The Greek island of Corfu is the second largest of the Ionian Islands. In some ways, Corfu feels more Italian (thanks to the Venetians and the Italians who occupied the island) than it does Greek. Certainly the many pine trees that we saw during our visit reminded us of the Tuscan landscape as does some of the dialects we found around the island. The island, also known by its Greek name Kerkyra, remained in Venetian hands from 1401 until 1797. The Venetians erected fortifications to repel Turkish invaders, and indeed, the historian Will Durant claimed that Corfu was one of the few parts of Greece never conquered by the Ottomans thanks to the Republic of Venice. Read more.
Shore Excursions In Corfu: Corfu Old City Tours
In an earlier post this week, I talked about how the Italians, French and British influenced the culture of Corfu. That influence is also apparent in the Old City, where the small and ancient streets as well as the architecture evoke the mix of cultures. No wonder the Old City has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2007. The historic city certainly deserves such an honor.
The best way to get acquainted with the historic city is on foot. In several parts of the Old City, you’ll stroll past buildings with trademark Venetian arches. I’ve seldom seen streets as clean as those in Corfu’s Old City, which appears spit-polished. Just beware that the well-worn stones can be a bit slippery at times. Read more about Corfu Old City Tours.
Shore Excursions In Corfu: The Best Baklava
In an earlier post, I wrote that in Corfu’s Old City I found the best baklava that I have ever tasted. Where? Café Espianada, on the promenade by the same name. Prices were good as were those two giant beers in the photo below. The owner who used to live, and operate a restaurant, in the United States, was friendly and promised the best baklava ever. We practically drooled as he placed the plate in front of us. Our forks went in and up to our mouths: Wow! That was baklava at its best. Read more about the best baklava in Corfu.
Shore Excursions In Corfu: Best Greek Salad Ever
I told you about the best baklava that I have ever tasted. Turns out, the guy also served us the best Greek salad we’ve ever had. The calamari was top rank too. The place? Café Espianada, on the promenade by the same name. We washed it all down with a local Greek beer, and a popular one, Mythos. Recommended for a break when you’re touring Corfu’s Old City. Read more about our best Greek salad ever.
Shore Excursions In Corfu: The Old Fortress
Corfu’s Old City, where you can find the world’s best baklava and Greek salad, is situated on a peninsula that terminates at an ancient fortress. The “Old Fortress” was built by the Venetians in 1546 on the site of a Byzantine castle and is separated from the rest of the town by a seawater moat. Its two peaks (korypha in Greek), gave the island of Corfu its name. Standing on the peaks, we had a gorgeous view over the Old City in one direction and in the other direction across the beautiful Ionian Sea, the mountainous coast of Albania.
Corfu town’s entire population once lived within the walls of the Old Fortress, which was once one of the most fortified places in all of Europe. The fortress repelled the Ottomans. Today, it stands as a beautiful citadel that punctuates Corfu’s Old City. Read more about the Old Fortress.
Shore Excursions In Corfu: Mouse Island
The locals told us we could not say we had visited Corfu until we had at least gazed upon Mouse Island. They claimed that the cute little island was synonymous with Corfu. With some imagination it’s easy to see how the island got its name: The white staircase that leads to the monastery resembles a mouse’s tail, at least from our vantage point, where this picture was taken.
You can travel by boat to get to Mouse Island, but we only had time to admire the island from the shoreline. Travelers who have been there highly recommend it, however. For us, next time.
Shore Excursions In Corfu: Mountain Biking
Before we went sipping kumquat liqueur in Corfu’s Old City, we thought it would be a good idea to get the blood flowing, and what better way to do that than on a bike, a mountain bike in this case? When you combine pedaling with Corfu’s beautiful countryside, you have a match made in heaven.
With a group of 8 others, I pedaled past gorgeous country side, old olive groves and ancient towns. The weather, even in early November, was sunny and warm. We started our ride in Dassia, where we were outfitted with well-functioning bikes, helmets and water. Read more about mountain biking in Corfu.
Shore Excursions In Corfu: A Jeep Safari, Four-Wheelin’ Through Curvaceous Corfu
After our exhilarating mountain bike ride in Corfu yesterday, today we seated ourselves behind the wheel of a 4×4 to explore curvaceous Corfu on four wheels. This was a fun “drive yourself” excursion that started at the pier, with our initial route taking us along the main coastal road leading to Dassia.
On the backroads, it was fun to “goose” the gas pedal a bit and to maneuver the hairpin turns winding up Pantokrator Mountain Road to the picturesque village of Sokraki. We stopped to admire one of the island’s best panoramic views — a photographer’s paradise. Read more about our 4×4 excursion.
Shore Excursions In Corfu: Our Quest For Kumquat Liqueur
Back in my first post about Corfu, I talked about being on a quest to find kumquat liqueur. Good things come to those who wait. I passed all the other shops to make my way to Koum Quat Mavromatis. No particular reason other than this one looked inviting. As is customary, your free to sample the kumquat products, including the liqueur.
I learned that the kumquat was brought to Corfu by the Chinese and that the people of Corfu began to cultivate it. It’s tasty, somewhat sugary sweet with an edge of bitter. It was not unlike cough syrup, in fact. And like cough syrup, it’s probably best taken in small doses. Read more about our quest for kumquat liqueur.
Shore Excursions In Corfu: Achillion Palace
About 30 minutes from Corfu’s Old City, Achillion (also Achilleion) Palace represents what some might call an obsession. Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria chose to build a magnificent villa that reflected her admiration for Achilles, the Greek god, represented abundantly in paintings and sculptures throughout the house and in its beautifully landscaped grounds.
When an anarchist in Geneva assassinated Sisi at the age of 60, the villa was purchased by Kaiser Wilhelm II, who used it as a summer retreat. After a brief period as a grand casino, Achillion Palace then became a museum owned by the Greek government that today provides a rare glimpse into the privileged lifestyle of turn-of-the-20th-century European rulers. Read more about Achillion Palace.