“Sometimes can be so frightful to open a new door. But how can you see what is behind it if you are not opening it?“ The Lonely Traveler
Corfu Island…When I booked my vacation to Corfu I did not imagine that my trip there will open a new door for me…It was the beginning of a very long relationship with Greece, which still last today. It was my first time there, not knowing much about it, although I was pretty sure I knew enough. Well..I was very opinionated and judgmental, some personality treats which I got rid of in the mean time. Rummaging through my memories, I was able to pinpoint the moment when the turn was made.
We were traveling the entire night crossing Bulgaria and then passing Thessaloniki heading West to Igoumenitsa, from where we were supposed to take the ferry to Corfu Island. When the sun was rising, we were crossing the Epirus, and with every mile, we traveled the sleepy mountainous peaks were appearing from the night`s dark patches of mists. The sky was changing its color and the stars were fading out…Maybe the stars were fading out but for me a new star arose …and this new star was Greece.
From that moment on everything seemed to be like a dream to me…When the ferry was getting close to Corfu Town port the island it was growing and growing, all its features becoming more and more clear. To me, it looked like a stone giant mermaid floating on the surface, kept by the sea at its bosom…My impression could not be more right..According to Greek mythology, Poseidon the god of the sea fell in love with a nymph Korkyra daughter of Asopos, the river god. He brought her to this island and he gave the island her name. The Island became known as Kerkyra their children were the first inhabitants of the island.
Entering the port, the temple of Artemis and the old fortress were greeting me with a bow. Up on the hill, the new fortress with its blackened stone walls was standing silently with a grim. Underneath its natural beauty Corfu Island has a turbulent past and it speaks very loudly through its fortresses’ walls.
Corfu was the most fortified place in Europe, being used by Venetians against ottoman intrusion in Adriatic. The Venetian influence can be seen all over the island, in the architectural style of the villas and in the way of life. If I would not have known that I am in Greece, I would have thought I am somewhere in Italy.
Normally, when I reach for an island the first thing I do is to find the most secluded beach, and lose myself on the paths close to the shore. But this time, I took my time and walked the streets of Kerkyra or Corfu Town. The most beautiful town by far of the seven Ionian Islands, it has a charm which keeps you hooked to it. It almost made me forget that I came to the island for the scenic beaches. The more I walked on those streets the more I wanted to deepen its mystery. So, I went on top of the citadel`s old walls and entered the chambers of the New Fortress..I walked on the promenade and ate ice cream on the streets surrounded by a town which looked to me so lively, so real. I admired the old city`s house adorned with the most spectacular Bouganvillea, so many of them being intense red.
I was wandering on the streets and I wished I could be able to take with me all those colors… I could continue writing about Kerkyra because there are real, a lot to say, or about Achilleion Sisi`s Palace, or about Pontikonisi, the island shaped like a mouse. But, I am not going to do it. These are the places which can be found in every brochure, others spending already tons of words talking about it. Instead, I am going to return to what is driving me back to Greece every single summer, since my first visit…the unique and incredibly beautiful beaches..
Hold on!..In my hurry to run to the beach, I am forgetting a very important detail..the road trip. To visit the island properly, a car is most need it, as for accommodation..my personal favorite is the West coast. Since I love the sunset for me is important to be able to see it, I will always choose the west no matter where I am going. Also, the most spectacular beaches and views can be found on the west coast giving the sensation of being cut from the rest of the world completely…Seriously..who can remember about things left behind when the sea and the sun are driving you irremediable into the arms of drop dead gorgeous sandy beaches..Actually are a bit pebbles…but sand, pebble…potato, potato..is just a detail…
The true beauty of this island lies on the West coast`s features. The place where the sea diligently carved surprisingly beautiful hidden bays, where for centuries the love story between Poseidon and Korkyra still goes on…
West part of Corfu is a place where the history intertwines with the natural beauty of the wild and rough coastline. One of the edifices which prove it is Angelokastro or Castel Sant`Angelo. Built on the highest peak of the northwest coastline, close to Pleokastrisa, it is strategically placed, and although it was seized couple times by ottomans it was never conquered.
It is not known for certain when it was built, its origins being lost in the darkness of times, probably sometimes at the beginning of 14th century. It was the first capital of the island. The view over the west coast from the castle it is breathtaking, and kind of make you realized why they choose this place to build the castle.
After being on top of the world, and flying with the eagles experience in Angelokastro the wise thing to do for me was to return to what I love…Beach and The Sea.
Yessss!!!…Going south from Angelokastro it means one thing…Paleokastritsa!!!! Legends says that Paleokastritsa is the place where Odysseus shipwreck in his long voyage back home, and here he met Nausicaa, the beautiful daughter of Alcinous king of Phaeacians the inhabitants of the island. She helped him to repair the ship and continue his journey. Although he had deep feelings for her, their love was never consumed. Before he left Nausicaa said“ Never forget me, for I gave you life”. He never forgot her, nor mentioned anything to Penelope about her..Men!!!..
