Enumerating animals

A cowboy asked me if I could help him round up eighteen cows. I said ‘Yes, of course. That’s twenty cows.’

public milk churn farmer cows advert taxi Durrës-Vlorë 819.JPG(Vlorë, Albania, earlier this month; Jake Lambert, fourth place in the 2019 Joke of the Edinburgh Fringe award)

A traveller riding a camel through the desert comes across, at an oasis, an altercation between a sheikh’s heirs. In his last will and testament the sheikh has left a quarter of his herd of nineteen camels to his eldest son; a fifth to his second son; and half to his daughter. They cannot agree how to make the division. Here, take my camel, says the traveller. Now you have twenty. Ten for the daughter; five for the first son; four for the second son. And the one that’s left over, I’ll have back. 

public camel rue de l'abbaye 416.JPG(Brussels, 2016; from a book I had when young)

Two passengers opposite each other at the window of a train passing through the English countryside. One is speaking in a low voice: 11 – 8 – 33 – 19…

 – What are you doing?
 – Counting the sheep in the fields as we pass.
– Surely that’s quite a difficult thing to do.
– Oh, not really. I just count the legs and divide by four.

train Windermere-Oxenholme 1117 sheep walls.JPG(Train Windermere-Oxenholme, 2017; one of my father’s jokes.)

The Peloponnesian war, 431-404 BC (visit to the Venetian empire 6 – history games 9)

The spark for the Peloponnesian war between Athens (with its maritime empire) and Sparta (with its Peloponnesian league) was a rebellion in the remote Corcyrean colony of Epidamnus.

boys sea Durrës 819 night.JPG

This is the sea seen from Epidamnus (modern Durrës, in Albania), where the rebels were besieged by forty Corcyrean ships in 436 BC.

Liburnian ships Albanian coins (20 lek) Durrës 819.JPG

Albanian 20-lek coins show an ancient ship.

islands ferry Nereas Corfu-Igoumenitsa 819.JPG

This is the sea opposite Corcyra (modern Corfu), near the Sybota islands, where in a sea battle in 433 Corinth, which had taken the side of the rebels in Epidamnus, was about to defeat a Corcyrean fleet. This is when Athens, one of the principals, first got involved. The appearance of Athenian ships at the Corcyreans’ side was enough to make Corinth lay off. Athens didn’t have to fight.

rion antirion bridge beach chairs Nafpaktos 819.JPG

This is the Gulf of Corinth outside the city of Naupactos (modern Nafpaktos). In 429, after the fighting war had started, the Athenian general Phormio defeated two bigger Spartan fleets here, one after the other…

And so it goes on. The idea of the holiday that Travelling Companion and I are on is Venetian; but there’s plenty to make you think about the Peloponnesian War along the way. The map shows the Venetian empire journey so far, using the map of the game The Peloponnesian War 431-404 BC. Most of the places we’ve been are on it.


Right now we’re in Koroni (ancient Asine), trying to decide what to do tomorrow: visit Methoni (Venetian) or see Pylos and Sphacteria (where for the first time, in 425, Spartan hoplites surrendered rather than fighting to the death).

Athens was a democracy during the Peloponnesian War, as it had been since 510. Not a representative democracy, like those in which we (barring a referendum now and again) live. A direct democracy in which thousands of citizens, meeting each day, drafted and voted on proposals on what the state would do.

Sparta, like other Greek cities, was an oligarchy. In other cities that meant the nobles lived well. In Sparta it meant that thousands of Spartiates lived for war. Helots – serfs or slaves – provided for their physical needs.

It is said – I couldn’t find the source – that Napoleon compared Britain and France to a whale and an elephant. They were each the strongest in their respective realm. They could not get at each other. The same applies here. Athens was invincible at sea, Sparta on land.

