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The Greek Island of Kefalonia

Home > Greek Islands > Romantic | Beaches | Walks
by Margaret Waters (subscribe)
A former teacher and charity worker from the North East of England, I love people and places and like to try out new experiences wherever possible. Capturing that 'perfect pic' is all part of the pleasure. Access issues are a particular interest.
Published September 11th 2014
Captain Corelli Country Keeps Calling You Back
cruiseship in the Gulf of Argostoli
Cruiseship in the Gulf of Argostoli, Kefalonia


Standing atop of the Lixouri-Argostoli ferry, breathing in the sweetness of fresh air while the whole expanse of the beautiful blue sky met the majestic mountains that surround the Bay of Argostoli on the Greek island of Kefalonia, it feels like you're on top of the world.

My husband Colin and I were making our third visit to Kefalonia in twelve years and this amazing vantage point can make you feel immensely powerful and totally insignificant, all at the same time.

Kefalonia (which can also be spelt Cephalonia) was made famous by the award-winning Louis de Bernieres novel 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' and its Hollywood screen adaptation starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz.


The story is based on true events from the Second World War when Kefalonia was occupied by Axis forces, predominantly Italian troops, from the early part of the war when a young Italian captain, Antonio Corelli, falls in love with Pelagia, a local girl, despite the feelings of animosity by the locals towards the invaders.

Set against a backdrop of war-time dynamics and eventual tragedy, the young lovers conduct their affair with dignity and respect for each others position in the grand scheme of things, over which they have no control.

As time goes on, there seemed to be an acceptance of the situation by the islanders and despite the strategic position of this Ionian jewel, both sides in the conflict looked prepared to sit out the war.

argostoli from our balcony
Argostoli Bay from our balcony
Argostoli Bay never fails to impress
Arostoli Bay Never Fails to Impress
 

A key feature of the movie is the stunning scenery on the island and I, like many others before me, was drawn to the island for this reason when we first visited Kefalonia in 2002.

Ionian Islands Map
World Atlas - Ionian Islands Map

Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands which lie west of the Greek mainland in their own section of the Mediterranean Sea. They are volcanic and contain some amazing geological features such the Drogaratti and Mellisini caves.

The wonderful thing about Kefalonia is that life goes on at a pace that the modern city dweller finds hard to comprehend. Although tourism is a major part of the island economy, next door to our hotel there was a farm - and you could hear the rooster crowing (at odd times of the day sometimes) and the sound of goat-bells as the farmer herded the goats for milking and returned them to the field over the course of the day.

Town dwellers like us are used to several buses an hour in the UK but on Kefalonia you are lucky if you find two a day.

We found the bus station in Lixouri with one bus waiting to go to Xi (pronounced 'zee') beach on the Lixouri peninsula, (about 6km from the town centre) in the mid-afternoon, but that was it for the day. Inside the bus station we acquired a timetable, which the lovely lady at the counter there translated for us from Greek. English is widely spoken on the island particularly in the holiday resorts so language wasn't a problem although Greek is, naturally, the first language of the local people.

Most buses leave from the island's capital Argostoli - but if, like us, you're staying in Lixouri, you have to take a ferry across the bay and then walk for about 20-30 minutes to reach the bus station, which is on the port road overlooking Argostoli Bay.

Being non-drivers we are used to rooting out information on how to get around places, and once you get into the rhythm of life on Kefalonia, you will find that the lack of buses simply lends to its charm.

Of course you can always hire a car or a moped but the latter can be quite risky on roads you don't know so bear that in mind.
Aghia Efimia Bay
Aghia Efimia Bay

Our favourite way of seeing the island is to take a boat trip. Our trip this time started in the little fishing village of Aghia Efimia, which is stunningly beautiful, with breath-taking views over to Ithaca, the legendary home of Ancient Greek hero Odysseus, as portrayed in Homer's epic tale of 'The Odyssey'.

Aghia or Ayia is the term for a female saint in the Greek language and the church dedicated to her is situated on the harbour road of the little town, which only seems to have one main road running through it.

This time our boat trip took us along the coast to Fiskado play-ground of the rich and famous, with names such as Robert di Nero, Michael Douglas and Tom Cruise casually bandied about.

Fiskado harbour
Fiskardo Harbour

We were aboard the Romantika II, which we booked locally at a travel agent in Lixouri at a cost of 35 Euros per person - this included transport to the pick-up point but meals were not included. Interestingly, the commentary on this particular trip was in Polish and Czech - however, the tour guides spoke good English and, as we'd done similar trips before, this simply added a new dimension to our visit.

Colin aboard the Romantika II
Colin aboard the Romantika II
M enjoys her boat trip
Margaret enjoying the boat trip
 


We travelled on to Assos, another spectacular coastal town around the headland. Assos was almost completely destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1953, when over 350 villages on the island were flattened and the surrounding islands of Corfu, Ithaca, Zakynthos and Lefkada also suffered heavily in the catastrophic event, in some cases 80% of buildings were lost. Economic disaster followed and huge numbers of islanders left Kefalonia to live in other parts of the world, many of them with the assistance of the then British Empire.

Assos Harbour
Assos Harbour is so pretty
M in Assos
Margaret soaks up the atmosphere in Assos
 

Nowadays, second and third generation families of the original evacuees have returned to the island from far-flung destinations such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Zimbabwe and South Africa and now live and work on their ancestral homeland.

It's easy to immerse yourself into the culture of this beautiful island and just absorb the laid-back lifestyle. A little piece of paradise in an azure blue sea and wonderful people with a deep sense of identity are the main pull factors that bring repeat visitors time after time.

We may not be film stars but you can't deny the magnificence of the deep blue seas interspersed by huge rocky mountainous terrain and little white boats bobbing on the waves as the sea meets the sky.
A Little Piece of Paradise - Ionian Sea between Kefalonia and Ithaca
A Little Piece of Paradise - Ionian Sea between Kefalonia and Ithaca

Such an idyllic vista just makes you want to stay forever.
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Why? Beautiful scenery, Greek Island holiday, friendly people, history, relaxation
When: May to October is mid-high season
Where: Kefalonia
Cost: Varies
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