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A visit to Kerkyra, capital of Corfu

Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 09 & 10 June 2015

Tuesday 09 June, a visit to Kerkyra, capital of Corfu

Today we drive to Kerkyra without any delay and park the car in the vicinity of the old harbor. From there we walk into the historic center with narrow alleys, but I have a rupturing pain in my right foot so we first look for a pharmacy for some painkillers. Then we find a place to sit for a cup of coffee and I hope that the pain will diminish soon because a visit to a city means that you have to walk a lot. Now Kerkyra is not a big city, with only 35,000 inhabitants (25,000 according to some sources) but still.
Monument for the Jewish victims of CorfuWe have arrived at a square just outside the old city and there is a bronze sculpture group. If we walk there after a while, it turns out to be a monument to commemorate the 2000 Jews of Corfu who were deported to Auswitz and Birkenau in the 2nd World War. Just over 100 of them survived and returned to the island. The bitter thing is that the then mayor Kollas thanked the Germans that they had liberated the island from the Jews after they were picked up by ships in 1944. Throughout Greece, the authorities worked fairly well together with the occupier. On Zakynthos, another Ionian island, that was fortunately a completely different story, which we will tell sometime later.
Souvenir shop in Kerkyra Washing lines above the street, CorfuThe alleys of the old town are narrow and very nice to walk through. The closer you get to the old harbor and the boulevard, the more touristic it becomes. The narrow buildings have been converted into souvenir shops or into cafés. The inner city is a real maze of streets with cobblestones and shiny tiles and we must say we like the non-touristic part best. We see only a few tourists walking, mainly the residents themselves and above the streets hang the clotheslines full of clothes. Because different foreign powers have dominated the island, you see a lot of foreign influences, but the old center is truly authentic Greek.
The fortress of Corfu Cruise ships in the port of CorfuHowever, the city is dominated by the old fort that stands on a protruding rock in the sea. In the 6th century there was already a fort here but it was fortified and extended by the Venetians in the 15th century. It is one of the highlights for the many tourists that come here, by plane or boat as you can see on the many large cruise ships. There is not only a ferry service with mainland Greece but also a direct connection with Italy; and many cruise ships that roam the Mediterranean Sea stop also here.
Palace of St. Michael and St. George, Corfu Mandrakinas churchThe palace of St. Michael and St. George was built by the British when they were in charge here in the 19th century. Now it is a museum for Asian art, something we did not expect at all here. But nice to visit. Behind the museum is the Mandrakinas church, a small but well-maintained building, one of the many beautiful churches in Kerkyra. A funny detail is that it is actually only used for baptism services and weddings. Then we search for the archaeological museum but that is closed.
Playing on the castle walls, Corfu Playing on the castle walls, CorfuThrough the spacious square the Esplanade (or Spianada) we walk to the old fort and from close by we can see how massive the walls are. Within the large citadel are 2 hills and it is thought that the name Corfu is derived from the Greek word koryfes which means 'summits'. The fact that the fort is not so impenetrable is proven by the children who climb up the walls and sometimes jump into the water from a great height. We think it looks scary, we really would not allow our (grand)children to climb up there. We continue quickly and enter the fort.
Canal along the castle of Corfu St. George church, CorfuThe Venetians also dug a canal so that the fort was now on an artificial island. We can walk over the terrain but it is not very interesting inside. In the buildings are now the library, the Greek music lab and there are regular exhibitions. The best thing is the St. George church that was built in 1840 in the style of a Doric temple.
I start to get pain in my foot again, so I do not want to walk much more.
The fortress of Corfu Nicely decorated cappuccinoWe walk towards the car and find a terrace at a boat restaurant where we take a rest. And from here we go to the next restaurant, one that we saw yesterday when we went to watch the planes from the dam. We are very kindly taken to a table from where we have a view of the airport, because they know that most people come here to see the planes fly by just before their eyes. I get a nice cup of cappuccino.
Again spotting airplanes in Corfu Again spotting airplanes in CorfuIt is remarkable that we can continue to look so long at landing aircrafts, fascinated as we are. At home we live near the airport of Eelde/Groningen and we never really go there. Here it looks like you can touch them and the natural setting, so close to the coast and beautiful islands, make it special too.
On our tablet we find a site with all arrival times and almost every 10 minutes there is a plane arriving and so we are ready with the camera. Today is Monday and that one of the busiest days.
Again spotting airplanes in Corfu View of Kanoni, CorfuWe are now a bit higher than yesterday on the dam and therefore we have a better overview of the environment. On the other side of the dam, Kanoni lies on a hill, named after the cannons that once stood there to protect the entrance of the lagoon. Now the village is a collection of hotels and restaurants, but also a place where we have to go one day to see the airport and the planes from that side. We have become avid plane spotters!
Mouse island near Corfu townJust before the dam is the island of Pontikonissi (Mice island) which according to legend is the petrified ship of the Greek hero Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, a few islands to the south. His return journey after the war with Troy eventually lasted 10 years and is described in the Odyssey. The sea god Poseidon continually bothered him and he was also the one who turned the ship, which Odysseus had gotten from the Phaeaceans, into a rock. On the island there is a small church and you can go there with a boat.
Palm trees in the garden, Corfu Flowering shrubs on CorfuThen we drive back and on the road we occasionally stop for a photo. At the Korission lake we have a look at whether there is a nice beach, but the beach in our own village appeals to us more. There we go to lie in the sun and I can give my feet some rest. I hope that the pain, and whatever caused it, will quickly disappear because we will have to walk enough in the coming weeks. The next day we therefore stay at our village, spending time at the beach or on the terrace of the restaurant.


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