Paradise LostPosted: April 25, 2012
Day 169-XCV, from Λιβαδειά to Αλαλκομενές, 13 km.
Day 170-XCVI, from Αλαλκομενές to Αλίαρτος, 14 km.
We have entered the fertile valley of Boiotia, the clouds have finally gone and now the sun makes it feel like summer. We march to the tiny village of Alalkomenes, where you see more tractors on the street than cars.
There is one bar which looks like it has closed twenty years ago. Next to it there are the remainders of a gas station from the nineteen-sixties. The old homes of the peasants are either in ruin, or in use as hen houses or sheds. The former water tower is being consumed by creepers. In between it all, there are modern concrete homes, slowly supplanting the old village.
Opposite the ancient gas station, and right next to a rusty tractor, there is a little square where we camp.
After a couple of days of meditative silence in the group, it was exactly what we needed. Fresh blood.
“How did you find us?”
“Easy. The route was published on the internet.”
Indeed it was. Something is working out well with our march, and it bears fruit. In the March on Brussels we had a dozen people working in ‘Communication’, but no-one on the outside really knew anything about where we were or where we were going.
I take a sunset walk through the fields.
The variety of beauty in Greece is really overwhelming. The valley of Boiotia is another example of this. It has a splendid natural configuration. You can imagine it as a giant pussy.
The valley has a long oval shape, it’s dominated on the far end by Mount Parnassus and it’s closed by two ridges of mountains visible from all over the plain. You can see them converge in the distance. Over the mountains, on both sides, there is the sea.
Fresh water comes running down the slopes into the valley. There is no lack of it here. In fact, of old there used to be a lake in the center of the valley. We are walking across its former shores.
The lake was drained at the end of the 19th century by a British company. Back then, just like today’s bridge to the Peloponnese, the terrain was private property of the foreign investors. Only in the 1950s the polders of Boiotia were returned to the Greek government.
It has been ten days, and still Mount Parnassus is visible in the distance. When it has absorbed the setting sun, I return to the village. In front of one of the houses there is a family enjoying the evening cool. They wink me over, a daughter called Freedom speaks English and translates. They want to know everything about the march, about Holland. And they tell me about old Boiotia.
It takes all evening. A bottle of tsipouro and homemade spinach cake are brought to the table. They induce me to eat and to drink. They are proud to speak about the valley.
The history of this place is so vast that it goes way back beyond everything we know from written records. You almost get the feeling that this is where things started.
Ancient tales speak of a golden age when man lived peacefully and happily in harmony with nature for countless generations. After the golden age came strife and war and corruption, followed by the great cataclysm, when Zeus ordered the waters to swallow the world and only Deucalion and Pyrrha could save themselves on the peak of Mount Parnassus.
The lake was one of the remainders when the waters retreated. And all around it, the valley flourished again.
The Boiotians claim the great hero Hercules to be their own, as well as Cadmus, founder of Thebes, of whom they say that he brought the fruit of the forbidden tree of knowledge from Phoenicia to Greece – the alphabet.
Also Dionysos, the horny god of wine, and the cult of Mother Earth, are native of Boiotia, so they say. The locals even claim their valley to be the birth place of the men who are at the root of our written history. Doubtfully great Homer, and more realistically Hesiod, author of the Theogony, one of the first accounts of the genesis of the world, dating from the Greek middle ages.
“Boiotia far precedes Athens. The territory of Athens is dry and unfavourable to agriculture. That’s why they set out with their ships. Before the age of navigation, fertile Boiotia was the throbbing heart of Greece.”
Still, as I walk through the fields, I’m sad. There are only a handful of people living here to work all the terrain with mechanical means.
Sterile seeds from corporations, artificial fertilizers, pesticides. Miles and miles of plastic irrigation tubes which last only one season. Complete dependency on oil.
We have come to treat Mother Earth as a whore, I think.
For thousands of years the valley of Boiotia was worked by small communities of farmers, until very recently, only a generation or two ago. You can still see the traces of those days fading away.
I’m not at all against appropriate use of technology. But I’m convinced that part of this revolution should be the re-establishment of a direct link between human society and the land. This is where our food comes from. This is what we live off in the end. Money is just an invention.
Sustainability means respect and love for Mother Earth who nurtures us. And respect for the earth means respect for ourselves and for our offspring.