2012 April 14 – Day 34 – Argostoli, Cephalonia, Greece

The ship was scheduled to anchor off-shore of the island of Kefalonia or Cephalonia (ke-fuh-loh-NeEE uh) and have tenders taking passengers ashore into the town of Argostoli,   There were no other ships in port that day so the captain was able to procure a dock for us.   We were tied up and cleared to disembark by 11 am.  We had an afternoon tour starting at 1 so took some time for lunch before getting off. Cephalonia is off the central west coast of the Greece mainland in the Ionian Sea.  It is about 750 square kilometers (290 sq. mi.) in size and very mountainous.  It reminded me very much of St. Helené off the coast of Africa;  all steep hills and switchbacks.  A 7.5 earthquake in 1953 that lasted almost a full minute destroyed just about everything on the island.  Only a few houses on the northern side survived.

Cephalonia is an island of many unusual geological formations created by the pounding surf and seismic activity.  Our tour took us to two of them.  First was Drogarati Cave which is located on the other side of the island.  We ascended the steep hill out of Argostoli and traveled across the top on the main road from Argostoli (the Capital) to Sami (the main town).  The distance between the two is 17 km (11 miles) but it takes about an hour for the drive. Drogarati Cave was located at the bottom of 162 steep steps.  There is a huge cavern in the middle that is used for concerts due to the great acoustics.  The famous soprano Maria Callas once performed there.

Many of the stalagmites and stalactites were damaged during WWII when the occupying German troops used them for target practice. The bus continued to the other side of the island to the main town of Sami and we had 30 minutes to wander around and shop if desired.  We don’t shop but we had a very nice walk around. From Sami we went to Melisani Lake which is actually an open-air cave (called a cenote) that was created when the roof collapsed.  The cavern is full of brilliantly blue water that enters via underground passages from around the island and as far away as Argostoli.  Entrance to the lake is via an underground ramp.  At the bottom we boarded a rowboat and went for a ride across the small pool and into the cavern on the other side. It is such a narrow passage into the cavern that the oarsman has to pull the boat using ropes attached to the rock wall. Inside the cave we made a slow turn and went back out into the open-air lake and back up the ramp to the outside.The colour of the water changes constantly depending on the amount of cloud cover and the direction of the sun.  It was crystal clear and you could easily see the bottom. The bus driver took us up the eastern coast from Sami through Agia Efimia and over the top of the northern peninsula for a view of the famous and beautiful Myrtos Beach before returning us to the port. The captain cast off at 6 and we watched the island disappear while we had dinner.  There was storm expected with gale force winds so the captain was not loitering as we traveled overnight to Albania. 

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