KEFALONIA/ CEPHALONIA

IONIAN ISLANDS GREECE

Pronounced: 'Kef-a-lon-nia'/ Tel.code:2671/4

How to get to Kefalonia

By Air

There is at least one flight per day from Athens

By Ferry

Sami is where ferries arrive/depart from/to Italy and depart for Patras at least once a day. During high season 2 or 3 ferries leave Sami for Venice and Bari via Corfu. Daily ferries depart for Ithaki and Zakynthos. See map below. There are 6 ports on Kefallonia

KEFALLONIA: GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS

Largest of the Ionian Islands, Cephallonia has a land mass of 728 sq.km and 254 km of coastline. Its population is over 32,000. It is 56 nautical miles from Patras. Its Capital is Argostoli, and its main port, Sami. It is a beautiful, rugged and mountainous island with many diverse geological elements; subterranean caves, sandy beaches, unique fir forests. It also plays host to loggerhead turtles and the Mediterranean Monk Seal, one of the 6 rarest animals in the world and to a unique breed of horses. Additionally the island has many species of wild flowers and spice and produces wonderful wines. This is a large island and its easy to escape the tourists but it fills up in summer! Its biggest drawbacks are long distances between places of merit over tortuous mountain roads and the resultant cement architecture from the devastation of the 1953 earthquake. Lets be charitable after reading their history and enjoy the natural beauty of the island and friendliness of the islanders. Assos is recommended.

History of Kefalonia

Some of the oldest tool and artifact discoveries in all of Greece have been discovered on Kefallonia. In Fiskardo at the northern most tip of the island in particular, items over 50,000 years old have been retrieved. Somewhat later inhabitants seem related to the elusive Pelasgians who also occupied parts of Sicily, Epirus and other Aegean islands long before recorded history. Many of the skulls found on Kefallonia show death by violent means.

Mycenaean culture was introduced by the Achaeans via the Peloponnese in the 14th C BC. The main city seems to have been Krani near Argostoli. A major Mycenaean tomb has been discovered near Poros just across from Ithika and archeologists are hoping to discover the Palace or Tomb of Odysseus there. Homer never refers to Kefallonia per say and many think that the island was part of the Kingdom of Odysseus and therefore known as part of Ithika.

Herodotus and Thucydides make first written reference to Kefallonia and its 4 independent city-states of Sami, Pali, Krani and Pronnoi all of which opposed Athens and were allied with Corinth.

The Byzantine period was good for Kefallonia despite many piratical incursions from Sicily and as far away as Spain. The Normans under Duke Robert Guiscard unsuccessfully attempted to rest control of Kefallonia from the Byzantines but were rebuffed. The Duke died of fever in Fiskardo which is actually named after him but Grecianized.

The next 760 years found Kefallonia a victim of the machinations of the Normans, The Vatican and the Venetians who were the most successful. Their Pirate-Robber-Count Matteo Orsini founded a particularly heinous dynasty at the end of the 13th C.

In 1483 the expanding Turkish Empire captured Kefallonia only to loose it again in 1504 to the Venetians and their Spanish allies under Gran Capitan Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba who captured the the fort of Aghios Georgos and slaughtered the Turkish garrison. After repairing the fortress the nearby town became the Venetian capital but was destroyed and later abandoned after the earthquake of 1636. Argostoli became the capital in 1759.

The nascent Greek War for Independence brought Lord Byron to Kefallonia in 1823 as an agent for the London based Greek Committee. He subsequently went to Messolonghi to lead troops against the Turk but was smitten by fever and died. Greeks love Lord Byron and name many of their children 'Vyron'. Even a whole neighborhood in Athens (Vyronas) is named after after him.

The British occupied Kefallonia and the Ionian islands for many years after the Turkish withdrawal and when in 1849 the Kefallonians revolted and demanded union with Greece, hanged 21 nationalist leaders.

In 1943, during WW II, upon Italy's surrendered to the Allies, the occupying Italian Acqui Division joined the Kefallonian Greeks in fighting the Nazis and for 8 days fought off the invasion until all were subsequently massacred in mass executions ordered by The Furher himself. Greeks call them the Martyrs of Keffalonia. Their bodies were burned to hide the evidence but estimates are that between 5 000 and 10,000 Italian soldiers were killed.

AND IF THAT WAS 'NT ENOUGH .....

For 5 days in August 1953 Kefallonia was rocked by a series of earthquakes. 113 tremors turned almost all of Kefallonias' 350 villages and towns into rubble with the force of 60 Atomic bombs emanating from the very 1st quake. Europe rallied, as did the many Kefallonians who lived abroad and money came pouring in to help the survivors and to rebuild. Which with winter approaching they...

ARGOSTOLI THE CAPITAL OF KEFALLONIA & THE LASSI PENINSULA

Argostoli sits on a promatory jutting into its long and narrow bay and possesses deep waters making it an ideal port town. Many boats are dry docked here in the winter months. Originally a smugglers hideaway, it grew by virtue of the protection from pirates afforded it by the Venetians; into a large warehousing port for the export of raisins. Post-quake Argostoli received lots of financial help from Kefallonians living abroad and was rebuilt as well as possible under the circumstances. It has a plethora of public buildings grouped around its central square: Platia Vallianou and two of its famous bell towers have been rebuilt.

Kefalonia Museums

The Archeological Museum on George Vergoti St. which runs parallel to the harbor, (8:30-3, closed Mon, fee.Tel:28300) contains many finds from around Kefallonia. Ivory and gold statues, votive offerings to Pan from the Cave of Melissani, coins from the ancient city-states and loads more.

The Historical and Folklore Museum on 12 Ilia Zervou St. (9-2, closed Sun, fee) is particularly interesting in light of the hints contained therein as to pre-quake Kefallonia. Many pictures, maps, furniture, icons, memorabilia as well as the Venetian's island records are on display.