Greece and Turkey 2012


KAFALONIA (or CEPHALONIA): Argostoli and various small towns,       9-26-12

Cephalonia is one of the seven Ionian Islands. The cities on the two islands we've visited look similar. Each claims that their island is best. The villages and architecture are pretty much alike as well. The roads are narrow and the history of being conquered (and therefore the look and feel of where people settled, the walls they built, etc.) are also alike.

ArgostolionThe tour today did not look promising: a monastery and a winery. However, as we started driving around the island we passed through postcard scenery and quaint villages with the sea as a backdrop. Argostolion(The sea around here is not so much blue as consistently teal, which makes the water almost look like a glacial lake.) We stopped at a village whose one business seemed to be a cafe catering to tourists. Cephalonia had been devastated by an earthquake in the 50's. Interestingly, the island had a history of earthquakes and still the people stayed and rebuilt. The particular town we stopped in was 90% destroyed by the 50's earthquake but then was completely rebuilt (completely financed by) a Greek shipping magnate who was born in the town. We were told that, as a tribute to him, the residents kept their homes and gardens in postcard-perfect condition. It was amazing. The whole village was a well-kept garden!


We then visited a monastery, which had also suffered extensive damage during the 50's earthquake. The church was shaken and the plaster on the walls crumbled revealing frescos underneath that were hundreds of years old. Although it's called a monastery, we saw only a few very old nuns. The grounds were peaceful, with an olive grove, citrus and other fruit trees, and herb and vegetable garden.

ArgostolionFinally, we visited a winery. Coming from California, I was not overawed. The locals all seem to make their own wine for their personal use, mostly using the foot-stomp method. Our guide said that grape stomping had to be barefoot or the wine wouldn't taste as good. I think she was suggesting that skin bacteria helped rev up the fermentation process, but she didn't come right out and say that. The winery we visited, which has lots of modern equipment, is a coop of local vintners and the wine itself is not bad. It is even exported to the US and Europe.

Speaking of California, Corfu and Cephalonia both have an abundance of eucalyptus trees. On Corfu we were told that they were planted in the belief that the leaves protected against malaria but people soon found out that it didn't work. Today, our guide told us the same story about eucalyptus and mosquitoes but suggested that the trees did protect against malaria. Switching to another tree, there are also lots of "pencil thin" cypress trees on the Ionian Islands. Our Corfu guide said that poor families would plant a tiny cypress when a daughter was born and by the time she married, the tree was tall enough to sell for dowry money which the family otherwise wouldn't have.

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