Odysseus’ Cave – a Magical Place That Even Zeus Wouldn’t Be Able to Get You out of
There are only two kinds of people on the planet; those who visited the island of Mljet and dream about returning and those who have yet to fall in love with the “green forest” of the South Adriatic. The northwest part of the island has been a national park since 1960, and as such is the oldest in the Mediterranean. According to legend, the central part of the island’s natural treasure trove was given an important role by one of the greatest ancient Greek poets, Homer. His hero Odysseus spent seven years in this heaven on earth, called Ogygia in his magnificent epic poem.
The story told by people of Mljet occurred three thousand years ago, as the ancient hero Odysseus was returning from one of his many journeys. Somewhere near Mljet, he was caught in a big storm, causing his ship to smash against the sharp rock Ogiran.
One of the most popular characters in ancient Greek mythology had to swim to the nearest patch of land to save his neck, and amid the raging sea, a hole in the ground opened up in front of him, which he swam into. It was an entrance to a cave where he found shelter from the storm.
A Paradise in Croatia Where Odysseus Spent Seven Years
This island of picturesque coves, warm sea and intoxicating scent of pine trees was the home of the nymph Calypso, who held Odysseus captive for seven long years. Although he grieved for his beloved wife Penelope during the day, each night Calypso would bewitch him, promising him immortality if he stayed with her. He was set free only after Zeus intervened. Calypso reluctantly heeded the order from the master of Mount Olympus, and had a raft built for Odysseus with plenty of food and wine, which would enable him to return to his home in Ithaca. Once her lover left, Calypso supposedly died of grief.
This is where the legend ends, and Odysseus’ cave subsequently became the home of an unusual creature. For a number of years, it was the natural habitat of one of the rarest mammals in the world – the Mediterranean monk seal.
When you arrive on Mljet, the easiest way to reach Odysseus’ cave is from the largest village on the island, Babino Polje. The path leading to the beach that touches the turquoise sea leads through vineyards and olive groves. After about half an hour, you will reach the place that once charmed Odysseus with its beauty. The cave is accessible by land through a set of steep stairs, but jumping into the sea and swimming inside just like Odysseus is always a better choice. During the summer months, around noon, when the sun is at its strongest, the sea displays so many shades of blue that you’ll wish you could stay at least seven years like Odysseus.