Almost two decades ago, just before Nikolaos and I married, I visited Greece to become acquainted with my future adopted homeland. Nikolaos knew visiting lighthouses is one of my passions. The Hellenic Navy, his branch of service, just happened to tend all the lighthouses in Greece; thus he arranged to treat me to a visit to remote Sapientza Lighthouse. The old photograph he flashed in front of me, stirred my sense of adventure. Imagine traveling to a deserted island off the coast of a far tip of the Peloponnese to a lighthouse so remote that the keeper now lives on the mainland and comes only periodically to check it.
After the long drive to the southwestern tip of the Peloponnese, we met the lighthouse keeper, who accompanied us on a 1 1/2 hour boat trip to the deserted island of Sapientza. Once there, we hiked 40 minutes to the lighthouse. Along the way, the keeper explained that the lighthouse network of Greece consisted of over 1,000 beacons, of which more than 100 are housed in towers.
Soon, on the summit, an octagonal stone and marble tower on a house appeared before us. The keeper startled me as he called out for Spyros. Before I knew it, the Lighthouse Donkey came ambling toward me. You can read about him in Elinor Dewire’s “Lightkeepers’ Menageries: Stories of Animals at Lighthouses.
I explored the lighthouse from bottom to top, its several rooms and, of course, its tower. Remnants from former residents littered the rooms. On the kitchen table old tins of sardines and cans of condensed milk lay scattered among olive oil bottles. The ouzo in a partially filled bottle had turned white over the years. Some surely had been there half a century. Old Greek comic books lay on the mattresses; vintage military uniforms and hats hung on hooks. Cupboard shelves, with abandoned copper devices and old bronze burners, reminded us how modern electronic equipment supplanted the old ways. I imagine the spirit of former keepers hovering to hint at their return.
We followed the narrow spiral marble staircase to the tower. From the marble balcony that encircled the tower, we took in the spectacular view. That day sparked an interest in me that has taken me to many times for a stay in different lighthouses. Each new sunset dazzles me, a recent one on Skopelos Island. I can doff an antique keeper’s hat and climb to the top of the lighthouses ... on the outside! Or I can just glory in the beauty of the setting.
Many beautiful stone lighthouses exist in Greece: some on deserted islands, some on popular islands, some easily accessible at ports, others more of a challenge to reach. Tourlitis Lighthouse, off Andros Island, truly the setting for a fairytale, remains my personal favorite. Imagine a prince ascending its outer staircase, carved right into the stone, to rescue a sleeping Greek princess.
This story appeared in the
December 2007 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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