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AN INTRODUCTION TO

 KEFALONIA

 

 

 

 

Kefalonia has been constantly visited since antiquity, used initially as the first port of call by voyagers on route to Italy from southern Greece, also a hide away and home to many pirates. Before becoming the rare jewel in the crowns of many of its conquerors. Kefalonia is chronicled in history as being one of the most formidable islands in all of Greece in terms of its remarkable contrasts, with a lack of arable vegetation, despite being able to grow huge quantities of grapes that in turn were dried and sold as raisins, known as 'black gold' because of the great wealth they brought.

 

The densely wooded slopes of the immense mountain range were once completely covered in a unique fir tree, prior to being radically stripped, firstly to supply the shipyards of ancient Greece and Venice, then secondly by numerous raging fires.

 

 

Kefalonia still invites today's visitor to explore with both many expected and unexpected temptations. Its rocky geological structure accompanied by impressive steep limestone cliffs which plunge precariously into the sea, hidden valleys and plateaus, the endless gulfs and boundless shoreline that varies from rich red sand to white shingle and multicoloured pebbles, all encircled by the most amazing aquamarine and turquoise sea. Yet Kefalonia has been fought over ever since the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures first established settlements during the Bronze age. It formed part of, or perhaps even was, the legendary kingdom of Odysseus. It still has remains of four ancient citadels, including many interesting archaeological sites which have helped in piecing together the history of these once powerful city states that grew rich from trade until the Romans invaded in the second century bc. Unfortunately a lot of archeological work has been restricted by relentless seismic activity, which has reduced most of the island's remaining relics to little more than heaps of rubble.

The islanders have long been known for their effrontery and aptitude, as well as their idiosyncratic nature together with being renowned all over the world for their hospitality. Kefalonians past and present have travelled and the island has generated many great warriors, sea captains, poets, musicians and politicians. Even in more modern momentous times fate has struck additional powerful blows at the island and its inhabitants, with unnecessary wars not only against enemies but correspondingly against fellow countrymen. The resilience of the people shone through after the Second World War, which was a traumatic time. Firstly Kefalonia was invaded by Mussolini's Italian forces, then unfavourably subjected to even more hardship by the tyrannical German troops, only to be hit hard again nine years later with a most bitter blow to the land itself.

August 1953 brought a series of earthquakes which scarred the land and its people, destroying an entire culture in a matter of seconds. However, life in Kefalonia is now back to normal, 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. Alas, traces of Italian and Georgian style buildings which once graced the towns now only exist in old photographs. Little remains of Kefalonia's bygone architectural grandeur today, after the catastrophe of the 1953earthquakes which were responsible for the loss of

many valuable treasures, the beautiful theatre of 'Kefalos' in Argostoli, the 'Marketo' in Lixouri, mansions and other buildings. The churches and monasteries with their excellent wall paintings, icons and altar screens of unique beauty, value and interest were leveled to the ground, the remains were bulldozed and renovation was impossible.

 

Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian islands which are sometime referred to as the Seven Islands or 'Eptanissa', and is the sixth largest island in Greece. It is very mountainous its tallest peak is Mount Ainos, the highest in the Ionian, whose pinnacle is Megas Soros 1,628m. high. The island's vegetation is abundant due to its moderate climate and heavy rainfall in the winter months. Kefalonia has no flowing rivers or streams, but has opulent supplies of fresh spring water and underground reservoirs.

The island is covered in geological phenomena, the most spectacular being the beautiful cave of Melissani Lake, and nearby Drogarati cave which is adorned with stalactites and stalagmites and the strangest spectacle is the Katavothres fissures just outside of the capital Argostoli. The second largest town is Lixouri situated on the Paliki peninsula and can be reached via a short ferry ride or the spectacular drive around the gulf giving you splendid views of the headland. The island's southern coast provides a home ground to the famous Caretta-Caretta loggerhead turtle and in the caves that abound on the northern coastline reside the Monachus-Monachus Mediterranean monk seal, whilst the eastern slopes of Mount Ainos are home to the last remaining wild horses of Kefalonia.

 

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The Way To Go

Around the Island

Alternative Pastimes

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