Corfu
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Corfu Town, Kerkyra Corfu Town, Kerkyra Corfu Town, Kerkyra Corfu Town, Kerkyra Corfu Town, Kerkyra
Corfu Town, Kerkyra Corfu Town, Kerkyra Corfu Town, Kerkyra Corfu Town, Kerkyra Corfu Town, Kerkyra

Corfu Town - Corfu Town is the highlight of your visit to the island. It is packed with imposing buildings and there are opportunities to have a spectacular view of it when you climb the two Venetian fortresses. It is certainly one of the prettiest towns that I have seen in all of Crete and can easily compete with for instance Chania on Crete or with Rhodes Town. Parking your car can be a bit of a crime though if you want to get out in the very center, so it is possible you must park your car a little bit outside and than walk for 10 to 15 minutes.

The charming capital of Corfu town has about 35,000 inhabitants and is just small enough to not get confused. In the city are many historical buildings, including the British-stuffed Castle Mon Repos and the Palace of St Michael and St George. The Venetians have left their mark with forts on Corfu town: they built the Old and New Fortress. In the heart of the town there is a park and there are many nice teracces and shopping streets in a bit of a French style. There are Greek Orthodox churches and there is a cathedral. There are also all kinds of museums in the town, like for instance a Byzantyne Museum and an Archeological Museum.

Corfu Town, Lord Guilford Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town
Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town

The Venetians built the two forts that dominate the modern town of Corfu. Both forts are now open to the public and you can climb to the top for a panoramic view over the capital of the island. The Old Fortress is situated in the harbor. The fort is surrounded by a canal and by the sea and at that time it had a drawbridge that could close the access to the fort. One of the buildings that is either Greek or Venetian is the Church of St. George with its columns, which was put down in 1840 by the English. The path leads up to a Venetian bell tower and completely on top of the fort stands a lighthouse.

To access the fort a small entrance fee is charged (4 euros in 2012) which also allows you access to a small museum on the terrain. Here you can see ancient frescoes and icons and other church treasures. In a small park in front of the fortress stands the statue of Lord Guilford, who is dressed in a Roman toga. This eccentric Englishman lived in the early 19th century on Corfu and wore golden wreaths and purple robes. He converted to Greek Orthodox faith, and he reopened the Ionian Academy, which became the first university of modern Greece. The park is named after him.

Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town
Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town

The New Fortress was built about 30 years after the Old Fortress. The construction began in 1576 and was completed 13 years later. The fort is also called the San Marco fortress. The emblem of San Marco, the winged lion, can be seen in several stone carvings on the outer walls of the fortress. The fortress was once surrounded by a canal. The new fort is now also open to the public after it was closed because it was military terrain (and a small piece of it still is). The entrance is 3 euros (in 2012) and here you can also climb to the top for spectacular views of Corfu town, the sea and the island of Vidos.

Corfu Town, Esplanade Corfu Town, St. Michael en St. Joris Palace Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town
Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town

The center of Corfu Town is the so-called "Esplanade," a large square / green (cricket field) surrounded by terraces and a large parking lot. In the Venetian period it was leveled to so it was easy to spot the enemy. The French adorned the field with palms and other trees. The monument with its Ionic columns on the Esplanade was built to commemorate the unification of the island of Corfu with Greece in 1864. To the north of the Esplanade you find the magnificent Palace of St. Michael and St. George. This palace with its 32 Ionic columns was built by the British between 1818 and 1823 and served as a residence for the British high commissioner. After the British left the building came into the hands of the Greek royal family. In front of the palace there is a statue of the second high commissioner of the island, Frederick Adams, who ensured that the water supply on the island was improved by means of an aqueduct system. Symbolically the fountains and ponds on the plot are put there to remember this. Today the building houses the Museum of Asian Art.

Behind the Esplanade you find the tangle of numerous wide and narrow streets, alleys, steps and squares. You will find churches and many shops and eateries. This part of the town is car free and it is fun to go and explore it. The houses are unusually high because in the Venetian time the area between the old and the new fortress was surrounded by a city wall. Because the people of Corfu were not allowed to live outside these walls, the houses were increased in height. The old part of Corfu Town therefore makes an Italian impression.

Corfu Town, Panagia Spiliotissa Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town
Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town Corfu Town

There are many interesting and beautiful churches in Corfu Town that are open to the public. Most of them have beautifully painted ceilings and pretty icons on the walls. The large Orthodox Cathedral of Corfu Town is called Panagia Spiliotissa (Madonna of the Cave) and is situated at the top of a staircase that leads from the old port. Originally it was an ordinary church. It was built in 1577 and since 1844 it's a cathedral. The cathedral is dedicated to the Byzantine empress St. Theodora, whose relics were smuggled from Constantinople and brought to this church. The remains of her body (without her head) are kept in a silver coffin beside the altar. Theodora is worhipped not because she performed miracles, but because she made it possible for people to devote themselves to icons again. The main icon of this church is the one of of St. George, that you can see right after the entrance.

Corfu Town, St. Spiridon Church Corfu Town, St. Spiridon Church Corfu Town, St. Spiridon Church Corfu Town, St. Spiridon Church Corfu Town, St. Spiridon Church
Corfu Town, St. Spiridon Church Corfu Town, St. Spiridon Church Corfu Town, St. Spiridon Church Corfu Town, St. Spiridon Church Corfu Town, St. Spiridon Church

The St. Spiridon Church with its bell tower (the highest of the island) and red dome is situated at the end of the Spiridon Street. The church dates from 1589 and is the holiest place in Corfu Island. Here lies the mummified body of St. Spiridon, which was smuggled out of Constantinople in 1453 after the city was occupied by the Turks. Unfortunately this was the only church where I was not allowed to take pictures. The body was handed over to Corfu when his heirs lived.

