We can say everything is white-and-blue in Hellas. Even its national flag (often referred to as “sky-blue-white”) consists of nine horizontal white stripes and a cross combined with the blue colour of the sea. Moreover, most of the houses on the mainland as well as on the numerous Hellenic islands are painted in white (in white lime water in Santorini) contrasting to the blue sea water at the same time, because it keeps them cool during hot summers. White colour (or lefkos in ancient Greek) has even given the name of the white rocks on the southern cape of one of the Ionian Islands, i.e. of Lefkada, that immerge from the turquoise blue and celestial sea.
L E F K A D A
The cape of Lefkata to the south of the island is also known by its ancient name “Lefkas Petra” or “Lefkas Akra”. This place is particularly famous and known in Hellas and among the lovers of ancient Greece because this was the place from where poet Sappho (from the Island of Lesbos) ended her life by jumping from these extremely white rocks into the sea. She did it in the name of her unrequited love for Phaon. He was a sailor who shipwrecked at that place. That’s why Sappho chose it and put a final stop to her great suffering and pain. Jokingly, natives say that all who suffer from an unrequited love should come to the white rocks and throw themselves from here and thus they will find out happiness in love. At the same time locals add that it has never happened.
These same white rocks gave the name to the city established by the Corinthians who colonized the island in the 7th century B.C. and turned it into a flourishing commercial passage. They settled down and founded the island capital over the ancient city of Nirikos and later on the whole island bore that name. A peculiar fact is that before the arrival of the Corinthians Lefkada was part of the mainland. They dug a trench on the isthmus and started the construction of a canal that separated the island from the terraferma (mainland). Since then that artificial canal has been separating Lefkada from continental Hellas and nowadays it’s connected with it through a bridge that lifts every hour sharp so that ships could pass.
The Island of Lefkada has changed lots of foreign rulers through the century. It was part of the Roman province of Nikopolis. The Romans had several important merits. They constructed the 700-metre stone bridge linking the island to Aetolia-Acarnania as well as the ancient wall was reconstructed under their dominion. During the Byzantine period, unfortunately, it endured numerous attacks from pirates owing to its extremely strategic position. At the end of the 13th century (more precisely in 1294) the island fell in the hands of Sicilian rulers. How did it happen? Bishop Nikiforos Angelos gave Lefkada as a dowry to his daughter who got married to Giovanni Orsini from Sicily. Thus the Orisini Family ruled here until 1331 and the Castle of Agia Mavra (the Castle of Santa Maura) was built. Giovanni Orsini had two aims when he commissioned its construction. Firstly, it had to be erected as a protection from pirates. Secondly, the capital of the island was moved namely there.
Centuries passed, various dynasties dominated. The island was also ruled by the Ottomans from 1479 till 1684 when it fell in the hands of the Venetians who were lead by Fransisco Morozini. The Venetian period marked an important phase in the history of Lefkada. Its economy flourished greatly due to the development of the commerce and navigation. On the other hand, under the new dominion the capital was moved outside the castle walls where it has still remained since then. Again the rulers of the island changed. It was a French territory after Venice was conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte. After two years of French domination, in 1799, it was liberated. The Ionian State was founded one year later and the idea was the creation of the Septinsular Republic. Unfortunately, this attempt was unsuccessful and it failed in 1807. The island returned to the French but not for a long time because the English occupied it in 1810. During the English period there were several improvements on the island. New road networks were built, the city’s water supply was bettered greatly as well as the Ionian island, including Lefkada, managed to help the rest of Greece which had still been under the Ottoman rule. Finally, the unification of all Ionian Islands with Hellas was proclaimed in the treaty of 1864 and since then it has been part of Greece.
Nowadays the island of Lefkada spreads out on a territory of 302 km2 and ranks fourth among the Ionian Islands after Cephalonia, Corfù and Zante. It has a population of about 22 thousand inhabitants. Its charm and splendor hide in the extremely beautiful white-sand-stone beaches, mountainous villages and local traditions and cuisine.
Being on the island of Lefkada, of course, we cannot omit the most beautiful Hellenic beach and one of the 10th most amazing beaches in the world – Porto Katsiki. The name means the “the goat port” because only goats could reach it in the past. Nowadays this paradise as well as the nearby Egremni beach is reachable by sea and by road but for sure, the greatest attraction is a daily cruise from Nydri (on the island of Lefkada). When the three-deck cruise ship anchors at the beaches, you have no other chance but fall in love with the crystal clean sea waters with numerous shades of blue, the gorgeous rocks and the beach.
Such a similar place is the village of Ágios Nikítas which is proud of it beaches (the biggest on the island) as well as the bordering olive grove. Athani, on the contrary, is a mountainous village where your senses are filled with a honey aroma. Last but not least, the town of Vassiliki is a mixture of green and rich vegetation and vast beaches, a paradise of water sports lovers, and it is only 22 km far away from Lefkada. Finally, Karya gives you the chance to really enjoy the art of weaving and the characteristic church bells which are 150 years old and are made from the white stone of the island.
Speaking about the island of Lefkada, it has numerous smaller and smaller islets that will be part of another trip. And to end this post, from the bottom of my heart I will wish you to visit that gorgeous island one day. Have fun and swim freely in the postcard blue sea water. 🙂