A walk through Vathy
© Julia Klimi
One can walk through Vathy, from one side to the other. No matter the season in which one visits, anywhere one looks, the view resembles a painting. The trip along its coastline, whether by foot or by bike, is a truly beautiful experience. It’s a walk of approximately one hour from one side to the other. There are many different vistas along the way, changes in scenery and colours, places to stop for coffee or an ouzo, benches for the romantics, sections obscured by greenery, small beaches little intervals. Wherever one looks, there’s always a beautiful view.
The town holds surprises. Its central attraction is the Metropolis, the Holy Church of the Entry of the Theotokos with its beautiful Venetian bell tower (1820) and its wonderful post-Byzantine iconostasis (1793). Near the Metropolis stands the Archaeological Museum. It houses the significant artefacts dating from the geometric age to Roman times, found in the excavations that took place mainly in Southern Ithaca, in the region of Aetos.
The Nautical and Folklore Museum of Ithaca is another fascinating place to visit. It is housed in a pretty traditional building dating back to 1923 and offers, among other things, a rich collection of objects from the everyday life of Old Ithaca.
The Cultural Centre of Ithaca is also worth mentioning. It is a contemporary conference centre that has the infrastructure for many types of activities. It has a significant library with 10 000 volumes, 195 of which are old and rare.
The interior of the town is also of interest. The alleys of the town, with the beautiful well-kept courtyards of homes, the shutters of many colours and the historic homes all produce a homely atmosphere of tranquillity and wholeness.
One can climb the traditional steps to the higher areas with their Churches of the Virgin Mary – Gardelaki, Vlacherna and Zoodochos Pighi (Life-giving Spring). From there one can view Vathy from on high, equally beautiful in the sunlight or lit-up at night. One can visit the traditional neighbourhoods like the one around the Metropolis and the Gyftochori with its many Venetian buildings that have been declared heritage buildings and are preservable by law.
Whether by foot, by bike or whether by boat to Dexia, Skinos or Gidaki, the excursions from Vathy are endless. At a small distance from the town is the well-known Cave of the Nymphs. It was here that Odysseus hid the expensive gifts of the Phaeacians- gifts worthy of a king. At a distance of 4 km, in the area of Aetos, one encounters the remains of an ancient town of Ithaca, called ‘Alalkomenes’ in Hellenistic times.
South of Vathy, on the fertile plateau of Marathia, one finds the Homeric locations of Arethousa Spring, Korakos Petra (Crow’s Rock) and the Fig trees of Eumaeus. In the same area, the mooring point of Antri has been identified with the First Coast, the place where Telemachus disembarked on his return from Pylos.
When, therefore, you find yourselves in Vathy, follow your instinct…. and what will remain with you from this wandering of yours, will be the memory of this unchanging, sweet motherland which is Ithaca.