|KERKYRA - CORFU
This description provides information of ancient sites, seaside resorts, churches, monasteries, landscapes and small towns and villages. Additional details can be found in various books printed on Greece, such as the 'Blue Guide to Greece.' The names of places conform to the accented Greek pronounciation which would be the one a traveller would face upon a potential visit.
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Corfu - Kerkyra
The beautiful Corfu - Kerkyra in Greek - is the island of those with romantic hearts, the island of the historians and the aristocrats, the island of the sweet romantic cantadas offers a unique style which grabs the heart of all that visit her. |
Kerkyra lies just off the coast of Epirus (═piros), is about 36 miles (58 km) long, and about 17 miles (27 km) wide with an area of about 230 square miles (595 square km). Fairly maintainous, the island's highest peak is Pandokrator (2,972 feet -906 m high) in the north highlands.
The island is well watered and very fertile with olive, fig and citrus trees, grapes and corn etc, and as a result is considered as having the most attractive countryside of the Greek islands.
The name Corfu is an Italian corruption of the Greek coryphai ("crests"). According to legend, the island was Scheria or Drepani, home of the Phaeacians - Alkinoos's people - in the Homeric epic of Ylysseus. A Corinthian colony established about 734 BC supplanted a settlement of Eretrians from Euboea. Proudly independent and even hostile to its mother city of Corinth, the new colony was reduced (c. 600 BC) by the Corinthian tyrant Periander, but later it regained independence and devoted itself to commerce. Corfu took no active part in the Persian invasion (480 BC) of Greece, but in 435 it sought the assistance of Athens in a quarrel with Corinth, a request that became a primary cause of the Peloponnesian War. Corfu quit the war in 410, but a new alliance with Athens (375) resulted in hostilities with Sparta.
After 303, the island changed hands several times for a quarter century. Seized in 229 BC by the Illyrians, it was delivered by the Romans, who retained it as a naval station and made it a free state. In 31 BC Octavian (later the emperor Augustus) used it as a base against Mark Antony, but his foundation of Nicopolis Actia on the site of his victory caused Corfu to lose a great deal of its prestige.
The island's favourable position between Greece and Italy attracted powers from east and west. In succession it fell to Goths, Lombards, Saracens, and Normans and was fought over by the kings of Sicily and the Italian city-states of Genoa and Venice. In 1204 the island was annexed to the Greek despotate of Epirus but passed back to King Manfred of Sicily (1259) and then (1267) to the Angevins of Naples. Venetian sovereignty was restored in 1401. Upon the dismemberment of the Venetian republic (1797), Corfu was assigned to France; but the French garrison was soon expelled by a Russo-Turkish fleet. Incorporated into the Napoleonic empire (1807), it became a British protectorate after the emperor's final defeat (1815). British administration displeased the inhabitants, however, and in 1864 Corfu was ceded, with the other Ionian Islands, to Greece. Significantly, Corfu was never occupied by the Turks.
Transport - How to get to Kerkyra.
By Air: There are daily flights from Athens (duration about 50') and the passengers can get to the town (distance 3km) by bus. Information: OA, Kerkyra (0661) 38694-6, airport, 30180.
By boat: Daily sailings from Igoumenitsa (1:45'), and 2-4 sailings from Patra (12hrs). There are also connections to Brindisi, Ancona and Bari in Italy. There a lot of local sailings connecting many of the island ports and other islands.
By road: There is a KTEL bus service from Athens (11hrs) and from Thessaloniki (8hrs).
The first place to visit and the most historically interesting is the town of Kerkyra itself.
Modern KÚrkyra, the chief city, port, and capital of the nomˇs (prefecture), lies on a peninsula on the east coast of the island. The twin-peaked old citadel, with fortifications built by the Venetians (1550), was once an islet. Its old town, with its labyrinth of hilly, narrow streets, is a seat of a Greek metropolitan and a Roman Catholic bishop.
During World War II, the city was bombed by the Italians and occupied by the Italian and German forces and during the fighting of 1943, many of its buildings and other landmarks were destroyed. but the Royal Palace (1816), a former residence of British governors and now a museum, escaped. The island was restored to Greece in 1944. In 1962 a palace, the Achilleion, built (1890-91) for Elizabeth, empress of Austro-Hungarian Empire, was for a while converted to use as a casino. Pop. (1981) city, 36,901; island, 97,102.
Kerkyra has played an important role in the cultural and educational development of modern Greece. In 1815, the first Fine Arts School was founded and the first university was inaugurated in 1819 by Lord Guilford with the support of Ioannis Kappodistrias who was born here and later became the first Prime Minister of the newly liberated Greece.
