KOS



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Kos - Antimachia and the West of the Island - The Kephalos Peninslula

The Kephalos Peninsula
Almost a separate island by rights, the southwestern peninsula of Kos has its own water sources, its own mountain peaks rising from the sea to 427m, and its own character and history. Evidence of the earliest habitation on the island comes from this promontory; and Strabo mentions a city in this area named Astypalaia which was, he says, the ‘ancient (i.e. Archaic period) capital’ of the island.
   The modern village of Kephalos (35km from Kos) straddles a windswept bluff overlooking the long procession of the island eastwards to the peak of Di­kaios. There are also clear sightlines to Kalymnos and Nisyros, and for this reason the Knights of Rhodes built a castle here sometime before 1420—the year in which it is first mentioned in sources. The ruins of its high walls visible today may represent only a part of a larger complex, the rest of which has been swept away since 1505, when the Knights abandoned the outpost in favour of their larger castles at Antimachia and Kos. The existing walls are in fact only a thin sheathing of the natural, solid outcrop of sandstone which formed the base of the castle: this means that, inside the enceinte, the ground-level is curiously almost at the height of the top of the walls. The fortress originally must have risen beyond this level, to what would have appeared from outside to be a remarkable height. The other summit of the village is occupied by the Papavassilis windmill. North of Kephalos, a left branch in the road leads into an area of stone-walled houses and cultivated enclosures fed by the springs at Milies: the main road north continues (3.5km) down to the coast, where it drops steeply to the natural harbour of Limionas.
   One kilometre south of Kephalos on the road which heads towards the mountains, and c. 50m to the east of the road, can be seen the profile of the remarkable little church of the Panaghia Palatiani­, on an eminence with views of the Bay of Kephalos below. This roofless and col lapsing church occupies the site of—and is constructed out of the remains of—a Hellenistic Temple to Demeter, with the podium of the pagan building still clearly visible beneath the southeast corner. (Its stone is of the same warm-red colour observed above in the North Basilica at Aghios Stephanos.) Many ancient stones and fragments lie within and around, and the terracing and decorative elements of its sanctuary or neighbouring buildings can be seen below.
   The temple to Demeter did not stand alone here, but must have been on the edge of the ancient city of Astypalaia, whose overgrown remains, known locally as Palati­a, lie in the pine-woods further to the west. (Continue along the road a further 600–700m: 20m before a junction with water-fountain, where the road splits for Aghios Theologos, an unsigned metal gate on the east side of the road leads into the trees.) Just below the road is a small, ancient theatre: the bases of the proscenium columns, and a couple of rows of marble seats are visible. Ten metres further to the west is a small Doric temple, di-style in antis, oriented due east, and constructed in the large, clear masonry typical of the late Classical period: the marble blocks are eroded and lichen-covered, yet still preserve their fine finishing. The city stretched up behind to the watershed above, which looks out also to the west: the platform of another temple (this time oriented north–south) and column fragments, can be seen here, just above the level of the modern road. Ancient Astypalaia must also have stretched on below the theatre—down the fertile and protected slope to the east, incorporating the harbour at Kamari as its port. The position has those panoramic qualities and natural beauty so favoured by the Ancients in their choice of sites.
   Beyond the junction at Palati­a, the right fork leads down (4.5km), through beautiful and undisturbed landscape, to the west coast at the church of Aghios Theologos. The (main) left branch continues south. A track off to the left after 1800m, leads towards the summit of Mount Zi­ni: on its southern slopes is the cave of Aspri­petra. (A path signed with red, then green, marks on rocks, leaves from the middle of the split in the road 600m down the track from the previous junction: 25 minutes walk.) The cave is small in proportion to its historic importance. First excavated by Italian archaeologists in 1922, it yielded finds and artefacts from the late Neolithic, Mycenaean and Geometric periods, as well as evidence that Pan and the Nymphs were venerated here in Hellenistic and Roman times. The finds point to the existence of a peak sanctuary in the area; the name of the mountain, ‘Zi­ni’, could be cognate with ‘Zeus’, suggesting the dedication and the site of such a sanctuary on the summit above.
   The continuation of the principal road leads into a wild and open landscape to the monastery of Aghios Ioannis Thymianos and beyond (a further 5km of track) to the remote church of Aghios Mamas. Much of the original 19th century structure of Aghios Ioannis has decayed and been replaced by more modest, recent buildings. A spring here feeds a monumental plane-tree. There are limitless views to the south and west, and into the sun which sets over Astypalaia—the distant island of Astypalaia, that is, not the ancient city just visited, which strangely bore the identical name.


