CORFU - KERKYRA
Ionian Islands Greece
Pronunciation: 'Care-kee-rha'Daily Ferries to: Kalymnos, Leros, Rhodes, and Kos. Less frequent connection exist to: Samos, Mykonos, Lipsi, and Agathonisi. Once a week: Naxos, Paros, Telos and Nisyros. Hydrofoils service: Leros, Kalymnos, Lipsi, Agathonisi, Fourni, Samos, and Ikaria.
Corfu General Information
The Greek Ionian Island of Corfu island has 3 ports and 1 airport. Corfu Town has 2 of the ports; the old and the new and near by, Corfu's only airport. Corfu's third port is in southern Corfu near the village of Lafkimmi, and from mainland Greece at least, a cheaper, quicker option, if your destination is southern Corfu.
How to get to Corfu
To Corfu By Air:
Nearly 50 Charters daily in summer from all over Europe as well as regularly scheduled flights. To Corfu From Athens Spata International Airport (EV) 3 a day, 2 a day in winter. From Corfu to Thessaloniki twice weekly. No direct airport bus, nearby stop however. See bus info following. Olympic has its own bus and regular taxis are available, airport is only 10 minutes away.
To Corfu By Ferry from Italy
Catamarans now link Corfu with Brindisi in 3.5 hours. Strinzis Lines allows free stop overs on Corfu on the way to Patras. You must state this intention at purchase.
From Corfu to Italy by Ferry:
Buy your tickets at least a day in advance, even for 3rd class as they sell out. The new port in Corfu Town has ticket agents, inquire if the port tax is included in your ticket. In high season: many leave every day. Hellenic-Mediterranean Lines and Adriatica recognize Eurail and Inter-rail passes... others do not...ask!
ARRIVING OR DEPARTING CORFU BY FERRY
Patras on the Peloponnese or Igoumenitsa just across the the strait on the mainland are the two main approaches to Corfu. Buses from Athens are available to the above towns. Patras entails a longer ferry journey and Igoumenitsa a longer bus journey. There are two arrival ports as mentioned above. See below.
CORFU TOWN'S BUS STATIONS
From & to Corfu by Ferry Boat and KTEL Greek Buses to Athens, Thessaloniki & Mainland Greece
From Corfu Towns Bus Station on Avrianou St., behind the new port: Tel: 30627/ 39985 (5:30 AM -8 PM), passengers board for Igoumanitsa immediately across on the Greek mainland or through to other destinations such as Patras and Athens enabling you luggage to be checked through on the the bus. Athens 3/day Thessaloniki 1-2 /day
Corfu Island Bus Departures from Kerkyra/Corfu Town to other villages and towns
The Blue Bus Station (or KTEL state run bus service) is in Platea Theotoki-San Rocco in Corfu Town. Tel: 31595 and where you'll need to go to get to other NEARBY villages by bus. For Villages farther away the Green Bus Station on Avramiou St. is where to go.
CITY BUS STOPS WITHIN & AROUND CORFU TOWN
HELPFULL INFO & TELEPHONE NUMBERS ON CORFU
Corfu Post Code: 49100 Corfu Tel. Codes: 2661 / 2662 / 2663 Patron Saint: Aghion Spyridon leading to many men being called 'Spiros' on Corfu Corfu Police: Tel: 39509 Corfu Port Authority: Tel: 34036 Corfu Radio Taxis, Tel: 33811, 33812 Corfu Tourist Info Bureau: Tel: 37520 Corfu Hospital: Tel: 36044 Corfu Olympic Airlines: Tel: 38694/5/6 Corfu Airport Info:Tel: 30180/ 32468 Naval Club of Corfu: Tel: 30470. Corfu Golf Club Corfu Aqua Land Corfu taxis, Tel: (2661) 33811, 33812, 41333. Inter Island Bus Info: KTEL, Tel: (2661) 30627, 39862. Olympic Airlines, 20 Capodistrias. Tel: 38694, 5, 6 Greater Corfu Town Bus Station, Tel: (2661) 31595.
The Island of Corfu or 'Kerkyra' as the Greeks themselves call it, is rather large compared to most Greek islands. Its being wafted by the moist airs of the Ionian Sea, make it more verdant & humid than the Cyclades islands. Being larger, Corfu has more villages and resorts than the average benchmark Cycladic islands too.
Recent touristic development in certain parts of the island have wrought changes adding a previously unknown hustle and bustle to the rhythm many Corfiots' every day affairs. These areas are from Corfu Town: North: Gouvia, Sidari, Kassiopi and Dassia. South: Benitses, Moraitia and Kavos. 6 miles north or south of Corfu Town is the worst build up.
Seclusion and a more traditional pace may still be found in central parts of the island and particularly on its west coast.
Corfu has a different tourist demographic imprint as well with over 5,000 full time British residents. Close to a million Brits visit Corfu every year. Corfu has an extremely interesting history and reading it will likely, make your trip more knowledgable and you appreciative of its varied cultural influences. The British know it well having governed the Ionian Islands for years. Corfu never fell to the Turks though they tried hard and may have been prefered to the harsh rule of the Angevins. The island is very strategic in the quest for European dominance. Read all about Corfu's history on another page of this site.
