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By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 3, 2003, 17:29
Kefallinia, also known as Kefalonia or Cefalonia (Ancient Greek: Κεφαλλήνια Modern Greek: Κεφαλλονιά), is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece.
Location: 20,5 E or 20' 30 E, and 38.2 and 38.3 or 38' 12 and 38'18 N.
The Island is named after Cephalus, but some think its name means 'an island with a head', because 'Cephalus' comes from the Greek word for 'head'.
The capital of the Cephallonia prefecture is Argostoli. The population has reached nearly 45,000. It used to be the fastest-growing part of Greece, with a growth rate of 35% to 40% in 10 years and reaching 30,000 in the 1990s. The size of the island is around 800 km˛ (300 sq miles), and the present population density is 55 people per km˛ (140 per sq mile). Argostoli is home to one-third of the island's habitants. Lixouri is the second major city. The two cities account for almost two-thirds of the prefecture's population.
In ancient times, before it was named Cephallonia, only around 100 to 300 people lived there. When Cephallonia was founded in ancient times, the population had trebled to around 500–1,000 people. The population steadily grew until the population reached 10,000 in the mid-20th century. The number topped 20,000 in the 1970s.
The island is covered by dense vegetation and includes plenty 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 ranked fifth worldwide for its scenic view.
Its tallest mountain is Mount Ainos or Ainos with an elevation of 1628m (almost the same elevation as Denver, Colorado in North America). To the west-northwest is the Paliki mountains where Lixouri is located.
There are five harbours and ports in the prefecture, four main harbours on the island, Sami or Same, 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, carrying local boats around, and ferries to Zante and occasionally to Lixouri. Vasiliki, in the north, has links to Lefkas and Ithaca. There is room for around 100 small boats in Argostoli, with the port stretching 1 kilometre around the estuary. Lixouri is situated 4km across the bay from Argostoli, on the Lixori peninsular. There is a road connection to the rest of the island; however, driving from Lixouri to Argostoli involves a 30 km detour.
There is one airport, Argostoli Airport, with a runway of around 1 km. The airport is about 10 km south of Argostoli. Almost every scheduled flight is an Olympic plane. The planes mainly fly to Athens; however, there is an Ionian Island Hopper service 3 times a week calling at Kefallinia, Zante and Lefkas. In summer the airport handles a lot of charter flights from all over Europe.
Kefallonia is located in the heart of an earthquake zone. Dozens of minor tremors occur each year. In 1953, a massive earthquake almost destroyed the island, with only Fiscardo in the north left untouched.
In summer many tourists visit Kefalonia, however as one of the largest islands in Greece, it is well equipped to handle them. Most tourists stay in or around Lassi, a serene resort a few kilometers from Argostoli.
Almost every community in Kephallonia has an ending with -ata like Lourdata, Favata, Delaportata, etc. Argostoli, Lixouri, and non-ata ending names are an exception.
Off the North East coast is Ithaca, a island well known worldwide thanks to the Odyssey, an epic poem written by Homer. Odysseus was said by Homer to be the leader of the "Kefallinians", which is often offered as an explanation for why modern habitants of the islands are keen on travelling to other countries. It has also been suggested that Kefalonia and Ithaca may have once been joined because Homer describes Ithaca as if it is much larger than it now is. Geographical data also suggests the islands may have once been connected, although research is still being done to prove this.
The island is home to two large monasteries. One is Aghia Panagia in Markopoulo to the southeast, and the other is on the road between Argostoli and Michata, on a small plain surrounded by mountains. This monastery has an avenue of about 200 trees lined from NW to SE with a circle in the middle.
A spectacular view of the Ionian Sea can be seen from west of Skála to north of Fiskárdo. Most of Eastern half of Paliki is an exception.
Forestry is very rare on the island, however production is one of the highest in Ionian, but fewer than Elia in the Peloponnese. Forest fires were common during the 1990s and the early 2000s, but they have been handled safely by the island's fire service.
Fishing is very common throughout the waters within and around the island. The harbors of Argostoli and Lixouri are the main fishing centres on the island. Overfishing can be a problem in Kefallinia, and the Ionian at large.
The primary agricultural resources are pasture and olives, with the remainder largely composed of corn and vegetables. Most of the vegetable production is on the island's 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 land is arable.
The majority of Kefallinians/Cephallenians lived in rural areas before the 1970s. Today, the urban population accounts for two-thirds of the prefecture while the other third remain in rural towns and villages close to farmland.
The first inhabitants of the island were Teloboes, or Taphioi as they were called by the Greeks when Cephalus founded the island and gave his name to the island, along with colonists from Attica.
The towns and villages were mostly built high on the hilltops to prevent attacks from raiding parties of pirates that sailed the Ionian Sea during the 1800s.
In 1861, Kefallinia and the southern half of the Ionian Islands become a full part of the Kingdom of Greece, which later became a republic.
In World War II, the island was occupied by Axis powers. Until late 1943, the force was predominantly Italian, but some troops from Nazi Germany were also present. The island was largely spared from the fighting until Italy surrendered and Benito Mussolini was removed from power in September of that year. Confusion followed on the island, as the Italians were hoping to return home, but the Germans did not want the Italians' munitions to eventually be used against them. The Italian forces were hesitant to turn over their weapons for similar reasons.
As German reinforcements were headed to the island, the Italians dug in and eventually fought against the new German invasion. Ultimately, the German forces prevailed in taking full control of the island. Most of the remaining Italian forces were rounded up and executed.
While the war ended in central Europe in 1945, Kefallinia remained in conflict due to the Greek Civil War. Peace returned to Greece and the island in 1949.
Almost every house was destroyed in the 1953 earthquake, with only regions in the north escaping heavy shaking. Damage was estimated in tens of millions of dollars, however the real damage to the economy occurred when residents left the island.
Kefalonia became famous in the late 1990s thanks to the novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin, written by English author Louis de Berničres. The love story that is the theme of the book takes place during the events of the Second World War, and is based on historical facts. A film adaptation was released in 2000.
The strong Lefkada earthquake of August 14, 2003 - 50 years to the week after the 1953 quake - also shook the entire island. However, little damage was reported on Kefalonia and Ithaca.
Three months after the Lefkada earthquake, another mid-November earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale caused minor damages to business, residential property, and other buildings within the Argostoli periphery. Damages were in the $1,000,000 range (300,000,000 drachmas).
Stone roads and sidewalks were once 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 is a now paved road, opened in 2002, with gravel, east of Argostoli. There are approximately 2.5 km of one-way streets on the island, the main street is J. Metaxas Street.
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