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Via the underworld to Lefkada


Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 16 June 2015

Tuesday 16 June, via the underworld to Lefkada

Church in LepadiWe leave Perama today but first we have to pay. As we have noticed last year, this is almost impossible with a credit card while you need it for the reservation. I had not thought about that for a while and so I first have to withdraw money in Ioannina. We are warmly waved off by the owners and we have the feeling that we will come back here again because we really liked our stay here.
A bit south of Ioannina we leave the main road and drive through mountain roads. It is only 140 kilometers to our next destination on the island of Lefkada and stop regularly to take pictures.
Demolished piece of road in the mountains Demolished piece of road in the mountainsBut on the mountain roads here you always have to be careful because there is often damage caused by earthquakes. And on the smaller, rural roads, the damage is not always repaired quickly. Like here, near the village of Balas, part of the road has just been demolished and moved away. A string with some colored bags serves as a warning sign. These are roads that we prefer not to drive in the dark! We encounter a lot of cracks in the roads in this mountainous area.
The Nekromanteio Acheron The Nekromanteio AcheronAt the west coast we follow the signs to Mesopotamos. No, no Mesopotamia, but the place where the Nekromanteion of Acheron would be. The word means "oracle of the dead" and this temple was dedicated to Hades and Persephone, the gods of the underworld. The Nekromanteion was situated on the banks of the Acheron, one of the rivers of the underworld. In this place you could enter the underworld, as some Greek heroes did, but most visitors probably came to speak to the deceased via the oracle.
The site was discovered here in 1958 and was soon labeled by an archaeologist as the Nekromanteion but nowadays scientists doubt that because the location on a hill does not match the stories of the ancient Greeks. Also the found ruins are not older than the 4th century v.c. while Homer and Herodotus gave much earlier descriptions. Archaeologists now think that here was the basis of a tower like there are more in the area and that the underground rooms served as storage.
Anyway, the place is still presented to the tourists as if it were the Nekromateion, that is probably better to attract visitors. Perhaps earlier temples have been completely demolished and rebuilt. But maybe the real temple is still waiting for discovery somewhere else.
In the Nekromanteio Acheron Jug in the Nekromanteio AcheronYou could not just talk to the dead and pilgrims underwent a day-long preparation where they were also given hallucinogenic drugs. The priests performed all sorts of rituals using all sorts of tricks to inspire the pilgrims. After the preparation, the pilgrims were led through a labyrinth to the bank of the Acheron. There the priests, using pulleys, could float like ghosts above the river in a smoke-filled room. I can imagine that the spectacle for the pilgrims has been very convincing, literally spooky.
But even the great hero Odysseus, one of the smartest Greeks ever, fell for the trick because he came here to talk to the spirit of the seer Teresias (according to Homer) to find his way back to his home island of Ithaca. During the conquest of Macedonia by the Romans in 167 BC. the place was destroyed, according to some sources because they would have discovered the deception.
Map of Nekromanteio AcheronAll information signs around the small excavation, however, are still convinced that this is the real Nekromateion (you can also write it with a c: Necromateion, but the Greeks themselves used the letter k so why would we do that differently?). Like Delphi, this was an important oracle in classical antiquity, and for such a famous place it is very small. The so-called labyrinth that the pilgrims had to pass through is indicated on the map with 2 small spaces.
The more we read about it, the more we are convinced that the real temple complex is still somewhere under the ground, waiting for discovery. But it is a nice place to visit and if you use your imagination it is also very intriguing. But that actually applies to almost all archaeological sites. When you just look at what is left over, it is often not that impressive, you have to imagine what it was like when people were walking around and living there, what they were doing and why. And that is a big challenge for those who provide the information (that really seems like a job for me, where can I apply?).
The sea at Lygia Flowers in LygiaWe walk back to the village and find a terrace for a coffee before we drive south again. On the way we take a look at some beaches but these are dotted with thick pebbles, not really ideal for sunbathing without chairs. We have booked an apartment on Lefkada for 6 days so we will be looking for a nice sandy beach there. We have not missed the beach the last few days but when we see the sea, the thought of sunbathing is very attractive.
Kites on the beach Flowers in LefkadaVia Preveza and Aktion (where Cleopatra's fleet was defeated by Augustus Octavianus in 31 BC) we drive along the coast towards Lefkada, one of the inhabited Ionian islands. But actually it is an artificial island because only in 650 BC the Corinthians, who founded a colony here, dug a channel so it is no longer attached to the mainland. A flat, movable bridge, which makes a lot of noise when we drive over it, is bringing us to the island and we are soon in Lefkas or Lefkada, the capital of the island with the same name.
Bridge in LefkadaWe take a short walk through the town on the north side of the island and find a terrace along the water. We are curious to see what we will discover all here next week. I find nothing as nice as a new place to visit.
From the city it is only a short drive to Tsoukalades where we are warmly welcomed by the owners of To Ampelkai (the vineyard). It is a somewhat older couple that lives in Athens during the winter and here in the summer.
It is a large apartment with a spacious balcony above the garden that is well cared for every day. The only drawback is that you do not really have a place for yourself, you live with the owners, as it were.

 


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