"The Spirit of Corfu"

Trip Start Jun 03, 2008
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7
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Trip End Jun 19, 2008


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Flag of Greece  , Ionian Islands,
Sunday, June 8, 2008

     Corfu is the most northern island of the Ionian Group and lies at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea.  It is the second largest island of the Ionian.  Corfu is a mountainous island with beautiful landscapes, dense vegetation due to the many winter rainfalls, golden sandy beaches, one of Greece's prettiest towns, Byzantine churches and museums.  The island is considered the greenest island in Greece.

  We left our ship anchored in the harbor of Old Corfu Town.


Our tour guide this morning was Mary.  We had no trouble hearing her and she kept us laughing while she told us so many things about Corfu.   Our first stop was to be at the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin at Paleokastritsa.  First we had to get there.  The road leading to the Monastery was full of narrow lanes, lots of switchbacks, animals, people and we won't even discuss the motorcycles!  I wish I had photos to show those roads, but we were all hanging on with amazement at our drivers skill at avoiding all obstacles, including store fronts!  That was one ride you have to experience to really appreciate.


   On the way to the Monastery, Mary pointed out this rock formation in Pasleokastritsa Bay.  According to a local legend, the rocky island is the ship of Odysseus turned to stone by Poseidon.


   The monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary stands on a rocky promontory on the west coast of the island. According to the tradition the monastery was built in the 13th century.  It consists of the church in the center, surrounded by a complex of courtyards, rows of monks' cells, store-rooms, oil-presses, abbot's quarters and an open terrace and garden with a magnificent view.  




We had to wait in the courtyard for a little bit as there was a service going on when we arrived.  That gave me time to take a few more shots before heading inside.   The monastery makes its own wine and olive oil.


Then it was our turn to go into this Greek Orthodox Church.  It is a single -nave basilica with a masonry iconostasis.   There many beautiful lamps hanging in the church.  Some used candles, some were wired for electricity.



Then entire ceiling was covered with paintings.  


The front and sides of the basilica was covered in Religious Icons and more paintings.   In this icon of the Virgin Mary, her eyes follow you.


Some of our group took advantage of the opportunity to light candles and say a prayer.   Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit the museum, I would have like to have seen more of the history and culture of the place.  Maybe next time we are in Corfu!


I found yet another dog.   He found himself a cool place to lay down, right in the middle of the way out!  The terrace was marble so I bet he spends a lot of his time there.  We asked Mary about all the dogs we kept seeing.  She explained that in Greece they don't believe in putting dogs down.  What they do is gather up the strays, give them all their shots, spay/neuter them, add a collar and turn them back out.


We stopped at the foot of the mountain to visit a beach and small harbor. The water is absolutely beautiful, so blue and clear.  We decided if they had our white sand it would be perfect.  (I need to send Mary a photo of our beach then she will know what we were talking about).



I talked Kenny into collecting rocks for Logan when we were in Alaska last year.  He really got into it on this trip!   This was shot from our moving bus.  On the ground are the nets that are used to collect the olives from the tree during harvest.  They spread the nets under the branches, hit said branches with pole and the olives fall into the nets.  You can also see holes in the trunk of the tree.  This is being caused by some sort of disease that is attacking only the trunks of the olive trees.  So far, it hasn't done anything to the branches of the trees.   On Corfu alone there are some 3 million olive trees owing to the Venetian practice of collecting tax in the form of oil.  The Venetians paid for each tree planted to improve the yield during their 400 year tenure.


  Our next stop was a little shop and bakery higher in the hills.  We had great views of Paleokastritsa Bay.  


The bakery supplied us with a drink. There was a cool breeze blowing and it was nice to just sit and relax for a bit.


We could see the Monastery from the porch and tell how high we had climbed in such a short time.  


We also had a view of the Old Fortress.


From the little shop, I picked up a hat, a couple of scarves for the girls and some post cards.  Kenny did even better, he picked up a CD with 350 photos from Corfu!



Then it was off for the drive to the little village of Kinopiastes. We were to have lunch in there and visit an Olive Press Museum! They greeted us at the door with a small cup of Ouzo, a clear licorice-flavored liqueur.  It will really clear your sinuses!


