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On the Trail of Captain Corelli

Argostolion, Greece

When I arrived into Sami, the main Kefalonian port, it was completely dark and all I could see were the shadows of the hills and the lights flickering on the surface of the water. I would have to wait until morning to get a proper glimpse of the island I had read and dreamt about for so long.

When that chance came, it was worth the wait. The scenery of Kefalonia is probably more beautiful than any I have seen so far. It also earns the title of being the only place I have been to to which I would move unhesitatingly if given the chance. Like the other Greek islands, Kefalonia is rugged, montainous with beautiful calm blue seas and rocky beaches. It differs, however, in that it is so green and lucious; so alive. I started the morning by going for a walk to explore and get a feel for the island's landscape. I didn't have a destination or route in mind, but I headed inland, walking at first along a track and then veering off onto a country path. For nearly three hours, I didn't see another human being, a welcome break from the bustle and chaos of Athens. If you blink here, you might think you were walking through fields in southern England; there are small paddocks, mossy walls, arboreal paths and hundreds of coloured wild flowers. Beneath the surface, however, everything is more dramatic and impressive: ants three-quarters of an inch long, flying insects as thick as your thumb and sheer peaks replacing the rolling hills of England. Walking back along the path between shade and sun, I could almost picture Pelagia hunting for snails - either you'll know what I'm talking about, or you won't. Everything about this landscape is timeless.

Back down on the coast, I found a nearly private beach and settled down to read. Every time it got too hot I could go to the waters edge and sit on a rock with my feet dipped into the tepid water. This, I think, must be what the Greek islands are all about. In the evening, I went to an internet cafe, this being the only deficiency of the place I was staying. I had opted for self-catering in a small town on the coast, aiming to save a little money on food. The plus side of this was that my studio apartment was so close to the beach I could easily walk back for a snack or a drink; the down side was that I ate nothing but bread, cheese and fruit for three days. I bought a newspaper, as I have started to do to keep track of the British news in preparation for my return, and spent a relaxing evening on the waterfront and on the balcony of my apartment.

After a long-anticipated good night's sleep, I was ready to explore even further afield. I decided I would leave some of the other towns on the island for another time as the bus journeys can be long despite the short distances and in this weather I wanted to make the most of where I was staying. I walked inland again, up a road the led me round a hill and to a small village. Like most of the island, this was mostly made up of modern and uninteresting (though not ugly) houses that were built after the immensely destructive earthquake last century. Further up the hill, however, I discovered the ruins of what must have been the old village until 1953 - stone buildings, now desolate and overgrown. This made the journey worthwhile and strengthened the links of what I saw with the book that had introduced me to the island.

Again, I spent the afternoon at the beach, and this time ventured to swim. I chose a rocky cove because it was deserted and later discovered why. After half an hour swimming in the warm water and another fifteen minutes drying on a rock, I looked down and saw a trail of blood trickling from my foot down towards the sea. Given the length of time this must have been open, I could not work out how much blood I had lost, but on closer inspection the wound was fairly deep, giving the appearance of my having tried to carve myself a sixth toe. Reluctantly, I limped back to the apartment and dressed the damaged foot, sadly acknowledging that this would put an end to my doing any swimming for the next few days.

The final day of my peaceful rest arrived, and so I went to soak up as much sun on the beach as I could. In a complicated and prolonged conversation with a woman who worked at the place I was staying I had managed to get a free load of laundry done, which considering the extorniate laundry rates in this part of the world was particularly welcome. After a lazy, but nonetheless productive day, I took a late-afternoon taxi back to Sami. Two Greeks shared the cab with me but for some reason weren't willing to share the cost and I wasn't really in a position to argue, outnumbered as I was. So to save funds, I bought a 1 euro meatless Greek kebab and sat by the port in the evening sun.

permalink written by  BenWH on May 12, 2009 from Argostolion, Greece
from the travel blog: Gap Year Odyssey
tagged Greece

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