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Lefkada - Ionian Islands - Greece



 

Lefkada

Lefkada (Lefkas) is Greek for white, and the island takes its name from the brilliant white of the limestone rock. From the dramatic sea cliffs and magnificent beaches of the west coast, across the rugged peaks of the interior mountains and down through fertile, stream fed valleys to the gentler east coast with its wooded bays and quiet creeks, Lefkada is made for leisurely exploration. An island only since the sixth century BC when a channel was dug through the low isthmus connecting it to the mainland.

Lefkada has its own unique appeal, possibly due to the fact that the Venetians handed over the island to the Turks in the 16th and 17th century, in return for control of nearby Kefalonia and Ithaka. On the other hand, could it have a connection with the romantic legends of two renowned beauties from a much earlier age. Sappho, desperate after being spurned by her lover, fled to the high cliffs of Cape Lefkada on the extreme southwestern tip of the island. Here she threw herself into the sea, in ancient times a certain cure for unrequited love. She died.

Over the following centuries, criminals and lunatics were forced to repeat the act, sometimes with rudimentary wings attached, by priests from the nearby temple of Apollo in an annual ceremony. Nowadays, hang-gliders and parapentes manage Sappho's Leap with much more success. In the 8th century AD, Saint Mavra, the black saint famous for her beauty and purity, sought sanctuary on the White Island to escape an unwanted suitor. She lived in solitary contemplation until her death, when her sainthood was assured after the discovery that her tomb would cure sickness and drive out evil spirits.

Today, Lefkada is still largely an agricultural island with thriving olive groves, vineyards and a famous lace-making cottage industry. Development of tourism has been confined to a few resorts such as Vassiliki and Nidri on the east coast. Elsewhere, the loudest noise might be from the surf breaking on shingle or the echo of goat bells through the olive trees.
In spring, rare orchids thrive on the verges and the woods are bright with the purple blossom of the Judas tree.


 

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