Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Kefalonia : Back to the Future

Hi all, back and out of the doldrums. Hopefully you've all been overly productive both in your offline & online gardens. I'm about to recompensate my absenteeism but first I've got to share this effusion of sentiments and pixels from my latest Homeric crusade... (raised eyebrows and grumbling welcome as usual !)

Even though I have only just returned, the sentimental lust is forever blooming. I will let you enjoy some idyllic Mediterranean landscapes and many of the easily missed and often unappreciated plants which have illuminated my wanderings and followed me as I left some more footprints on this marvelous island. 'Cos there truly is more to this delusively barren land than just my 'engaging' balderdash...

Old, charming villages dotted with bougainvilleas, rose laurels and century old olive trees ...

Under the Mediterranean Sun

"The half-forgotten island of Kefalonia rises improvidently and inadvisedly from the Ionian Sea; it is an island so immense in antiquity that the very rocks exhale nostalgia and the red earth lies stupified not only by the sun, but by the impossible weight of memory… The dark green of the pines is unfathomably and retreatingly deep, the ocean viewed from the top of a cliff presents azure and turquoise, emerald, viridian and lapis lazuli. Even the seawater is easier to see through than the air of any other place; a man may float in the water watching the distant sea bed, and clearly see the lugubrious rays accompanied by diminutive flatfish."

From 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' by Louis de Bernières

Regrettably (or not), no longer forgotten, but remains as overwhelming and intoxicating as ever.
As far as tourism goes, Kefalonians should consider naming Mr De Bernieres their other patron saint. For it was his book ' Captain Corelli's mandolin ' and  then there's the year 2002 with the homonymous film which definitely introduced the magic and beauty of the place to a huge audience and widened the horizons of many more nature lovers and adventurers.

The far north colorful village of Fiskardo - always in bloom

An island 35 kilometres by 45 kilometres...
Insane but ingenious islanders...
Vibrant colours even during the scorching summer days...
Breathtaking and dramatic scenery...
Venetian ruins, Mycenian tombs, Nymph Caves, Odysseus and Lord Byron's footsteps...
Dreamy, turquoise Ionian sea...
Cypress trees, Umbrella (Italian stone) pines, Greek Firs, Robola grapevine, olive groves, Ainos mountain with many more endemic species...

Many tragedies have befallen this beautiful island, but the following two were disastrous. One natural and one man-made. First, what happens to the little people when megalomaniacs get busy a.k.a. the Second World War. The island was occupied by Italian troops. When Italy capitulated to the Allies in 1943, the Italians handed the island over to the Germans, who massacred over 5000 Italian troops on the island. Then another tragedy struck Kefalonia in August 1953. A cataclysmic earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale reduced the island to ruins to the point that virtually every building/house was destroyed. Several hundreds died. Thousands migrated. Many abandoned, dreary old villages remain today as a monument to the 1953 disaster. Mostly for these two reasons, Kefalonia is deprived of the rich architectural legacy that many other tourist destinations display so lavishly. Nevertheless, God has been very generous when it comes to natural beauty and overwhelming landscape.

Spikey Reichardia...
Once more the unsettled giant in the bowels of the earth slammed a mighty fist vertically upwards, so that houses leapt from their foundations and solid stone walls rippled like paper in the wind, and suddenly there was a stillness like that of death . The earthquake changed lives so profoundly that to this day it is still the single greatest topic of conversation. Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Beautiful Mediterranean vistas

Kefalonia definitely being a typical example , with vast areas of forest cloaking the rugged limestone landscape and ten peaks exceeding 5,000 feet. Voted 10th in a World Scenic Beauty League, Kefalonia's coast is dotted with hundreds of secluded white limestone coves, caves and steep cliffs. Against the white glow of the coast, many inland areas of the island are blanketed by green plains, Kefalonian fir, olive groves and vineyards.

Mount Ainos, the island's highest mountain(1,628 m), a giant that suddenly emerges from a thick forest of black Greek fir with uniquely upreaching branches that exist only here - Abies cephalonica..

Kefalonians & other living beings
To spoil the fairytale, through the years of my continuous enchantment with this place, I have also been forced to notice some things that people just turn their heads on. Having in mind that some of the Kefalonians truly belong to a breed of demented people, and that coming from a person who has met and won so many beautiful friendships there. You probably guessed, I'm talking animal cruelty.

