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Kefalonia

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Kefalonia
Panoramic view of Assos
Panoramic view of Assos
Geography
Coordinates: 38°15′N 20°30′E / 38.25, 20.5
Island Chain: Ionian Islands
Area:[4] 906.5 km² (350 sq.mi.)
Highest Mountain: Megas Soros (1,627 m (5,338 ft))
Government
Greece
Periphery: Ionian Islands
Prefecture: Kefalonia and Ithaka
Capital: Argostoli
Statistics
Population: 36,404 (as of 2001)
Density: 40 /km² (104 /sq.mi.)
Postal Code: 280 xx
Area Code: 267x0
License Code: KE
Website
www.kefalonia.gr

The island of Kefalonia, also known as Cephallenia, Cephallonia, Kefallinia, or Kefallonia (Ancient Greek: Κεφαλληνία; Modern Greek: Κεφαλλονια or Κεφαλληνια; Italian: Cefalonia), is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece, with an area of 350 sq. miles. It is also the larger of the two islands forming the Kefalonia and Ithaka Prefecture, and contains eight of the prefecture's nine municipalities or communities. (Ithaca is on a separate island.)

The island is named after the mythological figure Cephalus (Ciphalis), although some hold its name literally means "island with a head", referring to the island's shape; the name "Ciphalis" is derived from the Greek word for "head".

Contents

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Geography

Argostoli and Lixouri from the mountains
Argostoli and Lixouri from the mountains

The capital of the Kefalonia prefecture is Argostoli. The island's population is nearly 45,000; it previously was home to the fastest growing population in Greece, with a growth rate of 35% to 40% during the 1990s. It was officially 36,404 at the census of 2001. The size of the island is ca. 800 km² (300 mi²), and the present population density is 55 people per km² (140/mi²), with Argostoli home to one-third of the island's habitants. Lixouri is the second major settlement, and the two towns together account for almost two-thirds of the prefecture's population.

Kefalonia is located in the heart of an earthquake zone, and dozens of minor or unrecorded tremors occur each year. In 1953, a massive earthquake almost destroyed settlement on the island, leaving only Fiscardo in the north untouched.

Most of the Kefalonia population have surnames ending in "-atos". Almost every community in Kefalonia has a name ending in "-ata", such as Lourdata, Favata, Delaportata, etc.

In the ancient period, before it was named Kefalonia, the island was known to have a population of only 100 to 300; at the ancient founding of Kefalonia, the population trebled to around 500 - 1,000 people. The population grew steadily, until it reached 10,000 in the mid-20th century, with the total topping 20,000 by the 1970s.

Mountains

Myrtos Bay
Myrtos Bay
Mt. Ainos from sea level
Mt. Ainos from sea level

Kefalonia's tallest mountain is Mount Ainos, with an elevation of 1628m (almost the same elevation as Denver, Colorado in North America); to the west-northwest are the Paliki mountains, where Lixouri is sited, with other mountains taking in Gerania and Agia Dynati.

Forestry

Cypress trees at the roadside
Cypress trees at the roadside
Much of Kefalonia is inaccessible due to the mountains
Much of Kefalonia is inaccessible due to the mountains

Forestry is rare on the island; however its timber output is one of the highest in the Ionian islands, although lower than that of Elia in the Peloponnese. Forest fires were common during the 1990s and the early 2000s. These fires still pose as a major threat to the population of Kefalonia.

Agriculture

The primary agricultural occupations of Kefalonia are animal breeding and olive growing, with the remainder largely composed of grain and vegetables. Most vegetable production takes place on the plains, which cover less than 15% of the island; the majority of the island is rugged and mountainous, suitable only for goats. Less than a quarter of the island's land is arable.

The majority of Kefalonians lived in rural areas before the 1970s, while today the urban population accounts for two-thirds of the prefecture, and the other third remain in rural towns and villages close to farmland.

Harbours and ports

There are five harbours and ports in the prefecture: four main harbours on the island, Same or Sami, and a major port with links to Patras and Ithaca. Poros, in the south, has ferry routes to Kyllini; Argostoli, in the west, is the largest port, for local boats and ferries to Zante and regularly to Lixouri; Vasiliki, in the north, has links to Lefkas and Ithaca. There is room for about 100 small boats in Argostoli, where the port stretches 1 kilometre around the bay, while Lixouri is situated 4 km across the bay from Argostoli, on the Lixouri peninsula. There is a road connection to the rest of the island, but driving from Lixouri to Argostoli involves a 30 km detour.

