Hotel Corfu Secret
Agios Markos, 490 83 Corfu, Greece
tel.: +30 26610 97921
fax.: +30 26610 97931
64 Alexandras Av. 114 73 Athens, Greece
tel.: +30 210 3243879
fax.: +30 210 3245234
Reg. No .: 0829Κ012Α0190001
Corfu is the most northerly of the large Islands of the Ionian Sea, and is second only to Cefalonia, among those islands, in terms of area. With Cefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkada, Paxoi, Ithaki, and Kythera it forms the administrative group known as the Ionian Islands. The prefecture of Corfu consists of Corfu itself, Paxoi, Antipaxoi, Othoni, Ereikousa and Mathraki.. The island lies at the mouth of the Adriatic Sea, close to the mainland coast of Greece and Albania, from which it became geographically separated in the distant part. Cape Agios Stefanos, in the northern part of the island, is only 2.5 km from the mainland of Albania. Corfu has an area of 592 sq. km and a population of 92,000.
The island is elongated and sickle-shaped. In the north, the maximum width from the east to west is 21 km., gradually dwindling as we move south until the island is only 7 km.
Wide at its southernmost extremity. The coastline of Corfu is widely varied. In the east, the land slopes gently down to charming little bays and coves. The largest bays on the east side are those of Corfu town and Lefkimmi, while on the west, where the coastline is steep and rocky, there are tiny inlets, many of them of the greatest beauty. All around Corfu are islets, including Vido and Lazareto in the bay of Corfu town, and the famous Pontikonisi close to the Chalkiopoulou lagoon. Most of the ground on Corfu is low-lying, though there are three ranges of moderately high hills. The highest peak, Mt Pantokratoras (906m.), is in the north- east of the island, with the peaks of Vistonas and Araklis further to the west. A lower range whose highest peak is Mt Agyii Deka (576m.) runs cross-wise across the center of the island, with the Ropa valley further to the north an the low hills of Chlomos (330m.) in a southerly direction. Close to this is Lake Korission, with a length of 12 km. And a maximum width of 1,300 m., separated from the sea by a narrow spit of sand. There are few rivers, almost all of which run dry during the summer. The largest of the is the Mesongi river, which rises on Mt Ayii Deka and flows into the sea in the bay of Corfu Town.
The climate of Corfu is of the category known as maritime Mediterranean, with cool summers (when the temperature averages 27oC) and mild winters (average temperature 10oC).
In Greek terms, the humidity is relatively high, thanks to the prevailing north-westerly and westerly winds, which cause abundant rainfall throughout the year. As a result, the island is thickly wooded and its landscape is idyllically verdant.
There are several ways of reaching Corfu Island ...
By airplane from the Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" – approximately a 1-hr trip.
Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos": Tel: +30 210 353-1000
Olympic Airways: Tel. +30 210 966-6666 and 801-11-44444
Aegean Airlines: Tel. +30 210 626-1000 and 801-11-20000
- By intercity bus from the Athens KTEL Intercity Bus Station and then Ferry boat from Patras Port (boat trip: approximately 8 hours) or Igoumenitsa Port (boat trip: approximately a 2 hours)
Athens Intercity Bus Station: Tel. +30 210 512-9443
Patra Port : Tel. +30 2610 341-002 or + 30 2610 341-024
Igoumenitsa Port : Tel. +30 26650 99400
- By airplane from the “ Macedonia” Thessaloniki Airport
“ Macedonia” Thessaloniki Airport: Tel. +30 2310 985-000 or +30 2310 473-212
Olympic Airlines Thessaloniki: Tel. +30 2310 368-311
Aegean Airlines Thessaloniki: Tel. +30 2310 239-225 to 26
- By Intercity Bus from the Thessaloniki KTEL Intercity Bus Station and then Ferry boat from Igoumenitsa Port (boat trip: approximately 2 hours)
Thessaloniki Intercity Bus Station: Tel. +30 2310 595-411
Igoumenitsa Port : Tel. +30 26650 99400
From Athens to Igoumenitsa - approximately a 6,5-hr trip,
then with boat to Corfu (Kerkyra) - approximately a 1,5-hr sailing trip.
Total: an 8-hr trip.
From Patra to Igoumenitsa – approximately a 5-hr trip,
then with boat to Corfu (Kerkyra) - approximately a 1,5-hr sailing trip.
Total: a 6,5-hr
From Thessaloniki to Igoumenitsa - approximately a 7-hr trip,
then with boat to Corfu (Kerkyra) - approximately a 1,5-hr sailing trip.
Total: a 8,5-hr trip
- By boat from Bari , Bridezi, Ancona, Trieste and Venice.
The island of Corfu (Kerkyra) has a well-developed bus transportation system that transports visitors and locals to almost any part of the island.
Urban bus routes :
Kanoni - Perama - Achillion - Gastouri - Benitses
Afra - Agios Ioannis - Pelekas
By Intercity bus you can travel to the following areas :
Afiona, Agios Gordios, Agios Matthaios, Agios Pandeleimonas, Agro, Ano Garouna, Ano Korakiana, Arilla, Armenades, Chlomo, Doukades, Giannades, Glyfada, Ipsos, Kalafationes, Karousades, Kassiopi, Kato Garouna, Kato Korakiana, Kavo, Korakades, Krini, Lakones, Lefkimi, Liapades, Magoulades, Makrades, Nymfes, Pagous, Paleokastritsa, Pendeti, Perithia, Petalia, Pora Sinion, Pyrgi, Sgourades, Sinarades, Sokraki, Stravro, Strinyla, Stroggyli, Valanio, Varypatades, Vato, Velonades and Vouniatades.
