Kalo Pascha

We just wanted to wish you all a very happy Greek Easter!

If you want to visit the Ionian Islands for Greek Easter 2020, we recommend visiting Corfu Town where the Easter festivities are spectacular. With colourful processions, Philharmonic bands, dancing and even a tradition of throwing ceramic pots from windows and balconies to ban bad spirits from the house. A unique, cultural experience – not to be missed.

Image from the Times UK website – photo by
Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

We have some fabulous apartments, villas and hotels available in and close to Corfu town – please get in touch for further details.

Paxos Ferries Over The Years

The only way of getting from Corfu to Paxos in 1965, my first visit, was aboard a weather-worn, wooden caique called “Aspasia”. A central deckhouse cum cockpit provided hard bench seating for around 40 passengers. The Aspasia’s crossing time varied between 5 and 7 hours depending on the weather.

The journey south from Corfu Town, hugging Corfu’s eastern coastline until Cavos at the island’s most southerly point, is along a channel, sheltered by the coastline of the Greek mainland, and is usually comparatively calm.

In those days, Cavos was a small fishing village with just a few houses above the beach and a simple taverna run by the Roussos family. The Roussos taverna is still there but engulfed by a confloption of holiday accommodation. 

Photo from google images of Corfu Town in the 1970’s

If anyone missed the Aspasia’s departure from Corfu Town’s port there was the opportunity to take a taxi to Cavos and wait for the caique to arrive there. Quite often there would be passengers plus barrels of wine waiting to board at Cavos – and on one occasion, I saw a donkey plus boxes of chickens waiting their turn.

When the Aspasia could be seen from the Cavos jetty, one or two small boats containing people, animals and provisions would be rowed out and helped up on to the waiting caique. A small man-powered winch would hoist up donkeys and barrels.

Photo from Pinterest of a 1963 Hydra Island transfer with a donkey

From Cavos to Paxos (around 9 miles) an afternoon swell could make the 3 – 5 hour journey seem even longer. A sudden winter storm would either cause the caique to turn back or would test the stomachs of even the hardened crew.

Despite the possibility of a rough crossing it was important to bring adequate food and drink to help you through a good part of a day. Many of the crew felt that a pack of cigarettes was ample. 

The Aspasia’s single loo was a small hut on the bow deck. Facing the entrance to the hut was a wobbly bench, where 2 or 3 Paxiots would sit (usually men with worry beads while the women sat inside crossing themselves as each wave hit). I once watched an unsuspecting female passenger (a non-Paxiot like me) enter the hut just as the Aspasia left the sheltered tip of Corfu’s south east coastline and the first waves of the open sea hit the caique’s prow. The hut door swung open to the hut’s side – out of reach of the enthroned lady, with her skirt around her ankles – and in full view of the audience on the bench.

During the summer months the Aspasia would make the return journey about 3 times per week but in the winter, Paxos could be cut off for several weeks.

A large car ferry (called the “Kefalonia”), connecting Patras and Corfu and calling in at Kefalonia, would appear about half a mile offshore from Gaios on a Friday night. Small fishing boats would take Paxiots, wanting a faster journey to Corfu, out to the ferry. A large net was hung over the side of the ship and passengers would climb up and on board.

The arrival of the Kefalonia, with its lights splaying across the calm night sea, was often the highlight of the week.

I cannot remember when the first car appeared on Paxos. There were no car ferries between Corfu and Paxos in the 1960’s so island transport was boat, donkey, foot and the odd scooter.

A Paxiot with his donkey

The Aspasia (and future ferries until the age of the internet) brought newspapers to Paxos to keep islanders abreast of outside news. The islanders thronged at the port when the ferry arrived – a dockers’ union (6 burly fishermen) reserved the right to offload all items (if I was carrying a suitcase, it would be snatched away and a charge made for carrying it all of 20 feet to the quayside). A bag containing the newspapers would be taken to the village’s two “periptero” (kiosks) in the main square.

Local fisherman & Periptero in background

Greece was under the rule of a military junta from 1967 to 1974. All news was fervently censored to the extent that often the pages would only have a few small columns of print, leaving large empty white spaces.  

