Horta is the "sailing capital" of the Atlantic, a favorite stopping point for those who cross the Atlantic by sailboat--early trans-Atlantic aviators landed their primitive hydroplanes there, too. Located on the island of Faial, it offers a magnificent view of Portugal's highest mountain (comparable to Smolikas) across the narrow strait between Faial and Pico. It has museums featuring scrimshaw painting and fig-tree-wood sculpture, but its most impressive "museum" is probably its breakwater, decorated by the countless painting-signatures of passing sailors. I saw at least two murals made by Greeks, the corresponding sailboats being "Danae III" and "Iliopotissa" ("Sun-drinker", cf. Elytis' poetry). There has been another Greek, however, who turned out to be more sublimal than artistic: right by the entrance to Horta's "inner harbor", where the murals begin, I saw the words "Maria s' agapo" ("Maria I love you") painted by white spray (or otherwise "engraved") on a black rock :-)

Most sailboats cross the Atlantic during the summer months, out of respect for the great ocean's winter storms. The most impressive of those arrived at Horta on the noon of February 15, 1986, with gusts exceeding 150 mph. Jose Henrique Azevedo, whose family owns "Peter Cafe Sport", a gathering place (as well as "post-office") for passing sailors, took some photographs during the storm; one of those, featuring breaking mega-waves of spray height 200 ft and resembling a reclining bearded person's head, has been immortalized in post-cards (sold only at "Peter Cafe Sport") as "Neptuno na Horta" ("Poseidon of Horta"). Mr. Azevedo, who picked my nationality at once, paid at some point a visit to the Greek Embassy in Lisbon, hoping that the Greek government might be interested in "promoting" his photograph in one way or another; of course, nothing happened in that direction :-(

[Article posted on soc.culture.greek in April 1995 following my January 1995 trip to the Azores ]


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