You can also rent a car, a motorcycle, a scooter or a bicycle from one of the many rental agencies on the island.
Corfu Transportation Authorities:
Corfu Airport “Ioannis Kapodistrias”: Tel. +30 26610 89600
Olympic Airways Corfu: Tel. +30 26610 38694
Olympic Airways Corfu Airport: Tel. +30 26610 30180
Aegean Airways Corfu Airport : Tel. +30 26610 27100
Corfu Intercity Bus Station: Tel. +30 26610 39985
The house of the history of Corfu has been directly connected with its geographical position.
According to tradition, the modern Greek name for the island – Kerkyra – came from the Nymph Cercyra (or Corcyra in the Doric dialect), who was the daughter of the river-god Asopus.
The god Poseidon fell in love with the beautiful maiden, abducted her, and lay with her on the island. The fruit of their union was Phaeax, the mythical primogenitor of the Phaeaceans who lived on Corfu in antiquity. According to another version of the story, the name of the Nymph Cercyra is cognate with the demonic ancient deity Corgyra or Gorgo. This view has been reinforced by the discoveries made at a temple of Artemis found near the capital of the island: on the pediment of the temple was a depiction of precisely this demon Gorgo , who may well have been a kind of mythological forerunner to Artemis herself. Many other names are used for Corfu in the literature of the ancient Greeks. Its length caused it ot be called Makris (= long) and its shape Drepani (= sickle). According to information preserved by Hesiod and Apollonius from Rhodes, the name Drepane was connected with the creation myth involving Cronus and Zeus. During the Middle Ages, the name Corypho (from ‘coryphi’, a peak) came to be used for the twin peaked acropolis occupied by the Old Fortress of Corfu town, to which the city had been confined after a raid by the Goths in the sixth century AD. This name was the origin of the nomenclature Corfu, by which, of course, the island is known today everywhere in the world except Greece. A still earlier name is given by Homer, in the Odyssey: Scheria, the famous country of the Phaeaceans.
Corfu town is not the only place to have monuments; they are to be found all over the island as in controvertible witnesses to the brilliance of its history.
Corfu town, the capital of the island, has a population of around 30,000 and is the centre of economic, political and cultural life for the Corfiots.
It is the chief town of the Prefecture of Corfu, and as such is the location of most of the public authorities (banks, law-courts, prisons, hospital, consulates, the National Tourist Organisation, etc.). It is the seat of the Metropolitan Bishop of Corfu and Paxoi, whose official church is St Spyridon. A complete educational system consists of primary and secondary schools (junior and senior), private schools, foreign-language schools, vocational training schools, and a university (the Ionian University, with departments of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting, Music, and History). There is a good public transport network, with town buses and services to nearly all the villages. There are daily flights and ferry departures to other parts of Greece and other countries, which facilitate the highly-developed commerce and tourism of the island.
The large numbers of tourists who visit Corfu each year give the island a cosmopolitan air. In order to meet the needs of the tourist trade, many hotel and apartment units have been constructed in recent decades; these are fully-equipped and comply fully with modern requirements. Shops and other establishments dedicated to the tourist industry are to be found all over the town, together with quaint taverns and deluxe restaurants, old-style coffee-shops and modern outdoor cafes, and discos and bars which are open until late into the night.
There is a casino in the Corfu Hilton International hotel, while there are also football pitches, golf courses and tennis courts, a stadium, a swimming-pool and a Yacht Club, all open to visitors as well as local people. The beaches at Mon Repos and the Yacht Club are suitable for swimming and sea sports.
The Corfiots have been known since ancient times for their love of song, dance and merrymaking. Today they hold frequent cultural events and festivals each year. Their religious feasts are of particular interest, consisting of services and processions through the town to the accompaniment of music played by the town band. The procession of St Spyridon (see p. 100) and that in which the icon of Our Lady is carried round the town on 15 August rival Easter itself in the number of people whom they attract to the alleys and churches of Corfu and in the atmosphere of devotion which they create.
The religious parts of these feasts are accompanied by secular merrymaking, with much eating, singing and dancing. The anniversary of the union of the Dodecanese with Greece is celebrated on 21 May each year, while the festivities of the Carnival occupy the last three Sundays before the beginning of Lent. During the summer, there are lectures, concerts, theatrical productions and performances of folk dancing and ballets. From May to September, a 'Son et Lumiere' event is held at the Old Fortress, and on 10 August the so called 'Barcarola' is celebrated. In September, the Corfu Festival attracts the participation of artists and ensembles from all over Greece and from other countries and games of cricket against visiting English teams are often held on the Spianada during the summer months. The centre of all these events and indeed of social life in Corfu more generally, has for centuries been the Spianada. Divided by Dousmani St into the Upper and Lower Piazza, the Spianada is surrounded by some of the most notable monuments in Corfu and has a superb view of the Municipal Gardens, the Contrafossa and the Old Fortress, on its eastern side.
