Delos: Another Time, Another Place, Another Sight!

Delos, a small rocky island just 5km x 1.3km might not seem the obvious place for what was, for the Ancient Greeks, a most sacred site due to it being the mythical birthplace of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis.

The Sanctuary of Apollo attracted hundreds of new inhabitants and visiting pilgrims to the island during C7/6BC and the hundreds grew to thousands as it later, C3/2BC, developed as trading port and slightly later still, C1BC, became the greatest commercial centre of the old world.

We decided to visit as part of our sail around the Cyclades – about which you will hear more in my next blog post – but for a couple of reasons I decided Delos was worthy of a post of its own.

Firstly it is, without doubt, a stunning place. The extensive ruins sprawl among the unspoiled natural landscape of the island….

Wildflowers galore

… which lies between the hustle and bustle of commercial Mykonos and the peace and quiet of the small island of Rinia where we anchored in a secluded and sheltered bay.

Fantastic view of part of ancient Delos with our anchorage in the furthest, just visible, bay on Rinia

Visitors and yachts wanting to anchor in the immediate proximity are only allowed during the site opening hours and Delos is uninhabited except for a few custodians, occasional visiting archaeologists, several cats…..

…… and lots of lizards!

Secondly, having arrived by dinghy at what was once part of the old commercial port I was stunned to see this standing in the sea just off the ancient harbour quarter.

Those of you who have visited Crosby Beach, Merseyside you will no doubt recognise it as a “Gormley” though rather than being one of the figures in that permanent exhibition “Another Place”, this statue is actually entitled “6 Times Left”.

We soon found out what it was doing there. NEON, a Greek non-profit organisation seeking to bring contemporary culture to everyone had collaborated with the “Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades” and commissioned “SIGHT” – an unprecedented exhibition in Greece by Sir Anthony Gormley.

The exhibition runs from May to October of this year and, as we visited on 2nd May, we were there on the opening day, as was the man himself!!

Sir Anthony Gormley

Unfortunately we had walked some distance away before my brain registered who I had just passed…..
…….as he was sauntering down the hill at the time rather than having his photograph taken and it didn’t seem quite right to rush back down to ask for his autograph on our pamphlet – though I wish now that I had!

The idea of the installation on Delos is to repopulate the island with human and other forms and to animate the geological and archaeological features of the site. The official pamphlet description of his work is that he “reinterprets the function of sculpture, transforming the traditional status and totems of the ancient world that once adorned public squares, temples and private dwellings into sites of empathy and imaginative projection”. As well as studying the site he also played close attention to the horizon and the topography and the placing of some of his installations reflect that.

So brilliant… “Shore”

“Another Time XI” on Plakes Peak

The above is one of five of the original identical one hundred “Another Time” statues which form part of the Delos exhibition. In total the exhibition hosts 29 “Gormleys”, 5 of which he designed and created specifically for “Sight”.

“Signal II” is one of those and we found it three quarters of the way up Mount Kythnos……

Site specific Gormley “Signal II” alongside the Gormless!!!

…. the “mountain” where fragments of the earliest settlement on the island have been found.

During the islands most prosperous era [mid C2BC] the Theatre Quarter was built with a paved road leading from the harbour to what was once a 6,500 seat theatre.

“Knot” on stage

It was there that the aristocratic class built their homes, often trying to outdo each other in respect of ostentatious architecture or statuary. One tale of “Keeping up with the Jonopouloses” was told outside what was called “Cleopatra’s House” where a woman of that name lived with her rich husband. Their house was not the largest in the street and did not initially boast pillars or statues like their neighbours. Having an inflated opinion of her status she commissioned pillars which were actually too big for the hallway and stood statues of herself and her husband on inscribed plinths. His identified him as the man who bought the tripods which decorated the entrance to the Temple of Apollo, their purchase being another example of showing off!

In this quarter were also various houses now having names linked to the mosaics found in them such as the “House of the Dolphins”…….

….and the “House of Dionysus”, though unfortunately a shadow obscures what is left of Dionysus’s face and all I got was the Tiger!

It was in this house that another site specific commission stood…..

“Reflect” – visually stunning

….and several more sculptures were placed in the remains of other buildings in this quarter.