Athens made mistake after mistake, notably in its attack on Syracuse in Sicily in 415, but the democracy wouldn’t give up. With Persian money, Sparta eventually built a fleet, aiming to cut off Athens’ grain supplies from the Black Sea. Athens kept beating the Spartan fleet, even when outnumbered, but the kings and the ephors who ruled in Sparta wouldn’t give up. In the end, at Goat River in the Dardenelles, Sparta destroyed Athens’ last fleet – there was no money left to build another – and gained the power to block the grain shipments. Athens surrendered.

As a democrat I’m instinctively sympathetic to Athens. But you can also tell a good story about Spartans’ toughness and indifference to material things. (For a sympathetic fictional account of Spartan soldiers’ exploits as mercenaries in Persian service in the years just after the war, try Conn Iggulden’s The Falcon of Sparta (2018).).

The Peloponnesian War raises many questions.

Do democracies that have empires treat them differently than other polities do?

I don’t think so.

Do democracies make war differently from other polities?

I think so. In 428 Mytilene, the main city of Lesbos, rebelled against Athens. Athens besieged it and it surrendered in 427. The Athenian general, Paches, allowed an embassy to sail to Athens to negotiate the city’s fate. The assembly voted to kill all Mytilene’s adult males and enslave its women and children. “[A] trireme was dispatched to order Paches to carry out the sentence at once. It was not long, however, before the Athenians began to reconsider their decision. Having expressed their anger, some of them recognised the frightfulness of their resolution. [This led to]… a special meeting of the assembly to review the matter the following day… The ship sent to Lesbos after the first assembly carrying the command to put all the men to death had a full day’s head start, but a second trireme was sent off immediately to rescind the order. The Mytilenean envoys in Athens provided food and drink to the rowers and promised them a reward if they reached Lesbos first. Moved by the chance to accomplish a good deed and the hope of gain, the sailors set off at a great pace, refusing even to make the usual stops for eating and sleeping. The men on the first ship were in no hurry to accomplish their frightful task, but they arrived at Mytilene first. Thucydides tells the rest of the tale dramatically. ‘Paches had just read out the decree and was about to carry out its orders when the second ship put in and prevented the destruction. By so little did Mytilene escape its danger’.” (Donald Kagan, The Peloponnesian War, 2003.)

The model carried by this marcher on an anti-Brexit demonstration in London last March refers to this episode. His point may have been that democracies can change their mind.

Brexit march 319 poster trireme Mytilene quote.JPG

What’s the best way to write history?

Herodotus, the first historian whose work we know, who wrote about the Graeco-Persian wars, “inflates the incidents that he tells with dramatic detail” (Georgina Laycock), while Thucydides, the second, who wrote about the Peloponnesian War, referred to “The absence of an element of romance in my account of what happened”. I am drawn to showy writers like Jan Morris, whose book has inspired our Visit to the Venetian Empire, and Simon Schama. But it is Thucydides whose work provides, for example, a superb basis for wargames exploring why the things that happened may have done so.


How can this war be expressed in a wargame?

It often has been. I have five games covering the whole war, and two or three, from Vae Victis, covering individual campaigns. Yet to give one example of the difficulties, there was fighting across most of the Greek world, from Sicily to the Bosphorus. In most of these places for most of the war’s duration (27 years), it seems that nothing military was happening – by contrast, for example, with the English Civil War, where there were thousands of local skirmishes. How can the rules make sure that the “right” amount of activity takes place?

I’ll write about this soon in some reviews of Peloponnesian War wargames.

Corfu, limitless shade and water (Lawrence Durrell) – visit to the Venetian empire 5

fast ferry Sarandë-Corfu 819 mooring Sarandë  4.JPG
(fast ferry, Sarandë)

A bit more than a week ago I came in late and grumpy and done-in into the port of Corfu on the last fast ferry from Sarandë in Albania, having missed the earlier one. I walked down in the hot night to the old town for something late to eat and got cross with the young man who brought it to me. I apologised grumpily.

The next day, a rest day on the journey, I had three things to do.

