Been There Done That: What a difference a day makes — we are now in Greece

Corfu harbor


ABOARD THE MV AEGEAN ODYSSEY —What a difference a day makes. Gone are most of the beautiful tan buildings with orange tiled rooftops. Corfu, Greece, exhibits more flat-roofed buildings with off-white stained walls. Building maintenance away from the tourist center of old town seems deferred, indefinitely.

Corfu city has a land area of 16 square miles and a population of about 33,000 inhabitants. It’s a much larger city than we have been visiting thus far, and as is often the case such with anonymous living, personal responsibility can suffer.

The town is a major tourist attraction and has played an important role since the 8th century. Corfu has become known as the Castle City because of its two castles. In 2007, the old town of the city was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Unlike the rest of the city, the tourist area is well maintained with scattered resorts, beaches, citrus trees, colorful gardens, cypress trees, and hundreds of shops and restaurants.

After a short ride by motorcoach we began our day with a half day tour of Corfu Town. Our first visit was to the town’s Old Fortress, a Venetian construction of the 15th century built on older Byzantine walls of the 13th and 14th centuries. Several buildings are preserved within the castle including the central gate (dated 1550), the bastions of Martinengo, Savorgnian and Mandraki, and the 19th century Anglican church of St. George, the Catholic chapel known as “the Romantic Church,” the British Military quarters and the military hospital, the lighthouse and the clock tower.

Byzantine fortifications that withstood the Turkish onslaught in 1571

After, we walked across the famed Esplanade to visit the Church of St. Spyridon (which has an absolute stunning interior), the patron Saint of Corfu. At this point one finds oneself in the heart of Corfu’s picturesque old town, a souvenir heaven (or hell, depending on your point of view). My advice: Look up.

It seems like every foot of Corfu’s charming, narrow streets are covered with souvenir shops selling flip flops, hats, refrigerator magnets, post cards and assorted trinkets. The shops are so all encompassing to the eye that one can’t help but peruse the passing scene. Travelers are often amused by the voluminous collection of items to buy. “Look at that, Harold, what silly stuff,” they say. Then, “Well, that’s not too bad,” followed by the mental jump to “There must be something here to buy.” It’s at this point all is lost. You will find yourself droning from shop to shop looking for “The Buy” with the rest of them.

Again I say, look up! Just above the shops selling the same Chinese made goods found the world over is some rather interesting architecture. The buildings are only two or three stories, but there are little bell towers, roof lines, chimneys and shuttered windows which the locals live behind. Children wave to you from balconies, laundry hangs drying from clotheslines strung from one building to another, unusually designed air conditioners stick out from walls and nicely furnished balconies with billowing awnings are there for the attentive to see.

Still, its interesting to walk the lanes of old town stopping for ice cream or espresso along the way.

Looking up in Old Town

The ship’s internet facilities

Upon my return to the ship I visited the ship’s internet lounge. It consists of six semi-private internet cubicles, each with its own HP desktop with a Windows operating system. Downloading is slow, similar to a DSL system, and prices are 30 minutes: $3.50, 60 minutes. $6, 4 hours: $18, 12 hours: $28. A printer is available.

I had dinner in the Marco Polo this evening. I ordered champignon with port wine and puff pastry pillow, seafood bisque, roasted duck a la orange and cherries jubilee for desert. I’m really going to have to go on a diet when I get home.


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