|The Ballards - Greece Kefalonia|
In May 1993 the home of the mythical Captain Corelli and his mandolin was still two years away from the publicity resulting from the publication of this novel, and still just another pretty little Greek island with its normal dark history of German/Italian invasion, resistance/collaboration, post-war Communist mountain partisans and corrupt local island politics.
We chose to stay outside Argostoli, the main town, as it would be quieter. We were dropped off in Agia Efimia and stayed in a half-built self-catering apartment overlooking the main road in to the village, just elevated enough to see across the village to the harbour. The view of the early-morning sun over the harbour was stunning, and in the evenings we would wend our Ouzo-sodden way among the harbour buildings.
We spent a lot of time just walking around the bays and tracks near the village, enjoying the fresh air, the scenery and the blue waters.
We rented a little self-drive boat and had several forays up and down the coast to remote bays and other villages. We were always entirely alone on the water once we had gone a couple of miles from the harbour.
Agia Efimia is home to several English and Greek island-hopping sailboat flotilla companies which for some reason whilst we were there never seemed to be manned and never went out. I was forced to assume the companies were either seriously underbooked or had over-catered for service spares.......
The play of light over the buildings and landscape was ever-changing, and the locals were very friendly.
On the other side of the island, just a few minutes by Jeep, is Myrtos Beach which is reached by a precipitous and windy road. The actual beach is very soft as we discovered when we got our 4x4 stuck because we hadn't put the hub locks on, and had to be pulled out by locals in their tractor who were highly amused.....
We never tired of photographing the island in it's daily moods and wandering along clifftops.
The economic mainstay of the island, despite what the locals would have you believe, is tourism, both on and off the water. The boats, the fishermen, the sheep and the goats make poor living compared to the power of the Deutschmark and the pound, so the whole economy revolves around making tourists as welcome as possible. And it works, everyone was very friendly and we rarely had to lift a finger or walk far to find a restaurant.
in 1952 an earthquake destroyed many of the local buildings and virtually leveled the capital, Argostoli. Fortunately, unlike in London in the Post-War era, Modernist architects were shot on sight and the town was rebuilt in traditional style, which is a relief. But it still wasn't worth photographing.....
More interesting were the views from Mount Ainos, from where the views resembled those from an aircraft. It was a litle hazy but what can you expect?
Puttering down the coast to Sami was relaxing and smooth; the sea tranquil and warm. Dinner awaited us in a particularly good Agia Efimia restaurant where we managed to eat our way through the entire menu in a week. Rarely do we ever go back to a restaurant, so this was praise.
I'm sure Kefalonia has been developed to death since then, driven by Captain Corelli, but the book (not the film, which was appalling) captures the essence of the sun-drenched little villages, the friendly smiles and the undertone of friendly skulduggery that pervades. I'd go back.