Corfu Town

I arrived last week on Corfu, the largest Greek island in the Ionian Sea, Many Americans know it as the setting for books and movies about the Durrells. Some — and you know who you are– know it as a great place for skinny-dipping on the western beaches, circa 1973. The Greeks call the island “Kerkira” after the nymph who spent her honeymoon here with Poseidon. Poseidon’s decision to name the island after his bride isn’t so romantic, however, considering Poseidon kidnapped Kerkira, but pfft, Greek gods.

Corfu is way up there in the northwest corner of Greece, near Albania

I am staying in beautiful Corfu Town (also called “Kerkira,”) the largest community on the island and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The streets in Old Town are as unpredictable as cow paths and closed to cars. The architecture is mostly Venetian because Venice ruled the island for 400 years until Britain made it part of the empire in 1815. Britain returned the island to Greece in 1864, but a lot of Brits are still here, especially in the summers. Ferries travel between Corfu Town and several other ports, including Venice and Bari in Italy, several Greek Islands, and Saranda, Albania. Hmmm….never been to Albania…..

My apartment is on the top floor of the building on the left — those are my clothes on the line!

My apartment in Old Town is comfortable and quiet, with a view of red tiled roofs and a church steeple. The sea is practically out my front door, and the streets near my apartment are lined with tavernas and cafes where locals get together in the evenings at outside tables. So far, I feel welcome here. Most of the locals can speak English and the Greeks are famous for their hospitality, called “filoxenia.”

Corfu has a lot of Greek Orthodox churches. This altar (not sure what it’s actually called) is outside so you can light a candle on your way to shopping

I go out walking a lot. One of the things I’ve noticed is how, when the weather is cold and rainy, a lot of the the shops close down and I’m one of the only people on the street. When the sun comes out, the shops are open and the streets are packed with walkers, diners, and coffee drinkers. If that sounds obvious, I associate rain with traffic jams in the Bay Area, where retail never takes a break. The Mexicans of San Miguel never seem deterred by rain. They are out there with plastic bags over their heads or waiting it out in a door way. “Todo bien.” Or maybe I am just going out in the mid-afternoons when Corfu is on “siesta.”

Corfu Town square. The pot is used by Greek fishers to catch squid.

Like the Greeks of Athens and Lesvos, Corfu Greeks love to talk and laugh over coffee or ouzo. I can’t understand what they’re saying, but, the way I know Greeks, they are more likely to be talking about Greek myths or history than new cars or side hustles. The town’s economy reflects the priorities of the community here as well. The locally-owned cafes, shoe stores, and bakeries are doing a brisk business. Closed for the pandemic? Starbucks, United Colors of Benetton, and Haagen Dazs. And one pottery shop I want to visit!

The view from my living room window.

The island has several good museums, including one that’s celebrating the 200 year anniversary of Greek unification. My favorite painting in the exhibit depicts refugees from the Greek City of Parga, who were exiled to Corfu from the mainland after the Brits “gave” Parga to the Turks in 1819.

Refugees by Theodoros Rallis, circa 1900

And here is some more recent local art that expresses some similar concerns.

This is the Greece that motivated me to spend months on the Island of Lesvos

I was happy to find my favorite Greek wines in a local wine shop. Greece has been producing some excellent wines in recent years. I learned about Nemea region wines when I was living in the Peloponnese for a few months in 2017. Fragrant and fruity but not overpowering. Corfu produces wine as well, although I haven’t tried them yet.

From what I’ve been able to figure out at this point, Corfu cuisine is typical Greek. Moussaka, spanokopita, fish, lamb, and Greek salads are staples, but there is more Italian influence here than, for example, Lesvos, with its Turkish influences. Like so much of Greece, the interior of the island is mostly olive groves, small farms, and vineyards. I hope to see some other parts of the island before I leave, maybe some hiking or horseback riding….

The old fort in Corfu Town

Why am I here of all places? I love Greece and I came to write, believing I wouldn’t have any distractions or excuses. I don’t know anyone on Corfu and there is not much going on in the winter. So far, I’m not sure it’s working out. I have spent a little time writing and a little more time fretting about whether my draft is a word salad or a train wreck, or something worse. Anyway, as the Greeks would say, I’ll just wait for “kyros,” that special moment in time where everything comes together. In the meantime, I do love Corfu.

26 comments

  1. Great post Kim! Wonderful pictures as usual and your description of Corfu- its history, inhabitants and other aspects of life there- is quite entertaining and informative. As for your book, “Με τον καιρό έρχεται η φώτιση” (Attributed to Rosie, circa 2022)

      1. I’d like to say “It’s Greek to me.”, but that would be too cheesy. I means “With time comes enlightenment” (credit to Google translate).

  2. love your post and your photos Kim! Since I havnt travelled since the beginning of Covid I am travelling vicariously. I was spending winters in SMA, think I would also love Corfu…I have an American friend I met in SMA who is stuck in Albania (also he says its cheaper to live there). I have never been there either….

  3. Enjoyed your news and photos of Corfu. Sher and I were there so many years ago. We met a young girl there that helped us tour Corfu and suggested we take a fast boat to Paxos and anti Paxos. A must see! It is just a 40 minute trip. You might want to stay there for a few days.
    We have had Paxos on our bucket list to return for a long time. Sher and I will share some tales of Paxos when we next see you. Have a good stay in the islands.

  4. Yay! I figured out how to comment on WordPress– I had to sign in from my blog I haven’t updated in nine years. I love the photos and your adventures, Kim. xoxo

  5. Hey, I was a fourteen year old camping on the beach with my family, so lots of snorkeling but no skinny dipping.

  6. Hi Kim, with scenery like this, I’m sure your writing will come together quite soon. Such a beautiful island. I have always wanted to visit there and it’s wonderful to live vicariously. Thanks for the blog! Xo Janet

  7. I was on Corfu once, way back in the mid 80s. A friend and I did a jet-set 10-day tour of Greece to Athens, Mykonos and Corfu, flying from spot to spot given our time constraint. We had a rental car and our hotel was on the outskirts of town. I remember driving and seeing the olive orchards, and seeing all the Italian influence in the architecture. What I also remember is wandering around the main town on foot (with my friend of Greek ancestry who spoke a little Greek) asking if any of the bakeries or delis sold the desert Galaktobouriko. (It is a multi-layered custard with phyllo dough, many many layers of phyllo and the custard binding it together as it cooks). Everyone said the equivalent of “Oh, no, we don’t sell that” as their eyes lit up and their faces reflected memories of delight in eating it. May you be lucky enough to find it. (My friend and I made it upon our return to SF, and it was SO MUCH work, that I can understand why it is hard to come by.) Enjoy!

    1. Ok, now you’ve given me a mission. I will let you know if I find Galaktobouriko! I actually saw a recipe for something like this on social media. She obviously took short cuts — just poured a couple of cups of custard batter (with lemon peel) over rosettes of filo dough and stuck it in the oven. It did look delicious.

  8. Beautiful post and a love letter to Corfu and Greece. Channel that love to going to a quiet place to write. I know you can do it!

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