Holiday Review: HOMER SWEET HOMER; Quiet Life on Greek Islands Whose Beauty Is No Myth

Article excerpt

THE young man sitting at the back of the airport bus cradled his one item of hand luggage, a monster ghetto-blaster.

"Wrong island, chum," I thought. We `had arrived in Cephalonia.

Cephalonia is a hop, skip and jump from Corfu where there are several resorts just right for ghetto-blasting. But Cephalonia is a different sort of island - bigger, wilder, rockier, and with not a single high-rise hotel to be seen.

This in itself is rather odd, because one August day nearly 50 years ago an earthquake shook 90 per cent of the buildings on Cephalonia into rubble.

It all had to be rebuilt.

The capital, Argostoli, shows the Greek genius for uglification, but they drew the line at tower-blocks. So the top hotels on the island, the Mediterranee and White Rocks, are no more than three storeys high.

They sit modestly on sandy beaches at nearby Lassi, below a tourist strip of tavernas and souvenir shops. Scores of smaller hotels, villas and apartments back up into the landscape.

If you want noise, cafe-life and jump-up times, the capital - it has a lively central square - is a five-minute taxi-ride away.

The British built a bridge out of Argostoli when they ruled here, but that was in the last century, and it has become a bit wobbly for traffic.

You now take a different route north to such dreamy places as Assos and Fiskardo, waterfront villages which partly escaped the earthquake.

Greek islands are made for people who like to sit and stare out to sea, and if you sit and stare at Fiskardo what you see is yachts. It is a busy haven for charter boats and flotilla yachts out of neighbouring Ionian islands.

It is certainly a busy place compared with Assos, which has one bus a week, a mighty castle and lies not far from the most photographed beach in Greece - cliff-backed Myrtos, the longest up-and-down walk you will ever take for a swim.

Obviously a car is useful. As Cephalonia is only 30 miles long, the best deal is to hire one with a mileage charge for about pounds 40 a day, inclusive of the first 100km. However, regular tour buses, cover the island, and they even manage to pack these 50-seat monsters on to the little ferry for Ithaca, the historic neighbouring island.

About 3,000 years before Captain Corelli's Mandolin (current super-selling novel set in Cephalonia) it was Homer, no less, who was telling everybody about Ithaca in The Odyssey. …