1.     The washing.

my washed clothes Corfu 819.JPG

2.     At a newsstand in the shady streets of the old town I bought the papers: Thursday’s Times, Friday’s Telegraph, Friday’s Le Monde, and, at another, Friday’s Times.

3.     With this treasure I walked out, past the swimming club under the walls of the Venetian fortress, to the café near Mon Repos where Travelling Companion and I had the second best meal of our visit to the Ionian islands the year before last.

tomatoes onion great restaurant near Mon Repos 817.JPG(Tomato salad, Corfu, 2017)

But it turned out that you can’t step into the same taverna twice. The damn place was closed. I ordered the same meal, tomato salad and prawns, at the Two Brothers next door. It wasn’t half as good.

The Times was as good as ever.

I thought about the differences between Albania and Corfu.

Albania Corfu





empty sea


straight wide streets

shady narrow streets

cars and whiny mopeds in charge of the city

My mother’s small-t travelling companion, D.G., wrote about Tirana’s main square in 1987 that The real sense of freedom in that splendid square was the freedom from traffic. What a sensation! In mid-city to meander at will, actually talking and pausing to talk, without fear of annihilation. [L.S.] Lowry would have had a field day in this open space. I hope they never catch up with the West.

They have.

pavement "downetty" Corfu 819 2.JPG

In Corfu they do at least have what my mother, bringing up three under-fives in Nottingham in the sixties, called “downetties” to help people pushing prams pass between the pavement and the road. They are a help too if you have a wheeled suitcase (though those hadn’t been invented then).

I thought the shadiness of Corfu town was because this town is old while Durrës, Vlorë and Sarandë have been made new. Lawrence Durrell (The Greek Islands, 1978) wants it to be endemic to the island as a whole: If the scenery has a certain plumpness, a Venetian rotundity (this is what the Athenians will always say about Corfu: but they are jealous because here is limitless shade and water) then the plumpness is corrected and prevented from becoming too sweet by the ravenous white light playing over people and things. 

A final difference is that Corfu is festooned with Venetian winged lions of which I saw none in Albania, not even on the Venetian tower in Durrës.

Corfu 819 winged lion 4.JPG

winged lion Corfu 819 2.JPG


winged lion 3 Corfu 819.JPG

winged lion Corfu 819 1.JPG

 Lion as emoticon – feel-good imperialism 🙂, says my friend N.F.

The Albanian Riviera (visit to the Venetian empire 4)

Last Thursday I traversed the Albanian Riviera, 80 km from Vlorë to Sarandë, in a Riviera Bus minivan with Latvian plates. The fare was payable in rubles.


Unlike Durrës to the north and Corfu to the south, these parts were rarely Venetian. They were, however, the home territory of Ali Pasha, the Lion of Ioannina, who snapped up various of Napoleon’s leavings after the dictatorial general took over Venice and allocated away its empire in 1797.

For a long way south of Vlorë there was built-up beachside between the road and the sea.

roadside beach equpment rings towels hats minivan Vlorë-Sarandë 819.JPG

Then things became mountainous and sparse, hot and dry.

road coming down from viewpoint minivan Vlorë-Sarandë 819 2.JPG

I saw few or no old buildings in Albania, not even mosques or churches. Just one of Ali Pasha’s well-protected castles at Porto Palermo.

minivan Vlorë-Sarandë 819 castel island Porto Palermo 2.JPG

Along the drive there were, however, fake crenellations,

imitatation castle bar viewpoint minivan Vlorë-Sarandë 819 2.JPG

a few of the 173 000 bunkers built under the rule of Enver Hoxha (1960s-1980s),

bunker Albania minivan Vlorë-Sarandë 819.JPG

and a submarine base abandoned by the Soviet Union.

minivan Vlorë-Sarandë 819 abandoned submarine base Porto Palermo 3.JPG

This new roadside shrine includes a model of an old church.

shrine religion minivan Vlorë-Sarandë 819.JPG

There were beehives by the side of the road, honey for sale.

limestone beehives honey shop tent minivan Vlorë-Sarandë 819.JPG

The writing on this building says NO GIRLS AND ROMANTIC BOYS.

public writing FAG MOB NO GIRLS AND ROMANTIC BOYS structure minivan Vlorë-Sarandë 819.JPG

You could ask to be dropped off along the way. A young Italian couple got out in a small town. As we drove off we could see them looking for their lodgings. If I’d got out at one of the little hilltop villages I think they’d have gambled for my clothes.