CORFU: GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS
Corfu or Kerkyra, population 111,000, is the northern most of the Ionian Islands Group, and the 2nd largest after Cephallonia - Kefallonia. Corfu is 595 square kilometers in area. Corfu has 218 kilometers of coastline. Corfu is roughly 40 miles long and 20 across at its widest part. Corfu's northern tip lies about 3 km off the coast of present day Albania while its southern tip is about 5 km due West from the Greek mainland. Capital of its own prefecture, Corfu also contains, administratively, the islands of Paxoi, Anti-Paxoi, Ereikousa, Mathraki, Othonoi, Panaghia and the uninhabited islands of Pontikonisi and Ptychia.
Midway down its eastern coast on the SE tip of Gouvia Bay, lies the islands principal town and capital, Corfu or Kerkyra Town, population 40,000. Near by is the site of the ancient capital of which little remains.
Corfu's 2 Mountains Divide Island
Two mountain massifs, Pantocrator (3,000 ft), the highest, in the NW corner and Aghio Dheka in the south (1,860 ft) cause the island to be divided roughly into 3 parts with small valleys, indented coastline, numerous small bays, and coves. Corfu is blessed with sandy beaches around much of its coast.
Its northern section contains unpruned olive groves with over 4,500,000 olive trees on the island of which some stands almost attain forest like proportions. Cacti, Cypress, fig, orange and lemon trees also thrive on Corfu.
Corfu's central section and most important area is extremely fertile. Corfu's thickly wooded slopes and rich verdant valleys are know as the "Herb Garden of Greece". Many varieties of grapes are grown as well as apples, pears and tomatoes. The wine produced on Corfu is mostly unresinated white and short lived reds of surprising quality. Corfu's specialty is the Japanese Kumquat, a crystallized miniature orange from which a liqueur is produced.
Its southern section and narrowest is flatter and has fewer trees.
Corfu's Ionian Sea climate tends to be hotter than the Aegean's in summer and wetter in winter with 100 days of rainfall on average. In the winter, although mild, squalls are frequent and the unpleasant Sirocco winds blow from the SE. Frost is rare and snows rarer still and confined to hill tops.
CORFU'S AREAS OF TOURISTIC DEVELOPMENTMajor centers: North: Gouvia, Sidari, Kassiopi (where Nero sang and danced) and Dassia. South: Benitses, Moraitia and Kavos. The 10 kms either side of Corfu Towns coast are extremely over delveloped.
CORFU'S LEAST DEVELOPED AREASWest Coast between Aghios Giordis & PaleoKastritsa.
CORFU ISLAND MAP
MYTHOLOGY OF CORFU
Named "Corcyra" in ancient times for Corcyra, mistress of Poseidon. Legend has it their offspring , Phaeax, became the founder of the ancient Phaecian race.
Or, if you prefer, Kerkyra, daughter of Asopos, with whom Zeus fell in love and brought to the island. Their son was called Phaiakas.
Myth also reports that it was in Corfu where Ulysses met the daughter of Alkinoos, Nausica, who nursed him back to health at her fathers palace and then gave him a ship to return to nearby Ithaka. This enraged Poisidon who petrified the ship and which is now an island in the small bay of Palaiokastitsa where Alkinoos palace is said to have been. The wily Ulysses of course escaped.
The famed Argonaughts were also said to have found refuge at Alkinoos Palace as well as being where Jason married Medea after abducting her from the King of Kolhida. Although contemporaries of the Mycenaeans, the Phaeacians had many ties to the culture of southern Italy in Apulla and distinct difference's from the rest of mainland Greece. This still holds true today.
RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS OF CORFU
Processions in Honour of St. Spyridon, 4 times a year, originally from Cyprus, and a member of the Council of Nicaea in 325, suffered during the persecutions of Diocletian. The Saint never visitied the island in life but his relics and body were spirited here in death and arrived in Corfu by chance in 1489. They are preserved in a magnificent silver sarcophagus (1867) within the Church of his name in Corfu Town and the islands' most holy place.11 August,1st Sunday in November, Palm Sunday and Holy week, the Saints remains are carried through the streets via a different route to commemorate his miraculous deliverances from the Turks (1716), famine (1553) and plagues (1629/73). Almost half the islands boys are named: 'Spiro'. May 21: Union with Greece.
10 July: Festival of Saint Prokopios at Kavos.
August 14th: Procession of Lights at Mandouki.
August 15th: Festival of the Virgin at Kassiopi.
Carnival; The last 3 Sundays of February and March.
Petegoletsa: Matrons of Corfu gossip in local dialects on the last Thursday of Carnival from their balconies.
Breaking the Pots: Holy Saturday: in the morning the day before Greek Easter the bells of Aghio Spyridon ring and locals throw empty or full clay pots of water from the balconies of the old town to commemorate the 'resurection of souls' At night, after going to church, the locals gather in Spianada Sq.and celebrate by eating Magiritsa or tripe soup (the locals call it tsilikourda) and drinking large quantities of wine. See Harry's Greek Food and Wine Guide.
