My odyssey to Ithaca

Ithaca, magical island, home of Odysseus, symbol for travelling, place I definitely want to visit, finally, here I come. Thursday afternoon I was on the ferry to Ithaca, ready to see it myself. The plan was to go camping in the wild, I mean, what could possibly happen on Ithaca?

On the boat I met an older couple from Athens, she was actually born on Cephalonia (the bigger, more touristic brother of Itaca) and they were heading to the house she was born in. They warned me about a storm coming, this night and tomorrow. If I wanted, I could stay with them on Cephalonia. I declined, desperately longing for Ithaca, being so close I didn’t want to postpone it any longer. But clouds started packing when we neared the islands. A strong breeze made me realize my tent probably wouldn’t hold. And after all, I was doing this trip to meet people, so why not go with them to Cephalonia first?

That night I was very happy I was in a house. The wind was howling and rain was pouring down. The next day I walked around Lixouri, Cephalonia. Very beautiful and I was glad I got to see part of Cephalonia as well. I later learned that today the winds were locally Beaufort 9 with sometimes 10. The ferry didn’t go to Ithaca or the mainland. Imagine me in a little tent. I would very likely be blown away!

Kephalonia

Pit stop in Kephalonia due to predicted bad weather.

On Saterday the weather was better, actually really good, so I wanted to take the ferry to Ithaca. First I had to cross all of Cephalonia. Argostoli, the capital, where I got offered a place to stay at Steve’s place, a guy that hitchhiked to Greece 30 years ago, got married and now still lives in Greece with his family. But no, I wanted to go to Ithaka now the weather was still good. In Sami, the place where the ferry leaves, I got offered a place to stay with a guy that worked at the local Souvlaki joint. Also tempting… but no.

Ferry to Ithaca

Ferry to Ithaca. (Ithaca in the background.)

And so it came to be, on Saterday night, that I finally arrived on Ithaca. It didn’t prove to be as difficult as Odysseus’ journey, but it sure has taken some effort. The journey was beautiful. And Ithaka is even more beautiful. But later more about that.

ITHAKA 

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

C.P. Cavafy

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