Alexander Savin blog

Eng/Ru
04 Jun 2015

Corfu Island adventure

My fresh travel video from the island of Corfu is available now on Vimeo. Enjoy, and give it a heart.

First time in my life I did a huge mistake when planning my and Stanisla's travels. Original plan was for me to arrive from San Francisco, sleep, and us together take off to the Stansted airport, and to the warm island of Corfu. What I didn't accounted for is timeshift. Turned out time flies twice as fast when travel from west to east, and I ended up totally missing the flight.

Situation was quickly fixed in a way that I’d get a 6am flight from Gatwick, and Stanisla would take the original flight and be waiting for me at the sea resort. This worked pretty well, and soon I was receiving keys for the rented car at the airport of Corfu from the local guy also named Alexander. My highly jetlagged brain noticed that the car I'm getting is somewhat of a different brand from what I booked - but Alexander assured me that yes, it is a different car, but the same price class.

It's been 2 years since I gave up my car, and probably 5 years since I drove a stick. Corfu island landscape features steep hills, sea, cliffs, lots of villages and one large(ish) town. I only had troubles driving in town - it was my Finnish mode that was letting people safely cross the streets, which was something of a revelation to local drivers - on many occasions they signalled me that I should indeed just drive over pedestrians and stop annoying other drivers waiting behind. In addition there were quite a few very steep serpentines, and so there was general speed limit imposed for the whole island at 60 kmh. Which was pretty much ignored by the locals who tried to accelerate to a maximum speed on any straight part of road.

Having a car on Corfu is a must. End of April is so-called low season, and public transport is a rare breed. Our week in the end of April and beginning of March was a little strange, since many places were very quiet, beaches empty, but all spots were open and happy to feed you and provide drinks. Corfu might not be a cheap place, but the food was extremely good.

Each day we would pick a place on a map and start driving, with mandatory stops at bakeries, olive wood workshops and pharmacies - Stanisla got a nasty cold prior to the trip. Road ads were promoting a local "British GP" you can visit right here on the island, but it wasn't clear if he'd accept Stanisla's NHS card. In the end one of the pharmacies sold a nuclear cough mixture with bee propolis, which was highly effective and had the most awful taste at the same time.

Cruising the island was actually fun. It used to be part of ancient Greece, Venice, Great Britain, France, Germany and once again Greece. Venetians built a castle which proved to be great engineering feat and major pain for the Ottoman empire trying to conquer the island over the course of some 200 years. Castle stood, and Ottomans fled the island (after some mandatory pillaging). It is also featured by Gerald Durrell in his book "My family and other animals" - he pretty much grew up on here, and Durrell family house is still a local attraction near Kalami beach.

One particular place was especially magnificent - Old Perithia is a 14th century built village, now abandoned. It is off the sea, hiding between mountains, not easily reachable even by car. Only the most persistent tourist will get there (or maybe once again it was just a low season thing). Some say it was built during the Venetian rule and features details of Venetian engineering. It is actually not that abandoned - there are 3 taverns that will feed you, and some houses actually being bought and restored. Ever wanted to own a 14th century Venetian house?

On one occasion we travelled to a small town of Palaiokastritsa. We arrived early, thanks to me being jet lagged for the good first half of the week. Thankfully there was this local version of coffee - Greek coffee. It was strong, tasty and I’d consume it in double shots. One of the advertised sights in Palaiokastritsa were sea caves, reachable by boat. We ended up taking a boat trip, and that was easily one of the highlights for the whole trip. Beardy captain of the light boat with me, Stanisla, other couple and 2 small kids guided our vessel straight into what looked like an open sea. From time to time captain would start praying to the Saint Spyridon, then switching to singing in Greek. Waves were high, sea was very blue, and caves were rather small and insignificant.

Air, smells and food were somewhat magical on the island. Contrast is especially huge when travelling from a large city where tomato tastes like nothing, and in many occasions you try to pretend that you don't need air. On the first day after my arrival, we took a small trip to the closest village - Pelekas - to find some breakfast. Being vegetarian is not a problem by the way - you will have to skip local souvlaki dishes, but the rest is very much vegetarian and highly enjoyable. In a local tavern of Pelekas village they brought us tzatziki, olives, salad, toasts with tomatoes, dolmades and they also insisted on potato chips. My god, these were most delicious chips in my entire life.

Local guidebook highly recommended to try ginger beer. During the British rule they started doing ginger beer on the island, and never stopped after that. Current incarnation of the drink is a pure perfection - unique taste, with a gentle bitiness and soothing effect that goes straight to your brain. My quest now is to find it here in London.