May 2, 2015

1556 GREECE (Ionian Islands) - Zakynthos, the flower of the East

Zakynthos, nicknamed the Flower of the East by the Venetians, is the third largest of the Ionian Islands, and lies around 20km west of the Greek (Peloponnese) mainland. It has the shape of an arrowhead, with about 40km length and 20km width. The western half of the island is a mountainous plateau and the southwest coast consists mostly of steep cliffs. The eastern half is a densely populated fertile plain with long sandy beaches, interrupted with several isolated hills, notably Bochali which overlooks the city and the peninsula of Vasilikos in the northeast. Its highest point is Vrachionas, at 758 m. The capital of this island inhabited by 45,650 people is the town of Zakynthos, located on the northern coast.

Homer mentioned the island in the Iliad and the Odyssey, stating that the first inhabitants of it were the son of King Dardanos of Troy called Zakynthos and his men. Later on it became the first independent democracy established in Greece, that lasted more than 650 years. During the Middle Ages, it was part of the Byzantine Empire, then of the Kingdom of Naples , until it was defeated by the Ottomans in 1479. In 1484 it was taken by Venetians, which possessed it until 1797. The French took control of the island in 1797, but a Russian-Turkish fleet captured it in 1798. After a second period under French control, became part of the British protectorate of the Ionian Islands from 1815 to 1864, wen it became a full member of the Greek state.

Saint Dionysios Church, the biggest in the capital, built in 1708, is dedicated to the protector of the island, whose body is held in the church in a silver casket. Its bell tower, a direct copy of St Marco's in Venice, is very high and stands out among the different buildings soon as you enter the port. Located on the sea front, on a main street called Strada Marina, it looks impressive in the evening when lights frame the bell tower and create stunning reflections in the water. Inside are some impressive frescos and paintings by hagiographers Koutouzis and Doxaras. Each year takes place a festival to remember Saint Dionysios, which consists of a large street procession on 24th of August, where the body of the Saint is paraded through the town.

About the stamps
The first stamp, depicting Palinurus elephas, is part of the definitive set Riches of the Greek seas, about which I wrote here. The second stamp belongs to the series Destination... Greece, about which I wrote here. The third, depicting Acheron River, Epirus, is part of the series Touring, about which I wrote here. The last is part of a series named Primary School Reading Books, about which I wrote here.

Zakynthos - Wikipedia
Churches and Monasteries in Zakynthos - Zanteisland
Sights in Zakynthos Zante - Zante

Sender: Milda Kriukaite (direct swap)
Sent from Zakynthos (Ionian Islands / Greece), on 16.08.2012

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