return to ithaka

August 31, 1956  Savas Georgiou arrives on Ithaka after sailing 6000 miles from New York

there's something about the island of ithaka that brings out the soul of adventure in a person. at least, for the past 20 odd years, it has done that for me. 

once the excavation was over in pylos, my son and i got in our rental car, drove to the coast, boarded a ferry and crossed the wine dark ionian sea. i'm never sure how people i bring with me to ithaka are going to react to this remote corner of the world - after all, the island is not on most people's itinerary when they come to greece. for starters, it's way off the beaten path - the only way to access it is by ferry as there is not enough flat land for an air strip. as homer said about ithaka, it is a place 'good for goats.'

but my son told me it was one of the best places we visited on our trip. and why not? 

here is one of my favorite views in the world by day....

and before dawn, when the cuckoos are still calling, the sky is creeping between shades of violet and pink

a different view of the main harbor - accessed via a very scary road with a steep drop off that gives me the willies - but is worth the drive because when you get there you feel like you're flying

a happy place

we stopped at a village in the north to eat some good fish complete with lots of latholemono (oil and lemon sauce - poured over virtually anything makes it taste good)

followed by a trip to the beach. ithaka's beaches - as most in greece - are not sandy but consist of smooth egg shaped pebbles. call it foot therapy. 

what better place to read re-read john fowles' masterpiece the magus?
one evening we had dinner out in town with an old friend. 

they say beware of greeks bearing gifts? not in this case....costis is a consummate host and possibly one of the most generous souls in the world

a grand time was had by all

the last day i took my son to ithaka's small museum to see the coins i excavated when i worked with an archaeological project on the island. 
as you can see, he was mightily impressed 
(museums are not his favorite thing ;-)

6:45 a.m. day of departure. the ferry is ithaka's only lifeline to the outside world. 
if you're not on board by 7 a.m. the gangplank goes up without you. 

over the years i've had repeated dreams of missing the boat to ithaka...

not to mention a fear of driving a stick shift onto greek ferries

i've had to overcome it in the intervening years

but sometimes i still get that queasy feeling in my stomach.... this very point, when i'm headed at an obscene angle on the gangplank, hoping the clutch doesn't give out
every time i leave ithaka i wonder, like odysseus, if i will return. 

my son snapped this photo as the ferry pulled away this summer.
two decades ago, my mother took this shot of me as i stood in this same spot. 

like odysseus, i will always want to return to ithaka...

so i guess some things never change. 


  1. Well, considering that Ιθάκη has become your second home, I suppose I'd be wondering if you will make it "home" again.
    Such delightful pictures of the island. Especially liked the two of you, separated by a few years.
    And you didn't miss the boat.
    (Sorry, no chocolate, as usual.)

  2. As I remember dear sister - you have overcome the driving willies! Please let it be known blog followers, she is one aggressive femme fatale on the road behind the steering wheel. Drivers beware!

  3. i would not mind visiting Ithaka myself and staying there for a while to savour its beauty ... and who knows, to maybe meet the ghosts of Odyesseus and Penelope :)

  4. oh how wonder-ful!!! i have come along with you, amanda, thanks to your vibrant photography and ability to tell a story.

    some places grab hold of our heart and keep it. this is so for you, isn't it? this ancient beautiful place. the fact that it's reached only by sea, to me, makes it all the more desirable.

    i like thinking of you and your son traveling togther so much, makes me smile.


  5. Absolutely beautiful. Sometimes when I read your posts, I imagine that I will comment on a particular photograph-- the place of happiness, foot therapy, violet Ithaka at dawn-- but as the images and words pile up, I am dizzy with taking it all in.

    I will say this, I love the photos two decades apart. I love to switch back and forth through time as if it were no barrier, at all.

    Your blog is a cut through space without impediment, allowing my eyes to see what I'd otherwise never see.

  6. Ah, too, the most generous soul! Blessings on his head.

  7. I love the place I much like your excellent post. Your pictures are stunning as always!!!

  8. I love this post-you have so many memories-both professional and private from this place! If I ever visit Ithaka I will have to seethe coins in the museum:)

    Personally I prefer these Greek islands that have ferry connections with the continent, it is much more silent there and cozy!

    Maybe it is end of the world there but still looks absolutely wonderful!

  9. Oh, what a lovely post, I savored every word and every image. That beach is to die for...
    Love those pictures taken twenty years apart, how reassuring it is that some things remain the same...

  10. So glad I found your blog. I love travel and pretty photos and you have lots of both here. I've been to Israel, but not Greece. Would love to see it some day. If only there were unlimited amounts of time and money, right?

  11. how i love this post!...i dream of Greece even though it has been almost 40 years since i was there. It captures the soul and waits for your wonderful that you did. Ithaka is now on the list of places to go...i am very impressed by the coins too....their ancient presence was discovered by!...a little piece of the puzzle....thanks Amanda!

  12. Lovely blogpost, fab fotos. Never been here but would like to.

  13. Me too I`d like to comment on each picture while I scroll down. How "your" island reminds me of Brac, and it can also only be reached by boat. And those coins, truly amazing! they were found by YOU. I know, I seem to repeat what others said, but I nodded at every comment. Haha, not Deborah`s, of course!
    Lovely post, Amanda, as always. I wish we could leaf through your photos together, and I could ask you about details along the way.

  14. Me too I`d like to comment on each picture while I scroll down. How "your" island reminds me of Brac, and it can also only be reached by boat. And those coins, truly amazing! they were found by YOU. I know, I seem to repeat what others said, but I nodded at every comment. Haha, not Deborah`s, of course!
    Lovely post, Amanda, as always. I wish we could leaf through your photos together, and I could ask you about details along the way.