I arrived in Sarandë having got myself into a bad mood because the minivan ran late and I missed the ferry to Corfu. I had time to eat good mussels. Are they from round here? Yes, said the waitress, in a tone that would have interested the political economist Elinor Ostrom, they’re our mussels.

mussels with olives Sarandë 819.JPG

  Mode of transport Distance (crow’s flight) Time Cost
Vlorë-Corfu, 8 August minivan – boat 98 km 8 hours 45 minutes (11 kph) €94 (96 €c/km)
Durrës – Vlorë, 7 August taxi 95 km 2 hours 20 minutes (41 kph) €83 (87 €c/km)
Petten – Durrës, 2-4 August car – bus – 8 trains – taxi -boat – taxi 1692 km 55 hours 15 minutes (32 kph) €558 (33 €c/km)


Visit to the Venetian empire 3: Albania (Durazzo and Valona, Durrës and Vlorë)

getting a haircut Vlorë 819.JPG

Let’s get the Venetian stuff out of the way first. It won’t take long. In the first of these blogs I mentioned how Venice acquired in 1204 “most of the best harbours of the Byzantine empire” (Jan Morris). Durazzo, where I landed from Bari, was one of the places Venice picked out. It turns out, however, that this didn’t last long. By 1205 or 1213 the city was back in the hands of the ex-emperor. Before Venice got hold of it again in 1392, it had several other careless owners. Venice held onto it until 1501 and then it was captured by the Ottoman Turks. There are no winged lions in Durrës. There is no mention of Venice in the archeological museum. At least, though, I visited the bar on the roof of the “Venetian tower”.

Venetian tower public soldier rifle Durrës 819.JPG

Valona, 95 km to the south, was the second place I chose to visit on this trip. Its spell under Venetian control was shorter: 1690 to 1691. No lions.

Today, both cities are sandy-beached seaside resorts with an evening passegiata

sparkling balloons passegiata Durrës 819 4.JPG(Durrës)

passegiata Vlorë 819.JPG (Vlorë);

Italian spoken;

Halal piceri (pizzeria) Bohemia Durrës 819.JPG (Durrës)

and pizza on the menu. In the passeggiata people stroll in Vlorë; in Durrës they walk.

What about the language? Opposite the café where I went on my first evening I noticed a notice in Albanian: SHITET ose jepet me Qera. I couldn’t guess a word. (Google translate says it means FOR SALE or lease.) Wikipedia says that Albanian and Armenian are the two Indo-European languages that don’t have close living relatives. (Basque, which has no relatives, isn’t Indo-European.) It says that Albanian has been called the weird sister, “because it has several words that do not correspond to Indo-European cognates”, but I haven’t found out who said this or how credible they are. For my part I find Russian vocabulary equally bereft of clues, even when transliterated (ДЛЯ ПРОДАЖИ или сдан в аренду – DLYA PRODAZHI ili sdan v arendu).

Roger Miller, King of the Road.

Of the two cities, Durrës is less international. Some of the apartments that look out over the prom have washing drying on the balcony.

fairground track Durrës 819.JPG

Vlorë, by contrast, has a bike lane.

bike lane Vlorë 819.JPG

My mum came to Albania on a coach tour in 1987. Her suitcase got lost in Belgrade on the way and she had to live for a week in what she was wearing. Albania was different then. Into her guidebook, which I brought on this trip, she has folded a typed report by her small-t travelling companion David. “Inside the customs post”, he wrote, was a “framed quotation from Enver Hoxha… : ‘Although we lack bread, we will never betray our Marxist principles’”.

