Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Day in Corfu Town

Kerkyra, also known as Corfu Town is a charming destination for a city break in the heart of the Mediteranean Sea. Easily reached by low cost flights, its tiny airport is about 11 km away. I loved the old cosy Art Deco building of the former airport that lies abandoned by the junction with the main road.

Symphony of Hights & Blue

The flavour of the place is given first of all of its natural setting: different heights play a symphony together with the blue bay waters marked at the horizon  by the pinkish violet rolling hills of the Greek mainland.

Venetian Heritage

The second thing that impacts you in a pleasant way is due to the strong finger print of the Venetian rule that lasted here almost 600 years (1204-1797). There is a flavour of Venice and Veneto throughout the old town. It feels like Venice lifted from its canals and placed on a hill. The Old Fortress (Palaio Frourio) looks very much alike Bergamo's fortress.

The Town Hall (Dimarchio) originally built as a San Giacomo theater in pure Venetian style. A 360 degree turn and you can spot a church tower that recalls San Marco Square of Venice and a corner tower similar to the Veneto castles. 

The large lawn covered square flanked by a long French style arcade with posh cafes seems to be Kerkyra's best room for display to see and be seen. The arcaded terraces known as The Liston were built by the French in the early 1800s following the model of the Rue de Rivoli buildings in Paris. The name (Liston) comes from the famous local "list" or Libro d'Oro - a directory of the Venetian aristocracy having political position and rights, managing the City Council. Stopping here for a coffee or a strawberry salad is a must, just to take a break and watch the world go by. 

Once refueled you are good to go across the square to visit the Palace of St. Michael and St. George, former home of the Greek royal family, today home for the Asiatic Art Museum. 


But probably the best thing you could do in this old town is just to forget about the map and walk wherever you feel inspired to. Look up, inhale the history of the place and imagine yourself being transported across centuries. Window frames, shutters, arches, porticoes, gates, balconies, little squares elevated by stairs, fountains, palm trees, churches. 

Like this you may discover the place where the Ionian Parliament proclaimed in 1863 the union of the Ionian Islands with the Kingdom of Greece under the protecting power of Great Britain. 

Evraiki - the Jewish Quarter

Nestled at the feet of the New Fortress is the Jewish district ("Evraiki") organized around the freshly renovated synagogue (the only one remaining out of 3). It was here that I felt to be found the still intact life of the locals where few tourists roam. In fact the little tavernas and terraces stretching towards the new harbor were buzzing with locals in a more laid back frenzy. The 1800 years of the Jewish community in this island saw influxes from Spain, Portugal and Apulia region in Italy and was hit severely by the massive deportations in the 1940s to the extermination camps. Currently the local Jewish population outnumbers 100 persons. 

More Useful Links

Municipality of Corfu:
Corfu page on Wikitravel:
Corfu page on Wikipedia:

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Best Beaches in Corfu

A special article needs to be dedicated to a personal top of the best beaches in Corfu. I would like to highlight the subjective aspect of this list as for some other people priorities could perceive a shift. What I was looking for was a set of factors such as the space & length of the beach, the natural set, the orientation, how easy or not it is reachable, the nature vs built landscape, the commercial side, the cleanliness of the beach and water, the color of the water.

Issos Beach

It is probably the beach that I liked the most. Its endless stretch, sandwitched between the sea and sand dunes, it gives you space for long strolls and (at the beginning of September) there were hardly few people there. The access point is off Linia village in the southern part of the island of Corfu. By a dusty parking lot, the beach opens with a rustic bar/terrace with chill out music, pillows, carpets, sun shaped suspended candle holders where you can absorb a frape' drink and the majestic sun set. Further to the right there is a surf and sailing club.

Mirtiotissa Beach

Marketed as one of the most beautiful beach in Europe (hmmm, hmmm), Mirtiotissa preserves the natural habitat and landscape. The scenery is hotel and commerce free. All you can see is the mountain covered in green vegetation, a tiny monastery and few rocky humps coming out of the water. The mountain wall by the beach absorbs the heat of the sun and in the night it makes a perfect source of warmth to the star watchers or the people who camp for free on the beach. The two mini streams of spring water make a perfect shower to wash the sea salt off your skin. The beach is popular with naturist sun bathers (locals and tourists alike) and there is a sort of a community spirit in the air pointing back to the 60's and 70's. The bar serves great sandwiches and fruit salad served either with ice cream or yogurt and honey. Miam!

Ermones Beach

The coziness of this beach will make you remember it long time in spite of the large steps shaped hotel and its funicular. The terrace at its southern side is catered by two super hospitable brothers and is an ideal location for snapping that perfect sun set you want to post to Facebook to make friends jealous.

A boat to Paradise

South of Paleokastritsa are to be found some of the most spectacular beaches, most of them reachable by boat. They are about 15 of them! Once in Paleokastritsa harbor you will see many boat rental companies. I used the "yellow boat company" and the price I paid was 50 euros for the day plus petrol. Definitely it is a highlight of the holiday. As a practicality, if you are sea sick, make sure you have with you some pills or ginger (the traditional remedy used by sailors for centuries).

Rovinia Beach (by road and sea)

North of the beach above is Rovinia Beach. White pebbles throughout is flanked by high walls of rocks that make a big contrast with the azure waters. Very popular with families. It is a crowded beach with a solitary floating bar boat and in-and-out moving, hop-on hop-off tourist boats.

Private Beach

The small beach north of Limini Beach is a little jewel for the afternoon hours. Looks like a private pebble beach. The access is via a fairy tale like olive grove where the light and shade scramble among the secular olive trees. (by road and sea)

Limini Beach 

This is one of the most unusual beaches I have ever seen. I could call it the "two faces beach" as this stripe of sand is the umbilical cord linking an islet to the mainland, offering its worshipers to follow the sun from one side to the other, all day. (by road and sea)

Paradise Beach (by sea only)

The most sang and praised beach in the western Corfiot coast, south of Paleokastritsa. Reachable by sea only, it is frequented by the tourists who are unloaded by hop-on-off boats or more daring motor boat riders.  It might be very pleasant in the low season, otherwise better to wave to it from a passing by boat.

Krini Beach

North of Paleokastritsa there are 2 beaches reachable by boat, just down of Krini village. These seem to be the escape beaches for those who are looking for a bit of privacy away from the flocks chasing the Paradise Beach.

Other beaches

There are other beautiful beaches like this one that I stopped just to have a picnic on the east (south east) coast around Moraitika.

The guides recommend Arillas Beach, near Agios Stefanos (in the north west of Corfu) or Yaliskari Beach, near Pelekas, accessible from Sinarades.

There are few helpful websites: