January 8, 2012

The Dardanelles, Turkey. November, 2011

On the morning after our ship had sailed all night from Istanbul through the Sea of Marmara, I made sure to be awake early enough to witness this storied waterway, fabled in legend and in song. Literally. AKA the Hellespont, this narrow passage connects the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara (and then via the Bosphorus to the Black Sea beyond) and as such has been strategic (both militarily and commercially) for millennia. Leander swam it nightly to keep his rendezvous with Hero. Bryon did likewise to show how manly he was. These days, there is an annual swim across its one-mile width that’s rather more for sport than a show of love or bravado. (My linguist friend Michael knows someone who has swum across it twice, “a Sanskritist,” he adds, as only he could.) I was just happy to be there, to see it (Look! There’s Gallipoli! Look! There’s Troy!)...and then to go have breakfast.

1 comment:

  1. Knowing you, I am sure you also kept your eyes peeled for lovely Hylas. After Jason and the Argonauts passed through the Hellespont, they stopped at an island where Hercules and his lover Hylas went ashore to fetch water. Alas, water nymphs were so enraptured by Hylas that they abducted him. Grief-stricken, Hercules told the Argonauts to sail on without him, and stayed behind to search for his lost lover, plaintively calling, "Hylas! Hylas!" From which we get the word "alas".