CORFU (Kerkyra)


Corfu is the gateway to Greece for those arriving from Europe. The island has been mentioned by Homer in his «Odyssey». The island’s most flourishing period began in 734 B.C., when its first colonists, the Corinthians, arrived here. In the following centuries, Corfu shared the fate of the rest of the Ionian Islands. There was a great cultural development during the Venetian and French occupations when the island boasted a vast library with rare manuscripts and books, a school of art, lyric theater, and several institutions of learning.

Corfu town has a strong Venetian character and countless monuments dating from the fifteenth to the late eighteenth century. The Regency Palace with its graceful colonnade reminds us of the British presence on the island as it lines the huge square in the center of the town and looks on to the Esplanade, with its profusion of Greek, Venetian and British monuments. To the west, tall arcade houses, dating from the French domination, line the picturesque street. Also of interest is the 16th-century Cathedral dedicated to St. Spyridon, the patron Saint of Corfu. A silver casket containing his body is carried through the streets of the town in a procession on feast days.

Outside the town, there are a number of interesting spots: Mandouki, Garitza, Mon Repos, and Pontikonissi, where the shipwrecked Ulysses, according to mythology, wandered ashore. The Achilleion Palace, an ornate structure built by the Empress Elizabeth of Austria and now turned into a casino. Vlacherna, another tiny islet, with its Byzantine Monastery standing between tall cypress trees. Kanon commands a view over the idyllic bay.

Well known as a warm-weather playground and resort for almost a century, Corfu has a great many attractions and diversions in addition to incredible views, golden and secluded sands overhung by wooded mountains, and groups of off-shore rocks which look like castles in the sea. Homer was the first to sing its charms as the place where Odysseus has washed ashore and found by Nausicaa, daughter of the ruling king Alcinous.

Since the time of Odysseus, however, Corfu has seen a long series of Invasions and occupations. Greeks, Romans, the British, Venetians, the French and even Slavs have, at one time or another, controlled Corfu, together with the rest of the Ionian Islands. An atmosphere rather than an archaeological experience, Corfu’s main historical wealth was left behind by the Venetians who ruled from the fifteenth to the late 18th century.

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