The unusual story of Martinis Cottages in Fiscardo, Kefalonia
In 1958 an Irish couple, Beatrice and Alec Reid, arrived by boat in Kefalonia. They made their way to the norther tip of the island where they discovered and fell in love with Fiscardo. The people of the village welcomed and adopted them, as they struggled to buy land and fashion a home out of the dry rocky hillside. Lasting friendships were formed as they shared tears and laughter with the locals – together they lived through the seasons, enjoyed festivals, and survived storms and earthquakes.
After the heartbreaking deaths of their children, the Reids sought refuge and peace in their beloved Greece, throwing all their affection and energies into building a home in Fiscardo. They were drawn to the house behind the old Lighthouse, on land which belonged to the church, and lived for many summers in their caravan before purchasing land on a rocky outcrop above the sea with a view to Ithaca.
Beatrice eventually returned to Ballybrack near Dublin, where her husband Alec taught English at Trinity College. After his death in 1986 she wanted to record her memories of their 30 year fascination with the village. During her last few years since losing her sight she worked on a book with help of HAL her talking computer.
Beatrice’s book ‘Leaves from a Greek Village’ records her love affair both with Alec and with Fiscardo, and depicts the highs and lows of building in Greece long before the airport or tourism had arrived to the island. Their Pint Houses as they were known are now part of the Sunvil portfolio, and known as Martinis cottages. Something of their dream lives on in the views from the terraces and the words on the page.
Here are a few excerpts from Beatrice’s book:-
‘My name is Beatrice, and I fell in love not with a gorgeous Greek but with a gorgeous Greek island. My tale unfolds around the village of Fiscardo on the Ionian island of Kefalonia. It tells how tingling excitement of first love took root and blossomed
‘We approached the island at daybreak on a hot morning, the air still humid after a thunderstorm. Even today, I can feel myself engulfed in that warm, damp air swirling around me, clinging as strongly now as it did all those years ago. The pink oleander blossoms stood out above their dark green leaves polished by this welcome drink unexpected in high summer.
‘We looked up at the elegant stone residences, three four storeys high, left by Venetian merchants who had occupied the island from 1500 to 1797, these houses lined the stone walled quay in a half circle, giving the impression that they were growing up from the sea
‘An envelope fluttered through the letterbox containing five leaves plucked from the ancient olive tree under which we would finally park our caravan. These leaves became a symbol of hope like the leaf that the dove brought back to Noah
‘First we needed water: second we needed a road in to the site. We were determined to live up the hill to enjoy the views all round and avoid the noise and dust from the road below. Local people thought we were crazy to want to build so high up.
‘Kostas the builder’s initial disapproval of our mad eccentricity evaporated and he even went so far as to take some of the credit. Wrought iron railings and vine covered pergolas were added and all became happily integrated into the hillside as we had intended. These terraces gradually developed a life of their own, a day life and a night life. By day they were sun baked, twittering with thirsty blue tits drinking juice from ripe grapes, humming with bees enjoying nectar from red and pink geraniums, by night the silence was broken by nightingales, owls, cats and fisherman’.
Anna Maria Vardakastani