Kefalonia, Kefallonia, Cephalonia, Kefallinia

Kefalonia is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea which is part of the Mediterranean. There are about a gazillion ways to spell Kefalonia (Kefallonia, Cephalonia, Cephallonia, Kefallinia just to mention a few) and depending on the sources you read, all of them are right/wrong. With that in mind, Kefalonia is a wonderfully aesthetic island that towers from the water with a certain dominance that immediately commands your attention. Approaching from the east it's huge, wild, undeveloped cliffs plunge into the sea like a scene from Jurassic Park. From the air the vast, vibrant greenery hardly seems to reflect the island's intense dry season due to a dense canopy of trees layering the ground as far as the eye can see. To say that it is pretty would be a huge understatement. Being the largest island in the vicinity, Kefalonia holds prime position in an Ionian chain straddled by Lefkas to the north, Zakynthos to the south and tiny Ithaka alongside it, which from above looks like a baby whale swimming alongside it's mother.

  • On approaching
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Landing at any airport is always a bit scary. Even with clear skies and no turbulence I'm always left wagering with the forces that be and saying to them 'if you get this plane down safely I'll be a good boy forever and ever' whilst gripping onto the arm rest so tightly that I'm in danger of cutting off my circulation. Suffice to say, I'm not keen on flying. However, this flight was different. Not only was the weather perfect for flying but the view of Kefalonia appearing out of the haze surrounded by the reflective, bright blue color of the Mediterranean Sea was enough to distract even the most nervous of flyers from hoping the pilot knows where the runway is.

  • On airports

Despite the size and ever increasing popularity of the island, Kefalonia's airport is the size of a small box with 'airport' written on it. If you have ever seen the Guinness world record of 'most people in a Mini Cooper' attempt then you can easily conjure up an image of the baggage return room at Kefalonia airport. Being English in a room full of English people only makes matters worse. Normal, well rounded people turn into luggage monsters desperately close to seeking the sun yet held at the final hurdle by a hot, crowded room whose staff work on Greek time (which is approximately 15 times slower than British time). If nothing else, it's entertaining to watch.

  • On driving

Hiring a car is easy on Kefalonia and you can expect to pay around €50 a day for a car that is just about big enough to swing around a cat. Deals are offered if you require one for multiple days. As opposed to England but much in line with the rest of the world, Greeks drive on the right, although based on experience you could say they drive in the middle. Taxis overtake on blind corners and scooters carrying anywhere between 1-4 people pretty much just have their own set of rules! Hairpin bends (usually on the side of mountain cliffs with sheer drops) are commonplace and you can guarantee you'll meet a large bus in the most awkward of spots whose driver doesn't slow down but simply speeds up, forcing you to squeeze as close as you can to the edge in the hope of staying alive. As with most of the islands, don't expect clear signage and be prepared to get lost in the backstreets of small towns. With all that in mind it's well worth hiring a car! The views are incredible.

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  • On food and drink

Authentic cuisine, home cooking and family run restaurants are standard in lots of Mediterranean countries and it's no different on Kefalonia. You'll find no McDonald's here. No Burger King, no Subway, no KFC, no other huge chain that has managed to take over most of the world. Here you can sit at a modest restaurant by the water, order a full meal and still pay less than the average visit to a greasy counter. As a rule of thumb, main courses cost around €8, starters around €4, beer around €3 and a glass of wine for €1! All in all, you can get a comfortably fat belly for no more than €25. Should you go to the supermarket to buy food, it's even cheaper.

  • On history

Kefalonia has a rich and tumultuous history of being invaded and ruled by different countries over the last 2000 years and it only became part of Greece in 1864. Locals argue that the island was the home of Odysseus which makes it famous for anyone who is a fan of Homer (although not Homer Simpson) and it was the setting for the book/film named Captain Corelli's Mandolin which is based on the Italian/German rule during the Second World War.

  • On everything else

Whether you want to lie on the beach all day, visit a coastal fishing village or take a hike to an ancient Acropolis, Kefalonia has a lot to offer. The island has an array of beaches with Myrtos beach being one of the most stunning. Aqua blue water that rushes waves onto bright, white pebbles backed by huge cliffs is the stuff of film sets. Lots of the island's building were destroyed in a severe 1953 earthquake with only the most northern town of Fiskado surviving. Today it is one of the most traditional, natural harbors on Kefalonia and a great place to visit for a bit of food next to the sea. Unlike so many of the other larger Greek islands, Kefalonia caters for tourists and yet doesn't lose it's character which is one reason why people keep going back again and again.

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