Monday, July 8, 2013

So Close Yet A World Away: Discovering Corfu

Monastery bells
My blog has been silent this month since we spent this past week in Corfu, Greece exploring the island, immersing ourselves in Greek food and culture, and simply relaxing.  We had been wanting to visit Corfu and the opportunity to do so arose when the military attache association here in Tirana, under the guidance of the Greek attache who is a native of Corfu, decided to organize a trip to the island.  Group trips make me a bit apprehensive and as we set off I wasn't sure what to expect but I can clearly say now that the trip was amazing and I loved every moment of my Greek island adventure.

This northern most Greek island in the Ionian Sea is just 18 miles from the shore of the southern Albanian city of Sarande, but being there felt like it was a world away from our temporary home.  Whereas Albania feels arid and brown Corfu is incredibly lush and green.  Locals complained about the condition of the roads and infrastructure but from what we saw, it is light years ahead of those in Albania.  Greece may be in the midst of an economic crisis but we saw little evidence of this as we mingled amongst other throngs of tourists.  Multi-million dollar yachts floated in aquamarine coves, shops were bustling, and it felt as though the entire island was open for business.  In fact, this island's economy is heavily driven by tourism and from the restaurants and shops to historic sites, everyone we encountered was warm, welcoming, and hospitable.  Since Corfu is in the heart of the Mediterranean I was already familiar with the meats, cheeses, vegetables, and olives for which the region is famous. What I didn't know was that Corfu is most well known for her hundreds of thousands of olive trees that cover most of the island.  In addition to the cured olives and olive oil that we readily sampled, olive wood products were readily available for purchase.  (And yes, we also brought home a few of these beautifully marbled souvenirs).

Monastery entryway
So what did we do while there; we played tourist of course!  Under the knowledgable expertise of a local tour guide we toured the UNESCO designated Old Fortress of Corfu Town and meandered through the maze of streets in the city's pedestrian zone.  We explored monasteries dating back to the 1200s, toured the Achillion Palace which was once home to Elizabeth, the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, frolicked in the crystal waters off of Paleokastrisa, and took in the sweeping views from the top of some of Corfu's highest peaks.  (We also spent an amazing day island hopping between Corfu and neighboring islands but that is a post for another day).  We enjoyed long leisurely meals of local specialties overlooking the ocean and discovered some really good Greek wines.  And as is the case with any good get-away, we also had plenty of time on our own to explore the island or to do absolutely nothing.  Sidney loved wandering through the pedestrian friendly streets of the old city, wading along the beach and throwing rocks into the water, and watching airplanes take off and land from the nearby airport.  As adults we enjoyed all of this too but more so, we loved unplugging (we only had the weakest of interest signals in our room), relaxing, and just enjoying the atmosphere.  In fact, one of our favorite evenings of the week involved a local bottle of wine and dinner from room service eaten on our ocean front balcony.  It really doesn't get much better than this.  

Because pictures say it better than words can, here is a sampling of the amazing sights we saw:

Aquamarine water


The sculpture garden at the Achillion Museum

Everything was made of olive wood at this shop in the
center of old Corfu Town

An old motorcycle waiting for its rider to return
outside of the walls to the Old Fortress

Crossing into the Old Fortress

1 comment:

  1. I did 3 days on the island of Corfu. Dream as nice. Memories of the island of Corfu have written here. You told you so nice. Thank you.