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To Zakynthos town and Shipwreck Bay

Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 03 July 2017

Monday 03 July, to Zakynthos town and Shipwreck Bay

Statue of Glory in Zakynthos city Solomos square in Zakynthos cityIt is another sunny day and today we want to go to Zakynthos town and then to the north of the island. Just outside the harbor we park the car and walk along the boulevard to the center. After the earthquake of 1953, the city was rebuilt with spacious squares and it looks very modern, although many houses still show a trace of the Venetian style that the town used to have. After the earthquake many inhabitants left the island for good and went to Athens or abroad. On the biggest square, Solomos, paved with white marble tiles, I regret that I have no sunglasses, the shining literally hurts the eyes.
Along the square are several statues including that of the national poet Dionysios Solomos after whom the square is named and his Hymn to Freedom (the Greek anthem) is directed to Glory, who is personified with a laurel wreath.
Solomos square in Zakynthos cityFor a small town like Zakynthos (or Chora as the inhabitants sometimes call it, with about 10,000 inhabitants) the Solomos square is very large and it would be nicer if there were occasional activities or if they would decorate the square a little (with a nice fountain for example). On the land side of the square there is a pedestrian zone with shopping streets and restaurants, nice to walk through. There are a few museums and of course churches that you can visit such as the Agios Nikolaos tou Molou church at the Solomos square. The pedestrian zone continues up to St. Markos Square, which is smaller and has pleasant terraces where the Greeks like to sit. There you can also find one of the rare Catholic churches in Greece.
The port of Zakynthos town Holy Dionisius church in Zakynthos townWhen you walk along the boulevard you will notice the St. Dionysios church that with its white clock tower stands out above all other buildings. The church was built in 1948 and is dedicated to the patron saint of the island, St. Dionysios. It seems that the body of Dionysios is still intact after 500 years and, according to the stories, is spreading a scent of flowers and incense. He still performs miracles, again according to the stories, and then his tomb can not be opened, for some reason the lid won't dcome off. He is then on foot and afterwards there is often seaweed found at his feet and his sandals show wear marks. It seems that those sandals must be replaced very often.
An example of his wonders is the fact that during the attacks on the WTC on September 11, 2001, the entire Greek-Ortodox Church of St. Nicholas was destroyed but that 2 things were found intact: a cross and a paper icon of Dionysios. Well, what can we say about it...
Bust of Confucius in Zakynthos cityWhen we walk back to the car we see a bust of the Chinese philosopher Confucius near the Agios Markos Square, what is that doing here? It turns out that the Chinese province of Shandong, where Conficius was born, in July 1914 twinned with Zakynthos, a sort of city twinning but then somewhat broader. The bust is a gift from the Chinese and both areas have made arrangements for cultural exchanges and the promotion of tourism between both regions. But we do not yet see the Greeks really doing their best to get the Zakynthians interesetd in a visit to China.
A rough sea at Tsilibi, Zakynthos The sea at Ammoudi on ZakynthosThrough the ruins of the Venetian castle on the hill above the city, we drive up along the northwest coast. The waves show that the sea here is a lot more turbulent than on the southeast coast. One of the most important sights on Zakynthos are the Blue Caves, all the way to the north of the island near the Skinari lighthouse. You can take an excursion with a boat but we do not feel like it, often you are crammed with a lot of tourists on such a boat and you are stuck with a certain timetable. We see plenty of other beautiful things.
The coast at the Navagio beach The coast at the Navagio beachLike we are now on our way to the Navagio beach on the west coast, or Shipwreck Bay, Shipwreck Bay. This is one of the most photographed places in all of Greece so that must be special. There is a vantage point diagonally above the beach where you can see the wreck, or you also have to book a boat excursion and we do not feel like it. If only we had done it! We drive over the island from east to west and fortunately we have the navigation because the signage is very bad here and the roads also. Mountain roads take us across the ridge and close to the monastery of St. George Kemnon we turn to the beach. And stand still after half a kilometer.
Cars are parked on both sides of the narrow road and there is also the oncoming traffic. After half an hour we are completely stuck. A big coach wants to go up, dozens of cars down. And nobody wants to drive backwards. Eventually, I and a few other drivers get out and we encourage people to drive back and make way for the bus. In the end the bus has passed but there is more oncoming traffic. Elisabeth takes the camera and starts walking, I drive backwards, all the way up. Then I will know for sure that we will not get stuck.
But driving a kilometer backwards on a narrow mountain road with cars on all sides and traffic that wants to go through is not so easy and I get a sore neck from looking back. It also takes quite some time but finally I am at the top and park the car in the roadside at the crossroads. That is what all Greeks do, so wouldn't I?
And then I jog down while it is at least 35 degrees (in the shadow and there is none here). Of course Elisabeth has been waiting for me for a long time so I keep going faster, although my thick knee, with some moisture in it, does not like it. Halfway through I meet Elisabeth who looks disappointed. "There are at least a 1000 people there and you do not see anything," she says. But stubborn as I am, I also want to see for myself and run with the camera. But she is right, there are hundreds of people and there appears to be one built platform that protrudes slightly above the rocks from where you can see the shipwreck on the beach. Only 2 people at a time can have a look at the beach and the shipwreck.
The coast at the Navagio beach Shipwreck bay or the Navagio beachAnd many people are waiting, so that will take hours when you keep in line. The cliffs are steep, up to 200 meters high and very treacherous and you are not allowed to climb the fences, but not everyone cares about the rules. Supervisors are therefore busy to get people back to safety. I can not find another spot from where I have a view of the wreck and decide, also somewhat disappointed, to jog back again. Halfway the pain gets too much and the last end is hard for me to walk even normally. When I am back in the car, it appears that we have lost 2 hours in total from the moment we arrived here by car until now. And that for absolutely nothing! (so the picture here is not ours)
There are several stories about the wreck that stranded here in 1982. The commercial boat Panagiotis would have been full of smuggled goods (including cigarettes and spirits) from Turkey. Because of bad weather, chased by the coastguard, the ship landed on the beach and while the crew swam away not to be arrested, people from the surrounding area went to the huts and many parties were held with free liqour and cgarettes. So far it will be partly true, but why is the wreck still there? There are stories that it turned out to be impossible to drag the ship away for all sorts of reasons, the weather, the current, the possibility of pollution, the money it would cost, and so on, but the Greeks themselves think they know better: when the ship had been there for a few years, tourists began to ask if they could rent a boat to have a look at it. It was only then that they realized that they had a fantastic tourist attraction and all recovery plans were canceled. Instead, the place was promoted as a crowd puller and that certainly worked. The white beach, the blue sea against which the sheer white cliffs stand out, it is a beautiful picture and with a ship wreck it becomes almost a romantic story.
Tortoise Island Marthonisi at ZakynthosWe are now in a mountainous part of Zaknthos and it takes a long time to drive back. A Greek speaks to us at a crossroads, he does not know where to go. We also have no idea because we have only entered a final destination on the navigation and the signs, if they are already there, even seem to point the wrong way regularly. But he wants to know. Right, I say. I think, I say afterwards, but the man is already gone. When we arrive at a village a few kilometers further, I realize that I have sent him in the wrong direction. Sorry!
Beach at Agios Sostis The coast at Agios SostisWe are going to do nothing else today, except to the beach. But when we come back to the car, the passengers door seems to be damaged, someone has tried to break into the car. They did not succeed to get inside, but in addition to the scratches we already had, there is a lot of new damage and the door does not close very well anymore, a warning light on the dashboard keeps flashing. Luckily we can still lock the car but it is not really fun. A sore knee and a damaged car, not really the day as we had planned it, but well, you cannot control everything.


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