Greece: A Kefalonia Love Affair

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Village of Assos on the island of Kefalonia Greece Copyrighty Liz Alvey 2013
The view of the village of Assos on the island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands of Greece.  Photograph by Liz Alvey

Greece: A Kefalonia Love Affair

Guest Post by Liz Alvey

Going back to Kefalonia is like visiting a long-distance lover. First, there is the longing. Then the planning. And finally we are reunited.

On arrival there is that delicious sense of anticipation and familiarity. Then a slight doubt creeps in. Has it changed? Will I still feel the same?

There’s a point on the road north from Argostoli, where my heart leaps, as I drive round a series of deep ravines, looking, looking, looking…. Finally I glimpse my beloved, the village of Assos, perched on the isthmus jutting out into the Ionian Sea.

Assos wasn't the first place I visited in Greece, but it was the first I really researched with infinite care.   And I lost my heart to it.  Hook, line and sinker.  Within 24 hours of driving down that switchback road I was in love.  Irrevocably, hopelessly and joyously in love.

And it's an enduring love. Yes, it's matured and developed, as these things must, if they're not to burn out. But it's a constant in my life and the very fact that we are kept apart by circumstance keeps the desire alive and potent.

Why do I love this place so much?
There is the physical attraction certainly. It's undeniably picturesque, with the multi-coloured houses snaking down the twisting road to the narrow isthmus. Then the ruined 16th century castle with its dramatic views and timeless atmosphere, dominating the peninsula. Explore the village lanes and you come upon unexpected treats. The house with the red tin roof, set off by the swathe of bright pink bougainvillea. The relics of a row of graciously proportioned Venetian houses.  Just their facades remain, a memory of the affluent and varied past of this village.

But physical attraction isn’t enough to sustain my love.

Swimming in the sheltered bay is a sensual pleasure.  Clear, still water feels like silk on my skin, cool after the heat reflected from the stony beach.  And after, the salty legacy, dried by the sun on my lips, my skin, in my hair – a reminder and a temptation to plunge again.

Hike up to the castle and I enter another world entirely. I walk through the curved entrance tunnel and it’s cold. Exit and the sun hits again. It seems silent.  Until I hear the soft drone of bees, as they pollinate the spring flowers.  Flashes of sharp yellow pierce my eye as Golden Orioles swoop and fly.  In the early days, I loved the tinkle of goat bells when stock grazed within the old castle walls. Sadly that is no more; bureaucracy has spoken and only the echoes linger in my ears.

And the heart of Assos is the people. Ultimately, that's what rekindles my love every time. The two brothers who run the little cafĂ© bar by the beach.  We still don’t know each other’s names but they recognize me, even after a year away. And the lady, who runs the village shop – her English is even more limited than my Greek, but we have endless conversations with odd words and many gestures.  
Most of all the family who greet me every time like a long-lost daughter and sister. Returning to their restaurant at the heart of the village is like coming home. We catch up on family news and gossip. They bring me tidbits from the kitchen and insist I don’t pay for my drink. I note how much the children have grown. We embrace, we talk, we laugh.

And when it’s time to go, I promise to return.  And I always keep my promises.

Liz Alvey has had an almost 20 year love affair with Greece. As well as repeated visits to her beloved Kefalonia, she has travelled to many other Ionian and Aegean Islands and to Athens. 

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