CORFU: HISTORY STEPPING ONTO ANCIENT GROUNDS

IT’S NO SECRET THAT GREECE IS ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST POPULAR COUNTRIES TO VISIT. BUT, NO MATTER WHERE YOU END UP, THE STEPPING STONES THROUGH HISTORY WILL LEAVE YOU WITH AN IMPRINT OF AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE!

By MARIANA MEJIA

This month, we will be walking through the gorgeous island landscapes and mountains that Greece has to offer throughout the winter season! When you think of Greece, you probably think of the warm, sunny breeze and all the amazing things you could do throughout the summer, but have you ever stopped to think what it would be like through the winter? Greece in the winter feels like you have the country all to yourself. But, Greece during the winter may cause some undesirable weather, with gray skies and frequent rain, although temperatures are generally mild and rare sunny days can be crystal clear.

Winters are fairly mild, except in the mountains, where snowfall is common. Athens’ temperatures average 55 degrees Fahrenheit, with nightly lows that rarely approach freezing. The islands are usually a degree or two warmer. For this trip, we’ll be heading off to the Akrotiri Beach Resort Hotel, located on the northwest coast of Corfu Island, in the resort of Paleokastritsa (Mouse Island), which is a protected area well-known for its magnificent scenery and crystalclear waters. The hotel’s beach is built onto the Akrotiri peninsula, which has a series of pebble coves that are formed from volcanic rock, including the renowned Red Beach, with striking cliffs stained by iron ore. On the west side of the hotel, you can find the “Agia Triada” beach. This public beach is organized, with parasols and sun-beds available for rent. Guests can also reach the beach by using the hotel lift and then descending a couple of steps. akrotiri-beach.com

Many visitors from northern climes still head to the Greek Islands, however, in hopes of some winter sun, with clear skies about two out of every three days. Party animals, take note: in mid-winter, many clubs and bars shutter for the winter. While staying at the Akrotiri Beach Resort hotel during the winter, you may want to venture off into Corfu Town. Corfu Town is the capital of the Greek island of Corfu, in the Ionian Sea. It’s known for its cobblestone streets and pastel-colored Venetian architecture. To the west, the Venetian-built New Fortress has a network of tunnels underneath and views over the harbor. What is there to do in Corfu Town? Well, visitors normally visit the Old Fortress (Citadel), an old fortress that was built by the Venetians in 1546 that lies on a small, rocky peninsula that’s located east of the old town. Inside the fortress, there is a small church in the style of a Doric temple, which the British constructed in the 19th century. The next place to visit is Mon Repos Palace, the birthplace in 1921 of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. It was built in 1831 for the British High Commissioner and later used as a summer home for the Greek royal family.

After hours of just exploring the town of Corfu, you’ll want to sit down, drink, have a meal, or just dance at the Corfu Pazuzu Club to warm up after the long walk or bus ride. The Corfu Pazuzu Club is located about 16 km west of Corfu Town, on one of the island’s prettiest soft-sanded beaches, Glyfada. A one-of-a-kind beach experience that takes you from a cold coffee on the beach to a cozy sun bed with a cocktail in hand under the moonlight, where the Corfu Pazuzu Club is always ready to spoil you. The eatery/bar/club has exceptional food prepared by talented chefs, uplifting music by well-known DJs, and exquisite indoor and outdoor décor. A place designed to impress and a place you’ll want to stay if you want to sit outside and receive some fresh mild-winter air. pazuzu.gr

Although Corfu is beautiful and home to stunning scenery, compelling history, and lots of gorgeous beaches, there are many other beautiful places or activities to do while visiting. By January, this is a great time to focus on museums and cultural visits because, although you’re by the sea and decide to take a polar plunge in the Mediterranean Sea, you’ll probably think otherwise, as you’ll be saying “Brrr!” the whole trip. This is a great time for photography, too, as the colors are softer without the glaring summer sunlight. And it’s a perfect time to focus on getting to know the Greeks themselves. Why do we say we want you to get to know the Greeks themselves? Well, around this time, Greeks are huddled together in their homes, making memories while celebrating Greek traditions throughout January. Some of them are the Epiphany (January 6) Celebrations-Theofania, which take place throughout Greece. The local Orthodox priest leads a procession through town, visiting each house to offer a blessing. The procession usually ends at a body of water, into which the priest tosses a cross; swimmers dive in, hoping to retrieve it for good luck. Athens’ port, Piraeus, has the biggest “Blessing of the Waters” celebration.

Another celebration that Greece has is the Patras Carnival, which is supposedly Greece’s largest festival. For several weeks, Patras explodes into colorful life with parade floats, boules (“transvestite” masquerades), which is basically like a trans-drag queen masquerade, pantomimes, and no end of parties. Although, if you’re not really into the whole party scene and you want to finish off your vacation, you may want to travel over to the Achilleion Museum, which is a palace built in Gastouri, on the island of Corfu, for the Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The palace is 10 km south of the city of Corfu and three km north of the village of Benitses, on the edge of Gastouri village. Sisi (Queen Elizabeth) named the palace after her all-time hero, Achilles, the mythical Greek half-god that we know from the Troyan war. The palace was built between 1889 and 1891. It’s an all-time favorite during the winter season. So, back to the story: Sisi would visit the place frequently, to relieve her from the depression of the loss of her only son. During the time she would spend at the palace, she would take the time to read and study, all while she was hiking and roaming around the island on horseback. Now, tourists can roam around like Sisi and admire the statue of Achilles in the gardens of the palace. On the terrace, in the garden, and on the balconies and roof, from every corner and throughout every inch of the garden, you’ll see beautiful statues like centaurs, muses holding torches, Greek Gods, and even a Greek courtesan from the 4th century BC. A treasure that holds divine architecture and memories through centuries and centuries more to come. A treasure that Greece hopes you’ll keep in mind after your safe flight back! (Goodbye!) αντιο σας! (Translates to “antio sas!”)