“Connect” – a rare double Gormley

Made me laugh….”Prop”

Another resident who commissioned and dedicated a monument was a man called Carystios”. He dedicated it to Dionysus and the plinth had a base relief of the god and his companions on one side. On the top was a large phallus….

Monument to Dionysus!

….it must have been quite a sight to behold!

Scattered around the site are several other monuments and statues dedicated to people or gods….

Headless and nameless


The goddess “Rome”

….and to animals.

Lion lintel

The Bull Monument in one of the Stoa

The most famous of these are the “Naxion Lions”, the remains of some of the originals now in the small on-site museum.

What remains of the original Naxian Lions

The Lions were dedicated to the Sanctuary of Apollo at its inception within the context of a huge building programme to demonstrate the supremacy of Naxos to all Hellenic pilgrims. They were placed on a natural terrace bordering the road leading from the north port to the sanctuary. Seated on their hind legs with their mouths half open in an eternal roar they must have been quite a formidable sight – especially as most pilgrims had never seen a lion. The number of original Lions is unknown but scholars variously estimate numbers between 9 and 19. To preserve the effect, plaster copies of lions found during excavation have been placed on high bases so that they are at the level archaeologists believe they would have been when on the terrace.

Once a magnificent sight … still amazing, even though they are replicas

At the opposite side of the site to the Theatre Quarter is the “Stadium Quarter” ….

Remains of buildings in the stadium quarter

…. which as well as housing the Stadium also contained the Gymnasium with its many arched entrances.

“Bearing III” in one of the Gymnasium doorways

Between these two quarters were various Stoa and Agora [shopping arcades and market places] where, after introducing tax exemption in the port in 167BC, goods from up to 7,500 arriving ships per year were sold.

“Cast III” in the Competaliast Agora

One of my favourites… site specific “Water” looking into the Minoan fountain near the Italian Agora.

It is in this area that the aforementioned museum plus coffee bar and gift shop now stand.

As I said, the museum is quite small but it contained my two other favourites, inside…..

Loved this placement ….”Shift II”

…. and out….

Mike and his new mate “Rule”- a site specific commission

It was a fantastic day out. Delos itself is fabulous but the addition of the Gormleys was a real, and most unexpected, bonus.

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Over wintering at Kalamata Marina 2018/19

For the 2018/19 over wintering season we chose Kalamata due to its position relative to last year’s sailing plans, because it has a good bus link to Athens – and thus to the main Greek airport, that the marina is very reasonably priced and that Kalamata sounded like a nice place to spend the winter months. On all counts we were not disappointed. In addition, as the “jobs undertaken” at the end of this blog post shows, access to parts and, more importantly, skilled workers was great.

Kalamata is the capital of the province of Messinia and the second largest city in the Peloponnese. It is, of course, famous for its olives and, as we were there during olive picking season, we took full advantage and cured and bottled our own.

Lots to choose from in the market

Mike putting a slit in each one

Bottled with oil, garlic, lemon and herbs – yummy

At one time it was the “end of the line” with regards to a railway link with Athens.

A park has now been created around the old terminus which is very popular with local families and forms part of a pleasant walk between the marina and the town.

The station cafe in the background

One of several engines in the park

There is both an attractive old town……

A traditional “gyros” bar

Weekend music in one of the cafes in the old town

….and a large modern town. Much of the old town was destroyed by the Turks during the War of Independence. It was rebuilt in the 1830’s, only to be almost levelled again by an earthquake in 1986. Remarkably much of the C13 “kastro” survived the quake and inside its walls is a small monument to “Kallimachos Antonakos” who was the head of the Archaeological Department in Kalamata at the time of the disaster.

A fitting monument

Under his tutelage, hundreds of finds and monuments were catalogued and restored to retain the important cultural heritage of the city and surrounding area.

Just below the castle is the Cathedral Church of Ypapantis…..

A stately procession!

….with its many statues of the Messini “episkopos” [bishops].

During November we travelled back to the UK for a couple of weeks seeing family and friends.

Fancy dress for Sue’s 60th

A Ukelele lesson for Dave courtesy of Steve

A beautiful Autumn day – our first autumn in the UK since 2007

….and a lovely walk with Chris, John and Preston

The early Christmas Fayre in Bury St. Edmunds with Caroline and John

Our visit to Bury [Lancashire] coincided with an exhibition in the art gallery/museum which I was delighted to go and see.

The Brilliant Victoria Wood

Victoria was in the fifth form when I was a first year pupil at secondary school. I remember her writing and performing in a “One Act Play” at the end of that school year. It was a pre-cursor of great writing to come though, reading one of her school reports in the exhibition, it is clear that teachers do not always know talent when they see it!

As my three previous blogs describe, we also spent part of the winter touring and, in March our good friends Dave and Margaret came to visit for more socialising and sightseeing. In just under a week we packed in a visit to Kalamata castle…

A balmy 18 degrees mid March

…. a trip to the Caves of Diros….

The cavern after the boat ride through the caves

The small and lovely town of Areopoli near Diros

Toast anyone….

…..a walk along part of the Menalon trail…..

Starting the Vytina to Nymphasia section

The old bridge in the gorge

….. a circuit, by car, of the bottom part of the western finger of the peninsular, visiting a couple of places we hope to visit by boat at a future date…..

Pylos town….

…and harbour

The Venetian well in Sygrou Square, Methoni

Methoni castle and moat…

…. a substantial fortress

Methoni harbour area

….and admiring the Greek countryside as it comes alive in spring.

Wildflower beauty on the Mani peninsular

Under the bridge on the Menalon trail

Big bumble at Messini

Had we known during their visit that one of the best ancient sites is practically on Kalamata’s doorstep we might also have persuaded them to do that as well. Instead we visited Ancient Messini the following week with Steve and Gill.

A great position in the valley

A fantastic site easily as extensive as Epidavros and Olympia but, much less visited. There are two theatres, an agora, baths and the most impressive and intact stadium.


The Fountain of Arsinoe which supplied the city with water

This base supported the statue of Messinian philosopher Ti[tus] Flavius Isocrates – revered by his home town as the new Plato

Part of a partially intact mosaic villa vestibule floor

Grave memorial to an important Messinian family

Doric temple – the mausoleum of the Saithidae – another prominent family

The gymnasium

The smaller theatre

The bath house pillars which supported the hypocausts

In the small museum – a hermaic stele with the head of Heracles, found in the gymnasium

It was founded in 371BC and formed part of a chain of strongholds designed to keep watch over Sparta. We are really glad not to have missed seeing it or stopping for a fantastic late lunch at a local taverna nearby.

Stuffed with wild pig

Christmas and New Year were both fairly quiet affairs as Kalamata, like other Greek towns and cities, saves itself for Carnival.

However, Three Kings Day is celebrated by a swim in the harbour for those hardy souls racing for the blessed cross.

All ready to go…

….blessings from the priests…

… and in they go. NB – snow on the mountains – not the warmest water for a dip!

Lent and Easter are very important celebrations in Greece and we were delighted to be able to join in the “Burnt Thursday” festivities….

Families gather….

….for music in the square….

…and a spot of dancing. I loved joining in.

…..when BBQ’s are lit at nearly every restaurant and people eat all the meat they can before the start of Lent. A fabulous day – especially as it coincided with Mike’s birthday – well, one of them anyway!

A very happy day

Carnival followed with the main event being the parade on Sunday 10th March…..









… a bit of a drink en route!


… floats





















…and smoke







….and then the “Clean Monday” celebrations the following day when a traditional bread…..

Sesame coated Lenten bread

…. as well as olives, taramasalata and halva form part of the picnic that families take to the beach or into the hills where they indulge in kite flying. We opted for the nearby beach.

Nothing like a picnic by the sea

Kites for sale….

…and with a little help from Gill…

… Steve flies his kite

We now look forward to Greek Easter itself which, this year falls on Sunday 28th April.

Once again our winter wasn’t just about fun – even though we did have a lot of that – and, as I hinted at the beginning of this post, there was plenty of work done too.


