Skyros, Greece

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Monday, 16 April 2012

Memory Bells Tinkling with Pleasure

Yannis Andricopoulos, Ph.D. is co-founder of Skyros, the leading alternative holiday, and author of several books including his trilogy In Bed with Madness, The Greek Inheritance and The Future of the Past (Imprint Academic).
Here Yannis talks about how he came across Skyros Island over thirty five years ago, and how the idyllic landscape wrapped him in its charms, just as it has done ever since with so many Skyros participants. 

        Sometimes memories are like a fishbone stuck in time’s throat. At other times they are like bells tinkling with pleasure. The latter is the case when I recall the time I discovered Skyros island, Greece, something like thirty-five years ago. Here are the notes I made at that time ...
I love this island’s primordial nature, wild and yet curvaceous and flowing, the pastel of its landscape, the scents of the mellow summer nights, the mellifluous breathing of the Aegean Sea in whose ‘lustral waters Zeus himself once delighted’.
I love its village, too. Curved centuries back up on the hill for fear of pirates, it has narrow cobblestone streets paved with unhurried intimacy and wholesome humanness. Its white cubic-style houses, shaded by grapevines playing voluptuously with the nuances of the glittering sunlight, are a testament of indestructible innocence suspended in time.
In the square, the villagers weathered by the lingering memories of the millenniums, watch with amusement the visitors from their future and, awed, wonder what the world has in store for them.
I feel I’ve arrived at an integrated, unflappable world, at peace with itself, serene in its wisdom, ethereal and yet as solid and nurturing as Mother Earth.
On a stone, a surviving vestige of what was once a Homerian wall, I let my imagination glide in time and acquaint itself with the shadows of the past.
There, in front of me, are children of the Bronze Age playing boisterous games, Achilles, Odysseus, Nestor and Ajax, glorious Theseus telling king Lycomedes all about the dreadful Minotaur of Crete, and Athenian statesman Kimon arguing ferociously with the proud Skyrians. There, too, are Byzantine priests urging their flock to repent before God lost patience with their sinful lot, Venetian sailors and Algerian pirates carrying on their back flanks of wine and young women, Ottoman officials, obese, debauched and drowsy, and coltish kids Mussolini had sent to conquer the world. 
And then Nicos Pavlis, the Skyros Centre neighbour, passes in front of me, on his donkey, and a friendly smile on his sun-hardened, lined face. Kalimera, he says and offers me a bunch of red grapes as delectable as Aphrodite‘s nipples. I recall Democritus, the father of the theory of atomism. ‘Enough’, he said, ‘is as good as a feast. True riches are found only in contentment’.  And, Oh God, I have more than enough!
The odoriferous grapes, the convivial smile, the sensual delights of nature’s breathtaking pastiche, the simplicity of life and the ancient breath of every stone have all engulfed me in a cloud of spiritual bliss. They penetrated my soul and tuned me into the eternal rhythms of life.

Without even knowing it, I was on a spiritual journey. I listened to the whispering of the sea and I became that whispering. I absorbed the fragrance of the jasmine and I became the fragrance itself. I watched the eagles flying over the mountains and I became the proud high-flying bird circling the sky together with them. I had extended myself spatially and diachronically, being what my eyes could embrace in the sculptured countryside caressed by the Graces and what my psyche could trace in the fragmented memories of the mythical and more recent past.
I felt part of it all, humbled in reverence, ennobled by the experience, mesmerised by, and grateful for, the beauty revealing itself in all its simplicity.
And beauty was in everything – in the olive trees with the wrinkles of generations, the rocks with the wisdom of all times, the sea-nymphs dancing naked in the diaphanous shroud of the golden sunset. It was in the Greek sunlight, which, as Henri Miller said, ‘penetrates directly to the soul and opens the doors and windows of the heart’, in the odour of the freshly-baked bread, the fleshy figs on the table soaking in the early morning’s dew, the moist brown eyes of the Greeks.
I had internalised that youthful energy of the unfaltering eternity and was in tune with its indomitable volition that can recreate in its image our world. I was ready to play my part!

Alternative holidays began with The Skyros Centre - home to the renowned 'Writers' Lab' and 'Life Choices' programme - in Skyros' village in 1979. Later, in 1983, the holistic holiday by the sea in Atsitsa became part of the heart and soul of Skyros. Both centres are now part of the island’s natural landscape and even its mythology! 
Don't miss out on your chance to step into this magical setting, why not contact us for more details about our fabulous holidays. Tel: +44 (0) 1983 865566

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