Nostos

Nostalgia as a bittersweet longing for happier times or places is a relatively modern concept. It had a slightly different meaning when it was invented as a medical term in 17th century Switzerland. It defined an acute and often agonizing homesickness experienced by Swiss mercenaries employed by foreign monarchs. According to one of my dictionaries, it is an amalgamation of two Greek words: nostos meaning homecomming and algos meaning distress, grief or pain.

For the millions of Greeks living abroad, there is a feeling of nostalgia – a bittersweet longing – for their Hellenic homeland. Many make the pilgrimage back during the summer months, whether they are first, second or third generation émigrés. This Greek Diaspora is not a modern phenomenon (although there was significant emigration in the first half of the 20th century) but something that can be demonstrated since antiquity.

On 3 October 2016, The National Museum in Athens opened a new exhibition, Odysseys, celebrating – to the day – the 150 years since its foundation, only a few decades after the establishment of the modern nation state of Greece. An aspect of this special exhibition focuses on nostos, homecomming. The story begins with the Homeric hero, Odysseus, whose epic journey home to Ithaka lasted 10 years. The overwhelming imagery in the exhibition revolves around ships – a nostalgic symbol of homecoming.

One of the exhibition logos painted on the deep blue walls of The National Museum’s gallery space is of a sketch of a Bronze Age Aegean ship. Continually shifting wisps of light evoke the moving sea.

ba_ship

Of course, many travellers today see slightly different ships – like these small ships on the Cycladic coastline…

ships_koufonisi

…or the scene of disembarkment from one of ferries that now ply the Aegean sea. Here we are about to land on Naxos – an island stepping stone on our route home.

disembarking_ferry

Nostalgia: The Daily Post’s Photo Challenge

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9 comments

  1. I am so happy to read your post today. For the last month I have only been home twice, for a total of 3 nights. I can be home now except twice a week ,and the first night in my own bed, when I knew I could be home more, I dreamed a beautiful dream in which I was staying at a hotel and a musician played in the lobby or maybe the plaza. He played several instruments, one of them behind him which he played along with some in front of him. It was a big copper and bronze or brass row boat with its bow covered in the same metals, rounded up so water would fall off in splash. The musician played a keyboard on the side of the boat and the sound was like a steel drum. I asked him and he said yes it (the boat) is a steel drum played by striking the keyboard. I have been wanting to play my piano. Your post connects me to the icon of a boat symbolizing homecoming. It makes so much sense with my dream! I paint my dreams and now this will be even more meaningful for me.

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  2. Great answer to the challenge, i missed this week. I lived for 17 yrs amid Melbourne’s Greek diaspora. They contribute so much to the rich tapestry of local culture. This is a true story. The municipal authorities were struggling to keep the street ornamental trees healthy, then some inspired thinker came up with the idea of planting olive trees. The residents cared for them as if they were their own and they flourished. Now they have the bonus of the olive crop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I replied earlier, but it must have gone into the ether! Forgive any duplication:
      I almost passed this challenge by. It was extremely difficult to come up with something. However, when we were at the opening celebrations at the Museum, inspiration struck! Got there in the end.
      Your (true) story of the Melbourne Greeks tending the urban olive “groves” is wonderful. It must be an amazing sight at harvest time. Always great to have your own source of olive oil.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I still get a thrill when arriving at port, but a 3:15am arrival might put a tiny damper on the excitement! When I look at my photos of the Aegean sea and sky, I cannot believe the breathtaking hues of blue – truly a beautiful country.

      Like

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