Friday, October 08, 2004

xlab in santorini

When me and Victoria planned our summer holiday last year we considered going to Santorini, one of the more interesting Greek Islands, having a history peppered with earthquakes and volcanoes and having - as a result - perthaps the most amazing geography in the region.

Phil, over at his xlab blog has just returned from his holiday, and posts some fascinating stuff about the island and some stunning photographs, here.

I would probably have never blogged this were it not for the fact that it chimes in with the fact that my recent reading has been Robert Harris's pretty-good 'Pompeii' and that I've got at home, waiting to be viewed, a video of the most recent one of those British Isles: A Natural History programmes, which deals with volcanoes, too - not to mention all the excitement about Mt. St Helens - so I'm naturally interested.

None of which, obviously, is quite as exciting as this, which happens every year in Kefalonia, and prompted me to want very much to go there, too:

"High on the hill top above the resort of Katelios between August 6th and 15th a large number of small harmless snakes have been making their appearance for centuries in the church of Panayia of Langouvarda and in the village of Arginia higher up the slopes of Mount Ainos. The original church of Langouvarda was burned in 1945 and completely destroyed in the earthquakes of 1953. From the night of August 6th 'telescopus fallax' known as the cat snake appears in and around the church's courtyard, walls and bell tower. The inhabitants of the villages consider them to be holy, collecting these harmless creatures and setting them in front of the silver icon of the 'Virgin of the Snakes'. After the festival on the 15th August these honoured guests leave until the same time next year. Some say it's a miracle, whilst others believe the wet damp route that runs from the fresh water spring in Arginia down the ravine to Markopoulo is a migratory path. Locals consider their presence as a good omen for the coming year. During the German occupation in the second world war and the earthquake of 1953 the snakes failed to appear."

Elsewhere in the hot world, Anne-So and Sam are diving in Egypt at the moment, and it seems that yesterday's atrocities occurred quite near to where they're staying. Don't be blown up, AS and Sam!


Tim Rutherford-Johnson said...

Liz says that Harris's Enigma is very good.

Cat-snakes? Whoever thought that one up wasn't thinking it through ...

jonathan said...

Presumably they spend the whole of the rest of the year spinning around in circles chasing themselves.

I've not read Enigma, but I read both Fatherland and the-one-about-Russia which wasn't as good as Gorky Park, and both were well worth the time and effort; Fatherland in particular was very impressive.

The new one is good but not great; he decides to use a sensible, rational protagonist who lends a very 20th century perspective to all the people around him, so when we get to read about rituals and sacrifices it doesn't feel like we're really involved. It would have been much braver to have tried to get inside the Roman mentality rather than use an outsider to describe it.

Nevertheless, it's very good in places, like on the eruption itself.
*boom!* (jonathan gets excited again)