There are several sites in Lefkada that are connected with important historical events of the 19th and the 20th century. There are also structures at special locations that reveal the island’s dynamic positioning between the East and the West. There are buildings that bear the history of the vibrant rural life and the agricultural production. Here we present the most important ones accompanied by explanatory texts.
The Windmills of Gyra
Along the great beach of Gyra, northwest of the town of Lefkada, there were once seven, eight or even twelve windmills, according to certain sources. Nowadays five have remained, despite the passing of time and the severe winds of the region.
According to the List of the Protected Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Greece by the Ministry of Culture, which has declared them as preserved monuments, their construction started in the era of the Venetian Rule (the Turks took over the island from the Franks in 1479) without any further details.
However, in some sources it is reported that their construction started in 1760 during the years of the Venetian Rule, while other sources claim that they were already there in 1684 when the Venetian Army with 5000 infantry and cavalry disembarked at Demata, the bay of the region, while a smaller force landed at a location between the windmills and Gyra with the purpose to seize Lefkada from the Turks’ control.
The windmills were situated at a peculiarly strategic spot that in the following years often became a field of conflicts.
In the end of June 1807, the sea in front of the windmills and at the site of Sette (in front of the castle) was full of small and big ships of the alliance that consisted of French and Greeks in order to prevent a possible attack by Ali Pasha of Ioannina, while in the March of 1810 there was a battle between the allied forces of the English with the participation of Kolokotronis against the Imperial French in their struggle to take over the island, something that they finally achieved on the 16th of April 1810.
The windmills used to grind cereals imported mainly from Russia and their names were influenced by that. Thus, the windmills are called (from south to north) the windmill of Orloff or Krallis, of Koggei or Kalogerades (Hlempetas), of Mpogdanos (Moshovitis), of Stogias (Koutsanyxtis/K’tanyhis), of Kontaris-Egialidis (Gourounas), of Arvanitakis (Kopsanteris).
The last windmill stopped working in 1954.
Nowadays the area is known as one of the best kite-surfing locations in Greece and gathers thousands of visitors during the summer months. Two of the windmills have been renovated and now function as cafés.
The windmills, symbols of the farming production, were important parts of the agricultural economy. On the island they are scattered in almost every village. You should look for them!
At the site of Magemenos in Nikiana there is a monument dedicated to the gathering of the warlords that happened in June 1807 under the guidance of Ioannis Kapodistrias. An event of “Memory and Honour” is taking place there every year.
The establishment of the famous Septinsular Republic (1800-1907), the first autonomous state of Greece after tens of centuries, was decided by the Russo-Turkish alliance after they seized the Ionian Islands from the Napoleonic French. But the two nations resolved their alliance in 1806 and were involved in a war struggle with each other, thus giving the opportunity to Ali Pasha of Ioannina to threaten to take over the island.
On the 27th of May 1807, Ioannis Kapodistrias landed on Lefkada as a delegate of the Russian Count Mocenigo, General Commander of the Seven Islands, to serve as an extraordinary Commissioner of the Government in order to organise the defence of the island. Along him came the French engineer Michaud, the Bishop of Arta Ignatios and a corps of volunteers from Souli as well as 300 Russian soldiers. A series of defensive works was planned and undertaken on the island.
Consequently, when Kapodistrias called for the gathering in order to discuss and decide about the people’s awakening and the liberation of the country, there was a positive response by most of the important warlords of Epirus and Aetoloakarnania, such us Katsantonis, Kitsos Mpotsaris, Vlahavas, Tzavelas, Karaiskos, Nikotsaras, Grivas, Perevos, Anagnostaras, Skylodimos, Koumparis, Varnakiotis, Mpoukouvalas and, possibly, Kolokotronis. It was a grand unprecedented meeting for the Ionian Islands. It took place at the location of Magemenos in Nikiana, with Ali Pasha of Ioannina and his 10000 Albanian Turkish soldiers across the Acarnanian coast. The warlords took an oath to fight for the liberation of the enslaved Greece at the chapel of Metamorfosis Sotiros (Transfiguration of the Saviour) that has been standing at this same spot for centuries.