I can't seem to turn a blind eye on this and usually come to think of myself and friends as magnets for stray animals. There's good and bad just about in every place around the globe, but through the years I have unwillingly created the image about animal abuse on Kefalonia and mind you, I don't even live there, I have never seen hundreds of cats and dogs that get poisoned at the end of the tourist season each year. What I have seen in periods of about  three weeks was enough for my stomach. Dogs abandoned in the middle of nowhere, chained to a massive piece of rock, with no food or WATER at all, with summer temperatures scorching the place at around or above 40C each day, with no rain for months. And nothing or no one nearby, just a few stranded tourists per week. Dehydrated puppies dying scattered along deserted dirt tracks...My dear friend who lived there for 9 years also rescued her dog, that she had found hanged on a piece of linen cord. I will stop there. The general conclusion is that some of the locals are too stiff and hardheaded to neuter their pets but they openhandedly tag their furry friends as vermin. Thanks to many local friends and tourists who have fallen in love with the place and have chosen it as their future home, many of the doomed ones have been saved through their animal welfare program.

Unfortunately, the island of Kefalonia is not alone in this. Neither is Greece. Neither is Europe.
The things is, though, that some countries governments are just as cruel as the people in question when it comes to anyone outside their (pardon my French) fat-ass circle of trust.
You sometimes can't help but wonder, does God hear the cries of those who do not communicate in human language? !
The Greek Government is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to avoid both its responsibilities to the animals of Greece, and the international embarrassment that this causes. The government prefers to increase the suffering of innocent animals by attacking national and international animal welfare societies and innocent Greek and foreign animal lovers in a pathetic attempt to cover itself for its appalling record on the treatment of animals in Greece. (Story of Leo...)

Before I spoil my little travelogue, here's a few more to get that frown of your faces...
and nothing does it better than Greek road signs !

I wonder which tools they're using?...

I will forever remain a captive of this wonderful isle, even with having to learn that no place is perfect, doing something about it is soul-rewarding and heart-mending to some extent, but doesn't change the world. And just when you thought that people have really lost their marbles, there's papas Efsevios, as modest and benign as ever, Kefalonia's true saint and one of a few good souls to frame down in your memories.

Having to share your chicken souvlaki with a massive hornet is not the worst thing you may experience. A mild earthquake every now and then (Kefalonia and the neighbouring islands being one of the most seismically active in Europe). Being dragged out to the open water by strong currents and 2m waves, what a thrill. Being cheated and fooled by your rent-a-car rep and getting a lovely car with flat tyres & necrotic gearbox fits in the image as well . Locking-in your keys in that silly car, in the middle of nowhere, makes your day for sure ! LOL Here's a special thanks to a hilarious Italian dude from Rome who helped us wind down Fiat Punto's rear window from the outside and thus saved the day.

Wilson was there too... ;-)
He had lost Tom Hanks somewhere along the way...

I will get back soon with more photos of the island's lovely flora and a few plant conundrums of my illicitly imported newbies, for my dear gardening friends to help solve.

14 komentari:

garden girl said...

Beautiful Violet! Your love of this wonderful place shines through this post, as does your big heart in giving a voice to neglected and abused animals.

GardenJoy4Me said...

Violet .. what can I say but how touching all of this post was to me. Ironically my husband and I, with another couple, were going to visit Greece while we were living in Holland, but it didn't pan out. And today with e-mails confirming a get together, at a Greek restaurant for tomorrow .. what an odd coincidence ?
My heart goes out to those abandoned and abused animals .. it kills a little piece in my soul every time I run across such sad stories .. I can't understand people like that .. I can't believe they actually have souls themselves.
Your pictures were breath taking Violet .. and your feeling about it all were beautifully expressed.
Thank you !

Hunde Haus said...

Awesome awesome photos! I especially love the one of the Sea Quill. (sp?)

I always learn something when I read your blog...todays lesson was a bit of history. Thanks!

Cruelty to animals is such an immense puzzlement to me. It's one thing to be ignorant of a companion animals needs, and wants. But to intentionally inflict pain, of any kind, to a defenseless animal is beyond cruel. Those people surely have no souls or conscience.

Oh, and thanks for linking to the Kefalonia Animal Trust! What wonderful examples of decency those people are!!

Susie said...

What horrible treatment to those poor animals. It's really hard to see those sort of things.

Thanks for sharing those beautiful pictures though! Looks like a lovely place.

