dozens of archaeological sites dot the countryside, I chose four that could be reached within a two hour's drive from our home.
|The Mani - our slice of the Peloponnese|
None of the four are not as hyped in the mass tourism world as are the likes of Olympia, Delphi and Epidaurus, but you might be surprised at how well-known they are to those travelers who like to get off the beaten path.
Because this Greek peninsula we chose for our expat home is teeming with archaeological and other historical sites, I figured that such an article would be a slam-dunk. What I hadn't - at that time given much thought to -- was that I would not only be taking the reader to the sites but back in time, way back in time, and my sources of information would be both fact and fiction. Now that is a whole new discomfort zone for someone used to talking to people with first-hand knowledge of a place.
Homer, credited with writing The Iliad and The Odyssey, wasn't going to be available for interviews for this story! Nor could I talk with Helen of Troy or old King Nestor, both among the many of whom he wrote and both key to two of the sites I wrote about.
|Throne room Nestor's Palace - Messinias|
It was writing about one of the sites on TravelnWrite that gave rise to the idea for the magazine article. The dilemma I had with writing the blog post was amplified when I tackled the article: trying to write about a place when both fact and fiction play such intricate roles in its history. 'Nestor's Palace' is a good example. That legendary old King Nestor, according to Homer, is thought to have occupied a palace on the westernmost point of the Peloponnese.
|Work continues at Nestor's Palace - Messinias|
Yet, when visiting the archaeological site on the westernmost point of the Peloponnese, -- it is clearly very real, but Nestor is a legend. . .or was he? You can't help wondering if there was a Nestor or someone upon whom Nestor is based? And if not, who lived in that palace? The line between real and imagined blurs.
Now not that I was questioning my 'source', but one day I found myself on the trail of Homer himself. As any good reporter would do, I wanted to know a bit more about the guy on whom I was relying for the basis of information. Well, then the plot thickened! Was there a Homer as I had always believed or were the writings of Homer a compilation of oral tales, handed down through the ages that had simply finally been written down by some man, possibly named Homer.
|Socrates was right!|
Or was Homer given the credit and it was actually the work of several people written at different times? (There are some sources that claim that possibility.) And if they were oral tales passed down through the ages, could they have begun as facts or were they fiction, I wondered. I was beginning to feel like Sheherazade must have when spinning her tales in One Thousand and One Nights.
As an English major, I hate to admit I had not only never read the writings of Pausanias, I hadn't even heard of the guy until we moved to the Peloponnese. If you visit archaeological sites here you will often find signs and brochures about the place with information credited to him. But as I wrote the article I found myself relying on him a lot, but then so do historians so I figured I was in good company.
|Pausanias was the source of much of what we know|
I certainly hadn't read his 'Guide to Greece' which he had researched and wrote in the 2nd century A.D. But I 'know' the guy's writings now - as he became another valuable 'source'!
Pausanias was a recorder of facts, he took what he saw and tried to merge the facts of what he was seeing with the stories he had been told about the place. His travels over a period of 20 years resulted in a 10 volume 'Guide to Greece'.
His volume 2, a copy of which we own now, focuses on our area of Greece. In fact he was here! Right down at the harbor where the village now called Agios Dimitrios sits at the foot of the hill on which we live. He had written about the islet -- the one I wrote about here a few weeks ago -- the one where Helen of Troy and her brothers were born.
|Pefnos Islet Agios Dimitrios Mani Messinias|
He referenced Pephnos, as the town of Agios Dimitrios was called back then with an islet of the same name. He referenced bronze statues that had been built there in honor of Helen's brothers the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux. Today the islet's name is Pefnos.
Pausanias is also credited with providing historians and archaeologists with valuable information about Ancient Messene, another of the sites I featured in the article.
|Old roads through history - Peloponnese Greece|
In the end it wasn't the slam-dunk I had thought it would be. It taunted the journalist in me and teased my imagination. It made me want to see more sites and know more about the layers of history on which we live in this land of legends. Here is the link to the article. I hope it sparks your imagination as well: Land of Legends.
|Greek pomegranates - the season is here|
And for those of you who are taken with all things Mediterranean, I recommend you sign up to receive this quarterly e-magazine, published in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, as the subscription is free. This last edition had fabulous articles on everything from pomegranates to olive oil soap. The recipes will make your mouth water. To access the winter edition, click this link: The Mediterranean Lifestyle magazine.
Again, thanks so much for the time you spend with us. We hope this post provides a little armchair travel for you while we wait for the world to return to normal. Stay safe and well!
Linking sometime soon with:Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday