Posted by: Robin | January 19, 2009

A Side Trip to the Aegean Sea

capesounion_ayiomamitis

Today I took a trip to Greece . . . in my mind. My husband pointed out an ad for a cruise of the Adriatic and the Aegean sponsored by a college in Michigan complete with professors to guide and inform those taking the cruise. The stops were Venice, Corfu, Rhodes, Bodrum in Turkey, Istanbul, Mykonos and finally Athens. On a similar trip in 1973 with professors from Gordon College I climbed aboard the Adriatic ferry Poseidon out of Brindisi and steamed across the Adriatic at night, stopping at Corfu and landing near the ancient site of Corinth at dawn the next morning. By bus I went to Athens (soon after the terrorist attack). I spent a day at Cape Sounion (the photo above) on the Attica peninsula not far from Athens, and after crawling around the ruins of the Temple to Poseidon overlooking the sea, I snorkeled around the peninsula. It was an a perfect golden day.  As soon as I saw the ad I could feel the summer heat baking my skin and taste the dry clear air and see the golden browns of rocky landscape stretching to the horizon. The water was a shifting turquoise blue. I ran upstairs to study my World Atlas to pinpoint each location. I remembered the DK Eyewitness travel book on the Greek Isles I’d bought for researching one locale for the fourth novel in the series I’m writing. These are the most gorgeous travel books out there, with full-color National-Geographic quality photos and beautifully drawn maps and diagrams.  I soaked in the pictures and wonders of each island of the proposed tour. I could viscerally imagine myself there, basking in the unique quality of the light as well as the beauty, warmth and ancient mystery as far as my eyes could see. I relaxed, glorying in it, as the snow outside flurried to the ground and the anxieties of the day receded. It was enough.

I’m not sure how common this capacity to be immersed so fully in a place only through imagination is, but I have traveled like this since I was small. While other kids were into animals or princesses or sports, I was into geography. Not the boring kind I was taught in school full of statistics or geologic formations, but the kind that opened up to me through the monthly book on a different country I got in the mail. I pored over my collection for hours on end (and my collection of postcards from faraway places). Time disappeared. The books had pages of photos that were like stamps I could fill the book with as I took in every detail. That the world could be so large and different and full of wonders never ceased to lift me out of myself and launch me into the ether of amazing possibilities. I studied the maps and imagined what it would be like to be there. I imagined in 3-D where I would go and the people I would talk to–because of course, I would be fluent in a dozen languages as well as be a world traveler. It was never something I intended. Far away places drew it out of me without my being fully aware. I memorized cities, rivers and mountains. And it still happens the same way. It was a little more vivid today, painted with sensory memories, but I was no more or less there than I have been at other times I’ve traveled. And I am still smiling.

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