Brenda said...

I love your photos! And feel so bad for the poor animals. Someone needs to chain those people up and treat them the same way! Tit for tat!

Cosmo said...

Violet--Great to meet you! I loved this posting on Kefalonia. The Mediterranean is so beautiful--I've been to Greece, but I haven't spent nearly as much time there as I want to--and I've never been to Croatia. I look forward to reading more of your blog--your stories and your photographs are so beautiful.

Rowena said...

Stunning photos, even though it is so sad to read about how they treat pets/unwanted animals. Also, how very arrogant of the government to try and cover it all up. Truly despicable.

West Coast Island Gardener said...

I am intoxicated by your exhuberance. I am on my break at work reading your brilliant post and can't help letting out groans and sighs of delight - my co-workers are worried :) Perhaps one day I will add my foot steps to those of history there.

I stopped at the concerns of animals and will read it at home to give it the attention and time it deserves.

Violet - as always - your blog enriches my world.


lasilasi said...

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_hDJgQqeb50g/SMeJ9JchhOI/AAAAAAAAB7I/65diSEpQaxg/s1600-h/agiaeleni1.jpg is amazing! <3 i'll definitely check back your blog when i get more time =D

i wanted so much to visit croatia when i was in europe but didnt have the chance (uni paid trip). i was on the train to zagreb though i got off in maribor lol. how did u found my blog btw? =D

Viooltje said...

@ Linda: thanks Linda, this place has truly become my obsession, why and how, I'll leave that to a specialist ;-)

@ Joy: Odd coincidence or not, I'm still one of those people who believe every single thing happens for a reason ;-) It kills a little piece of mine too, you'd think after a while you'd become immune to such horrors, but abuse and torture of innocent beings who have no choice but to suffer always makes me feel ashamed of my human origin and aghast with the amount of retards in this world.

@Hunde Haus: yes I was mesmerized by the Sea Sqill myself, to that point that I smuggled a dozen of XL-sized bulbs, resembling small bombs, in my luggage LOL. And yes, just when you think there's no more humans in this world, you run into wonderful people who still do have a heart.

@ Susie: thanks Susie, for both your compliments and your visit

@ Brenda: tit for tat! Hey Brenda maybe we should go there together and impose some Middle Ages torture punishments ;-) These things are so horrific they manage to spoil the island's beauty to some extent. Then again, I'm sure some people would wonder what am I on about, 'cos most just don't notice or don't bother.

@ Cosmo: Welcome and thanks for the lovely compliments. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring your excellent posts. I'm sure you would love Croatia even more than Greece, both Mediterranean countries, with the difference of Croatia being a lot less 'disfigured' by the evil tentacles of mass tourism.

@ Rowena: Yes I know, it doesn't surprise me though, knowing how they treated people during 2007 great fires that stormed through major parts of Greece. And to think of Athens 2004 Olympics and hundreds of thousands of unwanted pets and animals the mayor had disposed of, so they wouldn't interfere with tourism. :-( Thanks for the visit.

@ Shauna: very pleased to see you're back :-) I am still as intoxicated, to the extent that this place has virtually dragged me away from the beautiful Croatian coast. Knowing what an artist, adventurer and nature lover you are, I'm sure if you'd decide to add your footsteps, you'd be just as intoxicated. The funny thing is, I could never really explain it. There's beautiful places all over the planet, but with Kefalonia, you either don't like it, or you can't stop coming back. For 99°% it's the latter. And the rest were either too drunk or apathetic to leave any footsteps ;-)

@LasiLasi: Actually I stumbled across your lovely blog using StumbleUpon Firefox AddOn.LOL
To hear you have been to Maribor and failed to stop over here is just shameful ;-) Hopefully you'll get another chance to make that right! Thanks for your visit.

Mother Nature said...

Thanks for bringing Kefalonia to life for me.

ConsciousGardener said...

I just love the bougenvilla. It grew all over our place in Santa Barbara but I hardly see it in Austin. Tisk-tisk to the animal abusers...I'm afraid it's happening all over though. Thanks for sharing, I love the photos!

Visitor info said...

Color me green for envy. "Under the Mediterranean Sun" - so want to go there.

Anonymous said...

Your intriguing posts made me have to visit this one-of-a-kind Ionian island...and I did, few weeks ago.
I can only say: Thank you so much for sharing your secret 'paradise lost' with the world. Cheers, Violet!


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