Bays

A secluded bay in Pesádha
A secluded bay in Pesádha
Katelios Bay
Katelios Bay

Bays:

Capes

Urban Landscape

Towns

Tourists and locals dining in the square of Argostoli
Tourists and locals dining in the square of Argostoli

Here are the island's main urban settlements in order of size (2001 census):

Argostoli, the largest town on the island, is very popular with locals and tourists, with the main strip coming alive as night falls. A number of local items can be found here, and lively coffee bars and cafes are often open into the early hours of the morning.

Monasteries

Across the broader island two large monasteries are to be found: the first is that of Haghia Panagia, in Markopoulo to the southeast, and the other lies on the road between Argostoli and Michata, on a small plain surrounded by mountains. This second has an avenue of about 200 trees lined from NW to SE with a circle in the middle, and is the monastery of Agios Gerasimos, patron saint of the island.

Archaeology

In April, 2007, archaeologists discovered "a large Roman-era tomb containing gold jewelry, pottery and bronze offerings." [1] The tomb found is a house-shaped structure with a stone door that still "works perfectly -- turning on stone pivots." [2], and also found was a theater with rows of seats. The structures date to Roman times -- between the second century B.C. and the fourth century A.D.

History

Legend

The island received its name from the mythical hero Cephalus, who arrived at the island as a refugee from Athens, displacing the island's initial inhabitants, who were known as Taphians (Teloboes or Taphioi).

Odysseus' home?

Homer offers 26 descriptions of specific places on Odysseus' home island, but these do not match the modern island of Ithaca. For instance, the modern Ithaca faces east, and is mountainous -- it does not "lie low". Thus it has been suggested that Homer's Ithaca is not the same place as the modern island of Ithaca.

It has been suggested that Kefalonia and Ithaca once may have been joined, because Homer describes Ithaca as being both much larger than it now is, and on the final edge of Greece "facing the western sunset". Geographical data also suggests that the islands once may have been connected.

Robert Bittlestone, in his book Odysseus Unbound, has suggested that Paliki, now a peninsula of Kefalonia, was a separate island during the late Bronze Age, and it may be this that Homer was referring to when he described Ithaca. Bittlestone also suggests that migrants from Paliki may have carried the Odyssey tale with them as they migrated during the Greek Dark Ages, first to the mainland and finally to the eastern Aegean, where tradition places Homer's birthplace: this would account for the epic's detailed knowledge of Paliki. A project starting in the Summer of 2007, and lasting three years, will examine the geological makeup of Paliki. Using high tech equipment normally used for oil exploration, a Dutch based company sponsored by the Greek Geological Society, will attempt to determine if Paliki was once a separate island, possibly Ithaca.[3] In the Southwest of the island, in the area of Leivatho, an ongoing archaeological field survey by the Irish Institute at Athens has discovered dozens of sites, with dates ranging from the Palaeolithic to the Venetian period.

Venetian rule

During the middle ages there existed the County palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos under the Kingdom of Naples and later the Venetian Republic.

In the 16th to 18th centuries, it was one of the largest exporters of currants in the world, providing with Zakynthos and owned a large shipping fleet, even commissioning ships from the Danzig shipyard. The towns and villages mostly were built high on hilltops, to prevent attacks from raiding parties of pirates that sailed the Ionian Sea during the 1820s.

Union with Greece

In 1864, Kefalonia, together with all the other Ionian Islands, became a full member of the Greek state.

World War II

Further information: Axis occupation of Greece during World War II

In World War II, the island was occupied by Axis powers. Until late 1943, the occupying force was predominantly Italian -- the Acqui division plus Navy personnel totalled 12,000 men -- but about 2,000 troops from Nazi Germany also were present. The island was largely spared the fighting, until the armistice with Italy concluded by the Allies in September 1943. Confusion followed on the island, as the Italians were hoping to return home, but German forces did not want the Italians' munitions to be used eventually against them; Italian forces were hesitant to turn over weapons for the same reason. As German reinforcements headed to the island the Italians dug in and, eventually, after a referendum among the soldiers as to surrender or battle, they fought against the new German invasion. The fighting came to a head at the siege of Argostoli, where the Italians held out. Ultimately the German forces prevailed, taking full control of the island, and six thousand of the nine thousand surviving Italian soldiers were executed as a reprisal by German forces.[citation needed] While the war ended in central Europe in 1945, Kefalonia remained in a state of conflict due to the Greek Civil War. Peace returned to Greece and the island in 1949.