I caught a taxi between the two cities. The taxi driver used the Albanian name for Durrës and the Italian name for Valona. His sense of humour was of the how-are-the-mighty-fallen variety. Anglia – no Europa – Ha ha ha . United – no Ferguson – Mourinho – Ha ha ha.I asked him about Albanian football. Socialism (hitting his chest) – bene. Democrita (making the money sign) – no. (Albania’s highest world ranking was in fact in 2015, when they were ranked 22nd.) The hotel I’d booked in Vlorë was shut when we got there. The driver banged on doors, shouted, made phone calls on his little black Nokia and wouldn’t leave until he had handed over the turista Anglia to someone else’s safe keeping.

saying goodbye to taxi driver Vlorë 819.JPG(Here he is waving goodbye.)

I always have the same haircut. In Brussels, in our neighbourhood, there were posher hairdressers than I needed and it used to cost me €20 or more. In Alkmaar I go to a Kurdish guy on the edge of the old city and it’s €10. In Vlorë I paid a bit more than €4.

getting a haircut Vlorë 819.JPG

 Journeys so far:

  Mode of transport Distance (crow’s flight) Time Cost
Petten – Durrës car – bus – 8 trains – taxi -boat – taxi 1692 km 55 hours 15 minutes (32 kph) €558 (33 €cent/km)
Durrës – Vlorë taxi 95 km 2 hours 20 minutes (41 kph) €83 (87 €cent/km)



Visit to the Venetian empire (2): Eindhoven to the Adriatic

route so far 819.JPG

Amsterdam feels like a dream to me now. The trip so far: a colleague gave me a lift in her car from our research site in the Netherlands to the village of Petten – bus – train train train (Utrecht to Cologne; Friday’s first post in this series was dispatched from that train, at Eindhoven) train train train train train – taxi – shuttle bus – ship and here I am at four o’clock on Sunday afternoon, exactly two days after I set out, sitting on a high table in the snack bar on the ninth deck of the AF Francesca  as she sails in the sunshine down the coast south of Bari on the way to Dürres in Albania.

(Why not go straight across the Adriatic rather than down the coast? The Francesca isn’t a fleet in an ancient wargame that sinks on a dice roll of 6 if it crosses the open sea.)

man four stringed musical instrument bordbistro train Utrecht-Cologne 819.JPG

A young man with a stringed instrument was on the train from Utrecht to Cologne.

having a cigarette Munchengladbach while waiting for the train to move again hitchhike man on left bordbistro train Utrecht-Cologne 819.JPG

In the rain on the platform at Mönchengladbach, as the train hesitated about what to do next, he told me, having a cigarette, that, after going by train to meet uni friends in Venice, he would hitch to Copenhagen for a wedding next weekend. Can you still do that?, I asked. He had brought a banjo because unlike a guitar it fits in his bag (not really, I said). He thinks having a musical instrument will help him get lifts. With restraint I told him only a single hitching story from my own youth.

steps Cologne cathedral 819.JPG

Cologne cathedral, where it’s good to go when changing trains– it is right next to the station – was closed at that time of night. I went to the Excelsior hotel for a gin and tonic.

I spent last night and the night before on trains. Ordinary old-fashioned compartments, three seats facing three. When it’s only you and a stranger and you can lie down each on one side (Köln to Basel) it’s not great. When there’s five or six of you (Turin to Rome) it’s not-greater. I met an archeology student couple in that compartment, though. They were off south on holiday, but often take the train to dig at a Greek colony in Calabria. They found Latin harder to learn than Ancient Greek because it is structured – the rules are the rules – while Greek makes up exceptions when it needs to. They like Ancient Rome more than Greece because Rome is structured while Greece is “philosophical”. This couple seemed to me to live in the ancient world like my father, a local historian, lived in the civil war and the industrial revolution in the north of England.

cows field houses Switzerland train Basel-Milan 819.JPG

lake Maggiore train Basel-Milan 819 4.JPG

But before that I came through Switzerland and into northern Italy on an early morning train, with views of cows and of the Borromeo islands on Lake Maggiore. I remember catching the night train from Milan via Domodossola the other way, heading home with Travelling Companion, Daughter and Son, and seeing the lake and the lights on it.

