Greek A to Ω – N (Nu) is for Νάξος or Naxos

After taking the bus into Naxos town we walked to the top of the town to find the Venetian Cathedral tour that was highly recommended in the Island hopping guidebook.  We waited around in the courtyard outside the Cathedral and not a lot seemed to be happening and we wondered if we were going to be disappointed.

Eventually an old lady in an extravagant floral blouse and with a worn out old dog for a companion ghosted in from a secret door in an adjacent room and enquired if we were there for the tour and we told her that yes we were.

She went to a great deal of trouble to explain that her English was quite poor and clutching her stomach she told us that her doctor had advised her against speaking in English because this made her ill.  I’m not a medical person you understand but this seemed highly improbable to me and she had no credible explanation for a diagnosis of stomach cramps just through speaking English and as we set off she proceeded to speak perfectly even though it was in a hushed and croaky voice.

This was really excellent, we were the only people on the tour and we received an exceptional commentary all around the interior and the exterior of the Cathedral.  But then disaster struck as  a group of French people gate crashed the party and after a short debate about language preferences with these unwelcome latecomers she continued for the rest of the tour in about 75% French.

She apologised to us for that and lamented that “English people cannot speak French and French people will not speak English!”  This shouldn’t have surprised us of course, we know how precious they can be about their secondary World language so we just had to accept the inevitable and struggle to make sense of the French and be grateful for the few snippets of English that now only infrequently came our way.

There is no good reason for the French to be so stuck-up about their language, after all it is only the eighteenth most used in the World, Chinese is first, followed by Spanish and then English.  More people even speak Portuguese (sixth) and worst of all German (tenth).  The French, it seems, need to come to terms with the balance of linguistic power.

Actually, even in a foreign language,  this was an excellent tour and the language difficulty didn’t spoil it one little bit.  Our guide swept us through a museum, a monastery and a simple basilica as we visited buildings and rooms that would simply not be accessible to tourists who did not join the tour.

In one room there was a pot-pourri of treasures that really deserved to be in a proper museum where they could be looked after properly.  She dragged them out of boxes and held them in her frail hands and in a rhapsodical way accompanied by extravagant arm gestures as though she were conducting an orchestra kept imploring us to “look at this, look at this!” 

At one point she opened an illuminated manuscript and declared it to be five hundred years old but she turned the pages over as though it was a copy of last week’s  Radio Times.  That sort of thing would never be allowed at the British Museum.  No wonder Lord Elgin took the marbles back to London so they could be looked after!

This was a brilliant tour that allowed us to see something that we would not ordinarily have seen.  It lasted about ninety minutes and then she asked for just €2 each.

Now, I am not usually prone to acts of extravagance but this had been so really, really good that we gave her €5 each and still walked away thinking that we had had an exceptional bargain.

I like sunsets and wanted to see the town from the ancient monument so we went once more to the islet of Palatia and joined all of the other sun worshippers who were gathering here to see the end of the day and another glorious sunset.

It was a very fine sunset indeed. The sun slipped elegantly into the sea and as its golden energy was slowly extinguished and transformed into a solar slick on the surface of the Aegean what left over light remained illuminated the town with a satisfyingly warm orange glow like the dying embers of a really good fire.

The edifice is said to be the unfinished Temple of Apollo and the famous Portara, the temple’s gate and Naxos’ trademark, doubles as a sun worshipping monument and it certainly looked spectacular tonight framed against the burning sky.  We stayed until it was dark and the orange flame of the sunset had been replaced by an inky blue sky that provided a dramatic backdrop to the sparkling lights of Naxos town.

Later we walked back out of the town and had another excellent meal at Nico’s restaurant where we ordered far more than we could comfortably eat and feeling good after an excellent day and having consumed more alcohol than was sensible we hired a vehicle for sightseeing on the following day.

But that’s another story… Read it here…


29 responses to “Greek A to Ω – N (Nu) is for Νάξος or Naxos

  1. The temple may not have been unfinished, but it shows from your picture with the sun that it doesn’t have to be to get such a superb capture and view. 😀


  2. I love the first photo- it speaks to me of everything Naxos and one of my best memories ever.


  3. Hi,
    That is a shame you got gatecrashed as it were, but the tour does sound excellent. I love the second photo, do you know what the gold antique emblem is that is in the case? I noticed it has a cross on the top, it is really beautifully done, I’m assuming it is an old piece.


  4. Individual tours are great aren’t they? We’ve had a couple in our time too, when you get your own very personal guide, and a totally different type of tour. If you check out my Carteia post on the blog, we had a brilliant tour around a fantastic archaeology site on our own last year (I think).

    The language thing was fascinating. I had no idea of those stats, except for the first three, although didn’t know the order. Obviously also explains why one of our Spanish friends said recently ‘English and Spanish,’ that’s all you need in the world.


  5. Love that first pic, so atmospheric. Totally agree about the French 🙂


  6. haha funny about the tour guide … I had a tour of Naxos in Dutch, which was the first time I realized that Dutch kind of sounds like really weird English. I thought I understood a fair amount of it, maybe I did or maybe I was fooling myself.

    I love the idea that speaking a particular language can make someone ill. I should try that with my Turkish teacher. (“these words are too long, they give me an asthma attack…”)


  7. I enjoyed your writing, the descriptions made me feel, at times, that I was reading good fiction. Very descriptive rather than merely factual. And the photos are great, too.


  8. Another post that has me chuckling away. The medical term is English Verbositism. Symptoms vary but if it goes on and on has been known to bore people to death.
    If you be liebe that I also have some marbles to sell. 🙂


  9. So many ancient Greek church ornaments. It’s a terrible shape they weren’t on proper display in a museum as you say.


  10. Pingback: Greek A to Ω – N (Nu) is for Νάξος or Naxos | Have Bag, Will Travel

  11. The value of a language is connected to the power of the people who speak it. English is spoken by the Americans. Portuguese and Spanish is spoken by lots of poor people, mainly in Central and South America. France and Germany are in the G Six group of advanced nations. Chinese is just too difficult for most people to learn, and you hardly ever hear anybody who has learnt it and can speak it well.


  12. What a great day that was, as your photos prove as well. I think the French are no worse than the English, who seem to imagine that talking louder – in English -is the only concession that needs to be made to communicating with foreigners.


  13. She probably knew who would spend the most money


  14. I think it is harder for us to speak a foreign language because most foreigners you meet want to practice their English with you. I love languages, learned French and German at school pus Latin which is useful in many ways. I tried a bit of Norwegian when I lived there, but you really have to immerse yourself in a language to be fluent which sadly I never was.


  15. Chuckled my way through your comments on the French language, Andrew. Great photo of the temple gate and the sun.


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