  15. I love the contrast of day and dawn in those 2 harbor shots. Wonderful photo of you too and the color of the sea makes me long for the Mediterranean if not the ferries and stick shift driving! I’ve been worried about Greece and its debt crisis.

  16. What a beautiful post! I loved your pics. Ithica reminds me of a few coastal villages here in Cyprus. Places where no thinking is needed, just good company. Wonderful shot of you on the boat, past and present.

  17. you're beautiful and i'm not just talking about the photograph(s). it is how you slow down to see. we all must slow

    i am with your son. those glass doors drive me crazy. the coins should be in a shoe box and we should all get to run our hands through them like rice. (i know, i know. it doesn't work that way.)


  18. konstantin - have you been to ithaka?

    r-bear - i'm always thinking about ithaka, rob. there is a poem by constantine cavafy (i've profiled it previously on this blog) with a line that states: "ithaka is always on my mind"

    i don't know why i have recurring dreams about missing the boat....

    sister - haha! you outed me on the driving! but remember i wouldn't drive up that steep narrow road without any barriers up to that monastery near sparta? no way jose!

    loree - you would love ithaka and once you arrived you would want to stay a while. i've felt penelope nearby when we excavated loomweights in our trench~

  19. robert - living in greece as you do, i wonder if you've had a chance to travel to the island?

    kj - traveling with my son on this journey was something i'll never forget. most of our travel previously was for fencing tournaments and they were always filled with so much anxiety. this was a wonderful change of pace.

    i agree about the ferry - having a place be so isolated makes it all the more attractive to me too♡

    suze - i so appreciate this - thank you♡

    i will think about that comment about cutting through space without impediment. makes me think about the universal speed limit for light (and how entanglement perhaps shatters the notion of speed limit?!)


    philip - as a greek living in this beautiful country - i must hope you have been to odysseus' island?!

  20. ola - i like your notion of describing ithaka as the end of the world. to the ancient greeks in some way, it really was, when homer referred to it as located "furthest towards the gloom"

    zuzana - as a cancerian like me, you would love ithaka's beaches!

    lisa - yes, indeed - if only there were unlimited amounts of time and money - i try to travel off season as much as possible to keep costs down. thanks for visiting and commenting!

    sue - 40 years? i think the mermaid cafe in matala is calling your name.......


  21. dd - as a cancerian you would enjoy the ferry ride to ithaka~

    geli - i remember you have told me about brac before - it sounds so exotic - and remote like ithaka. i am sure i'd fall in love at first sight.

    p.s. actually my sister (deborah's) comment is truer than i'd like to admit (hehe)

    sarah - i love the contrast of the day/night fotos as well - i didn't realize how close they were in angle until now.

    yes, the debt crisis - it's a terrible situation for the greeks. two colleagues (who work for the government as archaeologists) on the excavation this summer have to take on other jobs because they haven't been paid in months.

    glynis - i must return to cyprus one day. i imagine a lot has changed on your beautiful isle in 3 decades.

    no thinking needed, just good company? amen to that, glynis♡

  22. oh erin. your words make me stop and think - do i slow down...enough? i think travel forces me too, which is why i don't get enough of it - i often crave the need to move. must be some sort of gypsy blood.

    and the coins.....yes. if only we could push our hands in and feel the tumble of metal. like hands through rice — yes, yes. i am extremely fortunate, i realize, to have actually done just that, some years ago. to see those silver glints appearing in the black soil.

    my son would appreciate your museum, erin. i think we all would love such a place.

  23. the two shots of leaving ithaka caught my breath. this entire notion of leaving home, returning home, venturing, exploring, discovering, searching, learning, journeying is captured in this post.

    i am guest editing at a new journal: IthacaLit. the founding editor and i have been discussing what image would best speak for her Ithaca, the place where beggars and heroes are welcomed home. your words and photos capture what i think she's after.

    lovely post.

  24. Thanks for stopping by, Amanda, and commenting on my ghost writing post. I'm glad you like the memoir so far. I'm going to post a brief excerpt every week for a while.

    And I am SO glad I came over to see these stunning photographs. What an incredibly beautiful place. I can see why the young you wanted to go back, and why the present you wants to return in the future. *I* would!! I know I'll never get there. But viewing these scenes, I almost feel like I have. Thanks!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

  25. Wow...fabulous post..and amazing sceneries!!

  26. I have seen Ithaca for the first time,through your words,through your photos...Just call me Amanda-wan-a-be.okok I guess I cant live my dream of a world traveler vicariously thru you....Well,thats ok...I am still so blessed to visit your blog,and read your words.The photo that your son took and the the one your mom took choked me up.
    Another amazing post friend.
    Big Hugs,Cat

  27. Simply beautifully captured shots...lovely!

  28. How wonderful to share this amazing place with your son. I cannot believe the stunning views and especially the way you captured the day and dawn photo and the ferry with you before and now. Thanks for the trip. The ferry reminds me of the one I took as a child between Germany and Denmark.

  29. Yes Amanda, I have been in this Odysseus' island long time ago!! Want of revisit it!!

  30. sherry - you captured exactly what this place is all about - leavetaking, homecoming. i love what you said about beggars and heroes are welcomed home. sometimes in the same person.

    a literary journal called ithaca.lit certainly catches my attention. would love to know more~

    ann - thank you for cyber-journeying with me~

    victoria - i'm glad you liked it!

    cat - thank you kindly - your words mean so much to me and always bring a smile to my face♡

  31. kalyan - thanks for dropping by and commenting!

    sonia - i felt very fortunate to be able to make this trip with my son - i've been able to travel there with my daughter and husband on previous trips, which was wonderful, too.

    philip - i wonder when you visited? it would be interesting to hear your opinion of how much it has changed/not changed since your initial trip..


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