Journey through Ancient Greece

Corfu (Kérkyra)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Palace of St Michael & St George

The island of Corfu is the second largest of the seven Ionian Islands (or ta Eftánisa in Greek). The most northerly of the islands, facing Albania to the east and Italy to the west, it is 64 km long and 32 km at its widest point. It is a fertile island with an abundance of fruit and about 4 million olive trees, which are left unpruned and grow to an enormous size. Saint Spyrídon is the patron of the island and it is said half the men on the island are named after him.  
The town is beautiful with plenty to keep you occupied for a few days. It is a most relaxing place; most os the streets are traffic free; the pace of life is slow and lingering over a coffee for hours is the norm.
The old town, or Campiello, around the hotel is a maze of small streets and even with a map we spend a lot of time happily lost and discovering 'hidden' treasures. The elegant architecture is a legacy of the Venetians, French and British (but not the Turks) who in turn had charge of the island of Corfu. Tall graceful pastel coloured houses, sometimes six stories high, with tiled roofs balconies and shuttered windows, line narrow streets (washing lines often stretched up high between the houses). Everywhere are colonnades, small squares with palm trees, and churches with cupolas, including St Spyridon's built in 1590 and housing the casket containing the saint's mummified body.

You can easily spend days just lingering in the town but it is also very easy to explore futher afield. There are buses which go round the island, are cheap and reliable, with English speaking conductors who will make sure you get off at the right stop and know when the bus goes back!

Car hire is reasonably cheap.

Places to visit: within a short walk

Museum of Asiatic Art in the Palace of St Michael & St George (open 0830 1500 closed Monday €2) Wonderful, a must. The inside of the building is beautiful, and the exhibition interesting.

The Néo Froúrio or New Fort, €2, open 0900-2200, is very nice, lots of tunnels, dungeons and battlements from where there are superb views of the town, sea, port and Albania. There was once a café but it was firmly closed last year. If you can find the 'back entrance' you will come down into the market.

The Paleo Froúrio, Old Fort, open 0900 1900, is where the British army was garrisoned in the 19th century. The Doric temple is the garrison chapel of St George, built in 1840.

The Church of Our Lady Antivouniotissa on Arsenou, is at the top of a broad flight of steps and contains the museum/gallery of Byzantine paintings. €2 closes at 1430.

Archways on the New Fort

Archways at the New Fort

A little further:

The Archaeological Museum in Vraila. open 0830 - 1500 closed on Monday, has some splendid exhibits from ancient Corcyra especially the pediment of the archaic temple of Artemis with a wonderful gorgon.

Nearby is the 6th century BC tomb of Mnekrates

Dont' miss! The Palaeopolis Museum at Mon Repos
In the house there is a fabulous exhibition of
photographs of Corfu in 1858. They were taken by Major John Davenport Shakespear, great, great grandfather of Jane & Mary. The house is stunning with fabulous views and set in the most beautiful grounds. It was built in 1820 by Sir Frederick Adam, High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands for his Corfiot wife.
After the British left in 1864 the Greek Royal family used the house as their summer residence. Prince Philip was born here. There is a video in English and an excellent interactive computerised representation of the site. A lovely walk through a wooded area of huge weird trees like a jungle, takes you to remnants of ancient Corcyra; the 7th century Temple of Hera, (look out for tortoises), a bit further on are the remains of the 6th century Doric Temple of Kardaki.

 

At the entrance to Mon Repos are the remains of the Basilica of Ayia Kérkira,built in the 5th century on the site of the ancient agora of Corcyra.

The C6th BC Tomb of Mnekrates

Almost in touching distance of the airport runway is the delightful Monasteryof Vlahérna. We had a light lunch at the taverna on the water's edge overlooking the monastery. There were people swimming here. Take the boat, €2.50, to Pondikoníssi ('mouse island') with another pretty monastery. You arrange with the boatman how long you want to stay; 15 minutes is probably long enough.

The restaurant complex at Kanóni up lots of steps and overlooking the monastery is horrid, but a good spot for photographs.

Vidos Island is opposite the hotel and can be reached by the caique from the quay. It is an idyllic place for a walk, swim and a picnic. There are numerous rabbits, pheasants, and goats roaming the island.


 

Further afield: On the west coast is Paleokastritsa, a beautiful bay with three sandy beaches (in summer rather crowded). You can take a short boat trip to caves where the water changes colour to brilliant red, yellow and green. The journey from Corfu town is through some dramatic mountain scenery. A short walk uphill from the bay brings you to the Monastery of Theitokou. There is a café here and stunning views over the bay. The monastery was first built in 1228 and restored in 1400 and 1722. It is well worth a visit, with a fine church, an interesting museum and tranquil gardens.

There are also, we are told, many good walks accessible by bus. Lance Chilton does a guide. Details on www.marengowalks.com or Tel 01485 532710.

Even further afield: It is possible to make a day trip to Albania and visit the splendid archaeological site at Butrint where there are remains from a 6th century BC Greek settlement including a theatre and an acropolis; Roman baths and Byzantine churches all set in a peaceful wooded park surrounded by sea.

