Monday, 31 August 2015

Venetian charm and cobblestones in Corfu Town

The island of Corfu is the second largest island of Ionian sea. Her history is entwined in the bewildering turns of Greek mythology. According to a legend Poseidon, the god of sea, fell for the beautiful nymph Korkyra, brought her to the island which, at the time was still unnamed, and named the place after his sweetheart (Men- take note. Girls like that sort of things. I wouldn't mind having an island of my own. I might go on a date for less, though. Like... after having a rock named after me. Not fussy, me.)

The island has been settled at least since the Paleolithic era (70 000 - 40 000 BC) and was a significant centre for commerce and economy already before the Trojan war.

Corfu has had its fair share of conquests and wars, too. Owing to its strategic location it was at the forefront of European defence as the Ottoman empire sough to expand to the Adriatics and it was one of the most fortified places in the continent. 

After the Napoleonic wars Corfu fell under the British rule. In 1864 it as united with the rest of the Greece. The capital of the island is Corfu town. 

Corfu town is less than 40 kilometres from our base, the village of Agios Stefanos, but in the narrow serpentine roads of the mountains the journey takes at least 1,5 hours. The bus ticket costs €4,50 each way. 

The last green bus from Corfu town to Agios Stefanos departs already at 4pm, so if you intend to be on that and have a seat, start sharpening your elbows now. Taxi ride to Agios Stefanos would set you back about €60.

Corfiot architecture differs from traditional Greek one, result of its unique history. Between 1386 and 1797 it was part of the Republic of Venice and showcases the features of the Venetian architecture at the time: candy-coloured, multi-storey townhouses towering over narrow alleyways.

Italian influence is evident in Corfu in other ways too. Up until the mid-20th century Veneto da mar, a peculliar Venetian language was spoken here. Many Venetian and Italian words have found their way into the Greek spoken in the island today. 

In 2007  the Old Quarter of Corfu was added onto UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

If you fancy a bit of shopping, head over to the cluster of tiny streets located between Kapodistriou and Guilford streets.

In addition to souvenirs of varying degrees of tackiness ("My boyfriend went to Corfu and all I got was syphilis and this lousy T-shirt", anyone? A collection of shot glasses decorated with glow-in-the-dark-map of Corfu?) there are shops specializing in something else, too. Like jewellery. I had to make do with window shopping though that 1,5- carat princess-cut aquamarine ring with diamond halo would have been just the perfect souvenir for me. Too bad the 4-figure price tag wasn't...

The area is also bustling with small cafes and tiny tavernas with terraces to provide shade while you hydrate (and perform frantic calculations on how many not-so-vital organs should you need to sell on the black market in order to get enough money to by, well, let's say... a 1,5- carat princess-cut aquamarine ring with diamond halo.)

The more traditional goodies to lug back include loofah...

... and anything from the olive tree. Olives, oils, soaps and creams made of the oil and all sorts of artifacts carved out of olive wood.

If you'are after a bit more relaxed atmosphere, space to breathe and tavernas favoured by the locals, head over to the area nestling between Velissariou and Agia Sofia streets.

Pergola for instance, located on Agia Sofia has a good selection of seafood, bountiful salads and local specialties. 




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