Greek Easter, date varies ,usually a week or two after Catholic Easter.
Barcarole: August 10th, Locals re-enact the deliverence of the island by St. Spyridon from the Turks with illuminated boats in Garitsa Bay. History also reports a huge storm was caused by the Saint that day in 1716.
The Corfu Festival; each Spring & September with concerts and performances by opera, ballet, theater and orchestras from Greece and around the world.
Feast Of St. Theodora, February 17th, Locals create a doll of Agia Theodora, bearing a watermelon on her head. After the feast, the watermelon is offered to participants and passersby.
New Years: the people of Corfu offer twigs of basil to foreigners, wishing them a happy new year.
CORFU'S CULINARY SPECIALTIES
Sofrito: veal baked in bread with garlic sauce or stewed with vinegar, garlic and parsley.
Pastitsada: meat cooked in sauce with vegetables, vinegar and macaroni.
Bourdedto: fish cooked in a spicy sauce of onions.
Kumquat Liquere a liquere made from the Japanese miniature orange brought to the island by British seamen and unique to Corfu.
Kumquat Fruits available fresh from markets when in season.
Ginger Beer another British innovation, somewhat difficult to find these days.
Local Patisseries offer a wide variety of island sweets and confections: mandolata, mandoles and pasteli.
Sikomaeda: a pie made from vine ripened figs.
CORFU'S CULTURE & ISLANDERS
Easy going and cosmopolitan, the islanders are a pleasure to be among, especially off season. Many are endowed with blue or grey eyes and lighter coloring than the darker olive-skinned and shorter Greek stereotype... they are just as friendly and attractive however. This is no doubt due to the historical Northern European blood influence. To read the History of Corfu is to begin to understand its culture which although strongly Greek and Greek Orthodox, is different than the mainland. 'Italianate' is the general catch all consensus.
The islanders have had a love affair with the arts in general and particularly theater, music, painting and dance for centuries. It must be the salubrious climate and magnificent landscape that inspire this, or a strong dose of creative instinct. Perhaps the muses still reside in hidden glens and the forested hillsides as they did in Homers day.
Art Exhibitions are held in both the new and old fortresses of Corfu Town
In ancient times Corfu had a reputation in the areas of arts, lyric poetry and education. Notable practioners whose works have been handed down were the poet Filiskos, Apollodoros, Timoxenos, and the Roman writer Drakon.
Even though many islanders resented the Venitian heretics lack of religious tolerance, artistic growth went unhindered during their hegmony.
The Academia of dei Assicurati was founded in 1656. Cultural development was suspended during the Turkish raids. Later In 1732, the Academy of the Wanderers was founded.
Music flourished in Corfu in the 18th and 19th centuries. The first compositions were for dramatic performances by Italian and local theatrical companies. Corfus traditional music is played with a guitar and a mandoline and called 'Kandathes' and may still be heard in the narrow alleys of Corfu town. The Philharmonic Society was founded in 1840. Nikolaos Mantzaros taught and set to music Dionysios Solomos's "Hymn to Liberty" which became the Greek National Anthem in 1864.
In 1890 "Mantzaros Philharmonic" was founded. Today the island has over 80 orchestras professional and amatuer.
The local traditional dances are up-beat and energetic, with small jumps and intense rhythms. The most popular dances today are Tsakonikos and Kalamatianos both variations of the authentic Peloponnesian dances. Most of the dances are danced in pairs with the accompaniment of a violin, a guitar and an acordeon and unlike mainland instrumentation, which is more influenced by Turkey and its musical instruments. The bouzouki, baglama and zither.
Not withstanding these influences, lets not forget that the ancient Greek mystic philosopher 'Pythagoras' invented western music and the scales used today through out the western world.
Local crafts people produce a wide variety of handmade products: knitted garments, woven fabrics, hand embroidered prints in deep natural colors , intricate olive wood carvings and hand made jewelry.
Icons, Hagiographies or Saint paintings are available for inspection in most of the Greek Orthodox Churches and most were painted by ordinary religious citizens as a token of love to the Saint. Many Creten Icon painters including El Greco came to Crofu when Crete fell to the Turks in 1669 and were permitted by the Venetians to continue their craft. Many of these Creten artists and others fleeing the Turks after the fall of Constantinople helped contribute to the Italian renaissance.
Today many reproductions are available at modest prices.
Once a prize European course, the 18 hole, Par 72, 6,800 yard course, at Ermones on the plain of Ropa, due west of Corfu Town, has an all day fee, an 18 hole fee. Other ammeneties include: a coffee bar, restaurant and a club house with clubs and caddies for rent/hire. Fees for a full week of Golf are available. Compared to its heyday when it won a prize as one of Europes best courses, the course is a bit neglected but servicable. tel: Island: 0661-94220/Athens Tel: 01-692-3028.
Also in Ropa and next to the course. 8 EU per person for trail rides of 2 hr duration. Childrens ponies and levels from experienced to beginner. Tel: 0663- 94220, 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
7 km west of Aghios Ioannis, Ermonies Locality, 18 acres of water slides, restaurant, boutique, bar, mini market, etc. Tel: 0663- 52963