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Overview: Corfu, Greece


Corfu – or Kerkyra in Greek – is the second-largest and the greenest Ionian island. It is also the best known. It was Homer’s ‘beautiful and rich land’, and Odysseus’ last stop on his journey home to Ithaki. Shakespeare reputedly used it as a background for The Tempest.

The capital is the city of Corfu characterised by the intense Venetian element with many English and French influences. It is a cosmopolitan city that exudes a sense of nobility with the main sights of the large square of Spianada that is largest in the Balkans, the Old and New Fortress, the Town Hall, Mon Repos, also the Museums of Byzantine and Post Byzantine History.

The island has many beautiful beaches most popular are the sandy beaches in the west of the island: cosmopolitan Glyfada, Agios Gordios, quiet Kontogialos and Gialiskari and Myrtiotissa and many more.

Where to stay

Our Suggestions
• Coral Hotel
• Cavalieri Hotel
• Andromaches Apartments
• Marbella Hotel
Where to eat

Our Suggestions
• Sailing club's Inside Old Town
• Taverna Bicolis Sidari-Pereloudes
• Taverna Stamatis Traditional food
• Piperitsa Plakada Agiou
What to do

Our Suggestions
• Liston Coffee and dinner
• Achillion Museum
• Old Fortress
• Glyfada
Articles
Achilleion & Kaiser »
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Achilleion

Achilleion is a palace built in Corfu by Empress (German: Kaiserin) of Austria Elisabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sissi, after a suggestion by Austrian Consul Alexander von Watzberg. Sissi was a woman obsessed with beauty and very powerful but tragically vulnerable since the loss of her only son, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in the Mayerling affair in 1889. A year later in 1890, she built a summer palace in the region of Gastouri, now the municipality of Achilleion, about ten kilometres to the south of the city of Corfu. The palace was designed with the mythical hero Achilles as its central theme. Sissi spoke Greek better than any of the Greek queens that were her contemporaries and she expressed a desire to further immerse herself in the Greek culture. Like every other European royal, she had some Byzantine emperors among her distant ancestors.

Sissi bought the property from Corfiot Petros Vrailas Armenis who was also a friend. The palace was designed by Italian architect Raffaele Caritto. Ernst Herter, a famous German sculptor, was commissioned to create works inspired from Greek mythology. His famous sculpture Dying Achilles, created in Berlin in 1884 as inscribed in the statue, forms the centrepiece of the Achilleion Gardens.

The palace, with the classic Greek statues that surround it, is a monument to platonic romanticism as well as escapism and was, naturally, named after Achilles: Achilleion. The place abounds with paintings and statues of Achilles, both in the main hall and in the lavish gardens depicting the heroic and tragic scenes of the Trojan war. The architectural style is Pompeian and has many parallels to that of the Russian imperial residence in Crimea.

The Imperial gardens on top of the hill provide a majestic view of the surrounding green hill crests and valleys as the Ionian sea gleams in the background.

Sissi used to visit the place often until 1898 when she was assassinated in Geneva by Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni.

Kaiser

After Sissi's death, German Kaiser Wilhelm II purchased Achilleion in 1907 from her heirs and used it as a summer residence. During Kaiser Wilhelm's visits a lot of diplomatic activity used to take place in Achilleion and it became a hub of European diplomacy at the time.

Wilhelm, expanding on the main theme of the grounds, commissioned his own Achilles statue from sculptor Johannes Götz who created an imposing bronze sculpture that stands tall as a guardian of the Gardens facing north toward the city.

Kaiser's statue represents Achilles in full hoplite uniform with intricate detailing such as a relief of a gorgon's head at the shield, apparently to petrify any enemies, as well as lion heads as knee protectors. This tall statue is surrounded by palm trees that complement its graceful outline. Kaiser Wilhelm visited the place until 1914 when World War I was declared. The Kaiser also attended performances at the Municipal Theatre of Corfu while vacationing at the Achilleion.
Saint Spyridon - the Keeper of the City »
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Saint Spyridon - the Keeper of the City

Saint Spyridon, also referred to as Saint Spyridon the Keeper of the City, is the patron saint of the island.

