C. P. Cavafy : Diary of the first trip to Greece

C. P. Cavafy : Diary of the first trip to Greece

Posted April 12th, 2009 by webmaster

13 JUNE 1901 – 5 AUGUST 1901

«El Kahira» near Cret
13 June 1901 (Thursday)

     This is intended to be a diary of occurrences, not of impressions and ideas. It may however become the reverse; it is in the nature of diaries to turn out quite the opposite of what is expected or intended.
    Yesterday at 5 p.m. I left Alexandria by the Khedivial Company’s s/s «El Kahira». Alexander left too. I was unwell towards noon, slightly better afterwards, and I felt after a few hours on board much better.
    The «El Kahira» is a very good ship. Our cabins excellent. Milani and Fiteni came to bid Alexander good-bye; Zananiri came for me.
    We had some bother with the Sanitary formalities. They would not allow us to get on board unless we had first passed through the Port Sanitary Office, and declared whether we came or not from plague stricken districts. We returned therefore to the Custom House and went to this Sanitary Office, where passes were delivered us at once, without being even asked about our «provenance»!
    Though the ship was bound to leave at 4, she did not move before 5 p.m.
    I met an old acquaintance on board. Xanthopoulidis. I had not seen him for eight years. He is in the Sanitary Service at Suez. He is married and now and has 3 children.
    Sthenelo Patouna is also one of the passengers.
    To-day I was up at 4.30 a.m. not purposely, but because I woke much earlier than usual. I saw the sun rise, but the horizon was a bit cloudy, and the sight was not so beautiful as I expected.
    At 11 a.m. I hear we shall see the coast of Crete.


    We could not see Crete.
    We have reached Delos.
    Again I was not sleepy, and was up at 4 a.m. at 5 a.m. the sea under the rising sun presented a beautiful appearance; and beauteous  also looked the islands that studded the horizon.
    We anchored at 6.30 a.m.
    Yesterday afternoon Patouna introduced me to his wife and his sister-in-law. The former turns out to be a Roucho. Roucho’s second daughter. A very nice girl. Played at dominoes in the afternoon with Patouna and won P.T.10.
    Health better.
    The sea’s colour and form are wonderful – I intensely Greek. –
    Another of the passengers is one M. Helmi, a tobacco merchant of Cairo. Rather pompous. But he bowed to me to-day, though  not introduced, and seems desirous of making acquaintance.
    Quarantine at Delos will be only 2 days happily. We shall sail on Sunday (16th) at 6.30 a.m. The disinfection business is a farce I think. All the same we shall have to go on shore with our dirty linen to be purified.

15 June 9 a.m.

    The much dreaded (by all the passengers) disinfection is over.
    It took place yesterday between 8.45 and 10.45 a.m. We were all conducted to the quarantine enclosure of Delos in barges belonging to the ship. We took with us only our dirty linen. Alexander was of opinion to carry it in my small portemanteau, but we were told that portemanteaux are disinfected, and that the «acide phénique» spoils the leather. So we made a small parcel of the linen, which consisted only of two shirts, a collar, and one nightshirt. Awful sun, going to Delos. I was afraid of getting a sun-stroke. The passage lasted 8 minutes. At the quarantine office we were inspected by a very polite doctor. A nice man; tall; black imperial; intelligent looking. Then we were taken to a place where a sanitary guard projected from a sort of pump «acide phénique» abundantly on our clothes. The disinfecting of the 2nd class passengers followed, and then that of the crew. The third class had gone first, at 7.30. We were back on board (awful sun on our return, too) at about 10.45.
    We shall stay at Delos 2 days in quarantine. From time to time a barge of the Sanitary Office sails round us and sees that we do not communicate with the island or that no one leaves the ship.
    The island is pretty to look at. The bay most picturesque. But it appears that there are very few inhabitants at Delos, and almost no cultivation – whether owing to the natural bareness of the soil or to the carelessness of the population, I am not aware.
    Fair weather this morning.
    Thermometer at 78.
    Gave Xanthopoulidis a copy of Tsocopoulo’s «Αιγυπτιααί Αναμνήσεις»

