In Etoliko, the Small Venice

At Christmas we became best men! We married our good friends Petros and Elli in a beautiful church in the Katohi of Etoloakarnania, a small village, and took the opportunity to make a short trip to the surrounding areas, based in Etoliko.

In our new, travel article we stay for a few days in Etoliko, Etoloakarnania and learn its history, an important point of which is the trial of Karaiskakis. We eat, drink, take walks and marry our friends Petros and Elli in Agios Dimitrios at Katohi village. Also, we visit Messolonghi for food and drink, and we enjoy the warm hospitality of the couple’s relatives, who received us every day at their home in Etoliko.

On the road from Athens to Etoliko, on the Rio-Antirio bridge

We are used to writing our travel articles in the form of a diary, describing what we did every day, to feel as if you were there and to get ideas for what you can do if you are in these places. However, on this trip, our primary goal was to spend beautiful moments with the couple who got married, so we did not follow a program of sightseeing in the area, as we usually do. Nevertheless, we have chosen special moments from our days, in order to give you a taste of how we spent our trip and to talk a little about the places we visited.

Etoliko is 250 km away from Athens, ie 2 hours and 50 minutes by car. It is a town that belongs to the Municipality of Messolonghi, which develops on an island in the middle of the Messolonghi Lagoon. To the east and west it is connected to the mainland by two stone arched bridges. The bridges, as we read, were built in the period 1882-1885.

Etoliko from above (source)
Outside our hotel

Our first walk in Etoliko was in the evening. We walked its streets and took our night photos in the beautifully lit areas of the small town. Etoliko is a very small island, which is easily walked. However, because it was quite cold, we resorted to a nice bar, which had a lot of people and uplifting music, RumOrs Fine Coffees & Spirits.

At RumOrs Fine Coffees & Spirits

As we learned, Etoliko has a very interesting history. It started as small islands which were connected to each other by wooden bridges; the islands slowly united and created the island that is today the town of Etoliko. The island was just a little higher than the sea level and the water got to its most central points; that is why it was named Small Venice. Throughout its history it has received various names: Anatolikon, Antelikon or Antilikon and Etoliko.

In the cobbled alleys

Etoliko is located in the middle of the Messolonghi Lagoon, a very important habitat, and is an integral part of it. As we read, until recently most of the inhabitants were fishermen. All kinds of fish abounded in the lagoon, especially sea bream and mullet, from whose female comes the famous Messolonghi botargo, a local, exquisite product. Etoliko also had a long naval tradition. Until World War II, it maintained a fleet of about 35 merchant seagoing ships. Today, unfortunately, the percentage of fishermen and fish production has been reduced to a minimum, due to the reckless drainage and destruction of the lagoon in the 1970s.

The Messolonghi Lagoon on a sunny day…
…and on a cloudy one.
Selfies in front of the lagoon
Messolonghi botargo (source)

The most important point in the history of Etoliko is the trial of Georgios Karaiskakis, which took place inside the church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on April 1, 1924. We learned that Karaiskakis had been accused by Alexandros Mavrokordatos of secret agreements with the Turks to surrender Messolonghi and the surrounding areas to Omer Vryonis – a constructed category. Karaiskakis turned his trial into a parody.

The Holy Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

The next day of the trial, he was convicted as a traitor, deprived of all his positions and ordered to leave Etoliko, as a false witness claimed that he had negotiated with Omer Vryonis. The purpose of his conviction was to be ashamed, to exemplify the other chiefs. The reaction of the chief to his condemnation has remained characteristic…

If you have rightly condemned me, may God send the bullet to my head right where I am going. And if unjustly, to send it to you in your own head. You, Mavrokordatos, wrote my betrayal on paper and I quickly hope to write it on your forehead, so that it can be seen who you are.

Georgios Karaiskakis

After three weeks, Karaiskakis, in favor of the Revolution, apologized in writing to Mavrokordatos, who, however, did not accept it. On June 25, 1824 he took refuge in Nafplio where the Government recognized all his ranks and positions. He then fought in Eastern Sterea and was given the left part of the area of Agrafa.

The new bust of Georgios Karaiskakis in the church square
Georgios Karaiskakis (source)

In Etoliko there is a second very important church, the Holy Temple of Pammegiston Taxiarhon. Apart from how beautiful it is, we must note that inside it exists, as we read a well that was opened by a Turkish shell and quenched the thirst of the besieged and that in its courtyard is the tomb of Kyra Vassiliki, the wife of Ali Pasha of Ioannina.

