When I go on holiday, I am always on the lookout for interesting places that I might use for a back drop in one of my stories. I am drawn to two kinds of places, polar opposites really – the very busy and the ultra secluded. By very busy places I usually mean markets, probably food or flea markets. I’ve managed to visit food markets in Egypt, various European countries and the US. I adore Christmas markets too, especially the one in Bruges, and I have written them into quite a few Christmas stories.
But my favourite kind of place is the secluded, especially a location with ancient ruins. I remember the first one I visited was a gymnasium in Troezen on a day trip from the nearby island of Poros. It was difficult to get to. I had to pay a fisherman to take me across to mainland Greece. After that it was the local bus and a long walk through lemon groves. When I got there there wasn’t much to see, not for the untrained eye at any rate. A few remnants of running tracks, boulders and a vast, empty plain all around! But knowing that Theseus might have trained her in his youth invested the place with so much power and energy, I came away with every detail imprinted in my memory. Sadly I only had a pocket stills camera in those days and I’m not sure what happened to the photos I took. I’d love to look at them again.
I recently bought a digital camera that takes stills as well as film but, finding another inspiring place on Corfu last month, I realised I’d been a foolish virgin with the battery. So I had to rely on a friend who hadn’t been so foolish.
The place is a small temple dedicated to Apollo in the grounds of Mon Repos on Corfu. Mon Repos is a villa, now a museum, famous as the birth place of Prince Philip. Princess Sissi, the empress of Austria also stayed there before she built her palace, the Achilleon. The villa is surrounded by overgrown woods where a lot of excavation work is being done. The gem comes at the end of the walk. The temple of Apollo, overlooking the sea whose sparkling waves can be glimpsed through a wall of mature trees. It was once a bustling place, a hive of activity, of worship and industry. Now remnants of its twelve columns lie scattered in the dust. The altar still stands and, on the day I visited, someone had left a May day wreath on it, its leaves hardening in the summer heat.
But the magic lingers in the air. I’m not sure if it is the worship of those ancient Corfiots that invest the place with such a feeling of otherwordliness, or if the place first attracted worship because it had an aura already. Stand at the altar, look out to sea, listen to the wind in the sacred trees and your imagination will easily transport you to ancient Greece.
I must return, and this time with a fully charged battery camera.
Related posts! You might also like to read the following posts about Corfu: