Cape Tenaro, Mani
To the gates of Hades
Ancient Greeks believed that the gates of Hades, the passage to the afterlife, could be found at Cape Tenaro, known in Greek as Akrotenaro. This was the place where the god of the Underworld collected the souls of the dead. This was the site of the Sanctuary and the Death Oracle of Poseidon Tenaros, where the living would go to speak with the dead. It is also where Orpheus descended into Hades to reach his beloved Eurydice, and where Heracles entered the realm of the dead to face Cerberus for his twelfth and final labor. By happy coincidence, Heracles is also the name of the friend that walked the 45-minute hike with me to the Tenaro lighthouse, located at the southernmost point of the mainland Balkans. As we neared our destination, I fully expected to be awestruck by the mystical energy of this haunting spot; instead, we met Periklis Stavropoulos, the very talkative lighthouse keeper. A calm sea, a peaceful setting, and a cheerful lighthouse keeper chatting enthusiastically and at length do not exactly leave room for existential questions to arise. Eventually, night fell and we began our return journey... to the upper world. That's when the sens of awe came, brought on by the full moon and the mysterious, tranquil atmosphere that made us lose all sense of space and time.
“Are we really back? Or have we passed through the gates without noticing it?” I asked Heracles, only half-jokingly. He started laughing… Well, of course; he’s Heracles, and can go back if he wants to, I thought. Me, on the other hand… May the gods help me!