The thing that I have enjoyed most since I started writing the guide books for Corfu Confidentials is the constant thrill of discovery. The discovery that we had so many beaches is what set me off in the first place, how could I not know that after living here for over a decade?
And so it continues. On writing the Corfu Town guide book I found so many things that I had no idea existed and so many rare and interesting facts that quite frankly I was astounded. Have I been walking round with blinkers on all this time? It would appear so.
I did not know of the incredible Reading Society, with its priceless collection of books, papers, maps and paintings. And yes, I had heard of the British Cemetery but I had no sense of how wonderful it is to wander around the beautiful grounds. The first lighthouse in Greece? Yup, we’ve got that: the first university, the first masonic lodge, the first prime minister, the composer of the Greek National Anthem, both words and music, yup we had those too. Who knew? We also can claim the first theater in Greece, the first Greek printing house, the largest public square and to top it all, Vivaldi wrote an oratorio (similar to an opera) to mark the victory of the Venetians over the Turks in the siege of Corfu in 1716 called ‘Juditha Triumphans’.
As I head further afield around the island for the third book, the hits just keep on coming. In the Achillieon Palace is a gold coin, given by Emperor Maximillian of Mexico, to his firing squad, to bribe them into aiming for his heart rather than his face so his mother could look upon him after death.
Benitses Shell museum, a place I have driven by a million times, has a rare shell in there that is in the Guinness book of records and is said to be worth €20, 000. I hope they have a good security system in plaice “sic”.
In the Cultural Centre of the small village of Kompitsi, you can visit the private collection of Dimitri Paniperi, of 3,000 miniature cars no less, should you have the urge. If you are in this village, you should pop along to see its beautiful Venetian Fountain.
In Kato Korakiana is a strange cave with an underground river called Grava tou Menigou. In 1938, King George II of Greece decided to try an experiment to see where it went to, god knows why, he obviously had an enquiring mind. Anyway, the story goes that he had red dyes poured into the waters there and two days later, villagers in Preveza on the mainland were terrified by the local spring waters running with ‘blood’. So, it was believed that the river flowed under the sea beds and came out there. I’m not too sure about this one, I may have to try another experiment to test the theory!
Richard the Lion Heart stopped off here after conquering Cyprus in 1192, although in fairness that was due to bad weather rather than a desire to immerse himself in sun, sea and ouzo. On a more mythical note; Hercules stopped off here before attempting his ten labours and had a fling with Melite the Naiad, the Argonauts hid here after stealing the Golden Fleece, in fact Jason married Medea of Kolhida here, whom he’d abducted, in what was probably the first ‘destination’ wedding and in Homers Odyssey, Corfu is thought to be the island of the Phaeacians, Odysseus’ last port of call after 10 years at sea before heading home to Ithaca. Now there’s a travel blog worth seeing.
In his youth, the infamous Casanova, having bought himself into the Venetian Military service, spent an unprofitable, due to gambling, but eventful, due to women, few months on Corfu. More recently Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, George Clooney and Brad Pitt have all visited, although they bought themselves bloody great big yachts rather than a career in the army.
It just goes to show that it pays to open your eyes, (I’m talking about personally rather than about rich celebrities, they get paid for all sorts), as you never know what you’re missing out on, what’s just around the corner waiting to be discovered.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust – I couldn’t agree more.