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The Other Greek Isles

ZÁKINTHOS
On Zákinthos I decided I was doing this wrong. Instead of hopping from island to island, collecting them like charms on a bracelet, I should have chosen just one and taken it easy. So I sunned on Gerakas, a long beach that's a nesting ground for loggerhead turtles, and avoided the commercial resorts that mar the other beaches on Laganas Bay. My only activity was going into town to hear arekia, a form of a cappella singing that evolved here during Venetian rule. At Taverna Arekia, patrons harmonized with musicians as the owner, a cluster of jasmine threaded through a buttonhole in her shirtdress, sat down with me to describe the specials.

The next day I drove to Cape Skinari to stay in a converted windmill, a tiny suite with a colossal view of the ocean. After me, it was booked by a man planning to propose, said Dionisios Potamitis, one of three brothers who own the windmill and the nearby Faros Taverna. They also run boat trips, so I hopped into a dinghy with Nikos. He stopped to let me swim in the series of blue caves (which dwarf Capri's puny grotto), and took me to climb the abandoned freighter on legendary Shipwreck Beach.

That night, back at the Faros Taverna, I listened to the brothers tell of island dramas, such as the canonization of Saint Dionysios, a monk who lied to the police to spare his brother's murderer. "He became holy the moment he sinned," Nikos said. They described life in Korithi, which had no electricity until 1970. "In winter, we fish or play cards with the sailors at the lighthouse—they rotate every fortnight so they don't go crazy from isolation," Dionisios said. "In November, monk seals give birth in the caves, and in April, flowers bloom." Next time, I'm definitely picking one island and staying awhile.

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