The bell tower of the Monastery of Theotokou,
Paleokastritsa

Eating & Drinking

The food in Kérkyra Town is good with several local specialities, some with Italian influence. Look out for Sofríto: beef or lamb with lots of garlic; pastitsada: macaroni with cloves, garlic, tomatoes & cheese; also meat stews with kumquat. As you will see prices vary, but tend to be higher than on the mainland. Most tavernas serve good local barrel wine; retsina comes in bottles, most commonly Georgiades at €3 - 4 for 500ml. Prices are for two.

The locals as elsewhere eat late (from 10pm), before that, as the tourist day trippers have gone, tavernas can be empty.

Our favourite place for an aperitif at sunset is the roof garden of the Cavalieri Hotel - partly because there is a stupendous view over the town and particularly because it overlooks the garrison chapel of St George where our great grandmother was baptised in 1855. (Behind the hotel are some dull 1960s flats replacing Condi Terrace where our gr. gr. grandparents lived in the flat above Edward Lear. The terrace was bombed in the war.)

view of the Maitland Rotunda and the Old Fort with chapel of St George

The Liston (designed by the same architect as Rue de Rivoli in Paris) is a must for coffee. It is packed all day and late into the night; a great place for 'people watching'.

We had a very good meal at Paradaskeio in Solomoú, near the hotel. A family run taverna serving good traditional food. We had beans, peas, sausage, paidakia (lamb chops), roast chicken and very nice barrel retsina, €32.

Further along Solomoú towards the New Fort, is Stathmos Tenedos, Solomoú 32, Plateia N. Frouriou. Very good and friendly service. We had dolmades, courgette fritters, chicken fillet & stuffed peppers, half kilo local red & metaxa for €24.

Also near the hotel, in Nikiforou Theotoki, is to Navtiko which serves traditional local food. We had yigantes, fasalakia (green beans) & 2 stifado + bottle retsina for €30.

On the harbour wall round the corner from the hotel (Arseniou) are three tavernas (near the Byzantine Museum). We had coffee at Pizza Pete - lovely view but premium price €2.70 for nescafé.

We had a very good meal Mourayia [walls] over the road from Pizza Pete, without such a good view. Tomato fritters [actually cheese and tomato and very very nice], ham and cheese croquettes, sardines and pastistada, bottle of Georgiades, €24

The Venetian Well is recommended in most of the guide books but is a bit pricey, we haven't tried it - yet.

Hrysomalis in N. Theotoki, just behind the Liston, a favourite of Gerald & Laurence Durrell and popular with locals, excellent traditional food and friendly service at sensible prices.

Nikiforou Theotoki

En Plo Falaráki is a magical place for a drink or light(ish) meal, surrounded by sea (en plo) the view is wonderful and the service very friendly. We had ouzo & a very large fish pikalia (not cheap) for lunch. Go through the tunnel behind the Palace or also get there from the hotel round by sea. The swimming is good here.

Pizza Gondola in the Liston (entrance also in Kapodistria) is much nicer than it sounds. They have several local dishes. Try the chicken with kumquats. We had excellent Sofríto beef, lamb stew with rice, mushrooms with cream & spicy cheese & wine for €38.

The Rex also in Kapodistria is highly spoken of; smarter and more expensive than some, but worth it we are told. www.restaurantrex.gr

Ta Kokoría, Pargas 18. down by Alpha bank, in a little square with palm trees. Family owned, home cooking, super cheese pies, wonderful fried pork with bacon, rabbit stifado, half kilo red, free pud. €26

Swimming: The best swimming is at Faliraki, behind the Palace. For €2 you get changing rooms, showers, loos and a café.

There are ladders down into the water along the water front around the Paleo Frourio, and also in Garitsas Bay between the fort and Mon Repos. There is a small beach at Mon Repos.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Falaraki seen from the Old Fort

Shopping: Corfu town has a large number of shops selling tacky tourist goods but also a number of high quality shops. The ones I recommend are ones we have personally shopped at and where the goods are of good quality and at fair prices.

Olive wood is a speciality. There are some nice wooden games, children's toys, musical instruments etc. The shop in Nikiforou Theotoki claims to be the only one; it isn't! Olive soap is also widely available.

There are lots of shops selling kumquat liquor, cordial and preserve; we like Vassilikas 61 ag Spiridonas. The owner speaks good English (her small son, Leonidas, is learning.).

There are several really good jewellery shops. For lovely modern handmade jewellery at modest prices visit: ''kai to ploio fevie" at 109 Nik. Theotoki.

For newspapers, maps, guide books and novels and a wide selection of English books, there is an excellent bookshop - Melos Tourmousogllou, Nik Theodotiki,47,

Go to MOYSES Record Shop in Mikali Theotiki for a wide selection of CDs, DVDs & videos in Greek & English

Makaratzi Litsa, Filarmoniki 20 tel 26610 22694 has lovely traditional embroidered table cloths etc, olives.

Posto at Spiridonas 39 has pretty cushion covers, bath mats etc at very reasonable prices

Leather & suede are good quality & good value.

go back to home page

for a collection of beautiful sketches of Corfu
by Theresa Nicholas and books by John Waller
see http:
//www.yiannisbooks.com/

 

This lovely book on Edward Lear's years in Corfu is lavishly illustrated with beautiful reproductions of Lear's water colours of Corfu as well as extracts from his diaries and letters from that period - including many references to John Davenport and Louisa Shakespear, great great grandparents of Jane & Mary!
Edited & introduced by Philip Sherrard, Published by Denise Harvey,
Athens & Dedham, 1988