Panaggis remembers the earthquake only too well!
Whilst the big earthquake in 1953 was responsible for destroying most of the buildings on the island, it did not dampen the spirits of the Kefalonian people. The camaraderie between the inhabitants, when it came to rebuilding their towns and villages, was stronger than ever. Although some left the island in fear of their own safety, those who stayed on the island played an important role in rebuilding their community. Kefalonia, which today depends on tourism as its main source of income, needed those who left to return with their new found wealth to continue the rebuilding in order to attract more visitors to island.
Panaggis (Peter) Aravantinos would have only been 12 at the time but he remembers the earthquake vividly. His family were part of the farming community and lived a stones throw from Lixouri, which was virtually destroyed during the earthquake. At such a young age Peter found growing up on the island to be very difficult, aged 22 he decided to emigrate to Canada, where he stayed for nine years. During his stay in Canada Peter made sufficient money to return to Greece to start a taxi business in Athens. At that time Athens was, as it is today, a thriving City but close enough for Peter to commute to Lixouri and see his family.
Although Peters taxi business thrived in Athens, he longed to be close to his family. He decided to buy a coach and run daily trips between Kefalonia and Athens, which meant that he could move back in with his family. It was during one of his journeys he met Zoi, his wife to be. They married in 1973 and lived with Peters mother in her bungalow which overlooked the bay between Lixouri and Lassi. Between 1975, and 1981, Peter and Zoi had three daughters, Elpida, Lucy and Georgia.
While Peter was still ferrying his passengers between Kefalonia and Athens, Zoi was at home bringing up their three daughters. On hearing that a plot of land opposite the family bungalow was for sale, Peter decided to purchase the land in 1982 and Zois apartments began to take shape. A second floor was added in 1989 and a third floor was built in 1993. The apartments are located opposite the family bungalow, on the shore front of Lixouri overlooking the bay where you can see the cruise ships arriving in Kefalonia (ships such as the Ocean Village, Thomson Emerald, Oriana and the MSC Orchestra). Zois now has 10 studios and apartments, a mixture of single, double and family rooms each offering self catering.
Peter has only recently given up his coach driving to help Zoi with the apartments while two of their daughters have their own businesses. Lucy has her own beauty business in Argostoli, Elpida has a business in Lixouri selling ladies lingerie and their third daughter, Georgia, is involved in the tourism trade as well as helping their family to run the holiday apartments.
The views from the apartments also take in the village of Farsa, which was destroyed by the earthquake and was subsequently rebuilt. At night, from across the bay, when all the lights are lit, it gives an eerie appearance of a figure of one of the villagers hard at work and if you really concentrate you will make out the shape of his heart!