16 June 9 a.m.

    We left Delos early in the morning, 6 or thereabout. We shall be at the Piraeus at about 1 p.m..
    I have packed up. Not much to do, as I had taken care to unpack only what was absolutely necessary.
    Yesterday afternoon it was very warm. The thermometer  in my cabin showed 81, but after sunset it fell to 78; at 10 p.m. it was 77 and this morning at 7, 76. by 8.30 it showed 77.
    I made  the acquaintance of Mme D. Patouna. There are two Mmes Patouna on board. Mme D. Patouna is the wife of the former partner of C. Zuro. She is Zuro’s sister. She lives in Alexandria, Rue Chérif Pacha. She is going to Loutraki. So is the other Mme Patouna and her husband, and so is Xanthopoulidis.
    In the evening I talked  for some time with Sthenelo Patouna, his wife, and his mother-on-law Mme Roucho. Mme Roucho talked of old times when we were neighbours in the Okella Spanopoulo – in 1886, 15 years ago!
    This morning the sea is very fine and we see islands on all sides.
    We saw the coast of Syra quite distinctly, and with opera glasses I was able to see the houses of Hermopolis. All looked white, with the exception of one that was red. I was shown the dome of a large church dedicated to the Trinity.
    We also saw Tenos; and in the distance Andros, Spezzia, and Zea, and several other small islands whose names I could not learn.
    On Thursday we had seen Myconos.

Athens 4/17 June a.m.

    Yesterday afternoon at 2 p.m. we reached Athens. Alexander and I landed very easily owing to the help of Cook’s men. The entrance to the Piraeus harbour is magnificent. Piraeus itself a very nice little place. We drove to Athens – a ¾ of an hour’s drive . beautiful scenery. The violet hills in the distance are enchanting. At the Hotel d’Angleterre they   made us a very good reception. We have first rate rooms. Got up of the hotel and food, excellent. Towards the evening we strolled about the leading streets. A very, very pretty tow – quite European, in the French and Italian line. The officers’ uniforms I liked very much; and the officers and soldiers look all they should be. This morning I strolled down Οδός Νίκης ands through other streets. Saw many of the leading buildings – National Bank, Bank of Athens, Boule, Theatre. They are fine buildings.
    The only disadvantage is the absence of shade in the streets (owing to their breadth and to the houses’ not being high) which makes it impossible to circulate on foot, under the strong June sun, between 10 a.m. and, I expect, 5 p.m.
    Saw a Choremi (or is it an Avierino – I am not sure of his name) at Zacharato’s.
    Thermometer at 71 )2 a.m. 77, at 11.1)2, 78 at 1 p.m. 80.

5/18 June 1 ¼ p.m.

    Yesterday afternoon  we called on Amalia. We found Amalia and Thalia together. They were very happy to see us. After our call we went to the Πλατεία της Ομονοίας and got refreshments at a café. Back to the hotel, and in the evening went to the Café of the Πλατεία του Συντάγματος. There we met Alexander Giro.
    This morning we went to the Archaeological Museum. Fine. Particularly beautiful the bust of Antinous.
    Walked down the Οδός Πατησίων and got the ’bus from the Πλατεία της Ομονοίας and reached the hotel.
    To-morrow we are lunching at Amalia’s.

6/19 June 8 a.m.

    Yesterday Alexander and I went with Alexander Giro (who called for us at the hotel) to the new Phalerum to look for Giannopoulo. We found his house after much searching, but he was out and we left cards. Phalerum is pretty; good Casino and plage; the whole superior to San Stefano by much. On the way (by tramway) we saw the Zappeion, Statue of Byron, Στήλαι του Ολυμπίου Διός, Σκοπευτήριον. In the night I walked about the Οδός Ερμού και Σταδίου. Alexander met Giro on the «plateia tou Syntagmatos.»

7/20 June 9 ½ a.m.

