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Travel

My Great Greek Adventure: Fiskardo Kefalonia and Its Strength to Endure

Kefalonia island has a couple of long and narrow peninsulas that jet out from the main body of land – the Paliki peninsula on the west coast where the city Lixouri is located, a smaller one within that bay that houses the capital Argostoli, and the peninsula on the northern coast where Fiskardo is located. This third peninsula is officially classified as the Erisos municipality and consists of popular destinations like Asos and Fiskardo.

Fiskardo is located at the point of the peninsula, just a couple of kilometers from the islands of Lefkada and Ithaki. This specific location proved to be very appealing and beneficial to ancient Greeks. An ancient city called Panormos was established at the site of modern day Fiskardo. A stone plaque artifact was found in archeological excavations around the town that had inscriptions of the original name and put to rest old speculations and questions. This ancient settlement and port connected Kefalonia to other major settlements in the Mediterranean like those in Italy. The port allowed Kefalonia to exchange goods and become enriched culturally and economically.

Fiskardo Town. (Photo by Stamatina Mylonas)

The plaque confirming the ancient town of Panormos was not the only artifact discovered during excavations and construction in Fiskardo. There continue to be small developments like hotels and shopping centers, which have unearthed ancient tombs and a theater. Fiskardo’s ancient past was marked by successful trade but also susceptibility to threats like pirates. It was under Roman rule at one point, and incredibly preserved funerary artifacts and graves have been uncovered.

Through the turmoil, the modern town we know today evolved. The area began to develop into its present form in the decades leading up to the Greek Revolution. When the Ionian islands joined the Hellenic Republic in 1864, it was after much fighting and warding off of occupations. In fact, in the years leading up to the Revolution, the English were the ones holding political control of Kefalonia. During those years, the local people demanded better leadership and the right to hold democratic elections.

Later in the 20th century, Kefalonia would once again need to outlast World Wars and natural disasters. The English were in some ways an ally to the Greeks during the Revolution and the Italian soldiers stationed on Kefalonia during WW II chose to later fight in partnership with the Greeks against the Nazis. The events and relationships formed during that century very much influenced how Kefalonia and Fiskardo are today. The majority of tourists who visit the island are still British and Italian travelers. While the social ties have lasted, so has the structural history of Fiskardo. After the devastating 1953 earthquake that shook Kefalonia, Fiskardo miraculously survived and unlike construction on the rest of the island, some of its current architecture can be dated back a century or more. While most of the island was shaken to rubble, here the original characteristic style of bright pastel-colored paint and narrow artistic balconies can be seen throughout. The town itself is small, but it houses an important port that facilitates transportation is an enjoyable locale. The port and the bay have a horseshoe shape and shield the town from unexpected gusts of wind and the waves of the sea. The port offers ferry boat trips (with parking space) to neighboring Nydri Lefkada and Frikes Ithaki. On the opposite side of the port and docks are small traditional fishing boats that are essential to seaside hubs in Greece. The adjoining promenade is packed with back to back tavernas and cafes offering the fresh catch of the day.

The area surrounding Fiskardo is notably green and forested and has become popular for hikes and excursions. The entire peninsula of Erisos is lush, all the way to its beginning at the seaside Venetian castle town Asos. Hikes through the forest can either take you up the low-lying mountains or to a hidden beach oasis. All along the coast around Fiskardo are small pebbled beaches that are characteristically Ionian. The water is a glittering clear turquoise mix with shores of bright white pebbles, and of course the dense forest that surrounds the beach. While some beaches have a hiking trail, others are only reachable by boat. There are a few scattered beaches within town that are small and generally calm, perfect for a quick swim before lunch next to the marina. The various beaches nearby are worth the effort of an excursion and will show a special side of Kefalonia. Some of the most beautiful beaches with easier hikes are Dafnoudi and Kalamaki at the very tip of the peninsula.

Fiskardo architecture. (Photo by Stamatina Mylonas)

Fiskardo is full of reminders of its history, like the Venetian buildings that survived wars and earthquakes, including monuments like a lighthouse. The Venetian lighthouse sits at the entry to Fiskardo’s small bay and is made of uniform stone. A more modern lighthouse was built beside it during the late 19th century to improve functionality. The old lighthouse tower is surrounded by a fortification wall that shields the structure from the crashing waves. While Fiskardo’s bay is narrow and not large, it is reasonably deep and therefore welcomes sizable boats to park in its waters. The ‘oldness’ of Fiskardo can be felt with a stroll through its center – getting lost in the few alleys and courtyards is a delightful experience. The main road leading in to town does a zigzag along the cost, dividing Fiskardo into small pockets. While entering the area the first signs of the town are some homes and hotels lining the narrow street. It is clear once you have reached Fiskardo’s center because the road starts widening and leads up to a large and organized parking lot. It is a unique vibe here because the unassuming parking lot is neighbor to ancient Roman ruins and a bright peach-painted traditional bakery. Pieces of the old and new mix together to form this humble paradise by the sea. Unique in the world, if someone finds themselves in Fiskardo, they will be immersed in the millennia of Greek and Mediterranean history surrounded by a dream-like landscape and all the luxuries of a holiday trip.

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