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Saturday, 8 June 2013

IN LEAR'S FOOTSTEPS


 
This is an excerpt from the draft of Adam Yamey's new book, which will be called "SCRABBLE WITH SLIVOVITZ - Once Upon a Time in Yugoslavia". The book is a trail of memories of the many visits that I made to Yugoslavia and its neighbours during the years leading up to 1991.   More information about the forthcoming book is available by clicking HERE .

The pictures, which Adam took in 1979, were made whilst the events that he describes were unfolding.


The Vale of Tempe

"The main railway line, which connected Belgrade with Skopje and Salonika, passed through the middle of the town and was used as a footpath by many of the townsfolk. Seeing this reminded me of something that I did many years earlier in northern Greece.

In the late 1840s, the artist and poet Edward Lear walked through the Vale of Tempe. He had been particularly enamoured of this 10 Km section of the River Pineios, where it squeezes between the slopes of Mounts Olympus and Ossa. Having seen his illustration of it, I thought that it would be fun to attempt to retrace his footsteps. Robert and Margaret, with whom I was camping in the nearby seaside town of Platamon, kindly drove me along the modern road that skirts the Vale. It was so high above it that almost nothing could be seen of the valley far below. They deposited me at the southern end of it, and arranged to meet me a few hours later at its northern end.


Southern end of Vale of Tempe

I did not want to go along the valley the way we had come by car because I wanted to try to follow the path taken by Lear. As Robert and Margaret drove away leaving me standing by the roadside, I noticed two shepherds sitting on a slope. My Greek was not good enough to ask them the way to the place which I wanted to reach at the other end of the valley, but by pointing at my feet and walking a little, they understood me, and pointed at the railway track running along an embankment behind and far above them. I climbed up to the railway and began walking along the narrow path beside it.


The railway fromAthens  to Salonika passing through the Vale of Tempe


After a few minutes, I heard a sound behind me. Soon, the numerous carriages of the Athens to Munich express rumbled past me, heading on its way towards Yugoslavia. I continued on my way and followed the track into a deep narrow cutting between two high walls of roughly hewn rock. Almost without any warning a single diesel locomotive came dashing around a bend towards me. I pressed myself into the wall behind me and hoped that I would not be sucked towards the hurtling locomotive as it swept past me. I lived to tell the tale, and continued through the cutting and back out into the open, following the track along a high embankment from which I could just about see the river far beneath me.

A few hundred metres ahead of me, I saw the entrance to a tunnel. As I could not see the other end of it, I guessed that it might have been a long one. With my recent hazardous encounter with the locomotive in the forefront of my mind, I decided not to enter it. However, I had already come quite a distance, and did not want to retrace my steps. To avoid entering the tunnel, I scrambled, or rather slid, inelegantly down the steeply inclined scree-covered embankment, and reached a pathway far below, but close to the river.


Footbridge at Aghia Paraskevi in the Vale of Tempe


I realised that this is where the two shepherds had meant that I was to walk. It was the bed of a disused railway track. The rails had been removed and it made a perfect footpath. It followed the river, only a few feet above it. I breathed a sigh of relief, and walked along enjoying the kind of Arcadian landscape that Lear had sketched, as well as the peace and quiet. Near the northern end of the Vale, I arrived at what must have once been a station. It had been converted into a Greek Orthodox pilgrimage place complete with a refreshment stall. Soon after arriving there, I met up with Robert and Margaret, and related my hair-raising adventure to them."


Robert (far left) and Margaret (far right) in Rapsani, a village on the slopes of Mount Olympus 



Adam Yamey is the author of two novels about 19th century South Africa and a travel memoir about Albania. Click HERE for more information about these publications




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