The Great Earthquake of 1953

Kefalonia is just to the east of a major tectonic fault, where the European plate meets the Aegean plate at a slip boundary. This is similar to the more famous San Andreas Fault. There are regular earthquakes along this fault.

A series of four earthquakes hit the island in August 1953, and caused major destruction, with virtually every house on the island destroyed. The third and most destructive of the, quakes took place on August 12, 1953 at 09:24 UTC (11:24 local time), with a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale. Its epicentre was directly below the southern tip of the Kefalonia, and caused the entire island to be raised 60cm higher, where it remains, with evidence in water marks on rocks around the coastline.

This 1953 disaster caused huge destruction, with only regions in the north escaping the heaviest tremors and houses there remaining intact. Damage was estimated to run into tens of millions of dollars, equivalent to billions of drachmas, but the real damage to the economy occurred when residents left the island. An estimated 100,000 of the population of 125,000 left the island soon after, seeking a new life elsewhere.

Recent History

The forest fire of the 1990s caused damage to the island's forests and bushes, especially a small scar north of Troianata, and a large area of damage extending from Kateleios north to west of Tzanata, ruining about 30 square kilometres of forest and bushes and resulting in the loss of some properties. The forest fire scar was seen for some years.

In mid-November 2003, an earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale caused minor damage to business, residential property, and other buildings within the Argostoli periphery. Damages were in the $1,000,000 range (300,000,000 drachmas).

On the morning of Tuesday September 20, 2005, an early-morning earthquake shook the south-western part of the island, especially near Lixouri and its villages. The earthquake measured 4.9 on the Richter scale, and its epicentre was located off the island at sea. Service vehicles took care of the area, and no damage was reported.

Between January 24 and 26 of 2006, a major snowstorm blanketed the entire island causing extensive blackouts.

The island was recently yet again struck by another forest fire in the south of the island, beginning on Wednesday July 18, 2007 during an unusual heatwave, and spreading slowly. Firefighters along with helicopters and planes battled the blaze for some days and the spectacle frightened residents on that area of the island. The fire later disintegrated, having consumed thousands of hectares of forests and bushes. It transformed a natural beauty into an undemanding scenery.

Culture

Films

Kefalonia's profile was greatly raised in the late 1990s thanks to the novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin, by English author Louis de Bernières. The novel is believed to be based on events that occurred in the picturesque village of Farsa, just outside of Argostoli. The love story comprising the theme of the book is set after the Acqui Division massacre,[1] during the Second World War, and the film adaptation was released in 2001.

During filming there was lively debate between the production team, local authorities as well as groups of citizens, as to the complex historical details of the island's antifascist resistance. As a result political references were omitted from the film, and the romantic core of the book was preserved, without entering complex debates around the island's history.

Tourism

Argostoli's cosmopolitain nightlife
Argostoli's cosmopolitain nightlife

A large number of tourists visit Kefalonia during the peak season but, as one of the largest islands in Greece, it is well-equipped to handle visitors. Most tourists stay in or around Lassi, a serene resort a few kilometres from Argostoli, and their numbers have increased since the best-seller, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, was made a film (2001) shot on the island itself.

Recreation

The island is covered by dense vegetation and offers a great range of natural beauty, including beaches -- many of them inaccessible from land -- and spectacular caves. Mirtos, the most famous of these beaches, is a major tourist attraction, and has been ranked fifth worldwide for its beauty. Fishing is very common throughout the waters within and around the island, and the harbours of Argostoli and Lixouri are the main fishing centres. Overfishing can be a problem in Kefalonia, and in the Ionian area generally.