In the event of bad weather and no ferry from Corfu, Paxos winters could be hard. The electricity supply (powered by diesel at the station in Gaios) would cut off sporadically if the diesel ran out. I remember fridges run on gas but no freezers (the first fridge on Paxos was bought by Peter Bull, the actor who lived on the hillside above Lakka Bay). As nothing could be frozen, the island’s staple winter diet tended to be fresh sardines and squid; soups of bean and lentil; salted cod stored in large wooden barrels and feta stored in brine. Occasionally a caique from Parga on the mainland would bring fresh fruit and vegetables to be sold on the village waterfronts.

Fruit & Veg Caique

In the 1970’s and 1980’s the ferry boat “Kamelia” started taking passengers, donkeys and cars between Paxos and Corfu. There was also the smaller “Aetos” which was just for passengers and provisions. The two ferries would depart at exactly the same time, despite being only half full, and would race each other to reach their destination. Journey time was around 2.5 hours and their rounded boat bottoms usually meant adding extra time to avoid uncomfortable rolling. The Aetos’ bottom was the roundest and would usually limp in second to the Kamelia.

Kamelia

The Kamelia had room on its deck for 3 small cars, wedged in so that any late arriving passengers would have to climb over the cars. Repainting of the ferry, when there was more rust than metal, was done in spurts so that its appearance took on an oddly camouflaged look. The ship’s bar served thick Greek coffee, ouzo and cognac (recognised medicinal remedies for bad weather – together with pungent cigarettes called Stukas) and Tam-Tam (a sickly Greek version of Coca Cola).  

Greece’s version of Coca Cola

The present day hydrofoils, fast boats and speedboats (and who knows, a possible return of the 10-minute seaplane hop) have introduced speedier communications between Paxos and Corfu. For most visitors however, life on Paxos is still led at a comparatively slow pace and long may that continue. 

Carnival Season on Lefkas

The Greek word “Apokries” means abstaining from meat and is used to describe Greece’s carnival season, which precedes the 40 days of fasting (Lent) that lead up to Easter.

In Ancient Greece there were celebrations at this time of year to commemorate the end of winter and the coming of spring, which were associated with the worship of Dionysus.

Dionysus was the Greek god of wine and as a sideline he represented fertility, ritual madness, theatre and religious ecstasy! His Roman equivalent was Bacchus.

Like carnival season in places like New Orleans, Rio and the Caribbean, Apokreas is all about costumes, masks, partying, eating, drinking, dancing and ritual madness!

These photos of this year’s Carnival celebrations in Lefkas Town were taken by Margaret Soldatou, the owner of Villa Melodia.

A Taste of Greece

As a family we enjoy visiting the Ionian islands for so many reasons… their hidden beaches, the glorious weather and the friendly people but one thing we most definitely love is the FOOD!! During the Winter months we spend most of our time in the office based in the UK. In January we start dreaming of our Spring and Summer travels around the islands. There is always talk of “oh I can’t wait for fresh Calamari” or “let’s make sure we find that Greek wine again”.

Thoughts of enjoying a waterfront meal on a balmy Greek Summer evening – whilst only half way through a grey British Winter, we decided it might be fun to have a Greek foodie evening and recreate some of our favourites!

So, armed with our Greek recipe books and the internet (plus a few secrets gathered over the years from Greek friends) we started preparations.

Starters were my domain, I made baked feta wrapped in Filo pastry with sesame seeds and honey, this is my absolute favourite dish and was very simple to make.

Alex gave me a hand in the kitchen frying courgettes and making Tzatziki while I attempted to make his favourite Yigandes (Greek baked beans). With the table set and a few Greek Rebetika favourites playing, we started to feel like we were back home on Paxos.

Viv and Dave arrived with the main course – a roasted chicken dish with lemon and potatoes (Kotopoulo Lemonato). Dessert, an Athenian baked cheesecake, was made by Auntie Lizzie.

Greek wines were ordered from Maltby & Greek, a London based supplier of a wide range of Greek food and drink. Our favourite was a ‘Malagouzia’ from the Mylonas Winery: light with fresh fruit notes. We would also recommend the dessert wine – another from the Mylonas winery: ‘Sunday, Savatiano-Aidani’ – a very pleasant, delicate dessert wine which was far too easy to drink!!

