We docked at Corfu Town at 1:00 in the afternoon. Directly across was the HMS York, a British naval vessel. Much of the crew had already disembarked on shore leave,
although a few stragglers were still going down the gangplank, which was guarded by armed sailors.
Wind Surf and H.M.S. York Docked in Corfu
We were bused a couple of miles to the Esplanade, a huge public square. A line of
horse-drawn carriages awaited those who might want a tour, but we were going on foot
as usual. This whole area has a British feel to it, not surprising since the Ionian
islands were a British Protectorate in the 19th century (1815-1864). The islands had
been controlled by Venice for four hundred years (1386-1797) but just before the British
ceded the islands to Greece in 1864, they inexplicably blew up almost every building and
fort built by the Venetians. So most of the remaining buildings have a
distinctly British look.
At the north end of the Esplanade is the Palace of St Michael and St George, the oldest
official building still standing in Greece. It was built by the British (1818-23), was
summer residence to the King of Greece, suffered damage during the Greek Civil War and was
then renovated as a gift of the British ambassador as a memorial to the British role in
Greek history. Some of the rooms are quite plush. The building also houses the Museum
of Asiatic Art, a large private collection. There is a quiet garden in which to sit in
the shade on a hot sunny day, and views of the sea at the rear of the building.
Nearby is the historic center of Corfu. The buildings are quite old and house many interesting shops.
And right at the center is the Greek Orthodox church of Agios Spyridon. This is a
beautiful church with a tall campanile, and is striking for all the gold and silver
displayed. Lamps, chandeliers, candlesticks and other ornamentation - all create a glittering
effect, even in the dim light, unlike that of any other church we have visited. The remains
of Corfu's patron saint, Spyridon, are kept in a silver casket which leaves the church four
times a year for various religious processions.
We walked away from all the shops into an area obviously patronized by the local
population. While there don't seem to be as many small motor bikes as in other
European cities, they are still popular for getting through traffic quickly.
Even when parked, they have their uses.
The Author Watches the World Cup at a Corfu Sports Bar
Back at the Esplanade, we had lunch along the Liston. This was built by Napoleon
to imitate the rue de Rivoli which he had created in Paris. A series of arcades,
once reserved for the aristocracy, now house a row of cafes and restaurants. It is
a very pleasant place for a quiet meal.
The cricket ground was now filled with boys, practicing with their coach, but it
didn't look like there would be any actual matches this afternoon.
The sun was out and it was getting late, so we decided to walk back to the
ship by way of the Campiello and the Old Port. The Campiello is the oldest part
of the city and lies between the Esplanade and the Old Port. The architecture isn't
very interesting. The Byzantine Museum might have been interesting but had closed for
the day. Our walk continued along the shoreline to the Old Port, which was not
remarkable in any way. So we kept walking until we reached the New Port
and the Wind Surf.