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  • hbanziger

E - 172 : Change of Plan - Change of Heart

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

The magnificent Greek Theater in Taormina with the Etna at the back

As I was reading newspapers this morning, I could not help the feeling that we are going to see more Covid related restrictions and lock-downs in the months to come. The standard answer of our governments to any news on the virus seems to lock-in people even further. There is now a new strain in the UK, but also new ones in South Africa and another one in Brazil. There will be many more new strains to come. The Corona virus mutates every six months, as do all its siblings (cold & flu). Seems we have to isolate ourselves to the day of our own funeral...

Our new route - starting in Malta instead of Tunis

Have to take these restrictions serious though – specifically the border restrictions. With heavy heart had to amend our journey. Starting outside the EU is too risky. The EU governments will find some arrangements amongst themselves. But crossing from Tunisia into the EU is probably a step too far. Am pretty confident that by summer the US – EU borders will open again – many will have to been vaccinated and others can provide a negative PCR test. One way or another, it will work. But Tunis and Carthage have to wait.

La Valetta with the San Angelo Fortress of the Knights of St John

We thus start the first week in La Valetta in Malta, the home of the Knights of St John, and then sail to Gozo, the small neighbor to the northwest. From there we cross the sea to Syracuse, the mighty old Greek town which is an absolute must to visit – talked so much about it already. We will then continue to Taormina, the last stronghold of the Byzantine Empire on Sicily, sailing by the towering Etna volcano to the west. After Taormina with its amazing Greek Theater we will sail to the Aeolian Islands, home to another active volcano, the Stromboli. On our last day, we are going to return to Catania where we change crew.

Lipari, the main town on the Aeolian Islands

The second week will start with a return to Syracuse – we would not want the second crew to miss this beautiful town. Its size, age, buildings, architectural styles, harbors , the hinterlands – all give you an idea how important and powerful Magna Graecia was during its hey days. The next day we will cross over to the long beaches of Calabria and visit one or two of the Norman Castles on the way to Castella. We have to discuss with the Captain where to anchor for the night though since there are few harbours on these long beaches. The last days will bring us into the vicinity of Crotone, another town founded by the Greeks 2’800 years ago. Today, a magnificent Aragonese Citadel towers over the town, built to defend it against Saracen pirates and successfully did. We change crew in Cortone.

The town of Otranto - almost unchanged since the Ottoman Invasion in 1481

Our third week will take us all the way through the Gulf of Taranto. Most former Greek towns lay now far away from the beaches, their harbours long silted. But the Baroque towns of Taranto and Galipoli will compensate. They are beautiful even thought built as frontline defences against the Ottomans. After rounding the heel of Italy, in the second half of the third week, we shall arrive in Otranto. The town was once the site of an Ottoman seaborne landing, the only time the Ottomans seriously planned marching on Rome and deposing the Pope. As a bridgehead, Otranto remained for a year under Ottoman control. Our last day we spend on the sea crossing the street of Otranto to reach Corfu for the last change of crew.

The Gulf of Lepanto, site of the famous battle in 1571, seen from the Turkish Fortress

On our last leg we will follow for two days the route of 2017 when we started sailing along trade routes. Here, from Corfu to Kefalonia, the Genovese and Venetian merchant routes overlap. But then we turn east towards the Golf of Patras where in 1571 the famous battle of Lepanto was fought. It stopped the Ottomans expansion into the Western Mediterranean. The Turkish fortifications in the port of Lepanto are still standing. From there we venture further east to Corinth, the mother town of many cities founded in Magna Graecia. But before we arrive there, we will stop stop on the northern shores to visit the Oracle of Delphi.

Delphi, just 30 minutes from the Gulf of Corinth where we pass through. Wonder what the Oracle has in for us

Passing through the narrow channel of Corinth will be our next adventure.

Then we head for Novi Epidavros – the little harbour from where taxis will take us to the most impressive Greek Theatre in the entire world. We have to see it even though it is not related to our theme of traveling along trading routes. It will be the highlight of our four weeks of sailing. Piraeus and Athens are just a few hours from here. We will arrive as late as possible.

The magnificent Greek Theatre of Epidavros

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26 ene 2021

Can’t wait for this summer!!!

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