Monday, 5 September 2016

Free things to do in Kefalonia

It's been a long time. The ageing laptop took a holiday for a few weeks and no sooner was it back than we went on our wonderful family holiday to Kefalonia. It was perfect.

Now let's clear up that my trip to Kefalonia wasn't free. Neither flight nor hotel, neither car-hire nor spends - I'm not that good a blogger . Greece isn't cheap, either. Their financial crisis seems to have caused a fair bit of inflation since I last visited and a weak Sterling/Euro exchange rate meant that meals for 6 in a taverna were out of the question. It's still a wonderful country though. Beautiful, friendly, HOT and steeped in history.

I thought I'd commit some memories of this wonderful holiday to my blog by looking at things that we did that didn't cost a penny.

History. This is Greece - everything about it is historic. It's not all about stones and ruins. It's about culture, food and influences from the many other civilisations that have had their say in how the island is now.

Kefalonia has a few Mycenean tombs and the first we came across was at Lakithra.
This probably isn't the most spectacular but it's the first old Greek thing my obsessed daughter has seen so it was a special moment. A walk through a quiet village finds the site looking out towards the Aegean. Strange holes in the ground look like they probably held treasure, whilst graves hewn from the rock once held the bones of ancients.
The ghosts of 3500 year old skeletons could rise at any moment like those in Jason and the Argonauts.

The ancient Acropolis at Sami was very spectacular. Again, the views are jaw dropping.
Just a short journey away is Ithaca, home of Odysseus and from whence he started his journey as chronicled by Homer. This huge site sits high on a hill and must once have been quite a sight from down in the waters. Like at Lakithra, we had the whole place to ourselves - only mad dogs and Englishmen do such

explorations in the midday sun. The size of the stones are truly impressive and one can understand why Cyclopean architecture is a known term for the Mycenean period - only the giants of Greek mythology could lift such stones so high up a mountain like this.

The Romans slaughtered the inhabitants of Sami after a lengthy siege around 188 BC. The Romans also left our final piece of free history - the Roman Villa at Skala. Located just outside the town it's not noticeably a villa, just a floorplan. But what floors - each still has remains of exquisite mosaics. An elevated walkway gives a good view down.

There are numerous other free historic sites across the islands, these are the only ones we saw. It wouldn't have been fair to drag the kids around more - we know how many we can get away with.

For inhabitants of a wet island at the edge of Europe it's also a free treat to see wildlife that we can only usually see in zoos, aquariums or similar. Lizards are plentiful and it's a novelty seeing fish swim past your goggles in the crystal clear waters off the beaches. I saw a few hoopoes too and was told that these were shot for sport. Not sure if that's true though.

My real 'bucket list' moments were marvellous. I'm also pleased that I saw them perfectly naturally and not through an organised trip. The real highlight was a pair of leatherback turtle. These frolicked quite happily along the harbour front at Argostoli and this is quite common. Magical.
My second magical moment happened as I walked along a farm track to the local shop one morning. The top of every plant along the edge of a field was topped by a dragonfly/mayfly type insect. One of them looked to be eating something but as I approached I saw that it was in a battle of life or death with a praying mantis. The fly escaped and the mantis turned its attention to me - I really think it would have taken me on, too.

A little gecko appeared outside our room a few nights. Not quite as spectacular, but something we don't see in England very often.

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