The host in the museum explained what the equipment was and how it was used.  Unfortunately, I couldn't hear her well enough to understand what she was saying.

Kenny listens better than I do (I get distracted taking photos, no surprise to anyone that knows me!  



A short walk down the street led us to our venue for lunch today.


We went through the restaurant to an outdoor covered patio.  It was just lovely.


  There were musicians playing all during lunch.


And Greek dancers!  They performed tradional wedding dances complete with costumes.



There was lots of wine! I took these photo with the idea of finding this wine later.  We really liked it.  The we found out that the restaurant makes it for their patrons and it isn't sold anywhere.  So, we had to enjoy it while we could, and we did.

 

As this was our first Greek meal, we didn't know what we were in for.  This is an example of the first bowls they brought out.  We learned later that it was called "Starters."  There was homemade bread, Greek cheese (not feta, but something else), what looked liked salami to me and tzatziki (yougurt, cucumbers and garlic).



More dancing!



More food!  These are roasted potatoes, more Greek cheese and the grease from the missing sausages.  (Okay, so I ate something before I took it's photo...you might as well know that I forgot to take a photo of the Greek salad in the beginning too, it was covered in peppers so I didn't touch it.  Kenny did his part and made up for my not eating it.  I can always count on him to pick up the slack for me!)



Then we were invited to dance with them.  Kenny declined but I had had enough of the wonderful wine to accept.



  Yet another plate of food!  Now I know why we needed so much wine, to wash down all the food!



This was taken by a photographer from the restaurant.  The dancer pulled the two of us together really fast before the photo was shot.  Don't we look wonderful?  I was hot from all the dancing and Kenny had just turned to find the photographer when he snapped it.  We weren't ready, as you can tell.



This was our dessert and we loved it!  It is Greek yogurt (made from Ewe's milk), Greek Honey (made from bees that are only fed thyme) and fresh fruit.



While we enjoyed our dessert, we were entertained by the traditional "Zorba the Greek" dance.



Afterwards they invited us back to learn some more Greek dancing.   I, wisely, decided to sit this one out.



Then we had to walk down the street back to where the bus was parked.  I was so stuffed I didn't think I could do it, but I did.  On the walk we passed an old Greek home.



These shrines are all over Corfu.  Mary said they are to commemerate the place that someone died along the road.



We also passed by this tiny market.  I asked the lady if I could taker her photo, and the photo of one of her shelves .



Then we drove back to the Old Town of Corfu.  The Old Fortress occupies a camel-shaped wedge of land that once contained the entire town.  The fortifications have been repaired and rebuilt many times; today you see what the Venetians built in the 16th century.



The Old Town is located between the Old and New Fortresses, with a wonderful garden zone, the Spianada, for strolling and relaxation.  The palms and eucalyptus trees were planted during the French period.  Mary told us that she grew up very close by and that the Spianada was her playground when she was a child.





The most important cathedral is the Church of St. Spyridon, the island's patron saint.  The 16th century church, with its tall bell tower, houses the silver coffin of the saint, an early martyr-bishop from Crete.  Nearly half the boys born in Corfu are named Spyridon, after the patron.  On Corfu he is called "Saint Spyridon, the Keeper of the City" for the miracle of expelling the plague from the island.  St. Spyridon is also believed to have saved the island at the second great siege of Corfu which took place in 1716.  His relics are taken in procession every Palm Sunday and on other special occasions, for veneration by the faithful.  We were led into the Church and allowed to see his silver casket along with a host of other gold and silver relics that have been saved over the ages.  It was a beautiful collection, but no photos were allowed.



  We didn't have much time left to shop but we made the most of it.  We found a spoon for Lee and a cup for me.  I wanted a charm for my bracelet and decided that the Greek Key design would be perfect.  All we could find were pendants.  Then this very nice jewler said if it was a charm I wanted, he would change one of his pendants into one for me.  Yeah!  Mission accomplished.





McDonald's is everwhere!  This McDonald's had marble steps!





Then we had to say good-bye to Mary and to Corfu and head back to the ship. We had a wonderful day in Corfu and would love to go back someday.

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Emerald Princess

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