Winter 2018/19 jobs

Our biggest job this winter was to design and have fabricated a new stern arch and a bimini frame. It was a job we tried to have done in Spain last year but we were let down by the fabricator. This year Ioannis [Inox Kiriakidis] came up trumps

In Ioannis workshop – the stern arch

…and bimini frame

Bimini in place

Here comes the stern arch

We then commissioned a full tent and some summer shades from Mixalis, a local sail maker/rigger who also cleaned, serviced and replaced the sacrificial strip on our genoa and jib and checked all our standing rigging.

Mixali putting some finishing touches to the front panel

We then fitted 2 solar panels and wind generator to the new arch and put LED cockpit lights on the bimini.

With a lot of help from Steve

As always seems to be the case no matter how big or small a job, all of this entailed pulling the interior of the boat to bits!

Floors and lockers up

Ceiling panels removed

Ensuring the feet are properly bolted

And so we went from this….

Before.. the old stern arch

… a view from the side before the tent

….. to this….

Front view…

…from the back

In addition we:-

Replaced the main halyard, replaced the spare halyard with the old main halyard and replaced the topping lift with the spare halyard

Replaced the engine room blower and fitted an automatic fire extinguisher in the engine room

Replaced our VHF and fitted a new cockpit VHF speaker

Replaced all the screws on the running backstay base plates

Resealed the cockpit pedestal having sourced some really good grommets actually designed for putting pipes through walls but which fitted the bill for this job

Resealed the main cabin windows

Made a wire lock for the outboard

Fitted rubber snubbers and new stern lines

Replaced the Italian 240v sockets with European standard sockets, fitted 12v sockets in the forward and aft cabins and replaced 4 saloon LEDs

Fitted a new autopilot

Fitted a jib furler cover

Fitted a galvanic isolator

Did the annual service of the windlass, engine and outboard

Replaced our life-ring

Re-varnished and refitted the outboard support on the pushpit

So, all in all another busy winter work wise though the job list never ends and we are already adding things for the 2019/20 winter season which we have again booked at Kalamata Marina.

But for now we are happy to be sailing again and hope to report more great adventures as we head off, firstly to the Cyclades.

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The Great Greek Adventure – Part 3: The Peloponnese

So here we go with the third, and final, post about our travels around Greece with John and Jerie. To finish off their trip we spent eight nights in the Peloponnese – three of which were on “Owl and Pussycat” and the others at Olympia, Navplion and Corinth.

Those of you with a knowledge of the archaeology of Greece will know that the Peloponnese is jam packed with historical places to visit and may not be surprised to hear that during the eight days we visited Ancient Olympia, Mystras, Ancient Sparta, Mycenae and Ancient Corinth.

A recurring theme in all the museums we have visited on our journey through Greece have been sarcophagi and mosaics and the sites in the Peloponnese didn’t disappoint.

At Mystras

“The Seven against Thebes” – on a sarcophagus at Corinth

Terracota Larnax from Mycaenae – usually used in the burial of children

Central panel from the floor of a villa – Dionysos with fruit and flowers in his hair – Corinth

Part of a larger floor representing a pastoral theme – Corinth

Fresco from Mycaenae – part of an altar

From Olympia – some of the games

In respect of the specific sites I will start with Sparta and Mystras which are within 7km of each other and which we were able, therefore, to visit in one day.

A fortress town and a former capital of Morea, a Byzantine territory, Mystras commands excellent views across the surrounding countryside.

The convent in the middle left

Built on a jutting ridge of the Taygetos Mountains the town spilled down the hillside with gates at the top and bottom and a third one splitting the upper and lower parts. The cobbled lanes were very narrow and frequently cul-de-sacs due to the large number of buildings vying for space.

Four different building climbing the hillside

“Main street”

There was no room at all for carts and, to facilitate the movement of people, the lower floor of buildings were deemed public spaces/walkways and often had parts of their corners shaved off.

The small palace

Within the lower town lies the well preserved Convent of Pantanassa which houses the only remaining inhabitants of the town [nuns] – if you don’t count the stray dogs, cats and whatever other wild animals roam the site. Quite how the convent survived the various burnings, lootings and sackings which Mystras underwent I am not sure but it and several other monasteries, churches and the cathedral all seemed to have remained relatively intact in  comparison to most other buildings.

