One of the most picturesque places in world, Kefalonia is a tiny island in the Greek Ionian Seas. Completely destroyed by a devastating earthquake in the early 50s, the island has rebuilt itself, literally from the ruins (the stones used in most of the houses are as ancient as the island itself). And somehow, despite the vestiges of a modern living, has decided to shun almost all of it and adopt a lifestyle of the past. Whether it is in driving through the sleepy villages in the afternoon or spending an evening in the capital of Argostoli, Kefalonia reminds you of a time that we have left behind.
And then there are the beaches. Kefalonia is home to Myrtos, voted often as the best beach in the entire world and because of the hype, was one of the most crowded places on the island. But Kefalonia has thousands of beaches, both public and hidden and almost each and every one that I personally visited, had something new to offer. The water has not been retouched in any of the pictures.
But beyond the gorgeous picture postcards and a colourful, part-colonial history (the British were here long before 'A Place in the Sun') there is another Kefalonia. Sparse, rural and an economy as fragile as most of post-slump Europe. The people are some of the friendliest that I have ever come across. But conversations that start lively over coffee take a slightly different turn as we move on to other drinks. The future is uncertain. People are leaving. The youth is all gone. There's trouble brewing in Athens. The island is full of beautiful villas but they only inhabit tourists. But where are the tourists? I wonder. Apart from a bus load of Australians (there are a bunch of Aussies on the island with strong connections to Greece and particularly Kefalonia) I haven't seen too many. Not even on my numerous walks in the centre of Argostoli. Sure, you will hear a smattering of other languages, but there are no hoards of tourists in matching jackets with a guide holding a flag shouting in Japanese/Spanish/French every two mins. There are no tourist traps apart from a line of souvenir shops in what was perhaps the only high street of Argostoli. Only little places that seem to be open on a whim and not the intention of enterprise. Where Bakers take a siesta but you can pick up anything you like and pay in change at the honesty box. Where the owner of the restaurant, upon watching how ravenously you decimate the calamari, pats your shoulder and says, 'Slow. We can't keep up with you in the kitchen." By we, he means his two sons who are smiling at me through their chef's greens and half-lit cigarettes. Indeed they are on a break, right in the middle of an incredibly rushed day. By Kefalonia standards anyway.
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All images by Trilokjit Sengupta. 2017