Kos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island group
The Kephalos Peninslula.


Random information you might what to know about Kos Island
History of Kos
Tree of Hippocrates

 

access

Kos Island, Greece.

By air: Kos has an international airport in the centre of the island at a distance of 23 km from Kos Town, with twice daily connections from Athens by both Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines, and charter arrivals from many destinations in Northern Europe. There are also local (Olympic)flights three times weekly to Astypalaia, Leros and Rhodes.
   By boat: There are daily services by catamaran (Dodecanese Express), and four times weekly by car ferry (F/B Nisos Kalymnos), plying the route between Rhodes, Kos, Kalymnos, Leros, Patmos (& Samos – ferry only): to Piraeus and Rhodes, Blue Star Ferries run four times weekly ferries, and GA Ferries (who include Nisyros, Tilos and Symi en route) three times weekly. The faster Flying Dolphin services link Kos also with the smaller Dodecanese Islands between Samos in the north and Rhodes in the south, and run daily in summer. From Kardamaina on the southeast coast there is a daily connection with Nisyros throughout the year, weather permitting.

Kos Travel Guide

eating

Kos Island, Greece.

In the town centre, for inexpensive and genuine fare, with good fresh, local wine, the small taverna Kriti (just below the steps northwest of the central church of Aghia Paraskevì) on Ypsilantou Street is reliable and convivial: while, nearby, the Kafeneion Aenaos in front of the Deftedar Mosque, opposite the Central Market building, makes a proper Greek coffee. Many of the most interesting and enjoyable places to eat, however, are a little out of the centre; for a delightful rural, courtyard setting, the Taverna Ambavris (in Ambavris, 1 km along the road south (left) from just beyond the Casa Romana /Roman House as you approach it from the centre of town) is to be recommended; while at the crossroads in Platani, (1.7 km from the port along the road to the Asklepieion), Ali"s is a Turkish restaurant with some good quasi-Turkish dishes, very popular with locals for Sunday lunch. To Palaio Pyli, 1 km below Palaio Pyli, has good fish, hospitable welcome and a good sunset view. With comparable sunset view, home-grown wine and home-made traditional dishes, the quiet and friendly -Taverna Panorama (2.5 km up the Asfendiou road from Zipari) in a family house and garden, is highly recommended. It is perhaps the most genuine place on the island to eat.

Kos Travel Guide

further reading

Kos Island, Greece.

Susan Sherwin-White’s Ancient Cos – an Historical Study etc. (the most authoritative and detailed study of the island in Antiquity); Vassilis Colonas, Italian Architecture in the Dodecanese Islands (Olkos Press, Athens, 2002), for the buildings and architectural ideas of the Italian occupation; the Hippocratic Corpus, selected and translated as The Medical Works of Hippocrates, by Chadwick and Mann (Oxford, Blackwell).

Kos Travel Guide

lodging

Kos Island, Greece.

Outside of the tourist complexes, the most comfortable place to stay in Kos is at the Kos Aktis Hotel (T.22420 47200; www.kosaktis.gr) which is stylish and modern, and has a good restaurant; it is conveniently and centrally placed near the castle, and all its rooms have balconies overlooking the shore towards the Turkish coast. The price is moderate to expensive. For the hospitality, friendliness and helpfulness of the owner, the family-run Hotel Afendoulis (T.22420 25321, fax 25797), just in from the shore to the south of the centre on Evripidou Street, is a pleasant guest-house, but with basic rooms (inexpensive).

Kos Travel Guide

practical info

Kos Island, Greece.

85 300 Kos: area 287sq km; perimeter 112km; resident population 26,379; maximum altitude 843m.
Port Authority: T. 22420 26594–7 & 24185.
Travel and information: Panos Tours, T. 22420 23078, fax 28068.

Kos Travel Guide

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