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Corfu

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Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO)

 

Corfu Travel Guide

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Museums and Libraries

Kerkyra has always been a cultural centre of distinction. The museums and libraries are full of irreplaceable books and artifacts. The most notable of the museums and libraries are located in the city and are:

  • The Archaeological Museum located at Armeni Vraila 1 was inaugurated in 1967. It was constructed to house the exhibit of the huge Gorgon pediment of the Artemis temple that was excavated at Palaiopolis in early 20th century. In 1994 two more halls were added to the museum, where new discoveries from the excavations of the ancient town and the Garitsa cemetery are exhibited.
  • The Public Library of Corfu located at the old English Barracks in Palaio Frourio.
  • Solomos Museum and the Corfiot Studies Society share the same building at 1 Arseniou Str.
  • The Reading Society of Corfu in Capodistriou Str. has an extensive library of old Corfu manuscripts and rare books.
  • The Museum of Asian Art located at the Palaia Anaktora (mainly Chinese and Japanese Arts) and its unique collection is housed in 15 rooms and includes over 12,000 artifacts including a Greek Buddhist collection that shows the influence of Alexander the Great on Buddhist culture as far as Pakistan.
  • The Serbian Museum 19 Moustoxydou St. houses rare exhibits about the Serbian soldiers' tragic fate during the First World War. The remnants of the Serbian Army of about 150,000 soldiers together with their government in exile, found refuge and shelter in Corfu, following the collapse of the Serbian Front as a result of the Austro-Hungarian attack of the 6th October 1915. Exhibits include photographs from the three years stay of the Serbians in Corfu, together with other exhibits such as uniforms, arms and ammunition of the Serbian army, Serbian regimental flags, religious artefacts, surgical tools used in triage by Serbian doctors on Vido island in 1916, war medals and other decorations of the Kingdom of Serbia etc.

Music and festivities

Philarmonikes

Corfiots are great lovers of music. In the past, people used to join in the singing of the cantades, impromptu choral songs in two, three or four voices, usually accompanied by a guitar. The bands (Philharmonic societies), which also provide free instruction in music, are still popular and still attract young recruits. Nowadays, given the rigours of modern life that has not spared Corfu society, cantades (deriving from the Italian cantare meaning to sing) are only performed by semi-professional or amateur singers, mainly as tourist attractions. Corfu Town is home to three famous, top notch marching wind bands, the dark red-uniformed Philharmonic Society of Corfu or Old Philharmonic or Palia, the blue-uniformed Mantzaros Philharmonic and the bright red and black-uniformed Capodistria Philharmonic. The bands give regular weekend promenade concerts during summer and take part in the yearly Holy Week ceremonies.

There is considerable but friendly rivalry between them, and they rigorously adhere to their respective repertoires.

Easter

On Holy Friday from the early afternoon the bands of the philharmonic societies, separated into squads, accompany the epitaphs of the town's churches. Late in the afternoon the squads come together to form the whole band in order to accompany the epitaph of the metropolitan church. The funeral marches that the bands play differ depending on the band. The Old Philharmonic plays Albinoni's Adagio, the Mantzaros plays Verdi's Marcia Funebre from Don Carlo, and the Capodistria plays Chopin's Funeral March and Mariani's Sventura. On Holy Saturday morning the three town bands take part in the epitaph (Epitaphios) of St. Spyridon Cathedral in procession with the Saint's relics. This time the bands play different funeral marches, with Mantzaros playing de Miccheli's Calde Lacrime, the Palia playing Marcia Funebre from Faccio's opera Amleto, while the Kapodistria Philharmonic plays the Funeral March from Beethoven's Eroica. The custom dates from the 19th century, when the British banned the participation of the garrison's band in the traditional Holy Friday funeral cortege. The defiant Corfiotes held the litany the following morning, and paraded the relics of St. Spyridon as well, so that the British would not dare intervene.

The litany is followed by the most spectacular Corfiot celebration by far, the "Early Resurrection". Balconies in the old town are decked in bright red cloth, and Corfiotes throw down large clay pots full of water to smash on the street pavement, especially in wider areas of Liston and in an organised fashion. This is done in anticipation of the Resurrection of Jesus, which is to be celebrated that same night.

Teatro di San Giacomo and a night at the opera of yesteryear

During Venetian rule, the Corfiotes developed a fervent appreciation of Italian opera, which was the real source of the extraordinary (given the conditions in the mainland of Greece) musical development of the island during that era. The opera house of Corfu during 18th and 19th century was the Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo, named after the neighbouring catholic cathedral, but later the theatre was converted into the Town Hall. Many local composers, such as Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros, Spiridon Xindas, Antonio Liberali, Domenico Padovani, the Zakynthian Pavlos Karrer, the Lambelets', Spiros Samaras and others, connected their career with this theatre. San Giacomo's place was taken by the so-called New Municipal Theatre (1901), which held the operatic tradition vivid until its destruction during World War II (namely, in 1943 as a result of a German air raid). The incapability during the post-war years to rebuild it was the main cause that led to the island's continuous crisis in regard to music. In any case, the first opera to be performed in the San Giacomo Theatre was in 1733 ("Gerone, tiranno di Siracusa") and from 1771 until 1943 nearly all the operatic compositions by the most (or less) famous Italians, as well as some of the local and French, composers were performed at the stage of the San Giacomo theatre. This sweet era, a distant reminiscence of the glorious musical past, was until recently reflected in the mythology that supported that the opera theatre of Corfu was a fixture in famous opera singers' itineraries, and those who were successful there were given the title of distinction "applaudito in Corfu", meaning "applauded in Corfu" as a reflection of the discriminating musical taste of its inhabitants.