One of the most interesting places to visit is the Spianada, the enormous and well known central square with numerous little parks, fountains, orchestral displays, statues etc. Next to it stands the Old Citadel which was built between the 12th and the 16 th centuries and lies on a small island opposite the Spianada, the enormous and famous central square. The New Citadel or the Citadel of San Marco is very well worth visiting too. The Mansion of Sts Michael and George, of Georgian architecture, is now a Sino-Japanese Museum, the Archaelogical Society and the Public Library with interesting displays. It originally housed the British High Commissioner and then was used as a home by the king George I of modern Greece at the turn of the century. Other museums include the Archaelogical, the Byzantine, the Historical, the Museum of the Heroes of the Revolution and the Maritime Museum. The Town Hall was built in the middle of the 17th century as a club for Venetian nobles and officers and is still called San Giacomo.
The town, as most Greek towns, boasts many interesting churches. That of St Spyridon, the island's parton saint, is the most famous but Panagia (Virgin) Spiliotissa, Panagia Adivouniotisa, Panagia Kremasti, St Jason and Sosipatros and others are worth visiting. The town has also a number of Catholic churches as there are a few thousand Roman Catholic believers living on the island.
The town offers many places for entertainment - be it the varied tavernas or the many nightspots, clubs and bars, some of which are within the many high class hotels. There is an easy-to-reach golf course and many sport centres with tennis, mini golf and other facilities. There is also a casino which used to be housed at the Achilleion, can now be found at the Hilton Hotel.
This is a resort very close to the town with well known and frequented restaurants and night spots.
Gastouri(11km from Kerkyra town)
This lovely village is famous for being the setting for the Palace Achilleion. It is a splendid building with many statues, landscaped gardens and interesting exhibits. It is now used for international meetings and conferences.
Further on is Kanoni (4km). This is one of the most beautiful sites on the island. The Vlahernon Monastery is built on a little island joined to the mainland by a centuries old promontory. Close to it is the famous Pontikonisi (Mouse island), with a 13th century church, which can be reached by boat. Legend has it that this is the rock outcrop that Ulysseus was thrust upon by the storm or even the boat of the Phaecians which was turned into stone as it returned after carrying Ulysseus to Ithaca.
Benitses (13 km).
A very popular pleasure resort and beach with numerous restaurants, tavernas, bars, clubs ensuring a really lively night life.
A beautiful olive grove close to the sea. Many tourist facilities and hotels and a very wide beach. Close to it you will find the only significant lake of the island, Lake Korysion. The Gordyki Citadel is close by as is the well known resort Kavos with excellent sandy beach and many amenities. For quiet time the surrounding areas of Pandatika, Armena and Pano Kikkinia are recommended.
A well to do second town of the island, is situated at the southern most tip of the island close to quiet and most beautiful beaches, coves and beckoning azure waters.
Ermones (15 km) -
On the western shores of the island, it is a wild, isolated cove with the nearby monastery of Mirtidion and, according to legend, the place where Odysseus met Nausica. Evidence of Neolithic habitation was unearthed here.
A traditional village perched on the top of a hill with incredible view and unforgettable sunsets. The nearby Glyfada beach is very popular with tourists and offers many amenities. The best gold course of Kerkyra is also nearby. Just south of Glyfada you will find the beautiful and large beach of Agios (St) Gordis.
The very popular little village with the famous monastery of Panagia Paleokastritsa. The monastery was built in 1228 AD on rocks facing the sea and is close to a 13th century fort. The village offers many fish tavernas and is the starting point to visit many caves and other nearby isolated beaches. Stellari is particularly worth visiting with its sheer rock cliffs behind you, the large white pebbles and crystal clear waters. Just north lies the little village of Krini and the citadel of Aggelokastro which was used by the Kerkyreans to escape the frequent pirate raids. Finally, the rock perch, Bella Vista is well worth visiting for its magnifiscent views over the sea.
Alikes (4km), Kontokali and Gouvia (9km)
North of the town, three viallges offering a large selection of tavernas, beaches etc.
A beautiful beach with olive trees reaching right down to the sea.
Agios Stefanos (25km)
A small village reached following the beautiful twisting road over the mountain of Pantokratoras through many little villages offering good friendly food in little tavernas. Lovely beaches along the way. The villages of Spartylas and Strinylas show the true beauty of Kerkyra and allow direct view of Hepirus and Albania.
A nice little marina and traditional village. Ruins of another old fort nearby.
Roda and Sidari (31km)
Tourist centres with some of the most incredible beaches of the whole Mediterranean! The Canal of Love is a nearby magnificent beach where you can find your partner in love! Sidari is the starting point for visiting the little isolated islands of Othoni, Erikousa and Mathraki north of Kerkyra. Peroulades is also worth visiting as is the beach and taverna at Arillas.