St. Spyridon is revered for the miracle of expelling the plague from the island, amongst many other miracles attributed to him. It is believed by the faithful that on its way from the island the plague scratched one of the fortification stones of the old citadel to indicate its fury at being expelled.

St. Spyridon is also attributed the role of saving the island at the second great siege of Corfu of 1716. Its legend ran that the sight of St. Spyridon approaching turkish forces bearing a flaming torch in one hand and a cross in the other, had caused panic. This miracle is one of the earliest successful examples of psychological operations in warfare (psyops). This victory over the Ottomans, therefore, was attributed not only to the leadership of Count Schulenburg who commanded the stubborn defence of the island against Turkish forces, but also to the miraculous intervention of St. Spyridon.

Venice honoured von der Schulenburg and the Corfiots for successfully defending the island. Recognizing St. Spyridon's role in the defence of the island Venice legislated the establishment of the litany of St Spyridon on the 11th of August as a commemoration of the miraculous event, inaugurating a tradition that continues to this day.

In 1716 composer Antonio Vivaldi, on commission by the republic of Venice, created the oratorio Juditha triumphans to commemorate this great event. Juditha triumphans was composed and performed in November of 1716 in Venice by the orchestra and choir of the Ospedale della Pietà and is described as Vivaldi's first great oratorio.
Archaeology and architecture »
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An architectural overview: From classical to modern

The Harbour of Corfu in 1890

Corfu contains a few very important remains of antiquity. The site of the ancient city of Corcyra (Kerkyra) is well ascertained, about 1.5 miles (2 km) to the south-east of Corfu, upon the narrow piece of ground between the sea-lake of Halikiopoulo and the Bay of Castrades, in each of which it had a port. The circular tomb of Menekrates, with its well-known inscription, is on the Bay of Castrades. Under the hill of Ascension are the remains of a temple, popularly called of Poseidon, a very simple dome structure, which still in its mutilated state presents some peculiarities of architecture. Of Cassiope, the only other city of ancient importance, the name is still preserved by the village of Cassiopi, and there are some rude remains of building on the site; but the temple of Zeus Cassius for which it was celebrated has totally disappeared. Throughout the island numerous monasteries and other buildings of Venetian erection are to be found, of which the best known are Paleokastritsa, San Salvador and Peleka. The Achilleion is a palace commissioned by Elisabeth of Austria and purchased in 1907 by Wilhelm II of Germany; it is now a popular tourist attraction.

Italianate architecture

Part of the old town centre from above Corfu Town is famous for its Italianate architecture, most notably the Liston' an arched colonnade lined with cafes on the edge of the Spianada (Esplanade), the vast main plaza and park which incorporates a cricket field and several pavilions. Also notable are the Venetian-Roman style City Hall, the Old and New castles, the recently restored Palace of Sts. Michael and George, formerly the residence of the British governor and the seat of the Ionian Senate, and the summer Palace of Mon Repos, formerly the property of the Greek royal family and birthplace of the Duke of Edinburgh. The Park of Mon Repos is adjacent to the Palaiopolis of Kerkyra, where excavations were conducted by the Greek Archaeological Service in collaboration with the University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium, and Brown University in the United States.
Examples of the finds can be found in the Museum of the Palace of Mon Repos.

Architectural catastrophies of World War II

During the second world war the island was bombed by the German air force, resulting in the destruction of most of the town's buildings, including its market and Hotel Bella Venezia. The worst architectural losses of Hitler's Luftwaffe bombardment were the splendid buildings of the Ionian Academy, and the Municipal Theatre (which in 1901 had replaced the Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo), with the Roman style Theatre of the city later replaced by a nondescript, modern box-style building. There have been discussions and plans at local-governmental level, on and off, about demolishing this modern building and replacing it with a replica of the old theatre; in contrast, the Ionian Academy has been rebuilt to its former glory by the Ionian University.
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