When placed in environments so profoundly different to the ones you have been used to, it can be difficult to find words to describe it. This is why it has taken me a few days to collect my thoughts about the experience of arriving in Greece and the first two days of our trip.
The initial signs of that different environment came as the aircraft flew over Split in Croatia and I happened to peer out the window through clear skies to see masses of elongated islands stretching out into the Mediterranean. Not long after, on the approach to Kefalonia airport, the plane flew low, hugging the coastline, so that those lucky enough to be on the port side of the aircraft, were treated to a delightful view of turquoise waters and endless beaches and inlets.
At Kefalonia airport there was a queue stretching almost from the aircraft on the tarmac to the terminal building. No one seemed to mind though, standing in the embracing warmth of the sun, discreetly admiring the laid-back rustic appeal of the place, perhaps quietly rejoicing in memories of where they had come from and where they now were.
The queue ambled forward, zig-zagging its way up the ramps in front of the terminal, until we were inside and handing over our passports to a single border control man. There had been another plane on the tarmac when we arrived, so the man had two flights to process. I had the feeling that the airport staff were busy like this in the morning when flights arrived, and after that, the place was virtually deserted and they no longer had any work to do. The man glanced at Clare’s euro-zone passport, stamped mine (non euro-zone) and that was that.
After collecting our bags from the carousel that snaked its way around most of the available space in the terminal, we took a taxi along the coast road to a camping ground about 1.5 km north of the capital, Argostoli. The taxi driver said he worked solidly throughout the summer season and after that he had very little, if any, work. He described it as stressful and not good for the soul. He was so busy during the summer in fact, that he hadn’t even had a swim in Kefalonia’s waters for five years. I didn’t know if that was indeed the case or a slight exaggeration pitched at tourists in the hope of securing a more generous tip. Regardless of the truth, it reminded us that despite the beauty of the place, there was an underlying economic hardship felt deeply by the people that lived here.
Camping Argostoli has 191 spaces for camping and rustic toilet/shower blocks and cooking facilities. It is located next to a sandy beach and has an excellent restaurant providing well-priced food and drinks all through the day. After pitching the tent, we quickly found a table beneath the shady open verandah of the restaurant. The Greek salad, topped with a thick and generous slice of feta, the zucchini fritters with yoghurt and the thinly sliced potato fries with oregano, were so delicious it almost came as a shock.
With views of the sea, we took our time savouring each and every mouthful as traditional Greek songs from the sound system at the reception office floated towards us on a light afternoon breeze. We wondered, as we had during our previous stay in Greece, why we couldn’t live like this all the time.
After two days at Camping Argostoli, neither of us wanted to leave.