It's nearly Christmas 2003.  Ithaca is a little less like the Odyssey isle right now and more like Las Vegas isle as Christmas lights flash from one end of the island to the other.   Ithaca celebrates another

Festive Season with neons and tinsel. 

Stavros Square

Above--Jenny Vlassopoulou from Spavento decorating the Café for Christmas.

Right--Locals warming up with a drink at Spavento in Kioni.

Wednesday morning coffee at Odyssey Café in Vathy

At Rementzo in Frikes, the sea has washed the rocks onto the square.

Vathy Square, empty on a miserably rainy day.

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Winter on Ithaca is a quiet time., the complete opposite of Ithaca  in the Summer.  The locals hibernate as they should, while the weather and the elements take charge of the island and its seas.  There is a misconception that the Greek islands are in a perpetual state of summer, but that's far from true.  It gets very cold and while there are  -6 temperatures on the mainland, snow occasionally falls on Ithacas mountains too.  Even the valleys have had snowfalls in the past.   Imagine Frikes and Kioni covered in snow.  The one consequence of living on an island in winter is the damp, it gets into the bone and it's the major  complaint of those who take on the challenge of living on Ithaca all year round .

Winter on the island is also spectacular!  Many blue-sky days with sunshine, still capable of warming the  soul.   Views of the islands and the mainland in the distance are crisp and clear, snow-covered mountains  and deep blue seas.  For many, Ithaca in winter is the paradise isle.

A few restaurateurs from Kioni to Vathy, keep their doors open all year round to cater for the locals suffering from cabin fever after endless days of rain and storms, and for the travelers, here for walking tours, sketching, painting, or just getting away from it all.  Intimate surroundings, potbelly stoves and good home-cooked meals for all. It's business as usual.  Winter is a time for bonding with the few people remaining on the island and, inevitably, a time too, for introspection.  One gets to know oneself after a winter on the odyssey isle.

Wednesday 17th December. The temperature dropped around 8 degrees all around Greece and that includes Ithaki. It's near freezing, but the defiant Greek sun refuses to disappear. 7 to 8 force winds are stirring up 1/2 to 1 meter waves. At Aetos the sea is showering the road, and of course any cars driving along it, with its crashing surf. The mainland mountain tops are beginning to cover with snow and there's no getting away from coats, hats and gloves as the chilling, biting winds hit on the island. Yes folks, it's winter now..  
Varka - Yesterday it was black and roaring with thunder...
Aetos - Today it's clear skies, great views and a biting cold
It's the 20th December and Frikes, as usual, is the coldest place to be on the island, but still locals venture out for a meal. Nektarios duties behind the Grill at Rementzo is the warmest place to be. No wonder he's smiling all the time.
Above - Billys' Hardware Shop is one of the most colorfully lit premises in Stavros. The newly renovated and recently opened shop has a style of its very own.
Colour and lights all around the island.. Spavento is definitely Kionis Christmas Icon.
Astronauts lost in space could use Ithaki to guide them back to the planet.
Vathy Square is all lit up for Christmas too. This boat is right in the center of it. The water reflection is from the rain, not the sea.   The Mylos Crepery in Vathy. Winter is a great time to get out and socialize. A bit of rain just adds to the intimacy of this small island during these months   Nikos Karantzis, new Manager of Mylos Crepery in Vathy does his version of Hot Chocolate............ 'You sexy thing'  

Vathy on a stormy and rainy Monday night, 23rd December 2003.

The place to be if you're looking for romance.

Who could go past these good looking Vathinians??? Me. I walked right past them and went home to watch the Elephant Man.


A Winter Wedding

Alexandros and Katerina said their vows on the eve of 27th December at the Church in Stavros.

It seemed all the island came out to witness the wedding of Alexandros, one of Stavros' favorite Taxi drivers, and Katerina. Stavros Square was filled with faces from Vathy to Kioni as the crowd waited for the bride to arrive. It's a rare occasion that brings so many people together on a cold Winters eve. The celebrations continued at the Stavros Council Hall where invited guests wished the happy couple life and good health for their future together before the party got under way with good food, much wine and of course, dance .
The Zac (Margaritas) in Stavros has pulled out all the stops for the Festive Season. Maki and Maria make excellent hosts for the Winter Socialites. The Tv is on and the drinks are flowing.



The Football Teams were out collecting donations, families were home until the clock struck midnight and then ... Ithaca began to party until dawn, celebrating the new year. I got as far as Spavento in Kioni, but reports say that every bar in Vathy was crammed to the rafters with enthusiasm for 2004.


Jenny and Yiorgos from Spavento put on a great party while heavy storms lit the night sky. When the first bars of Abba hit the speakers all the dancing queens came out of the closet to give the marble floors the best polishing they've had in a long time. The svinaki (shots) record was broken by the local lads who set them and Jenny's black leather mini made the boys cry. The local boys broke out the hair gel while all the coloured girls go "do do do do do do do do..."



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