I’ve just returned from the Greek Island of Kefalonia – my second visit in three years. Normally I blog my travels but this was a family affair so I didn’t have enough time to myself, or indeed any guarantee of WiFi connectivity. Instead, with the tan fading and a glass of Ouzo over ice at my side here is my attempt to capture the essence of the island in visual form.
Kefalonia sits in the northern Ionian island chain west of Mainland Greece within easy sailing distance of the heel of Italy. The island was the setting for the book/film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Like all Greek islands there are fine views, plenty of sunshine and a great quality of light at either end of the day.
There’s a lot more to Kefalonia however. There is a delightfully cool cave at Drogerati, a stunning deep blue pool in the open roofed Mellisani cave and the Robola vinyards and winery where disconcertingly a Yorkshireman runs the wine tasting sessions.
The commanding castles at Assos and Agios Giorgious allude to a long and turbulent history.
1953 and all that
The defining post-war moment came in 1953 when an earthquake destroyed many buildings on the island. The legacy of this day remains visible in many locations and old people will still clearly remember the moment when the world changed for them
Tourism remains important to the island but there’s plenty more going on. Whenever I travel anywhere it is the local way of life that appeals most, ahead of any concessions to tourism. It was refreshing to see people living life in the slow lane, taking the time to stop and talk to neighbours in the shade. You want fruit you go to the fruit stall. You want fish you go to the fisherman.
I saw many churches and plenty of roadside shrines to various saints, kept fresh and lit at night time by souls unknown.
Plants and Creatures
In contrast to some of the more desertified islands further south Kefalonia is relatively green and fertile. Many people grow their own fruit (oranges, lemons, figs, etc) and vegetables. On my previous visit I drove through mountain villages stuck behind a lorry that at first glance appeared to be selling produce to people by the side of the road. It soon dawned on me that people were flagging down the lorry to sell their own excess produce for resale elsewhere.
One of the highlights on this visit was the sight of a friendly turtle that was a regular visitor to the quayside in Argostoli. I would imagine the fellow is considerably older than me.
Greece is an island nation and I saw plenty of boats arriving from places like Corfu, Athens, Patras and Brindisi bearing Greek and Italian passengers and cars. The island capital of Argostoli is also a stopping off point for the huge cruise ships that hop from port to port around the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile island residents seem to prefer ancient and often battered old vehicles to the KTEL bus service that seems to provide a reasonable service, so long as you aren’t too reliant on timeliness.
Food and drink
I love Greek food and there are no shortage of tavernas selling Mousaka, Dolmades, Kleftico, Stifado, Humous, Pastichio, etc, etc. The local speciality is the lovely Kefalonian Meat Pie.
I tried the local wine (better than my home brew, but that’s not saying much) and survived largely on iced coffee and Baklava, while my nephews seemed to consume an inordinate amount of ice cream.
Lost in translation
Finally, here are a few adverts and menus that made me chuckle. You may need to click on the images to view the text in a readable size…
I feel I know Kefalonia quite well now and with so many other places I want to visit I can’t imagine myself returning for any period of time. Perhaps one day I will fly to Athens and board a ferry to Argostoli, hopping my way from island to island. I may even have digested this weeks baklava intake by then, but I doubt it.