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MEGANISSI (Island) IONIAN ISLANDS
Meganisi is a small island covered in vegetation lying to the east of Lefkada with an area of almost 20 square kilometres and a permanent population of 1,200. It lies at a distance of four nautical miles from Nydri, with which there is a daily ferry-boat connection. It has three villages, Vathy, Katomeri and Spartochori, and three quaint ports, Spilia at Spartochori, Atherino at Katomeri and Vathy. The island's capital is the village of Katomeri, which is located high above Vathy and is also the seat of the Municipality of Meganisi.
In ancient times Meganisi was probably known as the island of the Tafiots. This name appears for the first time in Homer, probably taken from the myth of Tafios, son of Poseidon and King of the region. Homer mentions that, when he left for Troy, Odysseus entrusted King Mentor of the Tafiots with his ships.
Other people believe that Meganisi was the island of Asteria, which is also mentioned by Homer. On Meganisi there are still several bays in which ships sailing over the Ionian Sea can find shelter. These include Ambelaki, Balos, Platiyiali, Svourna, Kolopoulos, Dichali, Limonari, Elia, Limni, whilst there are also caves in the south-east of the island. The most noted of these is the so-called Cave of Papanikolis. This is a cave situated in the sea on the island's south-west coast; it is around 30 metres deep and has sand in its interior. Tradition has it that this was one of the hiding places for Papanikolis' submarine, so that the enemy would not spot it.
It is also said that during the period of Turkish rule a priest (papas) and his students sought refuge here in order to save themselves from the pirates. Other interesting caves are the Giovani cave, a little further above the Cave of Papanikolis, and the Daimonas cave. These beautiful caves can only be reached via the sea. Every day, small caiques come here and to the island's surrounding sandy beaches, giving the visitor to Meganisi the opportunity to view this exceptional scene, with the sheer, hanging cliffs. The villages consist of small farmers' houses, many of which are stone-built.
The pretty little streets, tiny like 'kantounia' or alleyways, evoke other eras and the few cars which exist on the island, as well as the small bus which serves all the island's residents and visitors, are careful when moving around. Spartochori is built above the port of Spilia on high cliffs with an exceptional view. The area is a luscious green. Pine trees reach out until as far as the edge of the sea and provide the perfect shade for walking. The ascent up the footpath from the port to the village high above is made easier with the help of some small steps. Somewhere in the middle of this walk there is a small opening onto the Cave of the Cyclops, which is still unexplored.
Many locals believe that this cave is very large and it is quite likely that the area took its name from the cave, as 'spilia' means cave in Greek. Katomeri is three kilometres further down.
The small and spartan, clean little houses also provide the stamp of the rural life of the village's inhabitants. Those who have stayed are farmers and fishermen, whilst those who left were expert boatmen and sea captains. Olives and vines are the main cultivations here as well. Large olive groves, such as the Misoi olive grove, with giant olive trees which grow on the plateaus and on slopes fixed with dry stone walls so that they will hold well in the earth, everywhere fill the landscape. The area thus once had many olive-presses, both privately and cooperatively owned, only a few of which survive today. There is, however, one machine which still operates normally. This is the Zavitsanos olive-presses in the village of Spartochori. The Municipality of Meganisi has recently undertaken to restore the horse-drawn olive-press of Panoutsos at Vathy and to turn it into an industrial museum.
Many abandoned windmills are scattered around on the high peaks over which the winds blow; these were at their most glorious in an earlier period, in the 19th and 20th centuries. Most of these are on raised areas above the port of Atherinos. They are situated at points where they will be found by the south, west and east winds. These mills were all privately owned and usually took the nicknames of their owners, such as the mills of Bakolas, Patsis or of Hymos. One of these, Paliomylas (Old Mill) still stands proudly, solidly built in stone, even though its roof is missing. There are many, around forty, threshing floors here still, located high up, made of stone and remnants of the old farming life. They were worked non-stop, so as to separate the wheat from the other produce. One of these is the Konidaris threshing floor. The island's little water was drawn from wells which were opened at various points on the island. Today only a few wells are still in operation, although they stand out for their artistic quality.
Most of them are built in stone and have very low circular walls with small openings above. The well of Ferentinos at Spilia as well as Rementanis' well-known one are typical. The island has many valuable Christian monuments. The small monastery of Ayios Ioannis Prodromos (St John the Baptist) is built on the pebbly beach on the west of the island. It may no longer have any fine wall-paintings or architecture to show, but it does have a great history. Without having been fully confirmed, tradition has it that the monastery was founded before 1477. It is said that it was destroyed by pirates who then threw the Saint's icon into the sea, from where a fisherman dragged it up in his nets. In 1800, the monk Ioannis Patrikis, who was from a rich family and much loved on Ithaki and also on Meganisi, which he visited often, sent a nun over to rebuild the monastery.
The nun made constant appeals for money, along with her assistant the Meganisian Vasilis Politis. It is said that for this purpose they even reached as far as the Tsar of Russia. The monastery was finally rebuilt and the nun remained there until her death. Her grave lies between the foundations of the old and new walls of the sanctuary. It is believed that the church of the cemetery of the Ayioi (Saints) Constantine and Eleni, which belongs to the parish of Vathy, was built in 1620 and the style of the wall-paintings generally fits in with this date. It is a single-aisled wooden-sculpted church with a built iconostasis.
Sections of a wall-painting representing a horse-backed saint, Ayios Georgios, were recently found under a thick layer of plaster. There is evidence that monks lived here before the church was built. In 1790 the shipowner Malamas restored the temple and donated the land to the cemetery. The new windows which were opened during the restoration destroyed a part of the wall-painting of Ayios Georgios. The church of Ayios Nikolaos is also ttached to a cemetery and was recently restored. It is located in the area of the plain, a little outside of Bosoi, and dates to the early 19th century.
Meganisi is an island full of unadulterated natural beauty, it is hospitable and peaceful, without many cars and noisy activities.It is ideal for walking along the many footpaths which cover the island and the narrow roads which have little traffic. And it is especially ideal for all those who seek simplicity and authenticity. The Meganisians, who love their island, are respectful towards the environment and take good care of it, preserving its features unadulterated. activities.It is ideal for walking along the many footpaths which cover the island and the narrow roads which have little traffic. And it is especially ideal for all those who seek simplicity and uthenticity. The Meganisians, who love their island, are respectful towards the environment and take good care of it, preserving its features unadulterated.
This text is cited April 2004 from the Prefecture of Lefkada URL below, which contains images
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