Greece / Corfu

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Corfu: The Countess of the Ionian  

Majestic, elegant and irresistible. Corfu, with its picturesque narrow streets, imposing mansions, beautiful beaches and lush green landscapes, is a truly impressive place. Despite coming under the rule of Italy, England and France, Corfu managed to embrace these influences to great effect. This island has been called a cradle of civilization, a place where art and poetry flourished. From the Old Town and Spianada to the Old and New Fortresses, Liston, the Arches, the Catholic Metropolis of San Giacomo, the Achillion and Mon Repos, the museums, St Spyridon, Garitsa and Mantouki, Corfu promises a unique journey through time.

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Pontikonisi-Mouse Island: The hallmark islet of Corfu

The most representative sight of Corfu can be found in the lagoon of Halikiopoulo just outside the town centre. It is the small green islet of Pontikonisi or Mouse Island so-called because of its size. According to Greek legend the boat of Odysseus was turned into this miniature green island by Posiedon during the final stage of his return to Ithaca via the Faiakes islands. The best view of Pontikonisi is afforded from Kanoni which also overlooks the island of Vlacherna with a monastery of the same name.

Achillion and Mon Repos: two unique neoclassical masterpieces

Empress Elisabeth of Austria (also known as Sisi) loved Corfu so much she had a summer palace built called the Achillion. During her visits to Corfu, Sisi, who was already familiar with Greek mythology, came to love all aspects of Greek culture and the palace was designed with the mythical hero Achilles as its central theme. The palace took his name and also has a statue of the Dying Achilles in the gardens. Inside there are wonderful murals and paintings, while outside the grounds abound with statues of Greek mythical heroes as well as impressive plants and flowers.

Built by the Lord High Commissioner Frederick Adam, the villa Mon Repos is one of the most elegant houses in Corfu. As its name suggests, it served as a summer residence for King George I who was granted the villa after Corfu’s union with Greece in 1864. Mon Repos is located within the archaeological site of Palaiopolis which was one of the best developed areas of the island in antiquity. It is known for its admirable gardens, dense vegetation and neoclassical architecture.

Treasures of the East

You might be wondering what Corfu has to do with Asian Art. Well, the island of Corfu is home to the only Museum of Asian Art in Greece with a collection of over 10,500 artefacts from the Far East and India. The exhibits are housed in the Palace of St Michael and St George on the north side of Spianada square.

Welcome to the Old Town of Corfu

Where better to start to start your tour of the old town than Spianada, the largest square in the Balkans, and Bosketo, the little grove with a stunning view of the moat around the Old Fortress. Then there is Liston, with its characteristic arcades perfect for evening strolls and a drink in one of the many cafes that are always full of people. Strolling through the “kantounia” the small narrow streets between the tall, colourful buildings, you will also see the church of the patron Saint Spyridon whose remains are housed here.

Two immoveable protectors

Two of the most recognizable Greek citadels, the Old and the New Fortress served for several centuries as fortification for the island while at the same time defining the historical town centre. The first was built on a rocky promontory on the hilly eastern edge of Corfu, it was separated from the rest of the city of Corfu by the sea channel the Contra Fossa. The main entrance can be reached by a 60 metre long bridge. Inside you can see the church of St. George and the Soranza gate.

The New Fortress was constructed to supplement the old one and served to protect the harbor and inland. Its construction above the Old Fortress secures a unique view of the town. The winged Lion of St. Mark can be seen adorning the gates.

Beaches for all tastes

Canal d’amour is perhaps Corfu’s most famous beach. Its rocks have been gradually eroded by the water resulting in fascinating formations and stunning scenery. There are also the legends which surround this beach that a couple who swim there together will be together forever. Next to this is Sidari, an amazing long sandy beach with an excellent infrastructure and from where boats leave bound for the Diapontia islands, a tranquil complex of islands with beautiful beaches and landscapes. Glyfada and Paleokastritsa beach are two of the most popular choices for tourists. The former because of its easy access and golden sands, and the latter thanks to its crystal clear emerald water and incomparable natural beauty. One of the most beautiful sights you will see is the beach of Issos with its exotic dunes, cedar forest and the wetlands of Lake Korission.

In the narrow streets of Palia Perithea: time stands still

This deserted stone village in the north of Corfu is proof that time stands still. Here the dilapidated houses and churches in the narrow slate streets now stand empty and abandoned, something which makes it one of Corfu’s most interesting sights.

The Clay Pot tradition

Easter in Corfu is without doubt the most spectacular celebration on the island. On Easter Saturday hundreds of thousands of people gather in Liston and Spianada to watch the procession of the Epitaph accompanied by the Corfu Philharmonic Orchestra. After the “early resurrection” which takes place at 12 pm, Corfiotes go out onto their balconies and throw down large clay pots known as “botides” full of water to smash on the pavement below. This custom attracts thousands of people who want to celebrate Easter in the unique Corfiot fashion.

Gastronomy

The gastronomical traditions of Corfu underwent many changes over the years, heavily influenced as it was by its various conquerors. The Venetian influence has lent some of its most characteristic flavours to Corfiot cuisine. “Sofrito” (fried slices of veal in oil and wine sauce), “pastitsada” (meat casserole), “bourdeto” (fish in a tomato sauce), “bianco” (fish in white sauce), koumquats and “tsitibira” (ginger beer) are among the most popular choices for both locals and visitors.

 
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