Lord Byron, most famous of Philhellenes, in Greek costume at the time of the Greek War of Independence. Byron landed at Kefalonia in 1823 with money, medicine and arms for the Greeks in their struggle against the Turks.
As promised, an account of my trip to the Ionian Islands, part I.I went with a companion this time, that is someone who could stand my company, to Kefalonia. We arrived on Sunday 3rd July (new style) at around 2 o'clock local time and went to our hotel in Lassi. Tired from the flight and unused to the heat, we decided to stay in the village, have some lunch, and buy some tea and milk for our room, and generally dossed around. We went to a cocktail bar in the evening called Trenti's which has a beautiful terrace looking west over the bay. It was a delight to watch the Sun go down beyond the hills as the stars kindled overhead, and I was anxious to try the bar's signature cocktail again, which I remembered from last year: a mixture of Vodka, Passoa, orange and pineapple juice. Four of those on a hot evening was quite enough!
On Monday my companion and I went to Argostoli, the island's capital. We went first to the quayside where the local fishers process the morning's catch because last year I learned that Caretta caretta, the only species of sea turtle native to the Mediterranean, feed there every morning on the fishy offal thrown overboard by the fishermen. At first, as we walked along the quay, we saw nothing, then suddenly Look! my friend pulled at my sleeve as a turtle came to the surface of the water for a puff of air and swam back down again. We followed her (I assumed it was female) as she swam by the boats, and she was joined by another, as well as many a school of small fish. Other than the fishermen, and two young ladies who were clearly conservationists, my friend and I were entirely alone. Where were the tourists, I wondered? Looking for tourist shops, or other tourists? How strange that here was a local miracle and my friend and I were alone. It was the same last year. We watched the turtles for about twenty minutes as they fed (and fought!) until we were conscious that the morning sun grew too hot for our fair skin and we decided to get our own breakfast.
St Spyridon's, Argostoli.
We broke our fast at one of the restaurants in the town square. I had toast with local marmalade, a savoury bun with sesame, drizzled with thyme honey, Greek coffee and peach juice. My friend had sausages and fried eggs with a kind of butter sauce, and tea. We sat talking for an hour in the shade of the plane trees of the square, ordered more coffee, when my friend said that there was a Muslim woman crossing the square. I said: "are you sure it's not a nun on her way to the bus station?" "See for yourself," said he. Well, I was aghast! Coming towards us was a young woman in a white hijab pushing a pram. Here, in heavily-Christian provincial Greece, was an infidel in our midst. I noticed that the locals stared at her in an openly unfriendly way. I didn't blame them, although I felt rather sorry for the woman, and wondered where her husband was. I also wondered what on earth she was doing there. Was she on holiday, like my friend and me? If so, what did she expect to see or find in Greece? There are no mosques, and, unlike here in England, the local shops won't sell halal meat. I thought then that it would do her the world of good to visit any of the local churches. So, I expect, did the Greeks.
On Tuesday my companion and I took the ferry from Argostoli to Lixouri, on the west side of the gulf of Argostoli. Unless I am quite mistaken, there isn't much to see in Lixouri other than the same junk shops we saw in Argostoli but we did visit the Monastery of Kipoureon, the residence of one elderly monk. A char woman sitting outside the katholikon let us wander about for a bit but we became bored and soon left, returning by ferry to Argostoli for lunch. Walking through the trees in a side street to avoid the sun I spotted a small green lizard, which soon disappeared into some foliage. My friend, who didn't actually see it, guessed it to have been a species of rock lizard.
The only cloud we saw that day. Aetos is to the right of this promontory.
End of Part I.