It was a great evening filled with lots of laughter and yummy food…hopefully it will suppress our longing for Greek food and balmy waterfront evenings until the Spring.

Catherine x

Escaping to Ithaca Needn’t Be an Odyssey

After the Trojan War it took Odysseus 10 eventful years to return to his Ithaca home.

Reaching the end of his journey, Odysseus was taken from Kefalonia to Ithaca in a Phaeacian longboat. Seeing the Phaeacians returning to Kefalonia, Poseidon raised his trident and turned the boat and oarsmen to stone.

Tzika House and the Sunset Cottages look down to an outcrop of rock emerging from the sea in the distinct shape of a Phaeacian longboat.

Tzika House

It is said that the Phaeacians dropped Odysseus off at the beach below Dexa Beach House and Villa Areti. The photo below was taken by the owner of Areti – the rainbow falls onto the beach.

Rainbow over Dexa Beach

Nowadays Odysseus could fly to Kefalonia, then a 40 minute taxi journey to the port of Sami with a private speedboat to whisk him over to Ithaca in 30 minutes. All arranged by our Ithaca manager, Sue.

And to regain his strength before slaughtering Penelope’s suitors he could hide himself away in comfort at Hilltop House.

Hilltop House

Carnival Season

Carnival season in Greece (“Apokries”) starts 3 weeks before Easter.

Carnival time in Vathy, Ithaca

Fancy dress processions through the streets, dancing groups and music bands. Bystanders throw confetti, streamers and sometimes firecrackers.

Vathy Carnival Procession

Clean Monday (“Katheri Leftera”) marks the beginning of Lent when meat, dairy and eggs are avoided by those who observe it.

If the sun shines on Clean Monday, families picnic outside with “lagana” (an unleavened flat bread), taramosalata, shellfish and salads, followed by sticky deserts. The skies are filled with colourful kites – another part of tradition

Our Clean Monday feast on Palikastritsa beach

Winter Weather on Ithaca

This Blog was written by our Ionian Villas manager on Ithaca, Sue White.

Sue lived on Kefalonia for 18 years and has now been living on Ithaca for 5 years.

Sue is a taxi driver on Ithaca – one of twelve drivers.

Sue looks after our clients and is able to give a valuable, personal insight into the history, culture and lifestyles of Ithaca.

Sue has her own website: Ithaca Travel Services

“A lot of people who visit Greece in the summer are under the impression that there is wall to wall sunshine year-round. In my taxi, apart from being asked the usual list of questions as to how I ended up being an English lady taxi driver on a small Greek island, the conversation then switches to ‘the weather’.

It’s not only tourists who have an interest in the weather. The locals here on Ithaca also have a very healthy interest on the subject, and of course they are all experts! From fishermen, shepherds and even the all-knowing γιαγιαδες (grand matriachs), I hear conflicting predictions about the weather but this last summer they all seemed to agree with each other. In August temperatures of 40 Degrees the talk was of a ‘βαρύ Χειμώνας’ (a heavy winter) – and they were right.

After a reasonably mild November and December, the New Year kicked off with freezing cold temperatures and snow, swiftly followed by days of torrential rain. For the first time in 10 years the snow settled all over the island – not just the mountain villages but also on the beaches!

January snow on an Ithaca olive tree

When the snow was washed away by days of relentless rain, the mountain streams flowed down the valleys to resemble a Lake District landscape (apart from the olive trees!). Ithaca, an island rich in pasture land and olive groves, is now super lush and green.

Snowy Stavros village

One of the effects of the snow, say the fishermen, shepherds and γιαγιαδες, is that invasive bugs have been frozen and they are now predicting a good olive harvest next October.”

Post snow streams

Fiscardo Before the Sun Umbrella Invasion

2016-04-28 07.20.15 (1824 x 1368)Fiscardo is undoubtedly one of the most colourful and prettiest ports in the Ionian.

In 1953 an earthquake destroyed all Kefalonia buildings except those in Fiscardo and a few outlying villages.

In my early Greek Islands Club days we took on a small programme of village houses for those visitors wanting to spend lazy days people and boat watching on Fiscardo waterfront.

In the early 1980’s a coffee on Fiscardo waterfront would have cost around 25 cents in today’s money.