On the west side, cafes and restaurants operate beneath the arches of the Liston, and visitors can enjoy their coffee or try one of the specialities of the local cuisine ('pastitsada' beef with spaghetti, “sofrito” beef with garlic, fish in a “bourdeto” sauce), washed down with a good island wine or perhaps with ginger beer, one of the relics of the period of British rule. On the Spianada, traditional horse-drawn carriages are available for hire, and the driver provides a tour of some of the prettier parts of town. North of the Spianada - behind the Palace - begins Arseniou St, which runs above the sea-order, with neo-Classical elements, and it is surrounded by densely-vegetated gardens adorned with important works of art. In 1908, after the death of Elizabeth, the Achilleio was bought by Wilhelm II, the German Kaiser, and in 1914 - on the outbreak of the First World War it was abandoned. In 1915, it was used as the headquarters of the Serbian Army and as a hospital, coming into the hands of the Greek state in 1919. During the Second World War it served as a hospital again - and as the headquarters of the German and Italian occupying forces - and after liberation it houses a variety of schools and institutions. Today, it belongs to the National Tourist Organisation and from 1962 to 1992 Corfu casino operated there. The ground floor of the building functions as a museum.
We enter the Achilleio through an iron gate ornamented with two bronze relief’s, of Zeus Cleft) and Achilles (right). The first room on the ground floor, the reception hall, has a fresco in the centre of its ceiling, by the Italian painter Galopi, on the theme of The Four Seasons and the Hours. Also of interest in this room are the Italian marble fireplace, two statuettes of Athena and Hebe (above the fireplace, by the German sculptor Heinemann), and a painting of Elizabeth by the German artist Witter halter. At the far end of the reception hall, a magnificent staircase flanked by bronze statues of Zeus and Hera and by a large collection of marble and plaster sculptures (of Zeus, Niobe, Artemis, Apollo, Aphrodite, Hermes and Pan) leads to the upper floors. To the right of the reception room is the Empress's Catholic chapel. In the sanctuary apse are representations of Christ and Pontius Pilate, beneath which is an icon of Christ and Our Lady (by Franz Matz). There are two recesses with statues of Christ and Our Lady, an altar and a harmonium. Next to the chapel is a room with mementoes of Elizabeth: medallions, photographs, paintings, candlesticks, furniture, a front through the district called the Mourayia, along the Venetian sea-walls. There is a wonderful view from here across to the coast of Albania. The sea-front road, now called Athinagora St, leads down to the harbour, one of the busiest in Greece. Not far out at sea is the islet called Vido, ancient Ptychia, to which caiques ply daily. Until 1864, there was a Venetian fortress on Vido. Now it is disused.
Above the harbour towers the hill on which stands the New Fortress, with its Venetian outworks. At 79 Solomou St, close to the entrance to the New Fortress, is a modern museum of considerable interest: the Maritime Museum of Napoleondas Sayias. Founded in 1989 with exhibits which its owner had collected from all over the world, it contains shells, pieces of coral, fossils, shark jaws, crabs, lobsters, snakes, starfish, sponges, micro-organisms and much more. The most unforgettable experience awaiting the visitor is, however, a stroll through the centre of Corfu town and in particular through the old-world Campiel10 district. The narrow alleys (“kantounia”) lined with tall buildings, often spanned by arches or by the washing-lines of the townsfolk, the attractive little squares with their carved stone wells, the churches with their elegant bell-towers, and the occasional mansion with skilfully wrought balconies and hanging lanterns help to create a medieval atmosphere to be found nowhere else in Greece. Of al-most equal interest is the market, in the streets to the west of the Spianada: Nikiforou Theotoki St, spanned with arches (“volta”), still retains many traces of the Venetian period.
The Ionian Bank building, at the intersection of N.Theotoki and Filarmonikis Sts, houses a collection of banknotes covering the period from Turkish times down to the present day. There is also an exhibition of photographs showing how coins are minted. Despite the number of new buildings that have been constructed to meet the needs of tourism and the merciless destruction that others have undergone over the centuries - culminating in the German bombing raids of 1943 - Corfu can still boast private and public buildings of the greatest value for the Greek cultural heritage. In every corner of the town are traces of all those whose fate it was to tread the ground of the island and add another piece to the mosaic of its history. Since 1976, Corfu town has been on the list of Europe's most historic cities, and efforts are still being made to conserve as much as possible of its historic atmosphere. An enormous programme of maintenance work on the monuments of Corfu began in 1992-1994, on the occasion of the town being chosen as the venue for the European Union summit meeting during the Greek Presidency of the Community.
Gastouri is a small village close to the sea, 11.5 km. south of Corfu town. In the village square, beneath a tree, is the so-called Spring of Elizabeth, which has now run dry.
