Fri, December 9th, 2011 - By

Spotlight on Corfu

The northwestern Greek island of Corfu is the second largest in the Ionian Sea and home to the Ionian University. The municipality of Corfu also includes the smaller islands of Othonoi, Ereikoussa and Mathraki. Korkyra (or Kerkyra) as Corfu is known to the Greeks, was a  mythological nymph that Poseidon, ancient god of the sea, fell in love with. Corfu’s inhabitants were known as Phaeacians, named after their son.

The beautiful island of Corfu has seen many conquerors through the ages, that’s why it needed several castles. Corfu’s capital, Corfu Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has two castles.

Fountain and old fort, Corfu Town

Unusually, during the 400 year occupation of Greece by the Ottoman (Turkish) empire (approx. 1420-1820AD), Corfu was successfully defended by its then rulers, the Venetians, and never conquered. As a result, a lot of its beauty and traditions remained intact. However, Corfu eventually fell under British rule after the Napoleonic Wars, which imparted several interesting local customs/habits, including the practice of cricket, institution of brass bands etc, before its re- unification with Greece in 1864. As a result, Corfu has a very interesting mixture of Greek, Venetian and British influences, which are only too evident today. It is a very popular destination for UK holidaymakers and the jet set.

Good Morning, Benitses

Corfu town is famous for Italianate-style architecture. The charming old town is contained within fortifications and has a labyrinth of cobbled, colourful narrow streets. Corfu Town Hall, the old citadel (Palaio Frourio), the Venetian moat and the Doric style St. George’s Church are some of the highlights, with some wonderfully atmospheric concerts taking place amongst the old ruins with the backdrop of the Ionian sea.

The Old Town of Corfu

The huge complex of medieval corridors and fortifications making up the new citadel (Neo Frourio). This site only recently opened to the public and  is en route from the modern Port to the town centre. You can visit the huge square called Spianada with its Roman-style rotunda and the Palace of St. Michael & George with its ornate gardens. In addition the Old Palaces complex, including a Museum of Asian Art and old Venetian stone aquarium gardens, is well worth a look.

20111005 Corfu - Valcherna Monastery of Panayia

The tiny nearby verdant island of  Pontikonisi (mouse island) houses the monastery of Pantokrator, the white stone staircase of which resembles a tail and gives this island its name.

20111005 Corfu - Mouse Island

The Ioannis Kapodistrias International Airport, named the first governor of the independent Greek state, also offers domestic flights to Ithaki, Kefalonia,Paxoi, Ioannina, Patras, Lefkada and Brindisi in Italy. For public transport, buses from the capital to the major locations on the island are frequent. Corfu’s ferry services include traditional and high-speed boats (Flying Dolphins) to several islands, Igoumenitsa on the Greek mainland and Sarandë in Albania.

Corfu Channel

Image credits: Michael Gleave, Elizabeth Ellis, Robin, Keith Laverack

Karen Bryan

As well as writing about travel, Karen Bryan offers tips on saving money, frugal living and how to live well on less, on her site Help Me To Save

Posted : Friday, December 9th, 2011 at 11:00
Category : Spotlight
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