So spoke a famous Englishman about a young couple in love divided by a name, but when it comes to the name of Agios Stefanos and its being inappropriate called San Stefanos most people seem not to even care or notice that it is divided.
The name of San Stefanos was given to us without any pomp and circumstance by Thomson Holidays. I can’t remember the exact date this occurred but I would say around the late 80’s as the agency first started to operate in Agios Stefanos in 1984. They changed it to San Stefanos for no other reason than to make the lives of their reps (nowadays they are called Holiday Advisors) easier. Since the island of Corfu in Greece has 3 areas called Agios Stefanos, one in the north-west, one in the north-east and one down in the south, it became very confusing for those dear souls to differentiate between the three so they would be sending tourists taxi and buses to these resorts but not to the right ones! I’m sure once you arrived at your destination and were told your actual resort is 50 kilometers on the other side of the island, you would not be so happy!
One might then think why would the Greeks name 3 villages with the same name? Where they trying to confuse everyone or could they just not think of any other names? Well, certainly as some people might know Greece has more saints than sense and in this case, there are 3 Agios Stefanos in Corfu or at least 3 that I know of! So there is Agios Stefanos in the north-west which is part of the village of Avliotes and Agios Stefanos in the north-east which is part of the village of Sinies and the third in the south which is part of another village (I don’t know which one it is as I have never been there). All 3 Agios Stefanos are sort of suburbs of these villages. The resort of Agios Stefanos, Avliotes of course got its name from the church in the old part of the village that bears the same name and more than likely was built to protect the fisherman that went out from the little harbour below. Saint Stephen’s (Agios Stefanos) name is derived from the Greek Stephanos meaning ‘crown’. Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom for Christianity and one of its first martyrs.
So why would the Greeks give these areas the name, I can still sense some of you thinking! Well, why are there so many High Streets in the UK? Does not every town and city have one? Why don’t the British get confused? Because is there not a High Street in Gillingham, Kent and Orpington High Street, Bromley and Fort William High Street, Scotland? I could go one but then I would name every town and city in the UK but I think you got my point! At the same token, if your name is John you would not want to be call Juan just because there a few others Johns around you.
So why did Thomson choose the name of San Stefanos above others? Well, I will bore you a bit with a diction lesson. The word Agios from the Greek word Άγιος, also transliterated as Ayios , Aghios, Hagios meaning ‘holy’ or in our case the English-language epithet ‘Saint’, which by the way comes from the Latin word of ‘Sanctus’, thus ‘San’. The word ‘San’ comes from the Italian/Spanish masculine word for saint, as in San Francisco, San Diego and San José. So basically, Thomson has renamed this village into a Spanish village! I would not have minded if they had renamed the village using an English word like ‘Saint’ as it would be the translation of the Greek word into English . Saint Stephen or Stefanos would be appropriate as it is a UK company and it would not be offensive to me, but renaming us into a Spanish village does offend me!
Thomson Holidays is the major travel agent in the village with more than 70% of the accommodation under its wing and through the years San Stefanos became used in the village more than the actual name, Agios Stefanos. There is a Greek travel shop with the name, a top UK site for Agios Stefanos, and even a car hire firm. People using forums still call it San Stefanos even though the forum calls it Agios (St) Stephanos on every page they read and write on!
In business, you use all the tools that are available to get the people through your doors. Some of these companies do actually use Agios Stefanos but in parenthesis and thus implying San Stefanos to be the real name. I don’t blame these people for using the name as most of the people that come to Agios Stefanos know it as San Stefanos; I have used it on my site as well, as not using it would restrict the traffic to my site, http://www.nafsikahotel.com. Nor do I blame Thomson for all they are were doing was making sure their customers get to the right Agios Stefanos and their reps not getting mixed up, bless their hearts. I just think that a better name could have been used to represent this village: Saint Stefanos, Agios Stefanos North-West, or even Agios Stefanos Beach (as the other Agios Stefanos has only a shingle beach and not a sandy beach).
Of course one of the ironies in naming the resort San Stefanos is that if any tourist lands on the island and wants to drive to the resort of San Stefanos, on all the roads they look at, the name will not appear nor will they find any road with the name of San Stefanos, as it is a total fabrication. Having any roads signs is a treat regardless of which name they have! Nor do I see the Greek government changing the name of this resort in the near future. The resort having 2 names can only confuse people plus I don’t see us becoming known around the globe with 2 names! Just imagine Coca-Cola being advertised with 2 different names, it would be the greatest advertising blunder in the world!
This article is not to put blame on anyone, far be it from me to point any fingers as I am using it also, but to inform some people who are not aware that the actual name of this resort is Agios Stefanos and why it became know as San Stefanos. If you are a true Agios Stefanos enthusiast, admirer, supporter would you not want to call it by its rightful name and show it some respect? San Stefanos might still smell as sweet regardless of the name it has but I would still prefer it to be called by its real name—Agios Stefanos!
(Go to our Your View Matters page and vote for what it should be called!)