Many of the Greek islands still hold on to a simple lifestyle and do not let the demands of blinkered tourism dictate their future. But whereas an older island generation may not want change, the younger generation will naturally be aspirational: the BMW versus the donkey.

Running a travel business often leads one to hypocrisy. I always tried to offer holiday opportunities to those wanting to escape the crowds and to get to know and be part of a simple Greek island community. In 1990 the BBC Holiday Programme asked me if we would host a film crew in Fiscardo. I said yes. Holiday bookings to Fiscardo soared the following year and Fiscardo started to take on a more chic appearance.

A coffee on Fiscardo waterfront can now cost 4 Euros.

The following photos were taken in 1990 when my mum (Buz), my wife (Vivienne) and I introduced Lorraine Chase (as the Presenter), a BBC researcher plus a cameraman and sound man to the beautiful landscapes of northern Kefalonia and Fiscardo.

You will see that there were only a very few café bar tables and chairs and wooden fishing boats outnumbered fibreglass cruisers. There were also no waterfront sun umbrellas. Today’s waterfront wall of sun umbrellas provide welcoming shade but I still prefer the openness that existed pre-invasion and also the look of traditional, rickety cafenion chairs and chipped metal tables.

But life goes on and Fiscardo will still dazzle and delight.

Lorraine Chase in Fiscardo
Selfie with Lorraine!

Fiscardo waterfront Lorraine Chase
Lorraine & my mum!

Fiscardo waterfront
Fiscardo waterfront 1990

Fiscardo waterfront
Vivienne and Alex at Villa Theodora – this is now a waterfront bar.

Greece to Continue to rely on Tourism In or Out of the EU

Whether Greece stays in the Euro and/or the European Community or not, she will continue to depend on tourism as one of her most important income opportunities.

Thousands of visitors each year to the smaller Greek islands have a serious impact on local infrastructures. Over time these islands will inevitably lose part of their culture, traditions, lifestyle, character, identity and soul.

Once this has happened it will be hard to recover what has been lost.

On the tiny island of Paxos, a new initiative has been set up by Faye Lychnou and Christos Boicos to initiate, encourage and organise cultural activities of every type on the island to include concerts and festivals, art exhibitions, art residencies and  workshops to involve people and culture from Paxos and from outside.

This initiative is called Friends of Paxos. Faye and Christos understand the fragility of Paxos’ heritage and its environment and are keen to encourage projects concerning the island’s preservation.

At a time when public budgets and cultural initiatives in Greece are few, Friends of Paxos will look to private financing of its projects.

Ionian Villas wants to become a Friend of Paxos and once the projects become more concrete, we will announce them on this blog in the hope that we can encourage others to become a Friend.

The New Loggos Bakery

This photo of Paxos was taken in the mid 1970’s (I think) – you will notice:

Loukas’ new bakery shop being completed. The bread oven is still behind the village church. Next door is the Dipli Akti cafenion – now the Roxy Bar. In those days all the waterfront tables and chairs wobbled on uneven surfaces and there was a refreshing lack of gingham tablecloths and bespoke sun umbrellas.

The mayor of Loggos kept his scooters for hire next door to the Dipli Akti and this became the Taxidi Bar.

A lack of plastic/fibreglass boats in the harbour. When my family owned Greek Islands Club we commissioned the one and only boat builder on Paxos (Mimis Mastoras) to build 14 boats. It took him around 6 months to build one boat. The blue & white boat “SPIANTZI” in the foreground is one of the boats Mimis built. Each of these boats had a Seagull engine and all boats were regularly rented out to Greek Islands Club clients. The journey from Gaios to Loggos would take around 45 minutes on a good sea but in those days everything went more slowly.

To the left of the wooden boat are two children: Panagiotis Mastoras and his sister – their father is Yannis, pictured in a previous blog with his prized lobster.

Nowadays in Loggos harbour plastic boats outnumber wooden boats; more of the waterfront is taken up by cushioned café bar chairs and the espresso has overtaken the Greek coffee but Loggos is still a beautiful, friendly, laid-back, unique and special place.

© 2018 Ionian Villas Limited

Call us on: +44 (0) 1243 820928    ..or email enquiries@ionian-villas.co.uk

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