Corfu: Exit through the church, please

Corfu I believe is a perfect Greek island, even if it doesn’t look very Greek. Over the centuries every nationality in Europe seems to have had a shot at Corfu, and all have left their mark in art and architecture.

Boats in the moat

But the cumulative effect seems to be that everyone feels welcome here, and I feel almost at home myself – which I know is silly because I have visited only once before, and for an equally brief time. Sara and I would like to have tarried longer this time, too.

Corfu is very near Albania, and on that previous trip, I took a hydrofoil day trip to a supposed resort town in that country. Although it is no longer a closed communist country, it still seemed rather amateurish and depressing. I remember well what a relief it was to return to light and airy Corfu after that experience.

Our morning tour on April 19 spent considerable time investigating one of the two massive Venetian forts on the shoreline. It is a credit to the local population that the former moat around the structure is now open to the sea and has been turned into a sort of haven for dozens of small boats.

Eventually we were led through the old town, culminating in a visit to the church of St. Spyriden. As your eyes become accustomed to the dark, you may see a small silvery casket, the content of which is said to be the saint himself, who died in 348.

Exiting through the rear door of the church put us all in the bright light of tourist alley, with gift shops and and snack shops galore. The shop keepers are not aggressive, occasionally shouting friendly greetings to each other as often as they speak well-learned English phrases to potential patrons passing by. Occasionally I tried to respond.

I don’t speak Greek, but on previous visits to the country, I learned a few friendly phases, which I remember only phonetically. “Kali-mera,” to be sure (“Good morning.”)

The iced tea is welcome

But my favorite is the Greek word for “thank you.” I swear it sounds like the name of a distinguished person, perhaps etched on the door of a lawyer back home. I remember it this way: “F. Harry Stowe.” (I suppose it really should be rendered as “efharisto,” or something like that. But using my system, I’ll never forget it.)

At the end of the street, is the giant square again – one of the largest in Europe, our guide had told us, and eventually the bus to bring us back to the Aegean Odyssey.

Before I forget it, as much as we may appreciate the ports, returning to the ship is a welcoming experience. While we gather around the end of the gang plank on the dock, a waiter from one of the dining rooms is there to hand each of us a paper cup of sweetened ice tea. This refreshing drink seems to allay everyone’s tired mood, and provide an ounce or two of extra oomph to climb up and into our mother ship.

April 19, 2012

Photos by Robert W. Bone

 

 

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