On the shoulders of giants.
I was amused by a sign for "Cyclopean Walls" as we drove near the Kefalonian capital, Argostoli one afternoon and when I got back to base I decided to see what I could find out.
I soon discovered that these structures can be found all through Greece, Italy and Cyprus and are so called because they are made using huge stones, without mortar, all piled on top of each other. The idea being that the larger the stones, the less joints there would be and so the stronger the building.
The name, quite obviously, comes from the mythical giants the Cyclopes (I had to look up the plural of Cyclops and am assured Cyclopes is right!) due to the fact that it's extraordinary that these massive blocks could be moved at all, let alone be used in building. Even in modern times it would be quite a feat, let alone the 6th Century BCE.
Anyway, we decided that walls built by giants must be visited and so later that week off we set. You need to head away from Argostoli, towards Sami and as you near a little village called Razata, you see one of the now familiar brown signs indicating you are on the right path. We drove a small way along a side road and parked under some trees, near a small church. Trusty Google maps told us we were fairly close and we set off to do the rest of the trip on foot.
As with so much of this island the countryside walks are beautiful, it was a bit overcast the day we went but that didn't detract from the wonderful views as we approached the site where the majority of the walls remain.
These walls were built to protect the ancient town of Krani (Krane) and you can see how they would have achieved that, they are breathtaking, even in the state of disrepair they are now in. They run for over 2km and although there are lots of gaps and broken stones along the way it gives you a real sense of the monumental task it would have taken to create these defences.
As with the much more famous Egyptian pyramids, there have been many ideas put forwards as to how these walls were constructed. The most common theories are that a combination of sleds, pulleys and scaffolding were used, but personally I much prefer the idea that giants lent a rather big helping hand ;-)
We wandered the walls and ruins for a good hour or so, the boys really enjoying some scrambling over the rocks and Kris and I looking for the best throne stone to rest our legs (Kris won).
We were worried that it would rain, the path was a bit tricky to pick over and we could imagine how slippery it could get if wet and so we turned back. Half way back the rain had not materialised and we saw a sign for Grouspa Cave and couldn't resist a detour to see what that was about.
This path was through lots of wooded areas and much harder to follow. Some very helpful people had left red painted arrows on some trees and stones and that was really handy. As we trudged deeper into the woods, continuing to climb uphill we started to wonder whether the directions were right, how could there be a cave here? Then we noticed that the floor to the left of us had fallen away and through the leaves we could see the top of a large cave. We carefully picked our way along the edge of this deep crevasse to find what we thought was a dead end, until you look down.
There, hammered and tied onto the wall of the cave is a handy ladder!
We definitely were not expecting that! It seemed sturdy but we had some reservations about attempting the climb down, especially as we had not been planning for a descent like that and the weather wasn't great.
There haven't been many things we've walked away from but sadly we did on this occasion - we all agreed that if the rain came (which actually it did a little later) we'd be in a tricky position to get back up, especially with Dexter's little legs and that going back on a drier day, when we'd be a little more prepared might be the right call.
So, walls built by a Cyclops? Tick
Scary ladder down into dark, bat filled cave? To be continued....
We headed back to the car, a little sad not to have become cave explorers but pleased with what we had seen and keen to go back another time.
For one of the first times since we'd been here we felt a little cold after our expedition and the rain did indeed start to come down, so on the way home we stopped off at the supermarket where I was pleased to find not just red wine, but orange liqueur and spices too which meant that when we got home I could make a large pan of mulled wine (apple juice for the kids). Just perfect to warm ourselves up, toast our success and allay our disappointment.