The whole area is connected with the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, often known as Sissy, whose summer palace, the famous Achilleio, stands a mere two kilometres from Gastouri. The life of the Empress Elizabeth (1837-1898) has repeatedly been the subject of novels and films, as a result of her beauty, her strength of character, and the story of her love for the Emperor Franz Josef. Elizabeth married the Austrian Emperor in 1854, and the couple had two daughters, Sophia and Gisela, and a son called Rudolf. But Elizabeth's liberal notions displeased her mother-in-law, the Archduchess Sophia, who personally took in hand the upbringing of the royal children and denied their mother access to them. Such little contact as there had been between the children and their mother came to an abrupt end when, on one of the journeys of the Imperial couple, young Sophia died and Elizabeth was held responsible for the tragedy. Her health broken, she travelled to Madeira to recuperate, and on her way back to Austria On 1861) stopped off at Corfu, whose beauty made an immediate impression on her. In the summer of the same year, Elizabeth returned to the island and stayed at Mon Repos, returning in the autumn to Vienna to give birth to Valeria, her last daughter. Over this period, she began to take a much greater interest in politics. In 1869, Franzjosef and Elizabeth were declared monarchs of Hungary. In 1876, Elizabeth travelled on her own to Athens and Corfu and threw herself into a study of ancient Greek literature - especially of Homer. She also took a keen interest in the excavations being carried out at the time by Heinrich Schliemann in Troy, Mycenae and Tiryns. After a long trip to Troy and many other parts of the ancient Greek world, she returned to Corfu in 1888 and stayed as a guest in the Vrailas villa. A year later, Elizabeth bought the estate and began work on the construction of the palace - in an atmosphere of profound mourning, because in the meantime her son Rudolf and his lover had been found dead. During her time at the Achilleio, Elizabeth learned the Greek language and much about the ancient literature from eminent teachers, notable among whom was the scholar and writer Constantinos Christomanos, who was officially employed for this purpose by the Imperial court. In 1898, the 'melancholy queen', as Elizabeth had come to be called, was assassinated in a hotel in Geneva by an Italian anarchist.
Elizabeth called her palace at Gastouri the Achilleio, dedicating it to her favourite hero, Achilles; as she herself wrote, "here presents the Greek spirit, the beauty of the land", and is "as strong, as proud and as obstinate as a Greek mountain". The Achilleio was constructed in 1889-1891, by the Italian architects Rafael Corito and Antonio Lanti, under the personal supervision of the Empress, who also took charge of the ornamentation of the palace with paintings and sculptures, most of which were purchased from the Borghese family. It is a luxurious three storey building in the 'Pompeian order', with neo-Classical elements, and it is surrounded by densely-vegetated gardens adorned with important works of art. In 1908, after the death of Elizabeth, the Achilleio was bought by Wilhelm II, the German Kaiser, and in 1914 - on the outbreak of the First World War it was abandoned. In 1915, it was used as the headquarters of the Serbian Army and as a hospital, coming into the hands of the Greek state in 1919. During the Second World War it served as a hospital again - and as the headquarters of the German and Italian occupying forces - and after liberation it houses a variety of schools and institutions. Today, it belongs to the National Tourist Organisation and from 1962 to 1992 Corfu casino operated there. The ground floor of the building functions as a museum.
We enter the Achilleio through an iron gate ornamented with two bronze relief’s, of Zeus Cleft) and Achilles (right). The first room on the ground floor, the reception hall, has a fresco in the centre of its ceiling, by the Italian painter Galopi, on the theme of The Four Seasons and the Hours. Also of interest in this room are the Italian marble fireplace, two statuettes of Athena and Hebe (above the fireplace, by the German sculptor Heinemann), and a painting of Elizabeth by the German artist Witterhalter. At the far end of the reception hall, a magnificent staircase flanked by bronze statues of Zeus and Hera and by a large collection of marble and plaster sculptures (of Zeus, Niobe, Artemis, Apollo, Aphrodite, Hermes and Pan) leads to the upper floors. To the right of the reception room is the Empress's Catholic chapel. In the sanctuary apse are representations of Christ and Pontius Pilate, beneath which is an icon of Christ and Our Lady (by Franz Matz). There are two recesses with statues of Christ and Our Lady, an altar and a harmonium. Next to the chapel is a room with mementoes of Elizabeth: medallions, photographs, paintings, candlesticks, furniture, a portrait of the Empress, two poems written by her, and a bust of Franz Josef. The next room contains some of the personal effects of Wilhelm II: his desk, a stove, a wash-hand basin, a mirror, plates, medals, documents, three paintings of ships and the Kaiser, photographs, ete. A small room in the left wing of the Museum leads to the palace banqueting hall, a few parts of whose original decoration have remained. Here there are more mementoes of Elizabeth and Franz Josef: photographs, a sword, a clock, a mirror, etc. The rococo furnishings are from the time of Kaiser Wilhelm. Of interest in the next small room are five sculptures on mythological themes (the Apple of Discord, Paris and Helen, Sappho, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Dionysus with his entourage) and two sculptured amphorae. The last room on the ground floor contains Elizabeth's desk, bookcase, chaise-longue and other items of furniture, three carved mirrors, bronze statues and busts, photographs, pieces of jewellery and an oil-painting on the theme of the meeting on Scheria between Odysseus and Nausicaa (Ludwig Thiers). The grand staircase ends, on the top floor, in a balcony with an Ionic peristyle ornamented with busts and with statues of the Nine Muses. The wall above the balcony is decorated with an impressive painting of The Triumph of Achilles, by the German painter Franz Matz. Achilles is shown up- t right on his chariot as he races in triumph around the walls of Troy, dragging the body of Hector behind him and holding the dead man's helmet. (As Homer tells us in the Iliad, from which the painter was inspired for this scene, Achilles killed Hector and dishonoured his corpse in this way in vengeance for Hector's having killed Achilles' beloved friend Patroclus in battle.) The horses of Achilles are strikingly rendered, and the entire composition is very vigorous.
