It has been many years since we have had a holiday abroad and even longer since we have visited Greece. The arrival of the Lemming put paid to our trips but this year Mrs H and I decided to treat ourselves. The destination we choose was the island of Corfu. This was always on my wish list ever since I read Gerald Durrell’s brilliant book ‘My Family and other Animals’ as a child. Although the story was set in the 1930’s we hoped to try and find traces of the past on what is now a very busy tourist isle.
Corfu is set in the Ionian Sea. It is noted for being lush and green with a landscape of olive groves and tall cypress trees. Even though we travelled in the second week of May we experienced some rain. For our base we rented a villa in the beautiful village of Nissaki on the north/east coast. Fifty yards from our terrace, through an olive grove filled with scrub and wild flowers, lay the sea and behind us the impressive backdrop of Mount Pantokrator, at 910m the highest point on Corfu.
On the fourth day we visited Kerkira or Corfu Town. We had a hire car but having experienced the drive from the airport thought it safer to take the local bus! To drive on Corfu you must forget everything you have learned, it’s every man for himself! Indicators are frowned on, pedestrian crossings mean nothing and you can stop without warning and park up in the road. The road surfaces are rough and that is being kind and to meet a coach on a steep hairpin bend is, er, interesting.
The capital is a very busy, bustling place. Although there are many new shops some areas look pretty tired. One downside being a problem with waste disposal meaning big piles of rubbish bags here and there. We made our way through the back streets and along the promenade to the Old Fortress where we spent several hours exploring. The fort was built by the Venetians in the 1540’s but the original fortifications date back to the 6th century. The New Fortress was built a few years later to strengthen the town defences.
To find the island of Durrell’s book you have to venture off the beaten track. We walked for many miles in the countryside, our favourite being the steep climb behind Nissaki. We discovered a peaceful world filled with a profusion of wild flowers of every hue, also the wildlife but that must wait for another time. One week and you are not even scratching the surface of this gem of an island with it’s friendly people. At the end of each day after enjoying a meal at our favourite taverna, the Olive Press, we would sit back on the terrace and watch the neon flashing of the fireflies in the olive grove and listen to the whistling ‘twoo’ call of the Scops Owls. In the distance, over the bay, the twinkling lights of Kerkira. And relax!