In Odysseus’s Foot Steps

In mythology, Kythera was the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love known as Venus to the Romans. Legend has it that Aphrodite was born from the foam of sea-waves carried on a scallop shell. Botticelli’s painting “The Birth of Venus” became a landmark of 15th century Italian art, so rich in meaning and allegorical references to antiquity.

In the famous judgment of Paris, the Trojan prince chose Aphrodite as fairest among Olympia’s goddesses but only after she had promised him the love of Helen, the fairest mortal. The problem was Helen was already married to the Greek King Menelaus and had to be persuaded to elope. As the lovers waited for favourable winds to carry them to Troy, they hid on Kythera, using mystical palaces and baths said to have been sited at the seaside village of Kapsali on the shore below Kastropolis.

A decade later, as Odysseus made his tortuous way home from the Trojan War caused by Paris and Helen’s reckless adventure, Homer says his hero stopped at Kythera before becoming lost in the Lotus Land.

Succeeding the centuries, up until the second part of the 19th century, Kythera has host many different civilizations, being at the crossroads of merchants, sailors, and conquerors. This co-existence of the Greek, Venetian, Ottoman, French and British cultures is reflected in Kythera’s architecture (a blend of traditional Aegean and Venetian elements) as well as in its customs and traditions, retained and observed to current times.

Kythera’s mythology has inspired numerous works of art. In Florent Carton Dancourt’s play “Les Trois Cousines”, premiered in 1700, a girl dressed as a pilgrim steps from the chorus and invites the audience to join her on a voyage to Kythera where everyone will meet their ideal partner. Jean-Antoine Watteau’s 1717 masterpiece -- “Embarkation for Cythera” ("L'Embarquement pour Cythère", also known as "Voyage to Cythera" and "Pilgrimage on the Isle of Cythera") hangs in the Louvre and provided inspiration both for Claude Debussy’s monumental 1904 piano work “L’Isle Joyeuse” and Francois Poulenc’s eponymos tone poem of 1940. In Charles Baudelaire’s highly conflicted “Fleurs du Mal” (1851) Kythera is alternatively an “…island of sweet secrets, of the hearts’ festivals!” and “a rocky desert disturbed by shrill cries.”

Kythera’s importance in French neo-Classical thought was symbolized in 1798 when, post-Revolutionaries proclaimed the ideals of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” by planting the “Tree of Freedom” in Estavromenos Square in Chora, just 50 metres from Kastropolis.

Today, Kythera is a small “out of the way” paradise, revealing secrets of natural beauty and historical significance. Nature lovers can quest for incredible landscapes: beaches, cliffs, waterfalls, hiking paths and canyons, picturesque villages.

Those eager to quest for legend and history will discover impressive monuments of ancient Greek, Venetian, Ottoman and British heritage in Kythera’s 65 villages.

And those, who just wish to switch off from their daily routine at home, will get into the sacred Greek summer holiday mood, spend their day at isolated or busy beaches and, when the sun sets, relax with a drink and relish a dinner with local fish or slipper lobster.

Quest Kythera in Odysseus’s footsteps!