Colours, without saying a word, evoke a lot of emotions. There’s even something called colour psychology which is quite frankly very undeveloped, however the idea is that colours MEAN something to us. Those meanings and emotions come from our own experience and culture. For me, red means intensity and passion while blue means calmness and sadness. Orange reminds me of fire and my brother’s basketball jersey, so it makes me feel energetic. Jewel-tones are more forceful, neon-tones are ‘in-your-face’. I imagine I would be very stressed out in a room full of neon lights. So, what about a room full of pastel colours? Does it bring you a sense of calm? Imagine an island in the Mediterranean that only wanted to be surrounded by soft, ‘baby’ colours. This is Corfu (or Kérkyra in Greek transliteration).
Perhaps like many island adventures, Corfu was a spontaneous choice for me. Victor and I had talked about extending work trips to take advantage of inclusive flights. Of course, Victor had usually travelled to places I had been numerous times like France and other parts of the UK. But then, out of nowhere, Victor’s work scheduled a trip to Greece. Score! We checked out Skyscanner and Google Flights to find the cheapest place to visit in Greece.
Various hues of orange and pink welcomed us to Corfu. The night before, our host graciously picked us up from the airport and took us to his adorable house on a hill. We came to learn that his kind of hospitality is common in Corfu.
The old town is overwhelmingly yellow. But, not just any yellow. It’s a warm, pastel yellow that is incredibly inviting without being too intense.
Yellow is Corfu’s colour as so many streets are lined with unassuming shops, bakeries, and restaurants. They blend into the old stone. As you walk down the streets, another country comes to mind… perhaps Italy? Corfu was ruled by various groups, including the Venetians. This was a particularly successful time period for the island, therefore you can see traces of past splendour.
Yellow is also the colour emitted by a traditional Greek dessert: baklava. Baklava is a rich, sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. It is a very old recipe, dating back to ancient times. Baklava has been enjoyed by several cultures and areas including the Levant, the Caucasus, Balkans, Maghreb, and of Central/West Asia. Though most people attribute the dessert to places like Turkey, baklava is made in every region in Greece. There are hundreds of variations.
In college, I took several classes within an interdisciplinary programme called ‘Integrated Program in Humane Studies’. The year-long introductory course is titled Odyssey of the West, and essentially took me through a journey of how the west as we know was formed. Starting in the ancient world, we read selections from the Hebrew Bible, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Vergil, Dante and others. We looked at concepts like justice, love, power as expressed in Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman traditions. I remember reading Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, which reported how Corfu was one of the three great naval powers of fifth century BC Greece, along with Athens and Corinth.
The Venetians built several forts on Corfu and you can visit one of them: the Old Fortress of Corfu (Fortezza Vecchia in Venetian). The fort successfully repelled all three major Ottoman sieges against the island.
Leaving the old town of Corfu, we took a local bus to Kanóni, an area just past the airport. Once in Kanóni, there’s a cafe at the top of the hill from which you have the most spectacular view. The islets of Vlahérna and Pondikoníssi are just in view. Reached by a short causeway, the tiny white convent of Vlahérna is one of the most photographed places on Corfu.
The monastery is a gorgeous place. It’s quite small, but it feels magical. There’s even a small shop with handicrafts made by the monastery members.
The little walkway you used to reach the monastery is actually also a port. You might see like boats docking there. You can actually take a boat ride to onlooking Pondikoníssi (Mouse Island) for a small fee (€2.50 return). This island is not just any island. It is linked to one of the most famous myths of all time.
The Odyssey details Odysseus’ encounter with Polyphemus, a one-eyed cyclops who also happens to be Poseidon’s son. Polyphemus trapped Odysseus and his companions in a cave (whom he also ate). To escape, Odysseus got Polyphemus drunk and while he was passed out, blinded him. Polyphemus prays to his father, Poseidon, for revenge against Odysseus. Poseidon answered and made Odysseus’ journey home incredibly difficult. Amongst the many difficulties Poseidon imposed, he turned Odysseus’ ship into stone. Pondikoníssi is supposedly that petrified ship.
Rumour has it that the most beautiful beach on Corfu is Palaiokastritsa, so obviously we had to go! Despite it not being beach weather, we still love to be by the water. This small village is on the opposite side of the island from Corfu town. The water is so blue! There are many little beaches scattered around the actual beach called Palaiokastritsa.
And, best of all, there are more legends associated with this area! The Bay of Palaiokastritsa is where Odysseus disembarked and met Nausicaa for the first time. Nausicaa gave Odysseus shelter after his was shipwrecked on the island. Not a bad place to seek refuge, eh?
I hope you this coloured tour through Corfu. It truly is a magical island, full of mystic and legend!