The Holy Temple of Pammegiston Taxiarhon

Another attraction of Etoliko that we visited during the days we were there is the Port of Etoliko or Aitoliko Limanaki Park. We found that there is a volunteer group, which has “adopted” the port. Volunteer divers partially cleaned the seabed, which had a lot of rubbish. Today the port is one of the most beautiful places on the island and we would very much like to have visited it on a sunnier day to enjoy its beauty even better!

In the Port of Etoliko
Among the inhabitants of the port there are beautiful swans since September! (source)

So we took our walks in the historic Etoliko, and at night we slept in a very good hotel, the only one on the island, the Alexandra Hotel. The people were very kind and hospitable, the room was comfortable, nicely decorated and very clean and the atmosphere was festive, since it was Christmas. We really enjoyed our coffee in the hotel cafeteria, which serves quality coffee, has a wonderful view of the lagoon and is full of people who visit it even if they do not stay at the hotel.

Our room with the big, soft and warm bed
The balcony of the room with clouds…
…and with sun
In the hotel cafeteria
Coffee with the parents on the wedding day

But we spent most of our time with our friends Petros and Elli, the couple who got married, and their families. They invited us to their house, in Etoliko, outside the island this time, they cooked for us every day, they offered us wine and sweets, we talked, we danced, we sang and we felt like family members! We thank them all from the bottom of our hearts for the love and care, they are all great!

At Petros’ house in Etoliko

Traditional soup, homemade kokoretsi, local lamb and much more
The fantastic ekmek kadayifi of Sissi
With our best man Petros in his neighborhood
Saint Nektarios, the church in the neighborhood of Petros
Let the dances last…

Back now to the island for a few more points of interest. Walking in its streets we saw low, traditional houses, but also mansions, and we were very impressed by an old municipal building we came by, the Evanthia Karveli Foundation, built in 1893. Unfortunately today it is in poor condition, but we can imagine that at the time it would be full of people. But even a few years ago, as we saw, there were performances inside; as for today we do not know.

The Evanthia Karveli Foundation

Another stop on our walks was a small, beautiful garden with olive trees and benches, which according to an inscription is the garden of Maria Polygaraki. Who is the owner of this garden? We did not find out, but we definitely enjoyed our rest in her garden.

This way we spent our days, with good company, homemade food, walking in the picturesque Etoliko, coffees and drinks. But the highlight of the trip was the reason we came: the wedding of our friends. The ceremony took place in the beautiful church of Agios Dimitrios in Katohi, the village of the bride and the feast in the social event hall Ithoria. The ceremony was very moving, and the feast lasted until late at night with dancing and singing!

At the wedding of Petros and Elli

At the groom’s house before we go to church
The bride’s shoes
Waiting for the bride…
The bride has arrived!
With Petros’ parents
With the best men
At the groom’s house before we go to the feast
Cutting the cake
At the bridal table
With Eliza’s parents

This was the wedding of our dear friends … Now back to ours… While we were staying in Etoliko, we went around the surrounding areas and of course we visited Messolonghi several times. The Holy City of Messolonghi is 12 km away from Etoliko, a quarter by car. It is a beautiful city with a large market and many cafes, restaurants and bars, which we duly honored.

Ready for a night out in Messolonghi

Messolonghi is the capital of western Central Greece and belongs to the Regional Unit of Etoloakarnania. It is a special city, between the lagoon, with a heroic history, which was an inspiration for Lord Byron and Dionysios Solomos. It is, therefore, a city that deserves its own tribute, which we would like to do in the future. For now we will leave you with some pictures from our evening outings in its nice shops!

In the central square of Messolonghi
Corfiot beer and white wine
Enjoying the nightlife of Messolonghi

Last stop, our favorite… The food! In Messolonghi we ate at the very good tavern Ola xyma, a youthful place, with warm decoration, friendly service and friendly atmosphere, especially dear to young people and adults alike.

Inside Ola xyma, a warm, friendly atmosphere

The tavern is housed in a historic building erected in 1836, 10 years after the Heroic Exodus of Messolonghi. For over half a century it operated as a pharmacy, the first in Greece, in fact! In 2005 it was renovated and became the nice shop where we enjoyed our food and wine.

Forest salad with lettuce, rocket, parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar
Baked potato with yogurt
Chicken tigania
And finally dessert, crunchy filo dough with vanilla ice cream and strawberry syrup, wonderful!

We will leave you here once again… We hope to have given you an idea of the beauties of Etoliko, and what one can do while staying there. We had a fantastic time and we will definitely stay again for more days.

Goodbye until our next travel article, our friends!

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