On the wall there is a map marked with the places I wanted to visit. Adolescence. Back then, we did not travel in the internet. We had relatives arriving from landscapes as diverse as New York and Sudan where they had emigrated and settled.
I dreamed of London and Bavaria before I put my foot on it. I haven’t been to Tokyo yet. The delicate gifts I have received from my father’s Japanese colleagues when I was fifteen, and the ones he brought me from his unique trip there, painted for me the face of Japan.
The voice of Nikos Kazantzakis followed as I was reading his preface to the travelling narratives in ‘Japan – China ‘ – at the spring of 1935 he writes:
(…) at Port Said boarding the Japanese passenger liner that would take me to the Far East”.
“I try to gain the years of my youth which I lost worshiping gods without flesh, gods who were strangers to me and to my kind. I convert the abstract concepts and turn them into flesh and I feed myself. I felt that Epafos, the god of touch, is my god .
Every country I have known since, I knew through touch. The entire reminiscence I feel it tingling, not in my head , but at my fingertips and all over my skin. And now, bringing in my mind Japan, my hands tingle like touching the breast of a beloved woman “.
I am traveling, with a map at hand, and I underline, I draw circles, I put dots. I take notes.
I gather a bunch of brochures and cards from cute hotels, from restaurants , from events on visual arts, and whatever else is catching my attention. I taste food. I admire gardens. I wander in streets. I take pictures to remember, I take many pictures. Some are a substitute for notes.
However, I do not need any dot on a map to return to my own places. An anchor was dropped there and snagged at the bottom of my soul with a colored buoy on top to float, a summit when I am dreaming.
So I return where I find a familiar environment, a table by the window, a frame on the wall, a face behind the bar, a music, a familiar smell, a mouth-watering taste.
But every summer I return where the light hurts my eyes and the blue of the sea washes my soul. And I pray in front of the same icon at the same date.
Once upon a time travelers dismounted in front of the inns to feed their animals, to change coaches. They used to take a nap there, to have a meal or to get some information. Now, we stop to charge our mobile phones, our cameras, our laptops. Sometimes we just need to close our eyes and tilt on the bench next to the cats .
Travelers need food and rest, but more than anything they are satisfied with a smile and a warm handshake; they like to feel welcomed, not foreigners or strangers ,especially if they had been here before.
If they find eager ears to tell their stories, if they find people to exchange their stories, it is their best. Stories is the currency of the traveler.
I write with my co-travelers in mind, thinking of my friends who have a special liking for traveling and adventures.
In my mind, in my heart I hold voices of people who introduced me to the marvels of traveling through the thrill and the excitement they transfused to their descriptions and narratives. They lit my curiosity, my imagination.
They nourished me when the surrounding reality pinched me like shoes smaller than my size.
I foster sentiments of admiration and affection for writers and filmmakers, artists and photographers whose work and existence Ι studied and they have become a source of inspiration to me.
Last but not least, I do not forget my teachers who took me by the hand and I threw some light for me so that I could suspect some of the mysteries of human soul behind faces and masks.
‘I will be satisfied if I could help you become suspicious readers ‘ used to say my teacher, poet, literary critic, the unforgettable friend Spyros Tsaknias .
Until today I note in my books using pencil; I fold the corner of a page or Ι leave a used ticket as a bookmark. Sometimes I open a book to find sand grains falling on my feet to remind me of a summer that will never return.
They are all colored buoys leading me back to my own places.
I open the book ‘Japan – China, the Greek edition ‘Travelling’ by Nikos Kazantzakis – seventh edition , Athens 1970 , Publisher Eleni Kazantzakis.
I translate a quotation from pages 94-95:
“I am wondering, what other pleasures are awaiting me at Kyoto , the widow royal state that I will reach tonight? Traveling is an exciting hunting, and going out you can’t guess what kind of bird you will meet. The trip is like wine, you drink and you can’t guess what kind of visions will come down in your head. Definitely, as you travel, you always find what you have inside you. Without going for it, out of the innumerable impressions that fill your eyes you make choices and you choose what best meets the needs or the curiosities of your soul. ‘Objective ‘ truth exists – and how insignificant ! – only in the photographic chambers, in souls who see coldly the world without emotion, in other words without deep contact. Those who ache and love cooperate with a secret communion with the landscape they see, with the people they mingle with and with the events they choose. That’s why every sound traveler conceives all the time the country he/she is traveling ‘
I conclude by noting that Kazantzakis here is referring to the claim that photography is objective, that it ostensibly ‘captures truth in cold blood’, a view probably of his time. The photographic image is perceived today as a narrative and it is interesting exactly for conveying a personal gesture and point of view. Like any other language it is better ‘read’ the most suspicious the readers are, a fact that applies to every art.
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