Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Town Travel - Assos, on the island of Kefalonia, Greece


Town Travel - My favourite town by Gilli Allan

I agreed to do this before Christmas.  That’ll be easy I thought to myself.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t well over the holidays – I am still not entirely recovered – and I managed to forget every word about my promise. Worse still, now that I come to think about it, it’s not at all easy to pick a favourite town or city. 

I could pick London. I’ve always loved it.  When I was young it was my hub, it was where I lived and worked.  It’s redolent with history.  As I’ve got older and moved west, it’s the place I go to for a treat, to meet up with friends and relatives, to go to a party or a show, to visit museums and galleries, to do some shopping.  But it’s so busy and manic, I am always pleased to get home

I could nominate the cities near where I live now, Cheltenham or Bath or Bristol, the former two are gracious and elegant, the latter is vibrant and bustling. Or I could nominate the city I fell in love with as a twenty-year-old when it was still in in the communist block of Yugoslavia – Dubrovnik.  But on visiting the place again, now in Croatia, it had lost some of its idiosyncratic charm – the funny little shops, the gypsy markets, the ordinary citizens - in the pursuit of money and glamour and tourism.

The little seaside town of Assos, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbWr8Xh6PFE on the island of Kefalonia (or Cephalonia) in Greece, is so small it probably doesn’t even fall within the classification of town, but I don’t care.  It is undeniably beautiful, and a must-visit jewel on the island, but it is not the least bit pretentious, glamorous or elegant.  Quite the reverse, it has that slightly ramshackle air typical of Greece, augmented by the romantically ruined Venetian buildings which toppled during the devastating earthquake in the 1950s.  
Apart from the earthquake, Assos has its own share of history too.  The island was once an outpost of the Republic of Venice, and a ruined castle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assos_Castle fortifies the opposing hill of the horseshoe geology which characterises the natural harbour.  Walking up to the top - you can choose the paved walkway, which is easy but long, as it zigzags all the way, or you can take the shorter but steeper scramble - is a necessary activity to undertake at least twice while you’re there.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRUb_FC6SKI

In May, when we usually visit, Assos is a riot of flowers – Olleander, Almond blossom, Hibiscus Bougainvillea, Jasmine, Morning Glory - spilling over walls, through lintels, overarching the narrow lanes along exposed cables, softening the ruins and smothering the steep slopes that drop to the implausibly emerald sea.  

But it’s the locals who make the place so special, who make the place feel almost like a second home, who draw my husband and I back year after year.  Every taverna (four), every mini-market (two), farm (two) and taxi firm (one), even the goats who obstruct the road and enliven the soundscape with their clanking bells, are owned by multi-generational local families. Our arrival is greeted with hugs, and on the sad day we make our return journey, we leave loaded down with gifts (my favourite being the litre of olive oil from the farm, which I have, so far, managed to transport home without accident). 

Gillie's Books...

Other wonderful places to visit on Town Travel, click on the town below to read the full story…

Las Vegas, USA with Barbara Gaskell-Denvil

Hexham, UK with Annie Whitehead

In the coming weeks and months you can visit... Click HERE to find out where you are going


Caroline James said...

What a lovely post. You've bought back some very happy memories as Assos is one of my favourite places too. But its changing... hang on to the happy times Gilli xx

Gilli Allan said...

Thank you for including my choice of the the utterly charming little seaside village of Assos. Just seeing it here makes me smile. We will back there in May. Can't wait.