Venice’s strongholds on the Aegean Sea, Greece

...Sir Henry once more shifted his gaze upon the Contarini palazzo in Venice, trying to understand how a Venetian could belong to the guard of the byzantine emperor in Constantinople. I explained that not everything is black or white in history, and he looked at me even more quizzically when I told him that Marino Contarini’s mother had, in fact, been Egyptian, that his father had lived in Alexandria, which is why handsome Marino also spoke Arabic.

At this point he was well and truly hooked to the story and I can’t hide that oftentimes, I felt much like Shahrazad must have felt when she was narrating the Thousand and One Nights.  I was bringing the East to life for him, with its gold mosaics, walls of precious green marble, and peacocks of brilliant plumage and, who knows?, perhaps one day these would walk alongside the Greek columns he’d constructed in his mind.

I wished the Venetians had been like this, and not closed themselves off in their castle-states on the islands and on the capes of the Aegean, with the winged lion of the Serenissima dominating the battlements.  They can still be seen, the pride of each island they occupy, as they bring such an intense nostalgia for a once-glorious past. 

There are ancestors of those Venetians, who once belonged to the Libro d’ Oro, who visit those fortresses today to understand how their predecessors had lived. An architect friend of mine who renovated just such a fortress located on an island in the Dodecanese, had told me that members of the S… family had arrived by sailboat one day, just as their ancestors had arrived by galley centuries earlier, and they wanted to know what each and every room of the castle had been used for. 

She guided them through it, knowing its history very well (she even received an award for her excellent work!) and she told me that the S… family now invite her to Venice every year in order to show their gratitude…

An excerpt from the book MY VENICE

The island of Astypalea, Dodecanese, Greece

The island of Astypalea, Dodecanese, Greece

Barbara Athanassiadis