The fact that this gathering of the warlords occurred on the island made Ali Pasha abandon his efforts to occupy the island. Therefore, on the 8th of July 1807 he signed the treaty of Tilsit, according to which the Russian conceded the Seven Island to the Imperial French.
The site of Mpoza is situated at a location with an amazing view of the plain of Lefkada and Gyra, on the road that leads from the town to the villages of Sfakiotes, near the junction towards the canyon of Melissa. A monument has been constructed there, in order to honour the uprising of the island’s villagers against the English conquerors in 1819.
In 1819, the English started opening the channel at the lagoon that separates Lefkada from the coasts of Acarnania. For that reason, they imposed extra taxes on olive oil, wine, cereals and pulses, livestock, fishing boats and commercial ships that worsened the already poor financial condition of the Lefkadian villagers.
The villagers reacted. The uprising started in Sfakiotes and the monastery of Episkopi at Spanohori while the residents of other villages quickly followed the rebellion. There were fights with the English army and the main battle was fought at the location of “Mpoza” and resulted in the killing of 200 English soldiers. The rebels retreated towards Exanthia and soon dispersed due to the lack of munitions and the arrival of English warships from Corfu. Many villagers left for the mainland. Most of them were granted amnesty, except for the leaders of the rebellion who were hanged and their corpses were pilloried at the town to force obedience on the rest of the locals. This was followed by the disarmament of the residents.
Church of Panagia Vlahernon
It is a small chapel, an historical monument, at the plain of Lefkada. It was built in 1740 and it was the place where, in the beginning of 1821, the Lefkadian members of the Society of Friends (Filiki Eteria) and the warlords from Central Greece took an oath to fight for the freedom and the independence of Greece.
Back in 1819 the first Lefkadians, Ioannis Zampelios and Aggelos Soundias, were initiated into the Society of Friends and started to act on the island by initiating new members and fundraising. Other Lefkadian members were Georgios Vafeas, Andreas Fetsis, Aggelos Halkiopoulos etc.
In the beginning of 1821, the most important warlords of Central Greece (Odysseas Androutsos, Georgios Karaiskakis, Dimitris Panourias etc) started gathering on the island, leaving Central Greece with the ongoing war of Ali Pasha of Ioannina with the Sultan as a pretext and had many meeting with the local members of Filiki Eteria at several locations of the town.
On the Carnival Sunday they all met at the chapel of Panagia Vlahernon at the plain of Lefkada, they devised the final plan of the uprising of Central Greece, they organised the actions of the warlords, they attended the Mass and took an oath to fight until death in order to shake off the shackles of the Ottoman Rule.
There is a relevant plaque with the names of the warlords and the storyline of the event on the wall of the church while the Gospel upon which they took the oath is kept at the Ecclesiastical Museum of the monastery of Faneromeni.
In remembrance of this event and in honour of the fighters, the Ecclesiastical Council of the church of Panagia ton Ksenon, to which the chapel of Panagia Vlaherna belongs, built a votive column at the churchyard in 2008.
Germanika (German houses)
It is a location high up the mountain “Skoula” or “Mega Vouno”, above Agios Petros, where the ruins of 6 or 7 stone houses are found, whatever was left from a camp of the German occupation forces. The camp was built by a German unit, consisting of elite, well educated highly ranked officers and served as a base for radars, radios and other high technology devices in order to support the Afrika Korps of Field Marshal Rommel by monitoring the movements of the Allied ships in the Ionian Sea. The location was considered suitable because it offers an unlimited view of the Ionian Sea.
Local residents from the villages of Agios Petros and Athani were forced to work for its construction. The villagers carried the needed materials through a path called “voltes Athaniou” that used to connect the two villages. The central building was very modern for its time and was provided with bedrooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, auxiliary spaces and work rooms, fully equipped with up-to-date devices. Furthermore, there was a minefield around the camp, as well as an electric fence, machine-gun pillboxes and anti-aircraft guns to protect it from unwanted visitors.
After Rommel’s defeat in Africa, the Germans left the village, in the beginning of October 1943.
