Geography & Topography
Zakynthos is the shape of an irregular triangle, leaning a little to the left so that the apex points north-west, and with a sizeable bite out of its base line. The island's coastline measures 92 km. and its surface is approximatley 418 square kilometeres. The right side of the triangle, from the northern Skinari shore to the south Marathia, is roughly 34 km long, and the left, the south-eastern side to Yaraka around 37 km.
The north-west coast of the island is steep and rocky, but the eastern side is more gentle and has several bays. The south-easterly "base line" of the triangle has the biggest bay and the largest of the islands beaches, the 9 km. long Laganas sands.
The people of Zakynthos have a rich store of ethnic customs and traditions. The customs, the celebrations, the costumes, the dances and the songs of Zakynthos present a wealth of beautiful and socially meaningful details.
The folk dances of Zakynthos are especialy interesting. The syrtos, for instance is danced more slowly on the island than elsewhere in Greece. The stavrotos is a lively dance accompanied by folk instruments known in Zakynthos as tambourioniakara. The volimiatikos, in three-four time, is danced mainly in the Volimes area.
The yiaryitos, in three-four and six-eight time, is the most characteristic folk dance of the island, and is seen chiefly at festivals and weddings in the hill villages. It was brought to Zakynthos from Crete, and and is also called Theseus' dance; it is associated with the ancient yerano dance which is mentioned by Plutarch. The yiaryitos is usually accomplished by another dance which has very small steps. This is the galiantra which came to Zakynthos from Italy.
The panourgia is rarely seen today, but the manfrena, from the Italian monferina, is a merry dance in six-eight time which is still quite popular. Other dances are the gitani, the galariotikos, the ringotos, the sakistos, the nyphiatikos, the panorios and the levantinikos.
Song has its own important place in Zakynthos life, especially the cantada (lied), which can be heard in evening seranades, and at all the island's celebrations and festivals.
Twice a year the people of Zakynthos hold celebrations in honour of their patron saint Aghios Dionyssios - on August 24th and December 17th - which involve special church services and fireworks afterwards. Other special festivals are held for Aghios Lazarus on the afternoon of Easter Sunday.
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