Well, I think I’m getting the hang of this place. Firstly head out to the glorious coastline of craggy headlands, wooded oaks and olive groves, splashed with the colours of bougainvillaea, smart, cliffside villas overlooking sandy/pebbly bays and coves and turquoise waters and try to find in coastal villages any remaining evidence of the romantic Corfu of yester year. Then, rather than staying in the oven of apartment blocks, tourist shops, eateries and bars, cluttered with a scattering, at least until high season, of lizard skinned, loud & inappropriately clad Germans & Brits, moving up into the mountains for the real island.
The first trip is up the slithering, sharp meanders of the coastal road up the east coast to Kassiopi, which still has an element of charm for the visitor.
A perfect crescent of bars & restaurants line the harbour, overlooked by the omnipresent apartment blocks and guarded by the ruins of the medieval castle.
The intriguing image, through the breakwater and over the narrow straight, is that of the mainland, which at this point has given way to Albania.
It is so different to the white-washed buildings and assorted shapes and sizes of any Greek landscape. Through the haze, in the distance, block upon block of dull, grey blocks of functionality are indiscriminately arranged in layers along the even duller rocky coastline. There is no real colour, no soft shapes, no variation – just a drab presentation to the modern world.
Leaving the tourist fleshpots, it is a drive through the wonderful landscape of Corfu’s mountainous centre. Here are the crags and rocks, the ancient, wizened olive trees with giant, gnarled girths, the mixed oaks and Cypress trees, all smothered in the herby smells of yellow gorse and white and pink flowered shrubs, up to Old Perithia. Following a single track above the tree line the air cools and for the first time it feels fresh and one can breathe deep again.
Perithia is a ruined village, dating from the 14th century in the middle of the mountains. Despite the fact that 95% of its 130 dwellings are in ruins there are two ruins for sale and 5 tavernas that are open for business and staffed by the last inhabitants of this rubbled ghost of a village. Quite why there are 5 tavernas operating, I don’t know. Maybe tourist coaches battle up here through the potholes and dust in the high season. The village is famous for producing honey and ….ginger beer!
After a wander in the peace and emptiness, a drink of some pretty average ginger beer (we make it better in the UK) it is back down to dinner on the bay.
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