Our Mediterranean Adventure Part Five: The Bountiful and Illustrious Island of Corfu

The next stop on our Mediterranean journey turned out to be even more magical than Mykonos, which is an astounding feat. The ship spent the night curving around the Greek mainland to the enchanted island of Corfu on the Northwest side of Greece, floating between the Greek/Albanian border. A small channel of deep blue separated the island from the monstrous mountains of the Albanian border. We slowly approached the city of Corfu located on the eastern side of the island in the mid-morning light.

As we approached, we were greeted by a rocky peninsula stabbing into the harbor with dramatic fashion. The peninsula had steep, rocky hills with curiously perfect flat tops, as if some giant had slashed the tops off with the swing of a blade. At the base of these hills, circumventing the peninsula were the high stone walls of an old Venetian fort. This massive bastion was built in the 15th century and served as a noticeable reconnaissance and defense point for the city behind it. It was the perfect design for a defensive force, juttying out into the channel like the swing of an arm, eager to strike any ships that might tempt its fate by attacking the city. It gave off a foreboding and formidable aura of strength and vitality. There was evidently an old prison residing somewhere in this massive citadel which only enhanced this feeling. The exaggerated and dramatic features of the landscape propping up this old fort made it seem like something out of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. I imagined that a dragon circling in the air around this fortification would not seem out of place. Around the corner of the hill most prominently in the channel, I could make out what looked like a Doric style church. A spectacle of renowned grace in this otherwise intimidating strip of land.

Immediately upon docking, we noticed a vivid difference in this place from the dry, petrous scenery of Mykonos. The arid, rocky terrain was far behind us, as Corfu was a lush, abundant place of lavish greenery. Packed thickets of trees poked out from in between the colorful buildings making up the city and covered the distant mountains, reminding me of the density of the Appalachian Mountains of home. Tall Cyprus trees soared up from the rest of the trees and blanketed the area. Their skinny, dark green pines blaring out from the surrounding foliage, demanding attention and further beautifying this grand place.

We drove through the bustling parts of the city to arrive at a quiet village called Kinopiastes further inland and nestled among the bountiful mountains of the island. We walked through the narrow streets of houses and shops. The brown and red terracotta roofs were a striking contrast to the different shades of green of the mountains and surrounding vegetation. Colored houses of yellows, reds, and oranges were separated by cobblestone alleyways and made even more vibrant by rows of blossoming flowers that were scattered throughout the exterior of the homes, in pots on the front porches and interlacing in fences and gates.

At the end of this serene street that we walked down, we came to a narrow intersection. In the middle of this intersection was a charming little restaurant/tavern that we stopped in for lunch. In the back section of this place was an outdoor seating area covered by a large awning. We sat at a table with other people from the ship and enjoyed a delectable meal of sliced salami, assorted cheeses with bread, pasta, salads, and potatoes. Large glass containers of white and red wine were passed back and forth between everyone at the table as we drank heartily to accompany our delicious meal. Live music and traditional Greek dancers from the village entertained us as we ate, even calling for volunteers to join in their dance circle. I joined in at one point, gaining a lesson on the steps and rhythm of a dance shared in a circle with other people from the ship. We were full of laughter at our uncoordinated attempts at keeping with the pace of the professional dancers. It was a joyous time, the mid-May shaded air providing the perfect conditions for sharing food, drink, and dance with strangers and absorbing the culture.

The drive back to the older portion of the city near the docks had us winding up a steep road leading to the top of a hill on the southside of the island. There I captured one of my favorite pictures of the entire trip. An elevated, terrace overlooking the water opened to a beautiful vista of the mountains and islands to the south. The blue waters contrasting with the vibrant, blossoming flowers blazing in the sunlight created a picture-perfect moment in time.

The last leg of the day had us scrambling back in order to catch the boat before it departed. We drove past the beautiful classical architecture of the older part of the city. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop with our time constraints. It was a blur of stone. Columns, arches, statues, fountains, lush grasses, and garden were all fleetingly and tragically passing by, like seeing a long-lost love in a crowd hoping to meet only to have her disappear again in the mass of people. Gone. I was strangely saddened at how gorgeous and tranquil the city was, knowing we couldn’t take our time and walk through the streets, slowly and intimately breathing in this most enchanted place. There was a long, hot walk along the surprisingly lengthy cement dock and before we knew it, the ship was off again carrying us to our next adventure.

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