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Impressions of the Ionian Islands, Greece

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There is something strange about the Ionian Islands! You would expect them all to be in the Ionian Sea, right? Well, Kythira isn't. And you would expect them all to be islands, right? Well, Lefkada is hardly an island, connected to the mainland by a short causeway. And in Greek they are called the 'Eptanisa', the 'Seven Islands', but there are quite some more, counting also Meganisi and Skorpios, formerly Onassis property, etc. And, lastly, Ionian islands have nothing to do with Ionia, which is now the Turkish Aegean coast, and everything with Io, a priestess of the Goddess Hera, simultaneously also ... one of the mistresses of Hera's husband Zeus, surprise surprise. The sea to the West of Greece is called after Io the Ionian Sea, because she swam across it, according to Aischylos. Myth and fantasy.

All of it myth and fantasy? Not quite, Homeros did not invent it all and in Ithaki we will discover that the Mycenaeans who fought at Troy for ten years did indeed have a kingdom in Ithaki, with a king who may have been named Odysseus, while in Kefalonia several Mycenaean tombs also bring the story closer.

Besides, what is wrong with mixing fantasy and imagination with realities of the past? What else did Hollywood do with 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', the 2001 motion picture in which Nicholas Cage as an Italian officer develops a love story with Penelope Cruz, Pelagia, a local girl of Kefalonia, occupied in 1943 by the Italians? Did the story happen? No, I guess not. Is the earthquake for which Cage returned to Kefalonia to find his Pelagia back, a credible event? Sure is! And did the occupation of the Ionian islands happen and worsen when the Nazi Germans replaced the Italians? Nobody doubts that, ask the Jews in Zakynthos. Story and truth.

The truth is also, indeed, that earthquakes are like a dark lining around the history pages of the Ionian Islands, destruction, rebuilding, destruction, rebuilding, in an endless sequence of tragedy, but also of resilience. The destiny of earthquakes is common to these islands, geology does not bargain.

Common to all are also the centuries of Venetian dominance. Only Lefkada really experienced Ottoman occupation for an extended period, due to its location just off the coast of Epiros. And what these islands have in common too is the absolute harmony of crystal clear, idyllic seascapes of inlets, bays and coves into which the slopes of forested and verdant hills take a refreshing summer dive behind each corner in the coastline of every single one of these magic islands. So, let's take them from South to North: Kythira, Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Ithaki, Lefkada and Kerkyra, aka Corfu. As said, some are missing in the list, but that's ok, I guess.

Before visiting the place of your choice:

On the East coast above the city of Kerkyra the villages of Spartylas and Kato Korakiana are hidden in verdant hills, overlooking the strait which separates the island from the Albanian mainland. To the South the wide bay of Kerkyra is well discernable, guarded by the Citadel on the edge of the sharp peninsula.

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