Thursday, 12 June 2014

A morning in Lefkas

There is a daily passenger ferry from Meganisi to Lefkas (aka Levkas, Lefkada) which enables early birds (such as ourselves if we absolutely have no other choice) to spend just over four hours in the Island’s capital city for only €4.50 each way.

Meganisi Leftkada Map













The route follows the eastern coast of the island and is said to be very pleasant. So after an 0600 struggle out of bed with no breakfast, 0720 finds us on the quayside at Vathi boarding the ferry and watching the morning mist disperse -

Vathi Asleep 1










It really does look very beautiful

Vathi Asleep 3










and we both agree that the view of the distant mountains

Vathi Asleep 2










is as good as those we saw in New Zealand.

Lefkas has a recorded history going back nearly 3000 years and its early power / wealth base was maritime related. Control of the channel between the island and the mainland meant control of the safe shortcut into the Ionian sea as against the longer more hazardous route around the south of the island.

Dredging 1










However, now as then, the channel suffers from silting and so a dredging operation was in progress as we approached the port. 

Our first impression as we approached the quayside was less than favourable and we both wondered how we were going to fill up 4 hours.

Mooring Lefkas










This area of Greece is in an active earthquake zone and as recently as 1953 there was a major quake here, hence most of the old buildings have long gone - and if they were not destroyed in an earthquake, the Greek love of concrete has seen them off.

Map Lefkada









However, once you get into the town and start exploring around the alleyways and smaller streets, there are a number of charming buildings such as these churches

Lefkas Church




















which clearly show the evidence of earthquakes through the cracks in their walls.

Church Doorway













The design of the main door is particularly nice.

Church Bell Tower













They also have a rather characteristic “bell tower” which I assume is this design it is because it is relatively earthquake proof and easy to rebuild.

Main Street










The main street is not too bad

Town Square










and there is a nice town square which is probably a delight at night. If you go down the side streets, there are quite a lot of nice old buildings such as

Old Building











Old Building 001











Nice Old Building










but even then, the inability of town planners to ensure that buildings are both in harmony with their surroundings and the other buildings near them is evidenced

Nice Old Building Opposite










by this “delightful“ telephone building placed opposite one of the towns’ oldest standing buildings.

In the town art gallery was an exhibition of some very mature work by 8 to 10 year olds from a private school in the area.

Art Gallery











Art Exhibition










This was of particular interest to us because my Rotary Club recently organised something similar for primary schools in our town and it was interesting to compare the standards - I thought that perhaps the overall interpretation of the task here was better than that in our recent competition. 

The town also boasts an Archaeological Museum and Cultural Centre (top left hand corner of the town map above). The museum has quite a few artefacts discovered in the town and local area by Dorpfeld and Schiliemann (of Troy fame) whose work we came across last year when clambering over the remains of Troy with Andante.

Amongst those which caught our eye were:

Grave Toys

these figurines which are puppets found in the grave of a child,

Gold Leaf










this gold leaf also found in a grave

Grave Figurines Classical Period







these terracotta figures 

Terracota Zeus Leda













a terracotta found in a cemetery showing Zeus transformed into a Swan ravishing Leda

Dancing Nymphs













some Nymphs dancing around a Flute Player from about the 6th century BC

Bronze Mirror













and a most astonishing Bronze Mirror with a Caryatid stand which is said to be Aphrodite flanked by winged Erotes (a group of winged gods associated with love and sex and part of her retinue). The mirror disc has pairs of dogs, hares and flowers on it and it dates from around 450 BC.

We blame our archaeological trips with Andante as the reason that we find archaeological remains so fascinating.

The Art Gallery was being used as an exhibition space of amongst other things, library book plates and we particularly liked this one.

Ex Libris













All-in-all, the trip to Lefkas was very enjoyable and well worth the early start and the effort.

We did very little for the remainder of our time in Menganisi which was exactly why we decided to go there for a quiet week abroad rather than the frenetic trips we usually make.

Our journey back went like clockwork, Preveza Airport seemed slightly better although the queues at check-in and security were as long as ever. I am sure that we shall go back to Meganisi when we can fit it in.


Monday, 9 June 2014

Not much has changed other than the ferry times

This will not be a long series of blog entries because we have covered Megnaisi before and not a lot has changed since we were last here:

The Hotel looks the same and has been given its annual coat of paint

Hotel Meganisi










The chair is still at the bus stop

The Chair










Flowers are out everywhere











Grape covered canopies are just as covered:











and the Harbour is just as picturesque:

Vathy Port










The town water tank has received a coat of paint:

Painted Water Tank










There is a new Bus Shelter in Katomeiri

Change Bus Shelter










which required a formal opening because it was constructed on the same date as someone’s birthday

Bus Shelter










and there are probably slightly more yachts in the Harbour.