To break the hot journey on Saturday afternoon I went for a swim at a communal pool in Turin, Piscina Vigone. The sort of thing you would not do before google maps. I ate the same meal (linguine with tomato sauce and shellfish) under different names for lunch in Milan and dinner in the galleries in Turin.

cafes gallery Turin 819 2 arches.JPG

In Turin the dish came, not obviously necessarily, with a pizza base on top of it. All I’ve had for fruit and vegetables is a peach from the market in Turin.

The night train from Turin came into Ostiense station in Rome at just gone half past five. There was a big highly lit café already open for coffee, sweet Italian croissants and fresh orange juice.

Ostiense station Rome 819 oranges ears.JPG

In too came a crowd of scouts of different genders. I had espresso, they had coffee in big cups.

I walked across the city in the early morning to the station at Termini.

walk Rome Ostiense-Terminale station 819 umbrella pine?.JPG

There were pigeons and gulls, but the main scavengers in Rome were particoloured crows.

walk Rome Ostiense-Terminale station 819 crow 2.JPG

On the train from Rome to Bari were four old ladies on their way to the seaside. They rose half an hour too early on the rocking train in order not to miss their stop at Foggia. Three of us other passengers were drawn into helping them get their pesante suitcases down from the overhead racks and along the swaying corridor. What have you got in here, I sort of said to one of them. – Clothes, because I am going on holiday for 25 days. I conclude that she doesn’t plan to do any laundry while she’s away.

For the boat from Bari to Dürres in Albania, it says on the website of the internet ticket agency (Go-Ferry) that as a foot passenger you need to get to the terminal at least an hour before the departure time; and the rules of the company you are sailing with prevail.

On the website of the company I am sailing with (Grandi Navi Veloci) it says that because of passport and other formalities, foot passengers going to Albania need to arrive at the terminal at least four hours beforehand.

ferry terminal from shuttle bus Bari 819.JPG

The train from Rome got to Bari station at 1204. The boat was due to leave at 1300. A taxi from the station dropped me at the terminal. There I learned that I had to take a shuttle bus to a different place, where the agencies are, to get my ticket. I waited for ten minutes in the sun for that bus which appeared, as timetabled, at 1230, got taken to the different place where the agencies are,

ticket collection place Bari 819.JPG

found the right one for my ship in the row of fifteen or twenty guichets, got given my ticket, got back on the shuttle which had kindly waited for me though the other three or four passengers had their tickets and were ready to go, got back to the terminus at 1245, went through passport control and walked rapidly along to the next quay and boarded at 1255.

my ferry Bari 819.JPG

Admittedly as the last foot passenger.

Public transport postscript: here I am now in Albania. I left the research site where I work, near Petten, at 4 pm on Friday and reached my hotel in Dürres at 11.15 pm on Sunday. 1692 km, as the crow flies, in 55¼ hours: 32 kph, about half the average door to door speed of the non-flying journeys I take. The bus cost €4; the trains €444; the boat €90; taxis (in Bari and Dürres) €20. I don’t count the taxi of incompetence I took in Turin on Saturday night having gone to the wrong station (Porta Susa instead of Porta Nuovo: aren’t all Portas the same?). The total of €558 equates to 33 eurocents/km, about average for the journeys I take.

