National Geographic : 1973 Jul
unable to work on the narrow road because of the dizzying heights. I got much the same effect riding Napier's Assos road today. And Mr. Cosmetatos sent an additional shiver up my spine by pointing out where the Nazis marched Italian prison ers over the precipice to their deaths in the 1943 massacre. Starting early, Mr. Cosmetatos next showed us the south end of the island. Passing under the brooding ramparts of the Venetian Castle of St. George, we came to the village where Lord Byron, passionate advocate of Greek independence, dwelt just before his death on the mainland. We took a look at three hotels under con struction on sea cliffs with lovely beaches at their feet. Cephalonia's first modern hotels, they are financed by government-approved loans in anticipation of a tourist discovery of the Ionian Islands. Where Mortals Talk With Saints We climbed into the clouds atop 5,341-foot Mount Ainos, winding up barren, sunbaked slopes that reminded me of a moonscape. Then wild flowers and ferns peeped through the gray rock. Suddenly we were amid one of the last primeval forests in Greece-dark and jagged ranks of Cephalonian firs march ing along the skyline. At the summit strong winds opened the clouds, revealing spectacular views: A ribbon of green squeezed against the coast at our feet, and, south across the sea, stern cliffs that gird gentle Zante. Local legend tells of a shrine to Zeus on these heights in Homer's time. Today reli gious fervor on Cephalonia centers in the Omala, a valley on the mountain's flank. Mr. Cosmetatos took me to the convent founded there in 1554 by St. Gerasimos, patron saint of Cephalonia, venerated for casting out demons. Cephalonians name many a boy Gerasimos - often "Jerry" to us. To the islanders, their saints seem very close-not awesomely dis tant, but right there on their islands. People Exploring a giant cleft in the sheer face of northwest Cephalonia, White Mist crewmen steer a Boston Whaler into the unusual rift. Titanic stresses cracked the solid rock, and moving water widened the crevasse-ac tions once attributed to the sea-god Poseidon, archenemy of Ulysses.