The one big change however is very unwelcome from the point of view of the Islanders and those hoping to cross either way on the ferry. This is that the ferry company have not only reduced the number of return ferry journeys each day to four, they have also stopped sailing from Nidri to Spilia to Vathi and back to Nidri by missing Vathi out completely.

Revised Ferry Timetable













So now, Vathi gets no day tourists from the ferry boat and if you want to get to the mainland, you have to get to Spilia. And then to make the changes completely illogical (and remember this is the country which could be said to have invented Logic), these changes were introduced on 1st June 2014 just as the tourist season started !

For those who cannot read the times in the photograph, they are:

Nydri     Spilia

07:00     07:45
12:15     12:50
14:00     14:40
18:00     18:30

as soon as the ferry gets to Spilia it turns around and heads back.

Just to make sure that the service to the island has really deteriorated, the single around the island bus no longer meets the ferry at Spilia so if you get the 18:00 ferry back, you have to walk once you get to Spilia! They have reduced the cost of a ferry ticket though, it used to cost €2 and now costs €1.70 although locals point out that it used to cost them only €1 and therefore prices have been reduced for tourists and increased for locals. The ferry company is not best loved at the moment!

The sharp eyed will have noticed that above are the ferry times for June, from July they get even worse with the first ferry leaving earlier and the last ferry later. The reason? The ferry company have decided that they can make more money by using the ferry twice a day on the route from Nidri to Cephalonia than by serving the needs of Meganisi. The port shop keepers are in despair and hope that another company might start a passenger ferry at peak times.

There is also a passenger ferry from Meganisi to Leftkada every day (leaving 0720 arriving at Leftkada 0810, returning at 1230, arriving Meganisis at 1320). The best source we have found for ferry times is here. Be warned however, the ferry times seem to be changing constantly over the summer period and all web information may be inaccurate.

One morning we walked from Katomeri to Spilia via the top road through Spartohori to take the ferry to Nidri and back

Pat weaving










and along the way we passed old ladies weaving using old looms - Pat was invited to give it a try

Timeless olives










The olive groves were untouched

Olive stick













as was a carefully position stick / pole which held up a branch

Butterfly on Bougainvillea










the Bourgonvillea were out in full force











the chapel on the road to Spartohori has had a paint job

Cow or Sheep













the road sign warning of cows or sheep or some strange island hybrid has been replaced (the previous one had bullet holes in it)

Spilia Harbour










and one hour later we got to a cafe in Spartohori with time enough for a cold drink overlooking the bay before the ferry arrived to take us to Nidri and back. It is no wonder we like this island














as does this mermaid on a rather stoney Limonari Beach - one very hot morning we walked there which was easy because it is down a very steep hill. Whilst we were there, the island Fire Engine came to water a few new trees and the fireman offered us a lift back up the hill, typical of this small island where everyone welcomes you.



Another week in Meganisi

We travel frequently and rarely go back to somewhere unless there is something special about it. Soon the Hotel Meganisi will be the only place in the world we will have been to three times. You may assume we like it a lot. This time instead of going their via a Tour Operator, we have made our own arrangements - purchased flight tickets on the same plane as the tour operators used and booked directly with the Hotel - it saves us money and gives George more profit.

Gatwick Bus










And so, a bright Sunday morning finds us in the southern terminal car park at Gatwick airport awaiting a bus to the terminal as planes

Gatwick Plane













thunder overhead - car park C and the adjacent one are good places to see planes land (if that is what you like doing on a Sunday morning). Interesting, although we were flying from the North Terminal, long stay for the South Terminal was much cheaper and because the transfer between the two terminals is very easy and quick, we decided to save on parking costs and spend it in Greece. 

Check in was easy, the flight left on time

Flight Out







and arrived early, our bag was one of the first off the conveyor belt, the taxi driver was waiting and 40 minutes later we are at the quayside about to board our boat to Meganisi.

Map meganissi














Threatening Storm










as we did so, there was the most threatening storm approaching

Ferry Boat










and our boat was not particularly large

Boat Captain










but as the rain lashed down and lightning struck the sea around us, the fearless captain and his slightly less fearless passengers braved the sea crossing between Nidri and Meganisi.

Raining Hard










And soon despite the rain, we were being greeted as old friends and shaking hands with George

Big Beans










and then sitting down to our first Greek meal with Christina's famous Big Beans,

Greek Salad










Greek Salad,

Beer on arrival













more than one Cold Beer and much more.

View from Balcony










And in the morning the view from our balcony was unchanged and the few clouds in the sky soon disappeared.