MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “legends”

A Platanus of history

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©MCD

There is a quote that says, “imagine if trees gave free WiFi; we’d all be planting like crazy. Too bad they only produce the oxygen we breathe”.

Trees are more important and vital for our lives than we believe or even give them credit for. They contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife. They produce the wood we use to light our fireplaces in the winter, make our furniture, even the paper we write on. Yet, we cut them down without second thoughts.

It is no wonder then, that when we come across a tree that is centuries old we treat it as a wonder of nature. We stand before it dumbfounded, gazing at this stupendous sight. And it makes you truly feel small and insignificant.

There is a place in North Evia, Greece, somewhere along that nature-blazing road that has you driving among trees, on your way towards the Kyreas River, in between the villages of Prokopi and Mantoudi. There is this place where a sign will direct you to the “Great Platanus”. A plane tree that residents will tell you has been there for centuries. It is “a tree of huge dimensions”, as the sign reads, a “monument of nature”. A Platanus Orientalis. It is 22-23 metres tall, with its trunk’s circumference reaching 18 metres, its trunk diameter at 5.5 metres, the surface of its stem at 900 square metres, and its shadow said to be once stretching over 2.5 acres. Its age is estimated at 500-600 years, although some say that it exceeds 2,300 years! It is said that this is the most ancient Platanus in the Balkans, perhaps even the whole of Europe.

20171028_133927Its tree trunks are larger than what can fit in your wide-open arms. It stands imposing before you and, even though lacking in foliage and somewhat deserted and with broken branches, the vastness of this tree is not diminished. Rather, it is a refreshing site in a world full of asbestos and tar. There is also a huge hollow in its trunk, big enough for 10 or more people standing. In it, you suddenly forget all the problems that trouble your head daily. You take a deep breath and simply be grateful for being alive. For being there. And for being able to witness this. Just think about all the changes this tree may have witnessed. It was there before you and will probably remain so even after you.

20171028_133932As with all over-aged creatures, there are myths and legends surrounding this tree. For example, it is said that if someone falls asleep in its hollow, they will fall ill or harm will come to them, as goblins will come out and cast a spell on them. In another legend, if you are found at midnight under the tree, you will hear voices, music, violins and clarinets, and see fairies and goblins appear dancing at the shores of the river. In yet another, it is said that at midnight two large rams come out of the platanus and start noisily fighting each other. This tree is often associated with fairies and goblins as it was believed that, being over-aged, it was also haunted.

No matter the stories, however, the reality remains that this, like so many others, is part of our natural heritage and should be protected and preserved. We devote so much of our time, energy and funds to things that matter less, yet we abandon those that benefit us more.

N.B. All photos are mine, taken in North Evia, Greece, on 28 October 2017.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Gratitude

 

Blue-bloods and Castles

DSC07165Every little girl dreams of being a princess. Be it Cinderella (the rags-to-riches type), Snow White (the I-have-seven-dwarves-to-protect-me type), Little Mermaid (the sea-lover type), or even Sleeping Beauty (the I’ll-wake-up-when-reality-is-better type), being part of a royal kingdom is part of every girl’s dream.

Heck, everyone at some time or other dreams of being royalty, because it fits into the idyllic image of being able to do whatever you want, having whatever you desire, without a care in the world. But the best part of it all, is that you get to enjoy royal castles and palaces. DSC06981Especially the ones hidden away in the Bavarian Alps, like Neuschwanstein. The one Walt Disney used as inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle. And one of the most famous and beautiful royal castles in the world.

Having already completed the idyllic scenery of this castle in a puzzle a few years ago, it was only fitting that we would also visit the ‘life-size’ Neuschwanstein.

DSC07127After all, there is always something majestic about visiting a palace, or royal castle. Even a smaller one like Linderhof.

DSC06990 Both built by and for King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th century, the latter was intended as his summer residence and modeled on the Versailles Palace, idolizing the absolutism of the French monarchy, something he could not have in Bavaria where he was forced to share power with parliament.

spiegelsaal LiderhofAdorned with gold inside and endless gardens and statues outside, Linderhof is a treat. Even covered in snow it is truly magical.

And then, secluded and enwrapped within the Bavarian Alps appears the fairy tale castle.

The one whose paintings feature the legends of Tristan and Isolde; Sigurd the Dragon Slayer and Gudrún the Avenger; Lohengrin the Swan Knight; and Tannhäuser, as well as the famous opera by Richard Wagner Parcifal the Knight of the Holy Grail. schlafzimmer NeuschwansteinThese resulted in a spectacular interior design for his castle, a castle that was never completed, as he died having just lived 172 days inside it.

Visiting royal castles and palaces and listening to the myths and stories behind the history of the places and people who inhabited them transfers you to a different time. When people needed horse-drawn carriages to climb up to their palaces, that featured hundreds of steps and in which each room served a different purpose – and in which in order to get from one end to the other you needed a map, or even an entire day!

DSC07142Yet, there is a beauty in being inside these 19th century castles. You imagine yourself living in the time when court jesters where the entertainment available, not playstations and tablets; when the longer and more extravagant the dress, the more elegant it was considered; when gentlemen courted the ladies; when the court was a symbol of richness and power.

And no matter how high or how far you need to travel, sometimes visiting such places is worth the trouble. DSC07121

Even if you slide down iced-snow slopes and fall flat on your bottom and lose your breath for a minute or two. The experience of walking in the same corridors and rooms in which a king lived over 200 years ago certainly compensates any fall!

All photos (apart from the interior rooms – not allowed) are mine, taken in Bavaria on 27 December 2013.

Lunar or looney?

wolf-howling-at-the-moonWhy is it that whenever there is a full moon something seems to happen inside of you? Like a switch that is automatically turned on and you get moody, more emotional, over-sensitive and sooo stressed and worried? Is this the power of the full moon? Or are we simply experiencing a transformation into werewolves!?

Maybe it is all associated to the reason wolves actually howl at the moon. There are numerous myths trying to explain this. One of them traces its roots to a famous legend, telling the story of how wolves howl to the moon and sing at the stars because that is where the spirits of their ancestors are found. There are others too, like the one telling of how Coyote (the Native American trickster deity) is jealous of the love that the moon and Wolverine have for each other, and he tricks the Wolverine into going to the mortal world to fetch a bouquet of flowers. The Wolverine then realizes that once he became mortal, he would not be able to return to the spirit realm and every night, he looks up in the sky and sees the Moon and howls her name. But… he can never touch her again.

Thousands of ancient civilizations – some of which go back to the Neolithic Age – pair wolves with the moon in images and in literature, leading to today’s popular belief. Hecate, the Greek goddess of the moon, was known to be surrounded with the company of gods. The same applies for Diana, the Roman goddess of the moon and the hunt. The Norse mythology relates the story of a pair of wolves chasing the moon and the sun to summon night and day. The Native American Seneca tribes believe that a wolf actually sung the moon into existence.

Yet there are also studies showing that the wolf’s howl serves as an alarm call, enabling it to reconnect with the pack if they become separated and warn off rival packs.

But does that all explain our change of behaviour during nights of full-moon? It could simply be psychological, but there is also the unfounded belief of a lunar effect – that there is correlation between specific stages of the Earth’s lunar cycle and deviant behavior in human beings that cannot simply be explained by variation in light levels. In fact, Even the word “lunacy” meaning “insanity” comes from the Latin word for “moon” and can be linked to this exact belief.

But you know what’s stranger? Nobody really notices this change of behaviour until something unusual happens. And then it is all linked to that bright round shiny thing in the sky – not the sun, but the full moon…

Also part of Daily Prompt: The Full Moon

Also part of Daily Prompt: Howl at the Moon

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