22, July 2016
For those of you who have looked at our location (by using the link above), you won’t have seen Serafina move for a month. Not what you’d expect during cruising season in the Mediterranean. But Birgit had a medical issue that had to be dealt with in Germany. It is successfully done, and she’ll be back on the boat next week. We’ll start moving again. I also took a short trip to Germany to renew my German equivalent of a “Green Card,” which allows me to remain in the E.U. without visa issues.
Not exciting stuff (fortunately), but the marina in Messolonghi (one of the acceptable spelling variants) is pleasant, with a very good little café/bar/restaurant less than 50 meters from the boat. Messolonghi itself is a pleasant and apparently economically healthy town, almost exactly the same size as Licata, Sicily. At least four cruising boats that had wintered in Licata have been here in the marina, and catching up with old friends has been very pleasant indeed.
Like most places in the Mediterranean, Messolonghi has had a long and bloody history, captured by many, and site of bitter struggles. An important center in the long fight for Greek independence (from the Ottoman Empire) it was the scene of grisly battles in the 1820s. The British poet/romantic, Lord Byron, came here during that time, but died at 36 from a fever (malaria, or yellow fever?) contracted while here. The name of the town is thought to come from two Italian words – from the Venetians, most likely, who dominated the area until 1700 – messo and laghi, meaning “in the middle of lakes.”
Makes sense, as the town is nearly surrounded by a linked series of lagoons and waterways that, at various times, must have supported a hell of a mosquito population. They aren’t bad here now, maybe because some of the stagnant fresh-water ponds have been filled in to provide room for the for the town to expand.
In 1826, nearly two years after the death of Lord Byron, Messolonghi was suffering terribly from a sustained siege by overwhelming Ottoman forces, primarily from Egypt and Turkey. A plan was made for the inhabitants to flee the town in an exodus. But the plan was found out, and the invaders used the confusion to basically slaughter the entire population, those who didn’t commit suicide, anyway. The house where Lord Byron died was filled up with Greek wounded, women and explosives. It was detonated to prevent any of the three from falling in to the hands of the invaders, who, it must be said, had a bad reputation in many places.
As a result of its role in the fight for independence, and the horrors that took place there, Messolonghi is referred to as “The Sacred City.” The town, long since repopulated, has contributed significant writers, poets, doctors, generals and politicians to Greece.
But if it has been quiet here in the marina for the last month, it certainly has not been elsewhere in the world. We were able to look away from most of the spectacle this week in Cleveland, but couldn’t miss Melania Trump’s, Ted Cruz’s and The Donald’s orations, at least in part. Like many, I think we watched in the same spirit that used to draw people to county fairs to see the two-headed calf in the big jar of formadehyde.