Kefallonia & Ithaca

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Kefalonia is the biggest of the seven-island cluster of Eptanisa and Ithaki is the almost mythical island of Odysseus, (Ulysses) the hero of Homer's epic Odyssey.

Tall forested mountains interchange with rocky, bare hills, valleys that separate the rocky bulks and reach out to the sea transformed into fertile plains and golden-sand beaches, form a landscape of unparalleled natural beauty. The all-blue of the Ionian sea covered by everlasting mists form a number of scenic bays and natural harbors along the coastline of the islands and give the final touch to an already perfect Image.

The island of Kefalonia, first inhabited during the deep prehistoric period, has always exhibited a high level of cultural, artistic and literary activity. A number of significant figures of Hellenic literature originated from this island. The 1953 devastating earthquake was a major blow for the island. The vast majority of the traditional buildings were destroyed and only a small fraction of the old section of the capital city of the island still survives. All cultural and commercial activity had ceased for a number of years. Today the islands have returned to their former cultural and economic prosperity .

Argostoli is the capital city of the province of Kefalonia. It is built on a peninsula on the coast of a small natural harbor inside the greater bay of Livadi. The city has been totally rebuilt since 1953. Landmarks of the city that may be visited by the traveler who seeks a better insight of the history and tradition of the island include the municipal theater "Kefalos", the Korgialeneios Municipal Library, with collections of rare and valuable books, and the folklore and archeological museums roofing a great number of exhibits from the recent and more distant history of the island.

These fine institutions are only a sample of the efforts of the city people to restore their traditional ways and historic memories, so badly damaged by the elements of nature

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The greater area of Argostoli has to offer a great number of idyllic corners and locations. Among them the golden sand beaches of Makris Gialos and Platis Gialos, the lighthouse of the islet of Agion Theodoron-built by the British rulers of the islands, and the location of Katavothres, a subterranean network of interconnecting caves and galleries that has been proved to run under the island interconnecting caves both above and below sea-level, an altogether impressive natural formation.

The bridge of Drapano, built by the British in 1814, connects the city to the opposite side of the bay, offering the opportunity for an idyllic walk especially during a hot summer evening with the moon reflections on the crystal-clear waters emitting silver beams on the surrounding landscape.

Sami, built at the deepest recess of the synonymous bay, the town lies amidst forested country, amphitheatrically built at the foot of mount Avgo, that is covered by fir-tree forests. Sami still has its traditional character and color because it was not as severely damaged by the earthquakes as was the city of Argostoli. Today the town is the island's biggest commercial center and its harbor is a major gate of western Hellas to Italy and Western Europe.

Nearby Sami lie the famous caves of Drogarati and Melissani. The cave of Drogarati is characterized by steep underground precipices and impressive natural formations of stalactites and stalagmites. To give a measure of the cave's size it would suffice to mention that its main chamber, located well below ground level, has been used in a number of occasions as a concert hall. This natural concert hall can accommodate up to 500 people.

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In the nearby cave of Melissani the roof has collapsed allowing the sun rays to reach the cave's beautifully decorated chambers. Moreover the cave has been flooded by sea-water and the tour of the cave by boat is a reverie and idyllic experience especially at noon when the sun-rays strike the surface of the water, thus resulting in a colourful mystifying burst of light.

The nearby location of Karavomylos has been proved to be interconnected by means of underground galleries and caves with the location of Katavothres, near the city of Argostoli, at the far side of the island. The hill of Agion Fanenton, at the edges of Sami, is an archeological site and the location where the ruins of the ancient city lie. The nearby monastery of Agrileon, built during the 15th century, offers a beautiful panoramic view of the island and, further away, the beach of Antisamos is an opportunity for swimming in the crystal-clear Ionian sea.

Assos: The village of Assos is the most traditional and scenic corner of Kefalonia. Build on a great rocky formation, connected by an isthmus to the main island, the island is overlooked by an impressive Venetian castle, built during the 16th century.

A great portion of its fortifications are well preserved and the traveler may visit the church of Agios Markos and the barracks located in the enclosure of the castle. The natural harbors created by the rock and the isthmus on either side of the village give the opportunity for some relaxing moments in a scenic, beautiful landscape.

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Fiscardo: Named after the Italian aristocrat Roberto Guiscardo, who died in the area in 1085 AD, the village of Fiscardo is one of the very few that survived intact the great earthquakes. Fiscardo has a strong traditional atmosphere and is a fine example of the distinctive architectural style of Kefalonia. The village, built on a number of subsequent small peninsulas and scenic natural harbors, has almost been untouched by time and bares the traces of long forgotten practices of everyday life.

The modern buildings enclose in their midst ancient stone bathing basins, a church built during the first years of Christianity and the remains of a Paleolithic settlement. The nearby golden-sand beaches and the neighboring villages of Germenata, Antiopata and Dafnoudi have to offer an idyllic interchanging landscape of pine-tree forests and vineyards and the opportunity of a relaxing swim in the all-blue sea.

 

Ithaki : The beautiful scenic island of Odysseus offers the traveler a relaxing vacation with its numerous golden-sand beaches and scenic landscape. Ithaki has been inhabited from the prehistoric period and the harbor of Vathi is believed to be the place from where Odysseus departed in order to join the Trojan war.

Vathi - The capital of the island, built amphitheatrically at the deepest recess of the bay of Molos, is believed to be the ancient harbor of Forkis. The town was devastated by the 1953 earthquakes but was restored to its former traditional appearance and today is a peaceful sea-resort. The German archeologist Sleeman, who discovered the ancient city of Mykinae, excavated the area on an attempt to discover the palace of Odysseus, but discovered instead the unearthed city of Alkomenes which origins date back to the 8th century BC, almost 500 years after the Trojan war. 

 The traveler may visit the rebuilt and restored Byzantine cathedral, decorated with exquisite wooden icon screens, the municipal library and the house of Odysseus Androutsos, one of the heroes of the Hellenic revolution.

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The nearby beautiful cave of Marmarospilia or Antro Ton Nymphon (Nymph's Lair), decorated by beautiful geological formations, is described in the Homer's epics and according to Homer, is the place where Odysseus hide the treasures that brought to Ithaki when returning from his quest.

Full of small scenic villages, such as Perachori, Frikes, Lefki, Agogi, Ecsogi, Platreithia and so many others, Ithaki is a place full of history and stories that are almost mythological. Ruins, Byzantine churches and monasteries, and locations of natural unparalleled beauty will lead the traveler into subsequent excursions as the small, scenic secret corners of the island excite the imagination and speak of millennia of historic and legendary events.

The continuing efforts to locate indications and finally find the actual site of the palace of Odysseus and other landmarks of the Mykenean era, are prevailing all over the island.

 

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