Oct 28, 2013
Given the history of this island it is not surprising that it goes by a number of names. This large island lies on the west coast of Greece and also has an important harbor that various invaders could not resist. Today the invaders arrive in ships and shorts. There were five or six cruise ships in port today. As we arrived on a Monday, we knew the archeological museum with the Gorgon would be closed. The cab driver told us that the entire town was closed because of a national holiday and that for 80 Euros he could take us to a palace built by a bored Habsburg Princess. We declined despite his dire warnings of our impending visit to a ghost town.
Initially he appeared to be right. The Venetian new fortress was locked up. We walked around it anyway and headed through the tourist trinket shops that were opening. We just started down the nearest alley to see what was happening, if anything. Like the Mamas and Papas we stopped into a church along the way. An Orthodox service was underway. Everything is sung or chanted while the parishioners stand and watch and cross themselves and bow at the right times. The host would appear from behind a closed door and then disappear in clouds of incense. It was serene and dramatic at the same time. I understood very little other than the participants were intense and spiritual. We snuck out quietly during a pause.
Right now the ships are honking their horns in some sort of secular ritual boat chant. We are getting ready to head out of port. On the rear deck with our Montenegrin vino and cheese supplied by the cruise, I hack away. The wine label says it is Sopstvena Berba Vrhunsko Suvo Crno Vino. It is not bad and tastes like a tannic Merlot. While we are backing out into the channel, we get a chance to remember where the taxi dropped us and our subsequent wanderings. Peggy is in pursuit of the camera as we will be soon passing the dual fortresses that hold the old town in their grasp. Sounds almost poetic. More wine needed.
After leaving the church, we dove into tourist shopping. Local alcoholic concoctions are heavily marketed. In addition to that old standby lemoncello, the Corfuians produce a qumquat brandy. After a sample I concluded that it is not my favorite. Very close in taste to something like Luden’s Cough Medicine except sweeter. Looked at the sponges and evil eyes and decided that we could live without them. Headed to the “old fortress” through the trinket gauntlet. As in a fairy tale, the fortress was not only open but because of the holiday they were not collecting an entrance fee. A miracle.
You get into the place by crossing a moat that today is filled with fishing boats and some interesting shacks. The moat was a project of those industrious Venetians who ran this place for some four centuries. In their efforts to maintain the Adriatic as their pond, they made sure the place was protected from the aggressive Ottomans. The Venice lion is everywhere on the walls of these stone bastions. We stopped for a caffe latte and an Americano for me. Did the daily upload chore and since there were stairs to climb we started up. One of local dogs joined us. We should have brought treats but then we would have to bring him home. The lighthouse at the top was built near the remains of British and Venetian barracks. The Nazis destroyed the old ambassadors residence as they departed this part of Greece. One less old building to explore. I wonder if a place like this was the inspiration for the Guns of Navarone.
Back across the moat and we could hear the sound of drums. Plenty of police in dress uniforms. Now we knew it was a real holiday.the first song the marching band played was British Grenadier. The mystery deepened as no one seem to know the reason for the holiday. We dodged bands on our way back to the local bus for our return. The square near the bus stop was filled with another band and riot police with cool plastic shields. Something was getting lost in translation. An older tourist thought it was a saints day. A younger guy said the date celebrated the Greek decision to turn down Mussolini’s offer for the Greeks to become Italians. We left as dignitaries were emerging from the crowd. Given Greek politics, I can come up with a number of possible reasons for the police presence. Nothing happened before we left the area. No harm, no foul.
We went back on board early for even us cruise people have tasks to complete. Laundry was on the top of the list. Next were reservations on the cruise ship bus to the airport. One is never certain about the strike situation in Greece. We heard rumbles about a transportation strike. We will spend the extra bucks as a type of trip insurance. Bought some American toothpaste in the duty free ship as Peggy is concerned about running out in Turkey. Not sure what is her concern. On to Olympia tomorrow. By the way, cab drivers are not to be taken as the gospel.