Ionian University and musical tradition

Since the early 1990s a new factor in the musical reality of Corfu is the Music Department of the Ionian University, which has placed new standards. Apart from the academic activities, its concerts in Corfu and abroad and its musicological research in the field of the so-called Neo-Hellenic Music, the Department organizes every summer an international music academy, which gathers international students and music professors in brass, strings, singing, jazz and musicology.

Ta Karnavalia

Another great Corfu tradition is the Carnival or Ta Karnavalia. Venetian in origin, the festivities include a parade featuring the main attraction of Karnavalos, a rather grotesque figure with a large head and a smiling face that leads a procession of many colourful floats. Corfiots, young and old, dress up in colourful costumes and follow the parade. They even spill into the narrow streets (kantounia), and spread the fun all over the city dancing and frolicking. At night, in more sophisticated social circles, dance and costume parties brighten up the nightlife.

Saint Spyridon the Keeper of the City

Saint Spyridon the Thaumaturgist (Miracle-worker), also referred to as Saint Spyridon - the Keeper of the City, is the patron saint of the island. St. Spyridon is revered for the miracle of expelling the plague from the island, amongst many other miracles attributed to him. It is believed by the faithful that on its way out of the island the plague scratched one of the fortification stones of the old citadel to indicate its fury at being expelled. St. Spyridon is also believed to have saved the island at the second great siege of Corfu which took place in 1716. There were rumours spreading among the Turks that some of their soldiers saw St. Spyridon as a monk approaching them menacingly with a flaming torch in one hand and a cross in the other, and that helped increase their panic. This miracle is one of the earliest successful examples of psychological operations in warfare, (psyops). This victory over the Turks, therefore, was attributed not only to the leadership of Count Schulenburg who commanded the stubborn defence of the island against the Turks, but also to the miraculous intervention of St. Spyridon. Venice honoured von der Schulenburg and the Corfiots for successfully defending the island. Recognizing St. Spyridon's role in the defence of the island Venice legislated the establishment of the litan of St Spyridon on the 11th of August as a commemoration of the miraculous event, starting a tradition that continues to this day.

Corfu in myth

It is in Corfu that Hercules, just before embarking on his ten labours, slept with the Naiad Melite and she bore him Hyllus, the leader of the Heraclids.
Corfu is also reported to be the place where the Argonauts found refuge from the avenging Colchic fleet after they had seized the Golden Fleece.
In another famous sea adventure Homer's Odyssey, Kerkyra is the island of the Phaeacians (Phaiakes) where Odysseus (Ulysses) meets Nausica the daughter of King Alkinoos.
The bay of Palaiokastritsa is considered to be the place where Odysseus disembarked and met Nausicaa for the first time.

Corfu in film

Several movies have been filmed in Corfu, including the 1981 James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only. The most memorable Corfu related scene of the film is of the underwater ancient Greek temple, with a huge turtle swimming in front of the camera; the Casino scene was also filmed at the Achilleion. Additional scenes from the same movie, filmed on the island, include Melina and James walking through the town streets and Melina being greeted by Bond at Pontikonisi island, and the Greek Wedding scene was filmed at the Bouas-Danilia traditional Village.

Corfu was also used by the BBC to shoot both a TV series (1987) and a movie (2005) version of Gerald Durrell's book "My Family and Other Animals," based on his childhood in Corfu in the late 1930s.

Corfu Data

Area (Corfu island): 591 km˛ (641 km˛ (Prefecture total area, including Paxoi and Antipaxoi islands and the islands of Othonoi, Mathraki and Ereikousa)
Population of Prefecture: 111,975 (2001 census)
Population of capital city of Corfu: 38,185
Postal codes: 49100 (city) , 49080-49081-49082-49083-49084 (rural)
Area codes: 26610 (city and central Corfu), 26620 (south), 26630 (north)

Tourism

Quite apart from their more malevolent invaders, the Corfiotes have a long history of hospitality to foreign residents and visitors, typified in the twentienth century by Gerald Durrell's childhood reminiscence My Family and Other Animals. Some Italian culture and cookery have been absorbed, and are particularly evident during August when Italian holidaymakers visit en masse. The North East coast has largely been developed by a few British holiday companies, with large expensive holiday villas which are used as homes during the two-thirds of the year out of season. The north and east coasts have most of the package holiday resorts, and with some exceptions the interior has relatively little tourist trade. This had had the effect of a massive transfer of resources, because traditionally the best farmland was away from the rocky shore, the salt and the pirates, but from the 1970s the inferior seaside land suddenly became the most desirable and highly valuable holiday property sites. Many Corfiotes now make more from the frantic four month holiday season than from their traditional agriculture. At the other end of the market, and also the other end of the island, the southern resort of Kavos provides the notoriously robust facilities particularly attractive to young holidaymakers, along similar lines to resorts such as Faliraki in Rhodes.

Climate

Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg Daily Sun Hours 4 5 7 7 9 10 12 11 9 6 4 2
High temperature [°C] 14 15 16 19 23 28 31 32 28 23 19 16
Low temperatures [°C] 13 13 14 15 18 22 23 24 23 21 17 14
Precipitation 13 11 9 7 5 2 1 1 5 9 12 15

In late-2002 and early-2003, heavy rains ravaged the island several times including one which caused a mudslide near Messonghi Beach. During the Holiday Season of 2006, the weather was exceptionally hot in May, with greater rainfall during the month of June. August received a heatwave and temperatures reached a high of 45 degrees Celsius in the North of the Island.

 

 
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