Kefalonia – The Tour Of Livatho

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A little to the south east of Plati Yalos lies one of the most attractive parts of the island, with pretty villages and good scenery. This area is known as Livatho, and there are three roads to it from Argostoli.

The first is that which we have already described as far as Plati Yalos. It continues to the south east, passing through the villages of Minies, Svoronata, Sarlata, Domata, and Kalligata. The last two of these villages are worth stopping in to admire the craftsmanship of the chancel screens in their churches.

The island's airport lies between Minies and Svoronata. Another point of interest is to be found in Domata, beyond the chancel screen: in the church can be seen the coffin in which the sea-captain G. Sklavos brought the body of Patriarch Gregory V to Odessa.

The next road (the middle one of the three) runs from the south western edge of the city of Argostoli and passes through the villages of Spilia, Chelmata, Kombothekrata, and Lakithra. On July 25 each year, Lakithra celebrates the feast of St Anne with much rejoicing and merriment.

The name of the village Spilia means 'caves' and near it can be seen the cave in which St Gerassimos lived as a hermit before deciding on the Omalos valley as his permanent residence. Since 1953 and the earthquakes which devastated the island, a chapel has been built in front of the cave and there is a small hostel. The view is really impressive.

To the east of Lakithra, which was rebuilt with French aid, we pass through the village of Metaxata. Here Byron spent four months, and it was from here that he set off for Messolongi in 1823. Further to the south, there is a junction with a road (left) to the village of Keramies, where the national benefactor Panayis Vallianos was born. The middle road then reaches the villages of Ano (Upper) Livatho, with their gardens and thick vegetation: Klismata, Spartia, Koriana, and Pessada – which is a particularly interesting village of sea captains, with fine old houses.

Koriana is notable for its name, which Mycenean inscriptions reveal to have been the name used at that time for the coriander plant ('korianna'), thus proving that coriander has been known in Greece for almost 3,500 years.

Spartia, which lies somewhat higher than the surrounding villages, has a long naval tradition. During the 19th century, it had a fleet of 90 sailing-ships, engaged in commerce from the Black Sea to Gibraltar. Some of the older houses of the village retain remnants of the fortifications built to repel pirate attacks. Spartia was the birthplace of Vangelis Panas, leader of the Cephalonian troops in the 1821 revolutionary fighting and particularly during the victorious battle against the Turkish-Albanian forces at Lala. Spartia was also the birthplace of Photinos Panas, an ophthalmologist and professor of the Paris Medical School, whose work is still greatly respected in France today. The little coves from which the sailing-ships set out on their voyages lie about 1200 m. to the south of the village, and the walk down offers an interesting combination of scenery, with quiet green hills broken up by abrupt and steep gullies.

Very close to Spartia, to the east, is Pessada, a pretty village which was once the 'country town' of the area. It has a notable church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, built by the Inglesis family. The feast day is on March 25.

A little further to the east down the seam stands the Monastery of Christ Crucified, built by the Valsamakis family in 1602 on a marvellous site with a fine view. The mass of Mt Ainos rises to the north and north east, while the peaceful villages of Eikosimia lie among their orchards.

To the east and south east from Pessada, the road run through vineyards, olive groves, market gardens and plane woods until it comes to the village of Karavados. To the south, nearby, lies the seaside area of ​​Ayios (St) Thomas, with small coves famous for the clarity of their water. An imposing rock which towers over its surroundings is known locally as 'Yeronitsia' ('pieces of old people') – a name which has rather a grisly origin. It seems that in bygone days old people who had lost their usefulness to the community were flung from the top of the rock.

A road leading out of Karavados, to the north west, soon joins up with the road which takes us to the villages in the south east of the island. A road from Travliata goes to the Kato Livatho area, after going through the villages of Metaxata and Kourkoumelata. Kourkoumelata is a modern village. Its houses were built after the 1953 earthquakes, thanks to generous donations by the Vergotis family. The village has a fine sports stadium and a Cultural Center, which is housed in a neo-classical building. The houses are distinguished by their gracefulness and variety of design. The view toward the Ionian Sea, Dia Island and Zakynthos (in the background) is memorable.

The third road leading out of Argostoli to Livatho lies further to the east than the others. It passes through the attractive Krania region -another case in which an ancient name has been preserved- and, after 6 km, forks. The south (right) fork leads to the village of Mazarakata. Important Mycenean tombs have been found in the area. The other road takes us to Travliata, Peratata, and finally to the Convent of St Andrew, which stands opposite the village, at a distance of 10 km. from Argostoli.

The Convent is notable for a relic which, it is claimed, is the sole of St Andrew's right foot. During the 1953 earthquake, the whitewash on the interior wall of the Church of the Archangels fell off, revealing outstanding wall paintings of the post-Byzantine period (approximately 1700). Restorers transferred these on to canvas, and they are among the island's finest artistic treasures. Tradition relates that the relic of the Apostle was given to the Convent by the nun Roxane, daughter of the Epirot nobleman Zotos Tsigaras. Tsigaras was chief of the guard of Lord Peter Michnest of Moldavia, who stopped off in Cephalonia on his way to Venice in the early 17th century.

Opposite the Convent rises the castle of St George. The village of the same name, Ayios Yeorgios, which lies deserted around the castle, was the capital of the island until 1757. The castle took the form in which it can be seen today at the beginning of the 16th century, when it was renovated by the engineer Nikolaos Tsimaras, with the help of Venetian and Cephalonian craftsmen. The castle was most probably the headquarters of the 'Theme' (Province) of Cephalonia during Byzantine times. After the Byzantines fell, the castle passed to the Franks, then to the Turks (for 16 years) and finally to the Venetians. In 1500, a fierce battle was fought here by Venetians, Catalans and Cephalonians to take the castle from the Turks. In the next four years new walls were built and the main structure extended and repaired. The total area of ​​the castle amounts to 16,000 square meters, and the walls have a circumference of 600 m. It stands at a height of 320 m. above sea level. Inside the polygonal walls, the castle is divided into two parts: the horseshoe-shaped interior courtyard and the rocky rise at its center. One of the bastions faces towards Argostoli, another towards the east, and the third towards the village. On the surviving battlements can be seen openings for cannon and observation posts. There are also remains of a bridge built during the French occupation of the island, which linked the remaining bastions. A small square inside the walls has remains of a Catholic church of St Nicholas, in which two bishops and a number of the overlords of Cephalonia were buried. The buildings inside the walls were, according to historians, both public and private (the coats of arms of some of the families whose houses were there were built into the walls), and included barracks, hospitals, storehouses, prison cells, and so on . One particular building was used during Venetian times for the meetings of the 'Council of the Nobles of the Cephalonian Community', a multimember body which was something like a parliament in its time.

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Source by Spyros Papadopoulos

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