Stranded in Corfu … again
November 21, 2009
Since we’re not on a set schedule, Leigh and I don’t worry too much about missing the ferry to Albania. Instead, we focus on exploring Corfu, a Greek island that figures prominently in the ancient legends of the region.
According to myth, the sea god, Poseidon, fell in love with the river nymph Korkira and made love with her on the island, giving birth the Phacean race and to the island’s Greek name, Kerkyra.
At the Benitses beach, we can picture the proto-traveler, Odysseus, nearly drowned, drifting ashore with the help of Athena, then awakening to the laughter of princess Nausica and her friends, who are washing clothes in a stream. King Alcinous gives him a boat to help him return to Ithaka. But Poseidon is angry at the Phaceans for helping Odysseus, so during the return voyage, he turns their boat to stone.
Corfu also was a stop for Jason and the Argonauts. They narrowly avoided being trapped by the call of the Sirens, when Jason ordered Orpheus to sing for his crew so they could row the ship to safety. On Corfu, Jason married Medea, and they spent their wedding night in a cave, sleeping on the Golden Fleece. But the honeymoon turned stormy, when a tidal wave swept the Argo into the sands of North Africa.
After getting lost during a harrowing late-night moped ride around the island the night before, Leigh and I can relate to the travails of Odysseus and Jason. But later, as we sip a frothy, sweet Nescafe frappÈ along the waterfront, we decide we have it pretty easy compared to those intrepid travelers, and we set off to explore the massive Venetian fortress that guards the harbor.
Venice bought the island from Naples in 1402 when it became one of the last regional strongholds against a rising tide of Ottoman conquests. Surrounded by an ocean moat, the castle helped repel several invasions. In 1537, the pirate Barbarossa attacked Corfu with 25,000 men to try and claim the strategic island for Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The Corfiots repelled the siege and subsequently decided to build even stronger fortifications on a bluff a little farther inland.
Leigh and I wander up the ramparts toward sunset. Amazingly, in this tourist hot-spot, we have the entire castle to ourselves, enjoying a spectacular sunset over the rooftops of Corfu. As we wander past the lower levels of the castle, we can see music classes being held inside the ancient chambers, and we also visit a museum with a fine display of Byzantine mosaics.
After dark, we head back to the ferry terminal to check e-mails and post blogs to our websites. That evening, the terminal has become a social center of sorts, with a group of older local gentlemen gathered in front of a giant TV to watch Greece take on Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier.
Three of the men hold strings of wooden worry beads. Every time the game gets close, they twirl the beads around their fingers with loud rattles. Even without looking at the TV, I can tell what’s going on in the game by the pace of their twirling.
After the game ends with a 2-1 win for the home squad, Leigh and I jump back on the moped and zoom back up the hill to the Villa Rosa, planning the next leg of the trip, starting with a ferry ride to Saranda.
The next morning, we finally wake up early enough, but I know we’re in trouble once again when I knock on the inkeeper’s door to ask him for a ride into town. George is bleary eyed and sleepy, and moving slow. By the time we reach the harbor, the customs house is closed, and all we can do is wave goodbye as the boat glides away from the dock, bound for Albania.
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The frappe is Greece’s favorite summer drink.
During warm weather, locals and tourists alike lounge at street cafes, slowly sipping the frothy concoctions and watching the people go by. Leigh and I decided to recreate the drink back at home and found this recipe.
Makes 1 glass
Instant coffee (preferably Nescafe) – 1 1/2 to 3 teaspoons
Cold water – 2/3 cup
Sugar (optional) – 2 to 3 teaspoons
Milk (optional) – 1/4 cup
Ice cubes (optional) – 2 to 3 each
1. Add desired amount of coffee, sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of the water to a cocktail shaker or blender. Shake or blend until the mixture forms a thick and frothy foam.
2. Pour the foam into a tall glass and stir in the remaining water and the sugar, milk and ice cubes if desired. Drink with a straw.
More on the mythological history of Corfu at http://www.greecetravel.com/corfu/history.html
For more Corfu photos, visit Bob Berwyn’s photoblog at http://bit.ly/23LkCg.