Corfu is an island full of beautiful beaches and interesting sights
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. The island is steeped in history and it is perennially connected to the history of Greece starting from Greek mythology.
Appropriately enough, Corfu being an island, its name is connected to two powerful water symbols: Poseidon, god of the sea and “Asopos”, an important Greek mainland river.
According to the myth, Poseidon fell in love with the beautiful nymph “Korkyra”, daughter of “Asopos” and the river nymph “Metope”, and abducted her, as was the custom among gods of that era - Zeus himself was a serial offender. Poseidon brought her to the hitherto unnamed island and, being in marital bliss, offered her name to the place. Together they had a child they called “Phaiax” after whom the inhabitants of the island were named: “Phaiakes”, which was then transliterated via Latin to “Phaeacians”. This myth, with its themes of romance between a powerful god and a beautiful nymph, with a trace of adventure, centred around the element of water, is suggestive of the special ambience of the place.
The island's history is full of battles and conquests, indicative of Corfu's turbulent position in a historical vortex that lasted until modern times, when after the unification with modern Greece in 1864 the history of the island became one with the mainland's, with no more foreign intervention. The legacy of these struggles remains in the form of two castles that enclose the city. It is the only city in Greece to be surrounded by castles this way and as a result has officially been declared as a Kastropolis (Castle city) by the Greek Government.
Several movies have been filmed in Corfu, including the 1981 James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only. The most memorable Corfu related scene of the film is of the underwater ancient Greek temple, with a huge turtle swimming in front of the camera; the Casino scene was also filmed at the Achilleion.
From Corfu town 36 km
From Corfu airport 36 km
From the port 36 km
SIGHTS OF INTEREST
The town of Corfu stands on the broad part of a peninsula, whose termination in the Venetian citadel is cut off from it by an artificial fosse formed in a natural gully, with a salt-water ditch at the bottom, which serves also as a kind of marina. The old city is a labyrinth of narrow streets paved with cobblestones, sometimes tortuous but mostly pleasant, colourful and sparkling clean. These streets are called "kantounia" and the older ones sometimes follow the gentle irregularities of the ground while many of them are too narrow for vehicular traffic.
The old citadel (Palaio Frourio literally: Old Fortress) is an old Venetian fortress built on an islet with fortifications surrounding its entire perimeter. Nonetheless the interior has been restored and maintained and it is used for cultural events such as concerts and Sound and Light Productions whereby historical events are recreated using sound and light special effects. The ambience of the place is dramatic, as one is surrounded by ancient fortifications while the surrounding Ionian sea glimmers in the background.
In the middle of all this, the central high point of the citadel rises like a giant natural obelisk complete with a military observation post at the top. At the foot of the observatory, St. George's church, in classical Greek architectural style with six Doric columns, as opposed to the Byzantine architectural style of most Eastern Orthodox churches, is quite an imposing sight. Taking in a concert or other event at night in such a place under the moonlight while surrounded by the sea, immersed in this history steeped environment with all its diverse and unexpected architectural elements, is an experience that even the most discriminating connoisseur of life would appreciate.
Echoes of Venice and Pontikonisi
In several parts of the old city, houses from the Venetian times may be found. The old city architecture is strongly influenced by the Venetian style as it was under Venetian occupation for a long time. The small and ancient side-streets and the style of the old buildings with their trademark Venetian arches are strongly reminiscent of Venice.
The nearby island named Pontikonisi (Greek meaning "mouse island"), although small, is very green, and the highest natural point, is about 2 m. Pontikonisi is home of the monastery of Pantokrator. It is the white stone staircase of the Monastery that when viewed from afar gives the impression of a (mouse) tail that gave the island its name.
The Empress of Austria Elisabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sissi, was a woman obsessed with beauty and very powerful but tragically vulnerable since the loss of her only son, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in the Mayerling affair in 1889. A year later, in 1890, she built a summer palace in the region of Gastouri (Γαστούρι), with the powerful mythical hero Achilles, considered the most handsome of the heroes assembled at Troy, as its central theme.
The palace, with the classic Greek statues that surround it, is a monument to platonic romanticism as well as escapism and was, naturally, named after Achilles: Achilleion (Αχίλλειον). This elegant structure abounds with paintings and statues of Achilles, both in the main hall and in the lavish gardens depicting the heroic and tragic scenes of the Trojan war.
The Imperial gardens on top of the hill provide a majestic view of the surrounding green hill crests and valleys as the Ionian Sea gleams in the background. The centrepiece of the gardens is an imposing marble statue on a high pedestal, of the mortally wounded Achilles, wearing only a simple cloth and an ancient Greek hoplite helmet. The parallels to the grieving Empress recuperating from the painful loss of her only son by trying to extract it from her memory, but never quite being able to do so, are compelling.
In contrast, a giant painting of the triumphant Achilles full of pride, dressed in full royal military regalia on his racing chariot, pulling the lifeless body of Hector of Troy and parading it in front of the stunned crowd watching helplessly from inside the walls of the Trojan citadel, greets the visitor at the top of the great staircase of the main hall.
In 1898 Empress Sissi was assassinated in Geneva, Switzerland, at the age of 60. After her death the palace was sold to the Kaiser of Germany and eventually it was acquired by the Greek State. The Achilleion was used until recently as a Casino but currently it is used as a museum; the myth however lives on.