When my wife and I embarked on P&O’s Ventura earlier this year there were four ports of call that we had not previously visited. I have already written reviews on two, Kotor and Genoa, so that leaves the remaing two, Ajaccio and Corfu: this in my series of ‘One way to do…” is about Corfu.
Being a first visit we very much wanted to see as much as possible and so, after some deliberation and research, we decided to book a ship’s excursion that offered an interesting itinerary and one that returned to Corfu Town in good time for us to also get a feel for it.
From our berth at Corfu…
Our excursion initially headed North West for some 35 km, to the scenic village of Paleokastritsa….
…where, perched on the cliff overlooking the village, we were to be given a guided tour of the Monastery of The Virgin Mary…
The monastery, built in 1228, is reputably amongst one of the best known places on Corfu – and a classic example of Greek monastic architecture.
Covering the walls and the ceilings inside the church of the Monastery is decorated with painted icons and frescoes of ancient Greece…
Whilst visiting the Monastery we took the opportunity to also visit its small museum of icons, sacred books and relics from the Byzantine period…
The Monastery complex also offered some unrivalled coastal views…
The next scheduled stop on this ship’s excursion was the Achilleion Palace. Set high on a hill above the village of Gastouri this magnificent palace was built by Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria in 1890. The Empress was a woman obsessed with beauty who had the palace designed with the mythical hero Achilles as its central theme.
Corfu was Elizabeth’s favourite vacation place and she built the palace because she admired Greece and its language and culture. Achilleion’s location provides a panoramic view of Corfu city to the north, and across the whole southern part of the island.
Achilles, as guardian of the palace, in the gardens of the Achilleion.
He gazes northward, toward the city. The inscription in Greek reads: ΑΧΙΛΛΕΥΣ i.e. Achilles and it was commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II…
The palace grounds and gardens are a rhapsody of Greek mythology with statues of Achilles, Zeus, Hera, along with other smaller statues and sculptures…
Entering the palace by the main entrance there is a magnificent staircase…
...with a ceiling fresco that encapsulates the four seasons of time….
To the right of the staircase is the Empress Elisabeth’s catholic chapel: a piece of art in itself, with impressive parts being the painting on the arch-shaped ceiling that represents the trial of Christ….
There are also, around the entrance hall, a number of other rooms with displays of art and memorabilia from both Elisabeth’s life and that of the Emperor of Germany, William II on display: many of the latter coming with nautical themes.
At the end of the stairs there is an enormous oil painting that portrays the triumph of Achilles at the battle with Hector…
It’s always good to be a part of a guided tour like this one at the Achilleion Palace. How else would we have learnt of the Statue of Hermes high on the roof of the palace…
Part of this organised excursion included a traditional Greek lunch at the Ambelonas vineyard. Needless to say we were very impressed with both the cuisine and entertainment while the Greek wine on offer was even quite quaffable – and, more to the point, unlimited in quantity.
Marinated Figs with Yogurt
Suitably fed and wined we returned to Corfu Town where our guide gave us a short tour, pointing out the major places of interest, prior to us having an hour or so for free time.
Corfu Town, though some distance from the ship’s berth, is reasonably compact. Apart from one or two places of interest within the town the main collection of historical buildings, monuments and statues can be found in Spianada Square.
In actual fact Spianada Square is two large grassed areas sitting between the ‘Old Fortress’ on the Waterfront…
…and the row of buildings, including Liston Promenade….
...which themselves serve as a border between Spianada Square and the Old Town…
The streets are mainly given over to touristy style shops, cafes and bars…
…though it is worth navigating one or two to reach the Saint Spyridon Church…
Consecrated to Corfu’s patron who is buried here, its bell tower is the tallest tower in the town…
As stated earlier, the majority of places of interest, and the best restaurants, are all situated either on or bordering Spianada Square.
To the east of the square lies the Doric Peristyle Palace Saint of Michael and George with the bronze statue of the Lord Frederick Adams – one of the most famous British Commissioners – adorning it’s garden…
In Spianada Square is the Peristyle of Mightland at its southern end. This circular monument with Ionic columns was built in honor of the first British Commissioner Thomas Mightland (1816-1824).
The Peristyle is a masterpiece of the British Military Engineer G.Whitemore, who also designed the Palace of Michael and George using stone from Malta.
At the western end of Spianada Square can be found the statue of Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first Governor of liberated Greece.
He was born in Corfu in 1776 and the statue was unveiled in 1887, financed by means of a donation made by a professor of the Ionian Academy who was a great admirer of Kapodistrias.
The Ionian Academy, originally built as a barracks in 1823, was also home to the Corfu University. During the Second World War the building was bombed by the Germans in September 1943 and eventually restored in 1994.
In the square, in front of the bridge leading to the Old Fortress...
…is the marble statue of the German Marshal Schulenburg (Mathias von der Schulenburg). It is the work of the sculptor Corradini and it was dedicated to his honour…
The final monument we visited prior to returning to the ship was the ‘Monument of the Ionian Islands’...
Not greatly inspiring but of course of considerable significance because it celebrates the re-unification of the 7 Ionian Islands.
That really concludes our day out on Corfu. It was both a full and busy day and we covered a considerable amount of ground.
Once again a ship’s excursion had come up trumps for us and we were able to maximise our time ashore.
Without any doubt the ‘gem’ of the day was the visit to the Achilleion Palace – a veritable must on a visit to Corfu.
The cost of the P&O excursion was £56.00 per person but this was reduced by 10% with our Loyalty Discount. At either price it was good value for money.
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Corfu, simply wonderful, loved it – all of it, how could you not.
I just love all your journeys the photography is splendid. But I have said this before, but I really do mean it.
Best Wishes. Yvonne.
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2014 07:20:05 +0000 To: email@example.com
Thanks and very interesting Richard, Bob and I will be visiting Corfu next September 29th on Queen Elizabeth but we might not get to see everything you and Barbara did – neither of us terribly fit!
I enjoyed this review of Corfu. It is some time since I was last there, so nice to bring back memories with such lovely photos as always.
I loved the photo of the marinated figs!
I have been having similar daily here as the figs are so plentiful at the moment . Falling off the trees and going to waste, so I collect them and enjoy them for breakfast here in Sunny Cyprus. Look forward to your next review . Thanks again. Maggiemou
Thank you for your review and wonderful photos. It is some time since I last visited Corfu and made me realise a visit is overdue.
Loved the marinated figs!
I have been doing the same with figs at the moment as they are all falling off the trees and going to waste. Such a shame, but there are just so many around here in sunny Cyprus.
Thanks again .