Notable Persons

  • Juan de Fuca (Ioannis Phokas) (1536-1602), captain and explorer
  • Constantine Phaulkon (1647-1688) adventurer, first counsellor to King Narai of Ayutthaya
  • Andreas Laskaratos (18111901), poet
  • Nikolaos Xydias Typaldos (1826-1909) painter
  • Gerasimos Markoras (1826-1911), poet
  • Mikelis Avlichos (1844-1917), poet
  • Marinos Antypas (1872-1907), lawyer and journalist, one of the country's first socialists
  • Spyridon Marinatos (1901-1974) archaeologist
  • Antiochos Evangelatos (1903-1981) composer and conductor
  • Nikolaos Platon (1909-1992), archaeologist
  • Nikos Kavadias (1910-1975) poet and author
  • Antonis Tritsis (1937-1992), politician, mayor of Athens
  • Andreas Gerasimos Michalitsianos (1947-1997), Greek-American astronomer and a NASA astrophysicist
  • Athanassios Fokas (1952), mathematician
  • Keti Garbi (1963), singer
  • Katerina Manabi (1986), fashion model
  • John Varvatos, fashion designer
  • Panagis Benetatos, Director, Professional Training And Bilateral Assistance Dept. Economic Chamber of Macedonia, Counsel to the Minister of Economy
  • Evangelos Klonis, a numerously decorated World War II veteran
  • Ilias Miniatis: priest-teacher, who helped the Greeks, during the Turk Occupation.
  • Antonis Ambatielos: an important member of KKE and the greatest Greek syndicalist of 20th century.
  • Marinos Harbouris: engineer, who transported a giant rock from Finland to Saint Petersburg for the construction of the statue of Peter the Great. His action was considered as the greatest mechanic achievement of these ages. https://www.amazon.com/dp/074755708X/
  • Epameinondas Liokis, artist
  • Nikolaos Liokis, artist
  • Gerasimos D. Danilatos: Physicist and inventor of ESEM
  • George Molfetas: Greek satiric poet.
  • Panait Istrati (Panagis Valsamis): Romanian poet.
  • Dionysis Zakythinos: the greatest Greek byzantinologist.
  • Panagiotis Kavadias: the "father" of the Greek archaeology, who found the theatre of Epidaurus.solitary
  • Spiros Vikatos: a famous Greek painter.
  • Gerasimos Steris: an international known Greek painter.
  • Gerasimos Sklavos: the greatet Greek sculptor,(with Giannoulis Halepas), of the 20th century.
  • Annet Artani - (Annette Stamatelatos) - Greek-American singer/songwriter
  • Maria Georgo: Greek-American Life Coach and Management Consultant
  • Dimitrios Grigoratos: Greek Master Carpenter
  • NAIKOS painter

Sports

Football

See also: Kefalonia-Ithaca Football Clubs Association

Baseball

Transportation

Roads

Stone roads and sidewalks once were common in Argostoli and Lixouri. Gravel roads replaced stone roads in the late 20th century, with the first paved road created in the 1960s on two one-way main streets in Argostoli. Other roads linking to Sami, to Poros, and to Lixouri, were built in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s the road network east of Argostoli to Michata and the monastery was opened. There now is a paved road with gravel, opened in 2002, east of Argostoli. There are approximately 2.5 km of one-way streets on the island. The island's main street is J. Metaxas Street.

Other routes include:

Airport

Kefalonia has one airport, Kefalonia Island International Airport, with a runway around 2.4 km. in length, located about 10 km south of Argostoli. Almost every scheduled flight is an Olympic route, flying mainly to and from Athens, although there is an Ionian Island Hopper service 3 times a week calling at Kefalonia, Zante and Lefkas. In summer the airport handles a number of charter flights from all over Europe.

Communications

Radio

  • Radiokimata - Tzanata

Television

Municipalities and communities

Municipality YPES code Seat (if different)
Argostoli 2701
Eleios-Pronnoi 2702 Pastra
Erisos 2703 Vasilikiades
Leivathos 2705 Kerameies
Paliki 2707 Lixouri
Pylaros 2708 Agia Effimia
Sami 2709
Community YPES code Seat (if different)
Omala 2706 Valsamata

See also: List of settlements in the Kefalonia and Ithaka prefecture

References

  1. ^ https://edition.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/04/04/greece.ancient.ap/index.html
  2. ^ https://edition.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/04/04/greece.ancient.ap/index.html
  3. ^ Gatopoulos, Derek. Engineers to Help Find Homer's Ithaca. USA Today, Associated Press. Retrieved on 2007-03-28.
  4. ^ Basic Characteristics. Ministry of the Interior. www.ypes.gr. Retrieved on 2007-08-07.