    Yesterday morning I went to the University and entered into several of its halls. I heard examinations of students in Political Economy and Law. I saw most carefully the outside of the Academy (now a Numismatic Museum) and the grand hall. A magnificent building. The door keeper said it had cost 480.000 L. st.; but I believe that is nonsense. The real cost was probably about 200.000 L. st.
    Met Alexander Giro at Zacharato’s at 10 a.m.; went with him to Λεωφόρος Αμαλίας (a beautiful road) and ten at 12 to Amalia Pappo’s. Thalia and Alexander Giro were there. A very good soul this Amalia.
    In the afternoon Alexander and I went to the Acropolis. Saw the Parthenon, the Erechtheum, the Propylaea, the view of Athens from the Acropolis, the Museum of the Acropolis. Sublime, sublime! We returned from the Acropolis at about 6.30. Alexander went to Giannakis’ coffee-house, and I to the Π. Του Συντ.
    Before dinner Nicola Giannopoulo called on us. A handsome young man.
    After dinner we went to a coffee-house in the Πλατ. της Ομ.

8/21 June 6 ½ a.m.

    Yesterday morning I called on Scocos, at Anesti Constantinidis’ Printing House. Saw later on Tsocopoulos at Zacharatos’.
    In the afternoon went with Alexander down the Οδός Πανεπιστημίου. Saw Schliemann’s house. Then left Alexander and went to the Zappeion, which is a large and well designed building. Byron’s statue, in the Zappeion’s garden, is a beautiful work. Afterwards fell unwell and came and remained at the hotel.

8/21 June 1901 7 p.m.

    This morning Alexander and I got through a good deal of sight-seeing. I shall not enter into a long description – but I will generally mention that all we saw were things of grace, grandeur, or interest.
    We saw the Zappeion, the Stadion of Averoff, the Theseum, the tombs of the Ceramicus, and 3 old Byzantine Churches. The one was dedicated to Άγιοι Ασώματοι, the dedication of the other two I forget. The first was very near to the Theseum, the other very near to the tombs of the Ceramicus. The third somewhere about Οδός Αιόλου.
    Noted, en passant, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Finance in Οδός Σταδίου, and the Ministry of War in Οδός Ακαδιμίας. Also in Οδός Κηφισσίας the palace of the Diadoque.
    In the afternoon I strolled about the streets alone; I called twice on Michaelides, of the «Panathenaea», but he was out. Left a poem at Anesti Constantinidis’ for Scocos, for his next year’s annual.
    Thermometer yesterday was 75 in early morning, towards noon 78, in the evening 75. to-day towards noon 76, at 6 p.m. 75.

9/22 June 11 a. m.

    This morning spent some time at Zacharatos’ with Alexander Giro, then went by bus to the Πλατείας της Ομονίας, walked  through some of the streets starting from it, saw the Δημαρχεία in Οδός Αθηνάς, and saw the theatre built by Syngros. To the latter place I was conducted by Alexakis’ brother, whom I accidentally met at a coffee-house on the square, and who insisted on taking me there in a carriage and accompanying me back to the Π. του Σ.  Opposite Syngros’ Theatre is St. Constantine’s Church, which is being built or m. built.
    Alexander went to Κολοκυνθού I think. Jsk

10/23 June 8 ¾ a. m.

    Yesterday afternoon went to Kephissia. The road to Kephissia leads through a very picturesque tract of country. The train stops first at Heracleion, then at Amarousi, and then at Kephissia. Kephissia is full of beautiful villas, and has a good hotel where Alex. and I had tea. We left at 4 p.m., and returned by the train leaving Kephissia at 6,5 p.m.
    At 3 p.m. Tsocopoulo called. Stayed with me till 3.40. Talk mostly about literature, and the enormous difficulty met by authors to make an edition sell. Tsocopoulo says that it is considered quire an achievement to have been able to publish a volume and realise not profit, but no loss from it.
    Thermometer this morning 74.

10/23 June 10.10 a.m.

    Have just returned from the Metropolitan Church where Alexander and I heard mass. I had been into the church before, but to-day I had more time to notice the very valuable αναθήματα it contains.
    Alexander has gone for a walk. I am going to call on Ant. Psycha.

11/24 June, 10.15 p.m.