The camp became a site for sale. The young doctor of the village, Giorgos Maragkos, tried to create a hospital where the camp used to be or at least turn it into a sanatorium for the patients who suffered from tuberculosis that was very common at the time. After the necessary action was taken, the camp was granted to the committee that had undertaken this great task that would serve the medical needs of southern Lefkada.
Nevertheless, the poorness, the misery and the ignorance of many villagers of Agios Petros and Athani, who undermined anything progressive, resulted in the looting of the camp’s facilities and its almost full destruction.
Nowadays, only the ruins of the building are left at this location that you can still reach through the old path “voltes Athaniou”.
Watchtower of Agios Nikitas
The nowadays ruined “Watchtower”, at the location “Stroma”, is an unofficial monument of the WWII period and the Italian Occupation
You can find it on the path that leads from the village of Agios Nikitas to the beach of Mylos, just before the descending towards the beach begins, at a spot with limitless view of the Ionian Sea.
Lainaki is the Homeric mountain Niriton. It is one of the four tops of mountain Elati and is situated above the villages of Fterno, Vournikas and Alatros. That was the place of the so called “Battle of Lefkada”, on the 15th and 16th of June, 1944, during the civil war that followed after the Axis Occupation of the island.
The location can be reach via paths from the villages of Fterno and Alatros and those who love hiking will be able to stand on the mountain top and enjoy the panoramic view of the whole eastern and southern part of the island.
At the entrance of the island, at the position of Kastro right after the floating bridge, there is one of the few buildings that depict the industrial architecture of the island. A building that is a very important part of Lefkada’s economy and history.
It is the building of the old winery of TAOL, the nowadays Farmers’ Association of the island.
The Cooperative of TAOL was founded in 1915 as a Winemakers’ Protection Fund and followed the common history of the cooperative movement in Greece with a huge significance for the local society, not only financially but in a broader social and cultural way, with all sorts of activities and contributions. For years it was the only means of support for the viticulturists of the island.
The building of the winery started working in 1949 after TAOL bought three wineries, i.e. of Vasiliki, of Sfakiotes and of Exanthia. It consists of two parts. The first s an almost square cement building with three dual-pitched tile roofs and inside it there are tanks for the fermentation and the storage of wine. In 1980 the growth of production made it necessary for a second part to be added. The second section is of the same size and structure as the first one. It hosted new tanks and the bottling department.
Today, the building houses a wine shop while studies have been undertaken so that the old building can serve as a multi-purpose complex for events, museum exhibitions etc.
Besides the architectural and historical value, the building is also of sentimental value for the Lefkadians. It is strongly connected with the favourite beach of the locals and constitutes an integral part of their memories.
It is also a favourite photography subject for amateurs and professionals alike because it reminds us of a movie scenery, especially when the sun during the dawn or the dusk colours the landscape.
Viniculture and winemaking compose a big chapter in the history of Lefkada with the first reports dating back to the 3rd century BC. [see here].
Former NATO base at the plateau of Agios Donatos
The former NATO base is located at the plateau of Agios Donatos, at the site of Ammokampos, near the old sand mines. It was built in 1962 in order to facilitate the telecommunications between the NATO bases in Italy and Greece, because it had 4 giant radio waves broadcasting antennas. Many of the residents of Egklouvi and the surrounding villages had worked in the construction of the base. The base consisted of two sectors: the radio station, with the antennas, and the camp, where the soldiers used to dwell. Both building facilities had been built with American standards, which resulted in high quality structures.
The base had 4 gigantic antennas, cutting edge technological equipment as well as its own power station with 4 enormous generators. Both the base buildings and the camp buildings were impressively cared for in their interior. Apart from the sleeping quarters, the complex was equipped with modern kitchens, dining halls, recreation rooms and even a gym!
In the beginning of the 90s, progress in telecommunications rendered the base unnecessary, which, during 1992 and 1993, resulted in the base being granted to the Greek Air Force and the Commander of the Greek military base that is located a few hundred metres to the west, in order to exploit and utilise it.
Nowadays the facilities are abandoned but accessible. From the station that is located at the hill you can admire the panoramic view of the island’s eastern coasts.
The site is accessible via the road network from Egklouvi and Karya that leads to the plateau of Agios Donatos.