At least Odysseus had an excuse. The Gods had held him up on his way home from Troy.
And he was seduced by a nymph, Calypso, who promised to make him immortal.
Me? I’m on an odyssey too and at the mercy of a powerful woman.
I have missed my connecting flight from Munich to Athens and must persuade customer manager Dani to put me on the next one.
My grovelling works, but I miss my group’s planned tour of the Acropolis.
Teasingly, I see it from a distance on my drive to my hotel, the Athens InterContinental – and again from Mt Lycabettus.
I take comfort in that, and the fact that goddess Athena created this mountain.
Legend has it that she placed a giant rock to create the best vantage point from which to inspect the Parthenon.
The Gods have something else in mind for me though, stirring the winds so that like Odysseus, I will drop anchor at Kythera.
Although it’s more of a case of dropping my rucksack on the airport tarmac as Kythera is an hour’s flight from Athens.
I give thanks to the modern-day deity Aristotle Onassis whose statue stands outside the airport, for getting me here safely.
The rest, the beauty of Kythera and its people, I must again credit the Gods.
Kythera’s proximity to Athens, as one of the six islands in the Attica region, has kept it under the radar too long.
It’s not as well know as Crete, Corfu, Ios, Rhodes. And that is a charm in itself.
But it is the ideal twin resort trip with Athens, or as a sold vacation, particularly for couple and hikers.
It has 64 villages, Minoan, Venetian and Athenian influences in culture, food and architecture, and natural beauty in its coves, cliffs and caves.
Oh, and did I mention its 60 (count them) beaches?
And it comes highly recommended by some pretty influential people. Me obviously, but also Aphrodite, Odysseus and St John the Evangelist.
The apostle had chosen the island to write his gospel.
But whether he overindulged on the vino, or they just didn’t like his god he checked out early.
The flighty Aphrodite, goddess of love, is said to have been ‘born’ on Kythera.
On the foam of the sea before being carried to Cyprus to appear on that Boticelli painting produced in so much merchandise.
I purchase a shell and a fridge magnet with the flower of the island on it.
It is the yellow jasmine-smelling sempreviva from one of the charming open-front shops.
We will see the sempreviva (‘always living’ on account of its remarkable durability) all over the island on the many treks Frank offers.
Dutchman Frank first visited Kythera (pronounced keith-uhra) in 1993 and kept returning until ne day in 2003 he forgot to go home.
Frank introduces us to to the gentler of his treks and it truly is the best way to see the island, its castle, harbours, churches and mills.
Although if you want to test yourself, he’ll take you to the neck of Kythera where the Ionian and Aegean Seas converge.
Or up the hill to the dramatic Church of St George which offers a panaromic view of the island and the sea.
Kythera retains the feel and look of Old Greece.
With crumpled women sitting on whitewashed steps.
And friendly old men happy to share their life story in a taverna over a coffee and a cigarette.
It is an island of just 30kmsq with just 2,500 people.
But it looks south to Australia where 60,000 claim Kytheran heritage.
Among them Bruce, who is walking in the footsteps of his ancestors on the road to Mylopotamos.
Yes, that ought to be a limerick and I ask Frank about the chances of seeing a hippotomus in Mylopotamos.
Stranger things though.
In Classical times such animals did in fact waddle through Greek rivers, hippo being derived from the Greek for horse and potamos meaning river.
Hence Mylopotamos, a river mill where a 3km walk will take you down to a waterfall which feels like it sprang from the pages of Greek mythology.
We eat too in Mylopotamos, eventually! This is Greece where life is beautifully chaotic.
Before we’d arrived on Kythera we got stuck in an Athens restaurant lift for half an hour.
It was probably the size of the portions.
We’re grateful then that we’re sat outside here in Mylopotamos square by an old church tower.
And the banquet is worth waiting an hour for the Greek salad.
It is a rainbow of colours, the ubiquitous moussaka, a farmyard of meats and thew sticky moreish desserts.
Washed down, of course, with ouzo, vino and brandy.
Al Fresco Greek eating
By the end, my mouth is bursting with the flavours of the Aegean and my belly is bloated… I actually feel like a hippotomaus.
In Greece, food is an occasion, eaten al fresco. And they have the weather for it: it’s 30C when I visit in mid-September.
The summer is hottest and the islands offer cooling winds.
Back on the mainland and downtown Athens and my Greek odyssey will by end by the Athens Riviera.
But not before i sneak into the Parthenon.
My taxi driver ‘Gorgeous’ Georg informs me that ‘there are protests downtown so we detour’
He can’t say what’s got the Athenians’s togas in a twist as protesting is a national sport.
How to get there:
Dublin to Athens can be either direct with Aegean Airlines (around €300) or Aer Lingus during high season, May – September (around the same price).
The flight to Kythera from Athens and back cost €195 (with the extra bag) flying Olympic Airlines https://www.olympicair.com/en.
There’s also the option of flying Sky Express https://www.esky.ie/airlines which costs the same.
The other options for flying are not direct so the price depends on airline and airports of choice. Jim’s cost €360 through Munich Airport.
Where to stay:
Jim stayed at the The InterContinental Athenaeum.
www.intercontinental.com/hotels. From €159 for a King Bed Superior Room for a night. The hotel is just a 15-minute taxi ride to the Acropolis.
Jim stayed at the El Sol http://elsolhotel.gr/en/ in Kythera in September which cost €55.
It is cheaper during May and September, and more expensive during summer..
Important websites for activities:
The Region of Attica webpage https://athensattica.com/things-to-see/.