Church of Saint Theodoros

One of the churches – now the museum

The Hodegetria – part of the monastery

During its heyday [approx. 1260-1460], and despite several attempts by Frankish waring troops to capture it, the land owned by Mystras stretched for miles and was within the Byzantine empire. I should therefore not have been surprised to find a Byzantine Church, “Christ the Saviour”, slap bang in the middle of the site of Ancient Sparta.

Remains of the Byzantine Church

In fact – it is almost the most impressive of the ruins there! Fearing no-one Sparta did not have walls or fortifications and therefore few traces are left of the legendary city and its fearsome warriors.

The Theatre – the only real “Sparta”

Despite there being so little to see we somehow managed to miss the well-known statue of King Leonidas – which is actually just outside the site. Maybe reading about this will spur my friend Steve into catching up with his blog and including a picture of Leonidas because he and Gill visited at a later date, saw the statue but couldn’t visit the site as it was closed. Between us we should have things covered!!

One of the mythological kings of Sparta was Menelaus, husband of “Helen of Sparta” who was abducted by “Paris of Troy”.  Menelaus appealed to his brother King Agamemnon for help to recover her and thus began the great Greek-Trojan War.

The home of Agamemnon was Mycenae, which lies around 80km [50miles] NE of Sparta and which was described in Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey” as “well built” and “rich in gold”. Well-built it certainly was with its famous “Cyclopean” walls reputedly built by the legendary giants of the same name….

The Cyclopean wall was 13m high and 7m thick

….. and the spectacularly solid “Lion Gate”, one of only two entrances into the citadel.

Lionesses were the symbol of the royal house

One of the most important riches found at the site is known as the golden burial mask of Agamemnon which appeared in my earlier blog, “The Great Greek Adventure Part 1”. That and most of the other treasures were found in the graves and tombs. Until the late C15BC the Mycenaeans buried their dead in grave shafts and “Grave Circle A”, containing six such shafts, was for the interment of members of the royal family.

Grave Circle

A new form of burial method was then developed called the “Tholos” tomb – a circular structure also known as the Beehive tomb.

The “Beehive” construction

Just south of the Lion Gate is what remains of the Tomb of Aegisthus…

The Lion Tholos

… but much more impressive is the C13BC “Treasury of Atreus”.

The entrance to the “Treasury of Atreus”

The roof

You really get a feel for the size and shape

Overall it was a fascinating place to visit but maybe rather a shame that the Great Court and the royal apartments of the Palace of Agamemnon were conspicuous only by their near absence!

Is this it?!

Ancient Corinth also lay within the Mycenaean Empire though most of the ruins are from the later Roman period. Extensive, yet compact, as this plan shows…

Must have been amazing

…… they include the remains of the “Bema” [an elevated podium] where St. Paul was brought for judgement having been accused of illegal teachings.

The Bema

However, the then proconsul Galio refused to make a legal judgement about what he considered to be just a religious dispute between Jews and no action was taken against St. Paul. Due to its connection with the Saint, a Byzantine church was later built incorporating the Bema and on 29th June every year [St. Paul’s Feast Day] a service is held on the ruins of the podium.

Remnants of the once elaborate baths can also be seen….

The bath-house

….as well as the fountain of Glauke……

The fountain and the C5BC Temple of Apollo

…..the Roman “Odeion” [indoor theatre] and the Ancient Theatre [outdoor].

The extra scenes were kept in these “wings” and pushed in as appropriate

Theatre “Scenes” had one, two or three entrances for the actors. The sides facing the audience served as the background and were decorated e.g. a temple or a palace. Later as theatrical painting developed, panels with other themes e.g. battleground, woods etc. were constructed and these could be moved in from the side to create a new “scene”. Fascinating stuff don’t you think?

Equally fascinating was what we learned at Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games which began more than 4,000 years ago and where, since 1936, the Olympic flame is lit every four years.

The ceremony takes place to the east of the Temple of Hera on the spot where the Altar of Hestia stood and where a continuous fire was maintained during the ancient games.

The Temple of Hera and, in front, the Altar of Hestia

The gymnasium ….

The C2BC gymnasium

…. was a large rectangular building with an inner courtyard which was the training area for running, javelin and discus throwing. These events were described in the smaller of Olympia’s museums dedicated solely to the Games.

