An earthquake heralds a new Government
At 6.49 this morning a truck seemed to crash into the upper floor of our house. Half awake, I knew instantly what it was. I rushed to the window and caught sight of others nearby peering out of their windows. It was an earthquake. 3.3 on the Richter scale, its epicentre about 30 kilometres away.
We were fortunate. Now earthquakes on Kefalonia hold special significance. The island was struck by a devastating one on 12 August 1953: the Great Kefalonia earthquake. The island was raised 60 cm that day and as a result over 500 people perished.
I have been casually surveying at Plagia (ancient Pyrgi) (10 km south of Fiskardo), a village entirely deserted that fateful day. Dozens of dwellings connected by a lattice of high stone walled mule tracks fold around a rocky crown supported by cyclopean walls. The crown is roughly square and elevated about 5 metres above the tight lattice of abandoned modern buildings. My late friend, the prehistorian, Klavs Randsborg believed the cyclopean fortress to belong to the Bronze Age or possibly the Archaic Greek era. From here ancient Polis, the citadel on northern Ithaka can be seen. More dominant in its viewshed today is the immediate undulating and rocky landscape of the Erissos peninsula, high, walled fields worthy of the English Pennines.
Ancient Pyrgi (Plagia) and the ruined church above
Dating ancient Pyrgi is impossible, though its curious square form suggests it is not an ordinary settlement. It resembles, as Klavs writes, a fortress, each side being about 40 m. long.
His archaeological report takes no account of its modern setting, the sad ruins of August 1953, their stonework as majestic as any ancient Greek monument.
August 1953 left Kefalonia devastated. Today it thrives thanks to tourism. The towns and villages exist on this mountainous Ionian isle for visitors from May to October. Numbers are growing. Tourism represents the largest share of the Greek economy, possibly as much as 30%. This explains why Kefalonia feels prosperous and, taxes apart, hardly connected to Athens or the travails of the Greek economy.
I mused that the earthquake heralded a return to normal politics in Greece. After Sunday’s national election, the New Democracy party was returned to power. Four years of flirting with Syriza are over. This popular party found itself overwhelmed by the deep-seated challenges of governing a country where reforms lag far behind the needs of an economy defined by globalism and the tourism it brings.
The end of Tsipras
No surprise, then, that the election passed almost unnoticed on Kefalonia. I have seen only one poster bidding the island’s citizens to vote and so far all I have spoken to about it seem as nonchalant about the return to normal “service” as about the island’s history of earthquakes.