Untangling the Mystery of the Assos Ruins

I’d endured a turbulent night in Kefalonia. After being struck down by a mystery fever, I had struggled to get so much as a wink of sleep and arose the next day feeling groggy and disorientated. I was so confused that I had convinced myself that my computer was struck down with a virus and I was suddenly unable to move any of my photos to my external hard drive. This was not the case at all. I had just apparently forgotten how to use a computer. Let’s just say that Lewis was less than impressed.

Further to this, we always had an ongoing wine saga which was turning rather stressful (scrap that, it was more comical). After the traumas with the corkscrew last night which demolished our beautiful bottle of wine, I requested a new corkscrew form the AirBnB owner to ensure our last few night’s were trouble-free. Not only was he happy to provide us with a fresh corkscrew, he was thrilled at our new-found love of natural wine. In fact, he made his own wine! Sensing our appreciation for good quality wine, he insisted on arranging for 5 litres of his homemade wine to be dropped off with us today.

OK, let’s allow the pure ridiculousness of the situation to sink in.

We already had 4 bottles of wine to drink in 2 days (it would have been 3 but we failed to drink a bottle last night due to the corkscrew incident meaning we were unable to open the wine) and now we were getting an extra 5 litres… all to have in 2 days! This was turning into a comedy sketch. There was no way on earth that the two of us could drink a combined 9 litres of wine in 48 hours.

But that was a problem for another moment. Right now, staying in the cottage only seemed to be feeding my disorientation so after a failed morning of attempting to check emails and back up photos, we decided to head out to lunch.

Yesterday we had had a fleeting encounter with the gorgeous coastal village of Assos. The village had left a lasting impression on both of us and we were keen to explore more to see what restaurants this little village was home to.

Our explorations started with a walk along the beachfront, in the hopes that somewhere would draw us in with tantalising food. Nowhere was calling to us right away but we soaked up some beautiful sea views instead.

The midday sun lit up the clear azure waters and the gentle breezed ruffled the flags of sailing boats which were bobbing in the shallow waters, their tethers creaking in the wind.

“I wonder which is best.” I thought out loud.

“This one here is amazing.” A bubbly blonde woman stopped in her tracks and pointed at a restaurant at the edge of the square. “I was there just last night and the food is incredible!”

I was grateful for the recommendation. After thanking the woman, I decided to try out the food for myself. The restaurant was called “Platanos Traditional Restaurant”.

First impressions of the restaurant were good. As we sat down in the middle of the square, we found ourselves surrounded by five furry felines.

I’d loved the Kefalonia pork pie which I ate the other night at so my attention was immediately drawn to the pie on the menu. I was interested to see how it compared.

The pie was good but Ladokolla stin Plagia still wore the crown as King of the best Kefalonia meat pie I had ever tasted.

Assos was a beautiful village, however it was lacking in good restaurants. We were struggling for choice so much as the reviews weren’t great for any of them. Our meal here just wasn’t at all comparable with our meal at Ladokolla stin Plagia.

Nicely satisfied from our meals, Lewis and I decided to head back to the car. I pride myself with my sense of direction. I always seem to have a sense with where we are heading and which routes will lead us back to the start. As we exited the restaurant and found ourselves in the square surrounded by colourful buildings, I decided that we should head left up the winding streets. This felt like the right direction even though this was untrodden territory for us. After all, it’s far better to explore new routes than to just go back on yourself.

The ground rose steeply upwards and the path narrowed. Beside the pedestrianised walk-way were colourful flowers in vibrant hues which were alive with the buzzing of honey bees. I shivered slightly. My fear of bees never did go away and I flinch whenever one of the critters flies too close to me.

The path came to a ‘T’ junction and directly opposite us was the most awe-inspiring building that I have ever laid eyes on.

The decaying skeleton of a once grand building stood facing us, deep-rooted trees growing out of every crevice or smashed window. Bark and stone were twined together as nature fought viciously to reclaim land that was once hers. Suffocating vines wrapped around the Venetian architecture.

The sight was both beautiful and sad. There was something quite haunting about starting at the crumbling facade of a row of once grand houses. One thing was for sure, it certainly pulled at my curiosity.

Like with many abandoned buildings in Kefalonia, the ruins are the remains of ancient houses which were destroyed by a huge 7.3 magnitude earthquake which struck the island in August of 1953. The earthquake completely devastated the island and in fact raised it by 60cm. The rise in altitude is visible if you look at the coastline. There is a dark line at the bottom of the island which illustrates what was underwater for so long.

The earthquake killed 600 people. A further 10,000 residents fled the island leaving Kefalonia in disarray with a mere 25,000 residents remaining.

There has been a great deal of rebuilding since the fateful earthquake. However, many shattered buildings still remain, including, in some places, entire villages.

During the rebuilding process, sadly, many towns and cities have lost their charm along with their old architecture. Assos, however, was one of the lucky ones. Being incredibly popular with French tourists, they invested a lot of time and money into the rebuilding of Assos, building it back up to its glory days with traditional architectural designs.

What I was witnessing now was one of the last remnants of the ruins in Assos caused by the earthquake. Glancing at the large ‘For Sale’ sign on one of the ruined buildings, I wondered how much longer this row would still be here for, in its ruined state. It was almost nice to have a couple of derelict buildings in each village as a reminder of the earthquake. It’s embedded in the island’s history and I believe should be learnt about and remembered. These ruins would therefore be acting like a museum or a monument.

I couldn’t resist clambering up the stone steps to the rickety front door of one of the buildings. Mosquitos swarmed my legs as I stepped over foliage and rubble. On my way to the door, I passed a black cat, sitting calmly amongst the undergrowth. Tentatively, I placed one hand on the splintered door and peered inside. The air inside was stifling and humid. Before me was what I can only describe as a forest. Thick bushes and trees rose up from the floor before filling up the once empty space with a tangle of branches and vines.

Where the door met the entrance of the building, there was now nothing but a great drop. I daren’t dangle my leg inwards for risk of falling. The great beams that used to hold up a wooden floor were long gone now. They had rotted and fallen down the great hole that was below me, lying alongside rubble, damp debris and shockingly, litter.

I retreated from the door, swatting the horde of mosquitos away from my exposed ankles. After taking a look at the first house, I was keen to have a look at some of the others. I wandered up to the neighbouring house and peeked through the slightly ajar door. Swathes of branches obscured my view, the tell-tale signs of an even more unruly interior.

As I backed away from the building, the song of nightmares started up at my ears. My eyes widened in panic as the unmistakable hum of a bee roared close to me. Out of the corner of my vision I could see its manic flight path as it charged at my head. My bag still on the floor by the building, I was forced to flee, the bee continuing to antagonise me as I ran all the way back to Lewis.

It took a good few minutes before I was safe from the rampaging bee. As I turned back to see what had happened, I felt sick as I witnessed a car parked under a tree, only a couple of metres away from where I was previously stood. The bonnet of the car was covered in a swirling carpet of bees. I had honestly never seen so many bees in my life. I’d unknowingly been standing an arm’s length away from a bees nest! Needless to say, Lewis took one for the time to dive back and rescue my bag. However, I couldn’t stop feeling sorry for the owner of the car which was now housing millions of angry bees.

On that rather creepy note, Lewis and I decided to head back to the car to plan out our next moves. After dipping our toes in the water in regards to Kefalonia’s earthquake history, we were eager to discover more. Our morning’s explorations at Assos would prove to only be the beginning of our voyage of discovery.