Spiridon was born in Tremithousa in Cyprus in the year 270, and he eventually became a bishop who according to legend performed many small miracles. He died in 350 AD and was buried there. When Cyprus was attacked by pirates, his body was dug up and brought to Constantinople. The body of the saint was not perished. Afterwards the body was brought back to Corfu. St. Spiridon is the patron saint of Corfu island and his body is kept in a silver coffin near the altar of the church. It is said that even after his death he performed several miracles such as the preservation of the island of Corfu for a famine and the plague in 1630 and 1673 and he would have prevented the Turks from occupying the island.

Corfu ferries, Corfu veerboten Corfu ferries, Corfu veerboten Corfu ferries, Corfu veerboten Corfu ferries, Corfu veerboten Corfu ferries, Corfu veerboten
Corfu ferries, Corfu veerboten Corfu ferries, Corfu veerboten Corfu ferries, Corfu veerboten Corfu ferries, Corfu veerboten Corfu ferries, Corfu veerboten

There are two harbours in Corfu Town, both in the north. In the new harbour just outside the center all the (mostly international) ferries sail in, and the smaller boats to Paxos and other places leave from the old harbour east of the New fortress, where also the fishing boats are. The new fortress (which was build 30 years after the old one) dominates the old harbour, and originates from 1576-1589. The buildings on top of it are from the English times and date from 1815. At the foot of the mounrtain there is a busy vegetable- and fruitnarket. Between the old and the new Fortress there is a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys.

Corfu Town, Mon Repos, aquaduct Corfu Town, Mon Repos, aquaduct Corfu Town, Mon Repos, heraeum Corfu Town, Mon Repos Corfu Town, Mon Repos, Poseidon temple
Corfu Town, Mon Repos, Poseidon temple Corfu Town, Mon Repos, Poseidon temple Corfu Town, Mon Repos, Poseidon temple Corfu Town, Mon Repos, Poseidon temple Corfu Town, Mon Repos, Poseidon temple

Scattered across the city are remnants of the ancient civilization of the island. The majority of it can be found about a half hours walk away along the sea from the center, at the castle of Mon Repos. It is now called Palaiopolis (= old town). Here was the center of the old Corfu / Kerkyra. These remains are located on private property, but it was open to the public when we visited in 2012 and the entrance was free. On the quite large estate you can take a look at the remains of an aquaduct, a Heraeum and a Doric temple. Especially the temple survived quite well. It was probably dedicated the the god of the sea, Poseidon. There are also beautiful large, old trees on the estate. Much of the old town has been destroyed by invading barbarians though, and many of the stones have been used to build the new town.

Corfu Town, Mon Repos Corfu Town, Mon Repos Corfu Town, Mon Repos Corfu Town, Mon Repos Corfu Town, Mon Repos
Corfu Town, Mon Repos Corfu Town, Mon Repos Corfu Town, Mon Repos Corfu Town, Mon Repos Corfu Town, Mon Repos

The entrance to the small Mon Repos Palace was 3 euro at that time but is defenitely worth a visit. It was built in 1928 by the English high commissionar Frederik Adams as a present for his wife. Later it came into the hands of the Greek royal family. It is still private property, but the Greek royal family lives in exile. Some of the rooms in the palace have been restored to their former glory and there are archeological artefacs exhibited, such as coins, jewelry, grave stones, pottery, small marble statues and heads, of which one is probably the image of Alexander the Great (see picture).

Corfu Town, Agia Kerkira & Roman baths Corfu Town, Agia Kerkira & Roman baths Corfu Town, Agia Kerkira & Roman baths Corfu Town, Agia Kerkira & Roman baths Corfu Town, Agia Kerkira & Roman baths
Corfu Town, Agia Kerkira & Roman baths Corfu Town, Agia Kerkira & Roman baths Corfu Town, Agia Kerkira & Roman baths Corfu Town, Agia Kerkira & Roman baths Corfu Town, Agia Kerkira & Roman baths

Just outside you can see the remains of the church of Agia Kerkira from the 5th century. This is the oldest church on the island and it was built on the foundations of a older temple. The street going up from the church leads to the small village of Analipsis where the acropolis of the old village once stood. The street next to the church leads to the sparse remains of the Artemis Temple (whose front is now the highlight of the Archaeological Museum). There are also some remnants of city walls, an aqueduct and a port (this port has moved further inland in the course of time). In the field opposite the church of Agia Kerkira are remains of Roman baths.

The monument of the sculptor Menecrates (dated to 600 b.C.) is situated at the ancient cemetery at Garitsa. Garitsa is one of the first suburbs of old Corfu Town and was built on what was the cemetery of the ancient town. The statue of the lion of Menecrates which is now exhibited in the Archeological Museum was found in Corfu Town near the tomb of Menecrates at Alkinou street. If you head south along the beach promenade you'll come out on a crossroad with an obelisk. Here you go into the Menakratou Street. A little further at the police station you find the excavation.

The Platytera Monastery is located in the east of the city at the end of the Andreadi Ioulios road south of the Avrami hill (between the districts of San Rocco and Mandouko at the beginning of the road to Paleokastritsa). The monastery was founded in 1743 by Chrisanthos Syropoulos, a monk who was born on the island of Lefkada. Remarkable is the high bell tower with the red dome. In the courtyard stands the church where many icons can be seen that were made by two monks from the island of Zakynthos. In 1798 the monastery was burned down by the French, but before they set it on fire the treasures were removed. After that the monastery was rebuilt again. In 1866 the 28 meter high bell tower was added in and in 1900 a wall was built around the monastery.


Hans Huisman, http://www.angelfire.com/super2/greece/ 2014
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