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Beautiful Yet Tacky Zakynthos

Oct 29, 2007
Zakynthos, or as the Italians call it Zante, is the most southerly of the Ionian chain that follows the coastline of western Greece. It is one of the more popular Greek islands, featured heavily in travel brochures.

The island has fertile plains, rough hills, wild cliffs and sweeping sands in roughly equal proportions and resorts vary from the idyllic fishing village to the brash, gaudy neon lit nightmare of Laganas, the resorts golden mile likened to a set from the science fiction film Blade Runner.

The 1953 earthquake destroyed much of the islands Venetian heritage but unlike neighbouring Kefalonia, buildings were replaced by agreeable, if uninspiring, homes, in the main town of Zakynthos at least.

Those who want to avoid the disco bars and hung over teenagers should head north, or visit in spring and autumn, especially spring when the island show why it earned the title blossom of the east.

Two major events shaped modernday Zakynthos. One is the catastrophic earthquake of 1953 which destroyed most of its elegant Venetian buildings and many of their inhabitants.

The other is the construction of the airport brought tourists in droves, slammed cement mixers into overdrive and substituted lost elegance for new found breeze block - in the south at any rate.

The small, scruffy port of ZAKYNTHOS TOWN has made few concessions to tourism. Rebuilt after the 1953 earthquake with a sterile formality, it has little charm despite its magnificent setting.

Quake wrecked Venetian buildings were bulldozed and replaced with solemn edifice, especially notable in the main seafront square.

The atmosphere improves inland at the Plateia Agios Markou where tavernas and cafes line a triangular marble paved piazza. The food served here is probably the best on the island not such great deal given the burger and chips staple of many Zante resorts.

Tavernas also line the maniacally busy seafront road part of a one way system stuffed with screaming mopeds and thick with petrol fumes.

The town has three museums, none of which are really worth a visit. The ugly Byzantine museum is the best with a few 17th century paintings of the Ionian School.

A couple of churches survived the earthquake. Agios Nicholas has been renovated and the spectacular Agios Dionissios, now lit up like a fairground at night, contains some good icons and a magnificent carved silver coffin.

The main square has a statue to the islands favourite son Dionysius Solomos the writer of the Greek national anthem. This was not his favourite island however and he lived and died on Corfu. The road north out of Zakynthos town runs you behind a series of sandy beaches backed by vineyards and orchards and reached down narrow access roads
About the Author
Douglas Scott works for The Rental Car Hire Specialist. and is a free lance writer for The Rental SiteZante
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