The gardens of the Achilleio are among the most beautiful places on Corfu and enjoy a superb view across to the Kanoni, Pontikonisi, the Chalkiopoulou lagoon and Mt Pantokrator. They, too, are a kind of open-air museum, being full of outstanding sculptures. Notable among this statuary are compositions showing Apollo, Hermes, Artemis and Aphrodite near the entrance to the palace, the statues of the Nine Muses and the Graces in the Ionic peristyle of the rear veranda, the busts of ancient philosophers and poets behind the columns of the peristyle, the marble statue of Lord Byron on the topmost balcony on the side facing the forest, and the statue of Elizabeth herself close to the sea. However, the most important statues in the grounds of the Achilleio are the Dying Achilles and the Triumphant Achilles. The former of these originally stood on the large terrace in the gardens, where the latter is now located Kaiser Wilhelm decided to move the Dying Achilles because it was too small to ensure that it could be seen among the tall palm trees. After moving it, he installed the Triumphant Achilles on its former position; this is an enormous bronze statue, eleven metres in height, on a tall marble plinth, which was created in 1909 by the German sculptor Getz and was so heavy that it had to be moved to Corfu in sections and assembled on the spot. Achilles is shown in triumph - a pose suitable for a ruler as powerful as Wilhelm - and upright, with his shield, his spear and his helmet.
The Dying Achilles now stands on the terrace in front of, and slightly below, the peristyle with the Muses. It is a marble statue by the German sculptor Ernst Herder, made to a commission by Elizabeth in 1884, and originally located in her palace in Vienna. Achilles here is semi-recumbent, almost nude, wearing his helmet and attempting to draw the fatal arrow shot by Paris from his heel. This outstanding work, now the established emblem of the Achilleio, is notable for the skill with which the artist has rendered the hero's anguish and pain as death approaches.
Corfu town is not the only place to have monuments; they are to be found all over the island as in controvertible witnesses to the brilliance of its history.
Nor does the modern era lag behind in any way, for the countryside of Corfu is a succession of landscapes of unrivalled beauty. The island is densely wooded, with olive groves that convey an air of serenity and go some ways towards masking the steeply plunging cliffs of the west and with idyllic mountain hamlets peeping out of the greenery higher up the hills. Along the coast, the tone is set by quaint fishing villages built close to the water's edge, or near sandy beaches where bathers in their hundreds enjoy the sun and the cool sea. In the summer months, the constantly increasing tourist industry makes Corfu buzz, but there is no shortage of more isolated corners which hold out against modern developments and retain much of their authenticity. There, the serenity of the landscape brings earth and sky closer together and the aromas borne on the wind remind us that this is a place the gods have touched.
Towards the south end of Corfu town is gently-curving Garitsa bay, whose shore is an ideal place for a stroll or a trip in a horse-drawn carriage.
At the south end of Garitsa bay stands the Kanoni promontory, where most of the oldest monuments of Corfu are concentrated. Those closest to the town are the circular cenotaph of Menecrates and the church of Sts Jason and Sosipater. Not far away is the Palaiopoli district, where the ancient city of Corcyra stood. Further to the west, near the ancient Hyllaean harbour, are the remains of the temple of Artemis, while in Palaiopoli itself, by the entrance to Mon Repos, we can see what has remained of the Early Christian basilica of St Cercyra. The densely wooded Mon Repos estate was used after 1831 as the summer residence of High Commissioner Frederick Adam, and later belonged to the Greek royal family. Inside it, the High Commissioner's miniature palace has survived, and archaeologists have excavated the Kardaki temple and the temple of Hera. At Kardaki, close to the sea, is the spring by the same name which supplied the ancient city with water. Today, there is a fountain there, with a lion's-head spout, from which rushes a constant flow of cool water. Lorenzos Mavilis describes the Kardaki spring in one of his finest sonnets, while there is also a folk saying according to which, "any stranger who wets his lips at the spring will never return home to his own people". Above Kardaki rises Analipsi hill, with a magical view across the sea to the coast of Epirus and also north over Corfu itself. The village of Analipsi is the site of the ancient acropolis, on which a few traces of buildings still remain.
At the southern end of the promontory, 4 km. from the centre of Corfu town, is Kanoni, a place of international renown. It took its name from a cannon which the French set up there. Although Kanoni is one of the busiest places on the island and despite the number of hotels and other tourist facilities that cluster around it, it is still as picturesque as ever thanks to its unique view. Below the viewpoint, a metal bridge leads out from the promontory to an islet on which stands the seventeenth-century Vlacherna Monastery, Corfu's immediately recognisable trademark. Further out is another islet, Pontikonisi, whose clump of cypress trees has served as a source of inspiration for artists from all over the world. According to tradition, the islet was originally the ship of the Phaeacians which Poseidon turned to stone as it sailed back from taking Odysseus to Ithaca. On Pontikonisi stands the Byzantine church of Christ Pantocrator (eleventh-twelfth century), to which there is a pilgrimage on 6 August. Caiques from Kanoni take visitors out to Pontikonisi through the summer months.
From Kanoni, a narrow bridge runs across the Chalkiopoulou lagoon (the ancient Hyllaean harbour), close to the end of the runway of Corfu airport, and ends on the other side of the lagoon at Perama. This is a small tourist village set among olive trees, with good swimming beaches.
Close to Gastouri, 13 km. south of Corfu town, is Benitses, once, a small village but in recent years a centre for tourist development and a place whose night-life is renowned.
Argyrades, 33 km. south of Cor¬fu town, is one of the largest vil¬lages on the island and is interest¬ing for its traditional architecture, in which many features dating back to the Venetian period can be distinguished.
A road leads off from the bridge at Mesongi to Ayios Matthaios, and from it another turning brings us to the spot known as Gardiki.