Inside this museum were also exhibits of the original equipment….

A discus and a “jumping stone”

…. and the remains of Olympic crowns.

Bronze olive leaves

I had always assumed that the crowns were “laurels” as I understood such crowns to be given to victors. Indeed they were – but victors in war. For the games, the crowns were of olive leaves. The various champions returned to their home cities where they dedicated their crown to that city’s patron god, on whose altar he also offered a sacrifice. I have deliberately used the word “He” because women were not allowed to take part. Indeed they were not even allowed to enter the stadium as a spectator and if they did, and were caught, they were thrown off a nearby mountain cliff. They were, however, allowed to watch from outside on the Hill of Kronos.

We can all probably think of some form of scandal linked to the modern games – be it the refusal by Hilter to give the gold medal to Jesse Owens, the murder of Israeli athletes, various boycotts, doping and drug use etc. But although the ethos of the games has always been total fair play, perhaps unsurprisingly, cheating was also an issue for the Ancients. Whilst Emperor Nero was not punished for entering a four horse chariot race with ten horses, falling off, not finishing and still declaring himself the winner, other athletes were “named and shamed”. They, or their city state, had to pay for a “Zane” – a statue of Zeus – to be made which then had the name of the miscreant and a description of his offence inscribed on the base.

This was placed along the route to the entrance of the stadium to remind other athletes and coaches that cheating was not allowed.

The arched entrance – would once have been a tunnel

The stadium itself held 45,000 people but the only seats were for the judges.

Judges platform on the right and the altar of Demeter Hamyne opposite

With regard to statues of Zeus, the most famous one of all – a giant ivory and gold statue which was listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – was built at Olympia by a sculptor called Pheidas.

Pheidias’ workshop

In C5AD his workshop was turned into an early Christian Basilica.

As well as the Olympic museum, the site contains an excellent archaeological museum and we marvelled at the bronze work much of which was related to weaponry……

Bronze sheet in the shape of a winged Gorgon – from a shield

Just a few of the helmets

Hammered from a thick sheet it was either a votive shield boss or an architectural adornment

A bronze battering ram – the teeth worn from use

…. and also this remarkable Assyrian bronze sheet, probably dating back to C8BC.

C8BC hammering technique. Re-used C7BC on a Greek statue

I was also quite amazed by this bee smoker – a design which has survived into modern times.

Obviously a brilliant design from the beginning

Once again the statues on display were quite incredible….

Nike – a 2.11m statue which stood in the Temple of Zeus

Nike statue as it would have looked with her wings and cloak spread

Hermes – the messenger of the gods

….. especially the two huge reliefs from the pediments of the Temple of Zeus…..

Depiction of a chariot race between Pelops and Oinomaos – great Olympians

Fight between Centaurs and Lapiths at a wedding feast

….which I think provide a very fitting way to finish talking about archaeology. Well, for this post at least!!

As you know Mike and I transited the Corinth canal in June of last year and we wanted to show it to John and Jerie as a trip to Corinth but not the canal is unthinkable. Little did we expect there to be actual traffic but, having stopped the car at the western end to look at the ancient Diolkos…..

The ancient road along which boats were dragged across the isthmus

….we noticed the traffic lights flashing indicating that the bridge was about to be lowered.

The Road bridge

Down it goes

Up again – and Mike drives across

It was fascinating to watch as when we went through all this had happened out of our sight. We then took the road on the northern side to the bridge at “Isthmus” where we watched the same ship pass beneath us…..

Looks just as narrow as we remember

…. and then went to the eastern end to see the ship emerge.

As always, between sightseeing there was plenty of time for eating, drinking….

In Corinth – Mike couldnt resist the Sax – and the beer was actually OK too!

Great beer and ouzo at our favourite Navplion bar

…… and partying.

It was a fantastic “Mexican Train” evening! Thanks Steve and Gill for the contribution!!

We had an absolutely fabulous time with John and Jerie and are so very glad they visited.

If they hadn’t decided to make the trip I am pretty sure that we would not have seen as much of inland Greece as we have over this winter. So, thank you John and Jerie for helping to make our first winter season in Greece so memorable.

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