Climbing up and down the mountains of Lefkada in order to visit Egklouvi, the farming village of the famous local lentils, we noticed something that seemed out of place. Four huge antennas hanging on the edge of the hill between Egklouvi and the top church of St. Ilias. We took the narrow steep old road to end up just beside those ‘monsters’. That was it! We were standing in the area of the 50year-old American military base of NATO.
In the 60s and during the cold war USA had to keep an eye on the place so they constructed a few super-modern and absolutely self-sufficient military bases around Greece. With the help of the Greek villagers from around and the cargo-choppers of the US army (as the big trucks were suffering through the narrow road), this base was fully equipped with all the necessary and up-to-date facilities. From oil tanks and electricity generators to sleeping quarters and basketball courts, this impressive place was a big issue in Lefkada for almost three decades. Early in the 90s though it was abandoned, as its services became obsolete and the cold war ended as USSR fell apart.
After closing down, the base was given to the Greek army which has its own facilities just a couple of miles away, which didn’t bring any real change. After almost a decade of inaction the Greek army handed over the abandoned base to the municipality of Karya so as to be converted into a touristic attraction, such as a mountain camp or a sports field. Unfortunately, nothing happened due to the lack of drinking water around and the large cost of renovating the old facilities. Since that time the base has turned into ruins and at present gives a creepy but attractive image to anyone that happens to pass by.
Even more attractive though is the sight of the old white sand-mines next to the military base, which resemble a desert moonscape. On the opposite side vineyards are climbing up the hill, reminding the local culture of winemaking on the ‘highlands’ of Lefkada. One can then leave the mines and the base behind and take the twisting road for the top of the mountain. On the top stands the small church of St.Ilias, from where you can have a full perspective of the whole island. A breathtaking view of the southeast coast and every isle around, the farms surrounding Egklouvi and the abandoned field of the military facilities. Without doubt a must-do ride when visiting the island of Lefkada!