Ano ('upper') Pavliana is an in¬land village which stands on a verdant hill. Kato ("lower') Pavliana is very close at hand.
In the church of St Demetrius which has a well-attended feast day on 26 October is an interesting iconostasis carved out of stone by the Kardamis family of sculptors. Another sculpture by the same family is to be found in the village of Garouna (Ano and Kato), which has a particular tradition in this art. The statue, created by Stefanos Kardamis in memory of his late father, depicts that self-taught stonemason. Garouna, also known for its carpet weaving workshop, is the venue - in mid-August - of lectures, performances, competitions and mountain-climbing contest. Ayios Gordios, on the coast below Garouna, is one of the most popular resort areas on the island; it has a sandy beach some five kilometres long, with strange rock formations at both end and green hills on the landward side. Of particular interest is Ortholithi, an isolated rock in the sea, about which there is a short story by Iakovos Polylas. Three kilometres from Ayios Gordios is the village of Sinarades, which has the only Folklore Museum on the island. Located in a traditional village house, it contains a reconstruction of a typical nineteenth-century rural dwelling.
Pelekas, an old-style village 13.5 km. to the south-west of Corfu town, stands on the top of an idyllic hill with an amazing view.
Palaiokastritsa is one of the most picturesque - and busiest - places on Corfu, and has been a famous resort area since the period of British rule.
The village is spread around six little bays (Ambelaki, Ayios Petros, Ayios Spyridon, Alipa, Platakia, Ayia Triada) all of which have sandy beaches and caves and are backed by verdant hills covered with olive trees. The beaches of Palaiokastritsa are very popular with bathers, who when not engaging in the sea sports available there can try fresh lobster - for which the area is famous - at one of the numerous little taverns. Caiques sail from these bays to a number of other nearby coves which are not accessible by land. In the sea are the islets of Skeloudi and Kolovri; a story connected with Kolovri tells us that it was the ship of some Algerian pirates which was turned to stone by divine intervention to prevent the pirates from attacking the monastery of Palaiokastritsa. Some archaeologists believe that the city of the Phaeacians and the palace of Alcinous were actually somewhere near Palaiokastritsa. Their views are not, however, generally accepted. According to these scholars, the acropolis of Scheria would have been on the hill now occupied by the monastery of Our Lady the Mother of God. The monastery was founded in 1228, but the buildings we see today date from no earlier than the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The arched courtyard is very beautiful, as is the view out over the bays of Palaiokastritsa. The monastery church was built in 1722 and is a single-aisled basilica. It has an interesting collection of icons dating from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. More notable Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, together with vestments, sacred books and holy vessels, are housed in the little monastery museum.
Not far from Palaiokastritsa (4 km.) is the village of Lakones, where the spot called Bella Vista has a panoramic view of the deeply indented coast around Palaiokastritsa. The road continues to the village of Krini, from which a path leads in 3 km. to the superb fortress of Angelokastro.
Angelokastro, one of the few Byzantine castles of Corfu, was built in the thirteenth century by Michael I Angelus Ducas, ruler of the Despotate of Epirus, to protect Corfu against the incursions of pirates.
Not much has survived of the buildings inside the castle, but the climb up to the top of the precipitous hill on which it stands is worth the effort for the incredible view out to sea and east towards Corfu town. The road between Palaiokastritsa and Corfu town - a smooth run of some 25 km. - was built by the British in 1828 to improve their control over the area.
The bay which lies to the north of Corfu town actually consists of a large number of little coves, around whose gently-sloping shores stand attractive and busy tourist resorts.
Among the most highly developed of these is Alykes (4 km.), a coastal village with luxury hotel complexes. From Alykes, a road runs to the village of Potamos and 'The Village', a modern reconstruction of a traditional Corfiot village of Venetian times. In late summer, the wine festival is held at 'The Village', and the year's wines may be tasted - free of charge - to the accompaniment of performances of music. Not far away is the village of Evropouli, site of the Capodistrias Museum with its collection of the personal effects of the man who was the first governor of modern Greece. More tourist amenities are to be found at Kontokali (8 km.), which stands on a small bay and has a marina for pleasure craft, some good beaches and a camp site. One kilometre further north is the long sandy beach belonging to the village of Gouvia. On the way to this area from Corfu town, we pass the Venetian naval base, of which some ruins have survived together with those of a fortress. Off Kontokali and Gouvia is the islet of Lazareto, which from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century was the quarantine station for the crews of ships arriving in Corfu. The next beaches in this direction are those of Dafnila and Dasia, both of which are backed by olive groves that run almost down to the sea. Not far away, at the Villa Mimbelli, is a replica of a fourteenth-century Italian palazzo. Of equal tourist interest is the village of Ipsos, which stands behind a long beach at the very foot of Mt Pantokrator.
Skripero is an attractive, traditional village in the interior of the island (approximately 8 km. from Gouvia), with a fine view.
Outside Pyrgi is the turning which heads into the interior of the is¬land and up to the mountain villages of Spartilas and Strinilas.
This is a route of breath-taking splendour, and the views down the mountainside and out to sea are most impressive. Even finer prospects are to be had from the peak of Mt Pantokrator (906 m.): when the weather permits, the coast of Epirus and Albania can be seen to the east, the little islands of Ereikoussa, Othoni and Mathraki are visible to the west and even Paxi and Lefkada, far to the south, can be discerned. The summit is crowned with the Pantocrator monastery, first founded in 1347 and destroyed in the sixteenth century. Although it was rebuilt in 1689, almost nothing of the building's earlier stages has survived. Inside is a collection of post Byzantine icons.
