Monday 8 July 2019

Reading 'In Situ'
While holidaying on the beautiful Greek island of Kefalonia recently, I read Captain Corelli's Mandolin, the much acclaimed novel by Louis de Bernieres. I enjoy reading a book in the place where it's set and had kept the novel to read whilst I was there. At times, the book was not an easy read but I loved the story. The novel explores the developing relationship and love between Antonio and Pelagia, the local daughter's daughter, trust and betrayal and the futility of war. Set in 1941, Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is posted to Kefalonia as part of the occupying forces. He is an accomplished musician and his beloved mandolin is his most precious possession. The characters stayed with me long after I finished reading it.

As we familiarised ourselves with the island, I was fascinated to visit actual places mentioned in the book. We were staying a few miles outside the capital of Argostoli where much of the action in the novel took place. Argostoli today looks very different from the one in 1941. The 1953 earthquake razed much of the island to the ground and whole towns and villages had to be rebuilt. It was here in Argostoli that the Italians were based whereas across the strait the Germans were stationed in Lixouri. 

Fiskardo Harbour
Myrtos Beach

Although I much preferred the book, the island has become more famous because of the film  and tour guides like to show you where scenes were filmed. When Captain Corelli explodes the mine, the 'great spiky rustball', found by the little girl Lemoni, the stunningly beautiful Myrtos Beach was chosen as the location in the film. On a tour of the island, we arrived at Sami, a fishing village that was transformed it into 1940s Argostoli by the film crew and where Nicholas Cage fell in love with Penelope Cruz. From here we sailed by boat to Fiskardo stopping at a deserted beach on the way. Unlike most of Kefalonia, Fiskardo escaped destruction in 1953 and has kept its original architecture. By the evidence of the yachts moored in the harbour, it is now popular with the rich and famous. Nearby is the pretty village of Assos.

Travelling away from the coast, we saw hillsides covered in cypress trees and travelled through vineyards famous for the Rombola wine made from the grapes growing in the rocky soil and mentioned in the novel. Wild goats roamed the mountainous terrain and the scenes set on Mt. Aenos  in the book became very real for me. 

I'm sure we'll return to this beautiful island. The stunning scenery, the Greek music and dancing, the food and welcoming people all made for a wonderful holiday. I'm so glad I waited to read Captain Corelli's Mandolin until I was 'in situ'. 

Thank you for reading. What book have you read when visiting the place where the novel's set? I'd love to have some recommendations from you. Thanks!

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