Not only the legend is what makes of Paleokastritsa a must, also the marvelous laced shoreline composed of 5 bays, in each one the color of the sea is different, changing during the day time varying form green emerald to turquoise and deep blue. From Paleokastritsa, it is the best to take a boat and go to Paradise Beach, a spectacular pebble beach laying at the feet of a steep coastline wall.
With lots of salt in my hair, which make me look like a real deal pot head, and the smell of the sea lingering around me, not particularly sure it was a good thing, I went more south …Maybe now you are expecting to talk about a new beach… This time, though, I was not looking for a new beach. but for some shadow..While the coastline is blessed with lots of beautiful beaches, inside the island, in the valleys, the road is winding slowly through the olive tree and kumquat orchards…The best place to be in the morning, when the mist is rising still sleepy and tangled in trees branches…
There is nothing more rewarding for a traveler then seeing in the morning how mist glows under the sun`s touch, and fumes are creating shapes and forms looking like fairies were walking through the orchards blessing the trees with the gift of life. At night, on the other hand, tinny little lights are floating from one tree to another giving the impression of entering in the fairy land…Fireflies can be still found on this island hidden in the orchards transforming them in some enchanted forests…
Seeing all this somehow I realized why the olive is the gift from gods, we forgot how to appreciate its benefits. For me that trip it meant also the moment when I start using the olive oil not only in kitchen but also for cosmetic purpose, it proved to be a damn good decision!!!
Continuing my way through the orchards, I passed by the ruins of Gardiki Castle sleeping hidden between the olive trees. Less known, it is visited only by tourist which are getting there by accident, although its origins as a settlement are going back to 20000 BC when humans were mere hunter gatherers. I had no idea where I was going..I knew I am going south, though..The drive through orchards gave me a Crusoe feeling, I did not know what was waiting for me after the corner…And then the road went out from the forest… I was pretty sure that last time I checked I was still in Corfu Greece. because what I was seeing looked like a Caribbean beach..perfect waves ..sandy beach…shallow and turquoise waters…It was Halikounas Beach…
Part of Korission Lagoon, the beach along with the Korission lake are surprising and bewildering in the same time.
This is a protected area in Corfu, being abundant with flora and wildlife, and the area is listed on the European Environment agencies website, it is a protected area categorized on the European Nature Information System (EUNIS) under Natura 2000. The wind swept dunes of this amazing lagoon and the turquoise color of the sea are more suitable for a Bahamas illustration, instead… it is here in Corfu. A total unexpected view after wandering on the rugged shores, it looked like being an entirely new world, I even thought that I might have entered a time portal which took me some place else..
I could have stayed there forever, to see surfers and kite-surfers silhouettes sailing the perfect waves at sunset, seemed to be like an image taken from my dreams. Definitely, the place I loved the most in Corfu and where I would return anytime, no question asked. Since then I have seen so many beaches, and after the disappointing experience I had in Montenegro regarding the beaches I can say without a doubt that the Greek beaches are the best, deserving the blue flag awarded and any other existing prizes for beaches like this.
Since I am always blabbering about sunset, I do love sunsets this is my excuse, I should mention the best beach to see the sunset in Corfu, Lagos Sunset Beach. Placed in the northwest, is it one of the most spectacular beach in Corfu, and a mesmerizing place at sunset. Close to Cape Drastis Lagos Sunset Beach, it is a narrow strip of sand place at the base of steep white cliffs. Although the stairs which are taking to the beach does not look very reliable are the best way to go down to the beach.
When I reached Lagos Beach I was already tried. The entire day I was wondering from one place to another and although normally I would have gone down on the beach in order to have a better feeling of that sunset, this time, I preferred to watch the entire show sitting on the terrace of Panorama restaurant. Under the impulse of the flavors coming from the restaurant kitchen, I decided that it was about time to have a well-deserved dinner also because I was starving…
My motto says “No meal without feta and fries while in Greece!“ , and so I did. And this was pretty much what I was able to eat because I was already feeling like a balloon, and I was completely satisfied by the flavors of Greece I from in the dishes I had.
A day like this ended apotheoticaly in the north of the island, In Acharavi.To be more precise in Lemon Garden restaurant..I have few words to say about this..Hammock, Ouzo, Limoncello, dancing on the table, Greek night, fireflies, headache…the next, day of course…
As for the fireflies, I am not sure if it was the effect of Ouzo, or Limoncello …or both…But I saw them flying at night in the olive garden and it was magnificent!!!!
Corfu it meant the opening of a new door towards Greece`s beauty, and since then I traveled back to Greece every Summer. It meant finding my love for the sea, and finding the source of inspiration for what is today The Lonely Traveler, but also Tales of the Sea. It meant being touched by a disease which has no cure…wanderlust.
Corfu is Love, It is Amazingness. It is Row Beauty and Extraordinary Sunsets. It is Magnificent Beaches and Glowing Mornings It is Secular Orchards and Fireflies. It is Hammocks and Lemon Garden, A Door…and so many more…This is what Corfu is for me. To see what it means to you..you have to be there…and see for yourself…