Along the north-east coast of Corfu are numerous little bays by which stand seaside villages and attractive taverns where one can enjoy fresh fish and the view across the narrow channel to the coast of Albania.
Barbati is a wide bay with a fine sandy beach, while Nisaki's beach is pebbly and there are caique sailings to Corfu town. Not far to the north is the picturesque bay of Kalami, where the author Lawrence Durrell lived while writing Prospera's Cave. His house can still be seen. Next comes the bay of Kouloura, a most attractive little harbour where there is a fortified Venetian house. A side-road beyond Kouloura leads to the little cove of Ayios Stefanos, whose cape is the nearest point on Corfu to the Albanian mainland; the channel is only 1.5 miles wide at this point.
Kassiopi is a large and attractive village by the sea beneath the lower slopes of Mt Pantokrator, 37 km. to the north of Corfu town.
The north part of Corfu looks quite different from the rest of the island, partly because there is less tourism.
The landscape is still most attractive, combining the allure of mountains and the sea alike, and the inhabitants are strongly attached to their traditions. The coastal area of Almyros is of great archaeological interest because of the cemetery which has been discovered there and is still being excavated. The burials date from between the late Archaic and Hellenistic periods and the cemetery belonged to a farming community whose economy seems to have had little contact with the outside world.
To the west of Almyros is a vast sandy beach (Ayios Yeorgios bay) and there is a lagoon (Lake Antinioti of ecological interest. By the coast are the pleasant little villages of Acharavi and Roda; in the latter, archaeologists have excavated a temple of the fifth century BC whose architectural members are on display in Corfu Archaeological Museum.
From Roda, there is a road leading into the interior of the island and to the quaint village of Karousades.
In the village is the mansion of the Theotokis family, a dynasty which produced many of Corfu's leading figures in the artistic as well as the political world. The building is fortified, and must first have been built in the fifteenth century. The coast road continues in 5 km. to Sidari, a former fishing village whose beaches are of unrivalled beauty. There are rock formations of a particularly striking nature which form a huge number of tiny coves and narrow channels. One of them, of distinctive beauty, is called the 'Channel of Love' and there is a tradition that anyone who manages to swim right along it will soon meet the partner of his or her dreams. Apart from its other attractions, Sidari is also a place of archaeological interest, being one of the few places on Corfu where traces of habitation in the Neolithic period have come to light. There are the ruins of a Venetian fortress nearby.
A side-road south from Sidari brings us to the village of Arkadades, set in bewitching countryside where the picturesque villages are surrounded by olives and cypresses. This is, perhaps, the quietest part of Corfu, an area in which tourism has had hardly any effect on the traditional ways of life of the local people. We continue from Arkadades to the bay of Ayios Yeorgios, with its vast beach 5 km. long. Although this is no longer the deserted place it once was, there is still magic in the air. The coastline north from Ayios Yeorgios is largely rocky, but there is another sandy beach at Arillas (2.5 km), lying between two little promontories. Three islets - Diapolo, Sykia and Gravia - are situated off the coast here.
To the north-west of Corfu, at distances of between 10 and 14 miles from its coast, lie a group of islands called the Diapontia which are the most westerly territory of Greece, situated where the Ionian Sea becomes the Adriatic.
The largest of the islands are Mathraki, Ereikousa and Othoni, little Greek paradises where time seems to have come to a near-halt and where life flows slowly and peacefully by. All three are verdant, with olives and cypresses as the commonest trees. The very few inhabitants of the islands are fishermen, farmers and shepherds. Visitors are an even rarer sight, and this has done much to preserve the authenticity of the islands. In the summer months, caiques and launches ply to and from the islands, operating out of the harbours along the north coast of Corfu, but in the winter such sailings are few and far between and the Diapontia islands return to their isolation.
Little is known of the ancient history of the islands, and such information as we have comes from the written sources: the poet Lycophron (320-250 BC), the historian Pliny (23-79 AD), and the lexicographer Hesychius (fifth century AD). They seem to have been uninhabited in Byzantine times, and it was not until the Venetians ruled on Corfu that fresh settlers arrived, from Paxi and Epirus. During the period of the British protectorate, the Diapontia were places of exile for those who advocated the unification of the Ionian Islands with the rest of Greece. After unification actually took place in I864, the island's communities were formed into the Municipality of Diapontia, whose chief settlement is Ammos on Othoni. Today, each island is a separate administrative entity of its own, and there are some 600 permanent residents.
Mathraki is three nautical miles from the coast of Corfu, the closest point to it being the beach of Arillas.
It has an area of 3.5 square kilometres and around 140 inhabitants, who are employed in fishing and harvesting the olives of the island. In earlier times, this was an island of sailors, owning some 30 sailing ships, but the dwindling population brought sea-faring activities to an end. The medical and educational needs of the two villages - Ano and Kato Mathraki - are met by a rural doctor's post and by a primary school which rarely has more than seven pupils on its roll. The islanders are inter-related and take part all together in the events of community life, retaining intact all the customs and traditions of the island. They are notable for their friendly and hospitable attitude towards visitors, though tourists are few and rarely stay long, given that there is very little tourist accommodation. East of Mathraki is the uninhabited islet of Diapolo.
Ereikousa is 4.5 nautical miles from Sidari, which it greatly resembles in terms of terrain.