    Psycha is in Europe, I was told. His house is a very nice one in Οδός Ακαδημίας.
    I walk a little along Οδός Κηφισσίας and then went to Zacharatos’ where I found Patouna. We went to the café’s entresol and played dominoes. I left him at noon. Met Mavrogordato – Mme Georgala’s brother – on leaving the café. He was very friendly; gave me his address, 12 Οδός Μουρούζη.
    It rained in the afternoon, and I stayed at the hotel. Wrote to Paul. This morning went with Alexander to Phalerum to look for rooms. We lunched  at the Hotel Kehaya. But we did not like the rooms there. We will go to the Hotel du Phalère.
    In the afternoon we called on Amalia, Rue Sophocle, and Thalia, Rue Valtezi.
    After dinner I went for an hour to Zacharatos’.

12/25 8 a.m.

    This morning Alexander and I will go to the Phalerum again to arrange for rooms at the Hotel de Phalère. I have given Alexander a rendez-vous at Zacharatos’ at 9.45 a.m.
    At 8.30 I expect I shall have done dressing and will go to see certain interesting churches near the Rue d’Eole.
    Thermometer is at 74, sky quite blue.

12/25 7 p.m.

    I visited this morning the church called Καπνικαρέα (where the Οδός Ερμού και Αιόλου cross) and the church of St. Irene (near where the Οδός Αιόλου και Περικλέους cross. The former is an ancient church with a Byzantine look about it. So is also the  ́Αγιοι Θεόδωροι which I visited one hour ago.
    At 9.30 a.m. went with Alexander to the Phalerum and arranged for rooms. High charger – 15 drachmes, exclusive of wine.
    In the afternoon I had a long and reposing sleep. Alexander went to the Οδός Κηφισσίας. I walked down – at 5 p.m. – to the   Πλατεία της Ομονοίας and went  into many of the side streets on the Οδός Σταδίου. I visited the Bourse in Οδός Παρθεναγωγείου.
    Thermometer has gone up to 77. These figures of thermometer which I give represent the temperature in my room which is a neither too warm nor too cool one. It looks on the corner of the Οδός Ερμού.  

13/26 June, 9.30 a.m.

    Yesterday night went with Alex. to Tscocha’s Theatre. The hour fixed for the performance to begin was 9 p.m.; it commenced at 10 p.m. Tscocha’s is an open-air theatre, inferior to the Edem Theatre in Alexandria. It was crowded – over 500 spectators. The play was Ο Δικαστής  («Le Bon Juge»). Pantopoulo and Spiros Tavoulari played excellently. The performance finished at 1 a.m. we took refreshments at Zacharato’s and were back at the hotel at 2 a.m.

13/26 June 11.30 a.m.

    Have just returned from visiting the Monument of Lysicrates. Awful sun on the bit between Zappeion and the Rue Lysicrate.
    Saw again, and attentively, the Gate of Hadrian.

14/27 June, 9.30 a.m.

    Yesterday  afternoon I visited the remains of the Agora., the Tower of the Winds, and the Stoa of Attalus. The Stoa of Hadrian I did not go to see as I found the Rue d’Adrien too dirty and I was very tired. I visited the ancient church called Μέγα Μοναστήριον; and the Market in the  Οδός Αθηνάς.
    Was on the Πλατεία του Συντάγματος from 6.15 to 7.15 p.m.; and in the evening from 8 to 10.45 at the Zappeion. The Zappeion Square is a lovely, and exquisite place.
    Thermometer 78 this morning.

15/28 June 10 a.m.

    Yesterday morning walked in the Rue d’Eole and adjoining streets in order to purchase a white morning jacket. But could not find the article I required. Walked up to the Πολυτεχνείον to learn at what hours the Historical and Ethnological Museum is open. Met Mavrogordato on the way.
    At 4.30 I took the direction of the Πολυτεχνείον. The first person I met in the Οδός Πατησίων was Tsocopoulo, who accompanied me to the Πολυτεχνείον and conducted me to the painter Roïlos’ study to see this artist’s great picture «The Battle of Pharsala», the picture is good, but a little […] to my mind. Roïlos seems a nice man. After staying about 15 minutes with him, Tsocopoulo and I proceeded to the Πινακοθήκη, where I was introduced to the poet Polemi, who is a sort of superintendent of the Gallery. He looks a serious man, a little pompous. About 60. said he knew my name. Very polite. The Gallery contains several paintings of the Italian school. I was next taken by Tsocopoulo  to the painter Jacovides’ studio. Very fine works. At Jacovides’ I made the acquaintance of M. & Mme Paleologo, of Smyrna, & Spandoni, a man belonging to the staff of the «Embros». Lastly Polemi conducted us to his office  where later on one Stambolopoulo came. By this time it got to be about 6.30, so I had no time left to see the Museum and I postponed it to some other day. I took Tso. to Zavoritis’, and we separated at 7.25.
    After dinner I went to the  Θέατρον της Ομονοίας WITH Alexander and Alexander Giro. It is a much cleaner and a more cared-for place than Tsocha’s Theatre. They were giving Lascaris’ Μαλλιά Κουβάρια. After the play we had refreshments at the Πλατεία του Συντάγματος.

12/29 June 9.45 a.m.

    Yesterday morning – Rue d’Eole, Rue d’Hermès, Rue Athena, Rue du Stade for various purchases. At about 3 p.m. it rained heavily. Weather cleared up at 5. between 5.30 and 9.30 spent my time at Zacharato’s and the Zappeion. From 8.45 to 11.30, Πλατεία του Συντάγματος.

Sunday 17/30 June 6.45 a.m.

    Yesterday morning played dominoes with Patouna at Zacharato’s. In the afternoon visited the Ιστορικόν και Εθνολογικόν Μουσείον of the Πολυτεχνείον. It contains many interesting and valuable objects, bur also several trivial ones; and some of the collections are not arranged with good order. Returned to the hotel at 5.15 and stayed within doors, as I felt rather unwell. – Thermometer 81.

18/1 July 2 ½  p.m.  

    Yesterday morning Alex. and I went to the Piraeus to meet John who was on board the «Saghalien» of the Messageries Maritimes. We found John looking generally healthy, but not much stronger. We accompanied him on shore, took coffees at omne of the god cafés of the Piraeus, talked of our mutual experiences (his in Constantinople and ours in Athens), accompanied him back to the quay, and wished him a good voyage to France. In the afternoon I walked  about the streets leading to the Πλατεία της Ομονοίας, got refreshments at Yannakis’ (Rue de l’Université), passed through the Π. Του Συντάγματος, till 11 p.m., when I went home and to bed.

19 June / 2 July 1991

    Yesterday afternoon walked  about Phalerum. Noted a Rue Giannopoulo. Visited the Church – a very small one. Saw many pretty houses in the  «rustique» style.
    Dinner not famous. Many people came from Athens after dinner. Saw Stephi Salvago with some ladies and gentlemen, whom I did not know. Met Giannopoulo and Dikéos.
    Mme Neroutsos stays in the hotel. I spoke with her in the afternoon.

20/3 July 1 p.m.

    At 4 p.m. yesterday I went and discovered the Phalerum Post-Office. It is a very small building in a street leading on to the Rue Θρασυβούλου Ζαΐμη. I there delivered my letters for John to a very πρόθυμος but not  imposing looking clerk. On my return to the plage I met Tsocopoulo getting into the train for Athens. The remainder of the afternoon I spent on the plage. The band began playing at 6.30 p.m. and continued till 11. Several people dined at the hotel. Tables spread in the open air. Noticed Pringo and his wife and the Scouzés; and the Delyannis. Alexander asked Giannopoulo to dine with us. Met at about 11 Mavrogordato  with another young man, called Mela. Mavrogordato introduced me to M. Mela.
    This morning I went to the Piraeus and walked through some of its streets, near the port. It was awfully warm – a very oven – and I could not see much. I saw the statue of Caraiscachi, and the Αποθήκη Στρατιωτικού Υλικού.
    I returned to Phalerum at 11.40. in one of the walks of the park I saw a group of officers and I was told that two of them were the Prince Nicholas and Andrew. They were both fair; Prince Andrew is a nice looking youth. They speak Greek with a faultless accent.
    Thermometer shows 83.
    Mme Alexander Adib is staying in the small hotel near the Rue Kéhaya. Also  Dikéos, who, however, is leaving for Alexandria the day after to-morrow. After only a ten days’ stay in Athens.