Three of the eleven links in the journey (not counting the taxis and the shuttle bus) were late – ¾ hour (train Utrecht-Cologne), ¾ hour (train Basel-Milan), 1½ hours (boat Bari-Dürres). It didn’t matter because I’m on holiday and because I’ve got nice slack in the timetable. But it isn’t impressive. I think it may be significant that three of the four international links were late (only Cologne-Basel was on time), while all seven domestic links were on time. I wonder how this ratio compares with the old pre-flying days. I think there is scope for the EU to impose and enforce public service obligations on cross-border journeys by public transport.

To the Eyes of the Republic – a visit to the Venetian empire (1)

public winged lion Korcula 814 2.JPG(Korčula, 2014)

Travelling Companion and I love Venice.

I can’t speak for Travelling Companion’s reasons and I can’t ask her – she’s Sculpting – but me, what I love is the Republic’s style.  Venice, La Serenissima, was the Serena Williams of the Renaissance. It looked always to put its enemies on the back foot, was too proud to scrabble for the marginal gains beloved by Dave Brailsford of Team Sky. (This year at Wimbledon Roger Federer, gentleman though he is, made thirty line call challenges. Serena made only seven.)

In or around 1197, the Venetian republic agreed to provide a fleet to transport the Fourth Crusade, 20000 men, to the Holy Land. The Crusaders turned up, but they couldn’t pay. En route, the Venetians suggested that a way to fill the financial gap might be to turn left at the Peloponnese rather than going straight on, and install a pretender on the throne of Byzantium. Duly done, with the blind octagenarian Venetian Doge Dandolo first ashore. To the victors the spoils. According to Jan Morris (The Venetian Empire, 1980), “Dandolo did not want great mainland possessions for the Republic, and willingly agreed to the fragmentation of Greece among the variouos Frankish barons… It was along the trade routes that he built his dominion… He… demanded a chain of islands, fortresses and coastal strips, from the Dardanelles all the way back to the Adriatic, which would provide permanent security and convenience for Venetian shipping. Only the Venetians, among the negotiating parties, knew these waters well, and they chose their acquisitions carefully. When all was sorted out they were to include most of the Aegean islands, strongpoints dotted around the coast of Greece, the Ionian islands at the mouth of the Adriatic, and Crete. Most of the best harbours of the Byzantine Empire became Venetian.”

Travelling Companion and I have been visiting these strongpoints and acquisitions, looking out for the winged lion of St Mark, with Jan Morris’s book as our guide. In 2014 we sailed from Venice to Rovigno, Spalato, Trogir and Curzola (Rovinj, Split, Trau and Korčula) in Croatia and Cattaro (Kotor) in Montenegro. In 2017 we caught the train down to Venice again and sailed to the Ionian islands: Corfu (Korkyra), Paxos (Paxi), Santa Maura (Levkas) and Ithaca (Ithaki), plus Parga on the mainland. This year we are heading for Coron (Koroni) in the Peloponnese, the Second Eye of the Republic.

PH hand representing Peloponnese 819.JPG

If you hold our your hand to represent the three peninsulas of the Peloponnese, Coron is at the bottom of the inside of the lefthandmost finger as you look at it. Modon, Methoni, the First Eye, is at the bottom of the outside of that finger.

On the first leg of this journey I’m travelling – without Sculpting Companion at this stage – from the JRC research site at Petten, where we can see the North Sea from the office windows, to Dürres on the coast of Albania. From sea to shining sea.

gull chick JRC Petten 819.JPG

I said goodbye to the now adolescent gull chicks at the research site (some – I suspect including this one – can’t fly yet, some can, all look obstreperously  selfconscious) at four this Friday afternoon. My colleague L.B. kindly gave me a lift to Petten village.

PH on bus CCTV bus Petten-Alkmaar 819.JPG

I caught a bus from Petten to Alkmaar (see picture from the CCTV) and a train to Amsterdam central station. There it is good to stick your head out on the water side, the IJ side, look at the people swinging on top of this building and think, not me.

swing IJside Amsterdam central station 819.JPG

Then Amsterdam-Utrecht and now I am on the Utrecht-Cologne train. It’s a bit gone 8 and we’re winding through Eindhoven station.