It has an area of six square kilometres and is the most populous of all the islets, with 334 permanent residents. In the centre of the island is the village of Ereikousa, around which lie the beaches of Porto, Fiki and Prangini. The islanders, hospitable and out-going, are farmers and fishermen, while the remittances of emigrants - mostly to America - make a major contribution to the island economy. Ereikousa has a hotel, and there are quite a number of rooms to rent.
Othoni is the westernmost point in Greece, lying 7.5 miles from the north-west coast of Corfu and 43 nautical miles from Cape Otranto in Italy.
The island has an area of nine square kilometres and two large villages, Ano and Kato Chorio (Ammos), with about 100 inhabitants. The beach near Ammos, the chief settlement, has both sand and pebbles, while there is a sandy beach at Aspri Ammos. At Aspri Ammos there is a cave which tradition claims as the home of Calypso; it would seem that in the popular mind Calypso's island, where Odysseus lived for years, was identified with Othoni. Some scholars have even gone to far as to claim that this far-flung island, and not Corfu, was Homer's Scheria, and that the palace of king Alcinous stood here. However, there is no historical evidence to back this assertion. At Kastri there are traces of a Venetian fortress, and we know that a sanatorium for British soldiers operated at Kassimatika from 1814 to 1864. During the nineteenth century, Othoni was an important trading centre, and the islanders owned about 60 sailing ships. However, the population began to emigrate after 1850, with large numbers leaving for the United States, Australia and Germany in the 1960s. Today, such islanders as are left are farmers and fishermen, and a small proportion of their income comes from tourism. There are a few rooms to rent on Othoni, and there is also a rural doctor's post.
Paxi is the smallest of the seven major islands in the Ionian chain, with an area of 25.32 square kilometres (length 8 km., breadth 4 km.).
The island lies seven nautical miles to the south of Corfu, quite close to the coast of Epirus: the channel between Paxi and Parga is only 12 nautical miles wide. There are ferry departures to Corfu town and Lefkimmi, and also to Patra, Igoumenitsa, Amfilochia and Preveza, while during the summer month’s launches ply back and forth to Parga. The population of Paxi is 2,400 - most of them employed in the cultivation of the olive crop and in fishing. Tourism is not particularly highly developed, and Paxi continues to be an ideal place for those who look forward to quiet holidays far from the bustle of the popular resorts.
Paxi is an island of great natural beauty; its dense covering of pines, olives and vines, its deeply indented coastline, its steep rocky cliffs and its sea-caves combine to produce a landscape of idyllic charm. The interior of the island is relatively flat - the highest 'peak', Ayios Isavros, is only 217 metres above sea level - making it ideal for walking or cycling. Walkers will find numerous paths leading down to isolated beaches. The road network is well-organised and buses run to most of the villages.
The 'capital' of Paxi, and its harbour, is Gaios, a quaint little town of 1,300 inhabitants whose houses are in the style typical of the Ionian Islands. In the entrance to the harbour are two verdant islets, Ayios Nikolaos and Panayia, which provide natural protection against rough weather and give Gaios a magical atmosphere. On Ayios Nikolaos are the remains of a Venetian castle (1423), while on Panayia is a monastery dedicated to Our Lady. On Her feast each year (15 August), the villagers carry her icon out into the bay on boats and there is a banquet at which all are welcome. Launches run from Gaios to these two islets, and also to Mongonisi and Kaltsonisi, two more uninhabited scraps of rock to the south of Paxi.
Further south is the second largest village, Ozias, a seaside settlement of 250 inhabitants standing on a naturally amphitheatrical site. Ozias is known for its medicinal springs and for the caves to be found around its little harbour. At Porta are the remains of an Early Christian basilica. A little bridge leads across to the nearby islet of Mongonisi, which can also be reached by boat. Most of the tourist development of Paxi is centred on Longos, 5.5 km. north of Gaios, a typically “Ionian” village set amid pine trees which run right down to the water's edge. On the fine beaches nearby are facilities for water-skiing, canoeing and Para kiting, while fresh fish is almost always available in the little taverns. On the north side of the island is Lakka, a holiday community set amid dense vegetation at the head of a bay also called Lakka. Along the coast at Lakka are numerous sea caves, which can be visited by boat. The Ipapanti cave, according to the local people, communicates underground with the church of the Presentation of Our Lady in Lakka itself.
Antipaxi is a still tinier island, lying three nautical miles south of Paxi. It has an area of five square kilometres and a population of about 120. There are few villages, but the island is covered with orchards, most of which belong to people from Paxi. Like Paxi, Antipaxi is densely-wooded, with clean sandy beaches and numerous caves. The nearby islets of Exolitharo and Daskalio can be visited from Antipaxi by boat. The seas around the islands are ideal for spear fishing, and in fact most of the fish consumed on Corfu comes from Paxi and Antipaxi.
Little is known about the ancient history of these islands, and very few monuments have survived down to the present day. The written sources tell us that one of the sea-battles between the Corfiots and the pirates of Illyria took place outside the mouth of the Antipaxi channel; the Corfiot defeat in this conflict led to the surrender of the island, in 229 BC, and gave the Romans a pretext for intervening in the area. During the centuries which followed, the history of Paxi was largely the same as that of Corfu, and it was occupied, successively, by the Angevins, the Venetians, the French and the British. Since 1814 it has belonged administratively to the Ionian Islands, and today it is part of the Prefecture of Corfu.