Friday, September 21, 2012
Kythera: first impressions
As I drove off the ferry and onto Kythera this was the first thing I saw. An omen? A portent of further disaster? A metaphor for Greece and its future?
Fortunately as the road climbed steeply away from the harbour there were better first impressions to savour; vast empty tracts of rocky wilderness edged with mountains between which, here and there, I caught glimpses through gorges of the distant lazuli sea. Kythera is untamed and largely empty. There is plenty of evidence of the land having been managed in earlier times but the abundance of long abandoned and ruined stone walls, sheepfolds and shelters bear witness to the fact that no agriculture, baring some goat-herding, apiculture and, in wind-sheltered valleys, olive cultivation, has been practiced here for generations.
Architecturally Kythera is as much Italian as Greek; a legacy of hundreds of years of a Venetian presence on the island. The narrow twisting alleys, vaulted ceilings and arched windows and doorways of Kythera, the town, have more in common with those at Bari, in southern Italy than they do with anywhere I have been on the Greek mainland.