history has already been well documented in much more detail
than I could ever hope to achieve, so I have kept mine
as brief as possible. As you find your way around the island
using the Interactive Map, I have tried to convey, not
only details of the various towns and villages that I visited,
but a little of the myths, legends and unrivalled beauty
of Kefalonia. Above all I count myself privileged to have
islanders as friends and aspire to express in my writings
how I feel about their amazing island. I hope my photographs will in some way portray the stunning
scenery that can be found on Kefalonia . . .
. . . please use the Interactive Map and enter this
truly magical island!
an area of approximately 750 sq. kilometers, Kefalonia is
the largest of the Ionian Islands, which include (Corfu,
Ithaca, Kythera, Levkas, Paxos and Zakynthos) and is the
6th largest of all the Greek islands. It lies opposite the
mouth of the gulf of Patras, between Zakinthos and Lefkada.
To the northeast lies Ithaca. A smaller island only 3 to
4 kilometers away, this small stretch of sea is in places
as much as 200 meters deep. Fishing is still a strong industry
here and the local waters are full of fish.
The island's countless bays and inlets have given it its distinctive shape
and have influenced its maritime traditions from the earliest of times. Two
peninsulas jut out from the centre of the island, the Erissos peninsula in
the north and the Paliki peninsula to the west and south. The rocky coastline
of Kefalonia is studded with small and spotlessly clean pebble and sandy beaches
of which the islanders are justifiably proud.
The climate of the island is temperate and sunny for most of the year. Winters
are mild and rainy; summers are hot but bearable as temperatures seldom rise
above 40 degrees centigrade.
Together with Ithaca, Kefalonia
forms the province of Kefallinia; with a population of approximately 38,000
people, the island capital is Argostoli. Before the earthquake in 1953 there
were 365 villages on Kefalonia alone, now only 200 remain. You can still see
some of the abandoned wrecked homes in many of the villages and on the remote
People have lived on Kefalonia for 6,000 years and its history is rich in myth
and legend, including visits by Homer, the fictional Odysseus
and Lord Byron who said "if I am a poet, I owe it to the air of Greece".
The patron Saint of the island is Saint
Gerasimos, the Monastery with his name is located
in the Omala Valley.
Kefalonia is mountainous, the highest peak on Mount
Aenos being 'Mega Soros' at 1,627 metres. The island
is also blessed with spectacular beaches and cliffs, quaint villages and monasteries
perched on hillsides. The endangered free-roaming horses (from the ancient
Pindos breed) still roam on Mount Aenos, while eagles and vultures take
charge of the skies and the endangered loggerhead turtles Caretta
caretta nest on the shore. Dolphins swim in it's
deep waters between
Ithaki and Zakynthos and
if you are lucky, you may see some in Argostoli
bay following the ferry to Lixouri.
Forged over millions of years of tectonic plate movement and erosion it has
the unique phenomenaon Katavothres (swallow
holes) which are not found anywhere else on this earth. The seawater flows inland here to enter sinkholes below sea level along the cave system into Melissani subterranean lake and out of the springs at Karavomilos. Also the amazing natural phenomenon of Drogarati
cave with stalactites and stalagmites that are over 100 million
years old. In the fertile plains and valleys, there are orange and lemon orchards,
with many olive groves. These vineyards produce some of the best wine in
Greece, and are so well known that the demand for this wine all over the world
greatly exceeds the supply.
In 1941, the island was occupied by Italian troops,
who came ashore on the beautiful Andisamos
beach. In 1943, after Italy's capitulation, the Italians
refused to withdraw from the island and almost to a man volunteered
to fight with native resistance fighters against the Germans. Having to abandon their heavy weapons at the Kimonico bridge. The artillery, which had played a key role in the action, ran out of ammunition and was unable to help. At this point, the 'Acqui' Division was annihilated. Resistance was useless Gen. Gadin had no option but to surrender at 2 pm on the 22nd of September.
This led to the massacre of over 5,000 Italian soldiers
by the German forces including the atrocity which occurred
in the peaceful village of Faraklata. A
memorial to the fallen 'Acqui'
tried to help the people of Kefalonia stands on a quiet hilltop overlooking Argostoli bay.
There is also a Memorial for Fallen Homeland National Resistance, the “Brave As An Eagle” sculpture near Pastra. It is in a very peaceful setting where you can sit in tranquility with your own special thoughts overlooking the beautiful valley below. The people of Cephalonia were actively involved in the Greek Resistance and fought for the country’s liberation throughout World War ll.
Kefalonia’s colourful past and magnificent landscape inspired Louis de
Bernières’s bestselling novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (later
to be made into the famous film starring Nicholas Page and Penelope Cruz),
with the scenery becoming the star attraction. Although the film was given
a collective thumbs down by most critics, many islanders were moved by the
scenes of the earthquake. "Having read the book and watched the film, I
have to say that I preferred the film, which I enjoyed immensely; especially
after visiting the island I now know that the spectacular scenery of Horgota and
the amazing Mirtos
beach in the film is without doubt genuine".
But what nature gives, it also takes away. Kefalonia sits at the junction of
Africa, Asia and Europe, where three tectonic plates collide. Much of the architecture
of Kefalonia was destroyed in the earthquake of 1953. This was the worst earthquake
on record to have affected Kefalonia, with 113 tremors and aftershocks over
six days from 9th to 14th August. The worst was on the 12th which levelled
Argostoli and destroyed almost all the outlying villages, sparing only a few
areas in the north, Fiskardo a
very small picturesque port among them. Entire towns and villages where razed,
more than 600 people died thousands where injured. It was the equivalent of
more than 60 nuclear explosions and the ghost towns and abandoned buildings
like Valsamata in
the Omala Valley, still bear silent witness. It has been said by some survivors
that the olive trees seemed to burst out of the earth and many local people
thought that the island would sink like Atlantis. At that time many desperate
Cephalonians left their island to seek a better life abroad.
However, life in Kefalonia is now back to normal, with
some islanders who survived the earthquakes returning. In
recent decades it has followed the course of other Greek
islands as tourism along with Greece's entry into the EEC
have given its citizens a new found wealth. The people of
Kefalonia are very friendly to its visitors and I count myself
very lucky that I have been able to make friends with many
of them very easily. Islanders seem to have an affinity with
Italians, when locals find out about my heritage I am often
quoted the saying they have on the island between Kefalonians
and Italians, "Una faccia, una razza" -
one face, one race!
. . . I feel proud to have been included.
Update: Upon my visit in 2014 I found that the island is recovering from a series of MAJOR EARTQUAKES that occurred during January and February this year.