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POROS, Kefalonia

Not to be confused with Poros, the Saronic island, or Paros, one of the Kyklades islands, Poros, on the south-east coast of Kefalonia, is ideal for independently-minded visitors who seek to escape the package tour complex resorts and find something more genuinely Greek.

Meaning ford or crossing in Greek, Poros is situated around the only natural crossing point of the Vohinas river: where it enters the sea. Prior to 1953, Poros was a just small scattering of fishermen’s huts built on rocky debris washed down the Vohinas river over many millennia.

The ’53 earthquake destroyed many of the surrounding villages and a new town was built, at the foot of towering hills, on the flat plain of Poros, which is naturally divided into three bays. On the central bay sits the main square, where local festivals are held during the summer months and, either side of the square, are the main beach and Poros port.

The main land access to Poros is via a road cut into the side of the 80 metre deep Poros gorge, through which flows (in winter months) the Vohinas. The road leads down to the taverna-lined central square, directly behind the pebbly town beach. Behind the square are the local shops: a couple of grocers, a greengrocer, a couple of butchers, a baker’s shop, the bank (with ATM), doctor’s surgery (part-time), dentist, pharmacy, petrol station, and so on: just about everything necessary for every day life in a small town.

Across the ford, which becomes impassable during the winter, lay a few more tavernas and bars and the Blue Flag beach of Aragia, a long stretch of pale sand, white pebbles and clear water. The sea caves along the rocky, uninhabited coastline between Aragia, Sami and Fiskardo are thought to be the last refuge on Kefalonia of the almost extinct Mediterannean Monk Seal.

A short walk from the central square, over a small hillock, lays Poros port where dock the large ferries connecting Kefalonia with Kyllini on the Peloponnese part of mainland Greece (and, sometimes, directly with Italy). An extension to the port, opened during the summer of 2008, enables two ferries to be in port simultaneously and provides more berths for visiting yachts, of which there can be many in summer.

On the cliffs above the new quay are two tavernas with tremendous views across Poros (especially romantic of an evening) while two more tavernas, two or three bars. a mini-market and several hotels ring the ‘old’ harbour where the local fishing boats and small tour boats mingle with visiting yachts.

High in the hills above the port lies the Drakaina cave, inhabited in pre-historic times, and the remains of an ancient citadel, probably pre-dating the Mycenaean era. Across the Vohinas, high on the opposite hill, is the Atros monastery, dating back to around 800 AD.

Just through the gorge, on the edge of Tzanata village, a well preserved Mycenaean tholos (beehive) tomb was discovered by a local archaeologist. Although previously looted by tomb raiders, virtually intact skeletal remains of a Mycenaean-era king were found lying in the tomb, provoking claims that the mighty Odysseus, legendary king of Ithaka, had been found. Scientific testing suggests that the remains probably pre-date this great chieftain.

During 2011 excavations near the tomb revealed remains of a Mycenaean-era settlement, inspiring claims that Oddyseas' palace had been discovered. In the village square at Tzanata is an ever-running sweet-water spring, fed from the mysterious ‘bottomless’ lake Avithos at Agios Nikolaos which, although very high in the hills behind Poros, is part of the Elios-Pronnoi region. Poros, although the main town in the area, isn’t the administrative centre: that honour belongs to Pastra, which sits, above Poros, Skala and Katelios, on the main road linking Poros with Argostoli and Sami. Nearby, above the church at Kornello, are scattered remains of another ancient citadel.

Poros, at the end of the gorge. Photo via ex-Elios-Pronnoi website
Poros is rich in history and legend: the Poros gorge was cut by Hercules when he trod on, and flattened, this part of the mountain range. And just outside Poros, on the ‘new’ road to Skala (only surfaced as recently as 1996) is a long stretch of pebbly beach where locals go spear-fishing. Just off the beach lie a number of large, almost mushroom-shaped, rocks – thrown by the Cyclops at pirates attacking the island.(Oh, if you don’t believe in the existence of the Cyclops, take a look at ancient Krani, outside Argostoli – built by the Cyclops).

Equally odd: During British rule an attempt was made to revitalise the villages outside of Poros by importing Maltese farmers, their families and agricultural experience. However, the idea failed and most, if not all, returned to their homeland.

In the early ’80’s Poros was the first to welcome organised tourism on Kefalonia when a French cruise ship called in. Following this, British package companies regularly brought tourists to Poros until the late nineties, when Skala became more popular.

During July and August Poros bursts into life with Greek – and Greek American – visitors keen to re-experience Greek island lifestyle in an almost totally Greek environment. For, apart from a handful of central-European visitors, Poros is free of package tourism and, out of peak season, remains a relaxed backwater favoured by discerning independent travellers, many of whom return year after year, warmly welcomed back by genuinely friendly locals.

Adapted from an original contribution to Wikipedia, 01 March, 2006

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