The Island is good to visit if your aim is to relax In a beautiful natural scenery. This is not really a good place to visit if you wish to do sightseeing as there is just one main city there and many small villages.
The crisis – is it there?
You may wonder if the crisis is visible in Corfu island, having in mind the Greek situation recently. Well, Corfu was really popular in previous decades and many Europeans have bought houses all over the island, thinking of it as a good place to retire. The best years of this island have already passed and you should not expect much of richness here (many interiors are still from the 90s). Right now it feels more similar to Albania, which is reaching the western European standards slowly, than to Mediterranean countries like Spain or Italy. Despite of the crisis Spain and Italy and the Greek mainland are still main touristic destinations as the cradle of the European civilization.
The Byzantine Empire
Let me briefly explain. Greece, the same like other Mediterranean countries was the place where the Europe began with all its heritage. We, all Europeans, come from the ancient Greek and Roman humanistic traditions and later from the continuation of the Roman Empire, which was called in Middle Ages – the Byzantine Empire (IV – XV century) – which has encompassed the modern-day Europe and Middle East with its capital in the modern-day Istanbul (Constantinople previously). Byzantine Empire was also called Greek Empire because of the Greek language and culture cultivated there. Eventually the empire has divided for Latin-church part and roman – orthodox church part – both catholic, as there were two main influences inside of it. So finally, the division was between the Latin speaking west and the Greek speaking east. Our European roots are very diverse but in the same time united. The European history was not free of conflicts and wars but it created the European civilization with all the values as we know today.
The Iron Curtain
Apart from that great history we had also the dark times. Greece and Albania (and many more countries) were the eastern part of an “iron curtain” under the soviet influences from the end of the World War II till the end of the Cold War – mentally the influences are present till now, intensified by the current European crisis. It is possible that Corfu island may become more similar to Balkans (still behind other western countries because of the “iron curtain”), which including Albania, are now the developing countries. There is a difference between the Greek mainland and Corfu island. In my opinion the Greek mainland is still a part of the Byzantine Empire, while Corfu island shows more regress as it is so close to Balkans. The Greek culture is of course very visible in whole Greece, you can see that Greeks are a very proud nation. I am not saying that Corfu has any kind of independency thoughts like for example Catalonia in Spain but it is a bit different from the rest of the land due to its location.
A historical crisis and happiness
Summing up, there are some signs of crisis visible but only if you actually know some history. Otherwise you can not relate what you see with any facts. In general sense you don’t feel any crisis on the island, you may only find some small difficulties during daily actions.
I must say that Greeks have one main feature very similar to Poles. They are able to make something from nothing, they are always capable of fixing everything (does not matter how it looks like, it matters that it works). So there are some things that would probably not be accepted in the big cities of the mainland as it could ruin the beautiful architecture but they are happening on the islands, where people have less money and they care less about the architectonic taste. For me personally this is not something shocking but it might refract the esthetic sense of an European from some rich country. But this is only when you value more the pure, ideal building structure than warm, traditional and real people.
How to explore Corfu island?
It is definitely the best to rent a car. It is very convenient and easy way to reach almost every place on the island. Unlike everywhere else, the smaller car – the better. There are a lot of tiny roads (I would not even call them that way) which are only good for bikes or narrow Greek cars. The Google maps will show you this way but you can only know if it is wide enough when you reach there. You will not get any car that narrow in any branch of the car provider but at least have in mind that there is no point here to get a big car. It is important to remember that when you are booking a car online you always need to provide the main driver’s credit card. Otherwise they will refuse to give you the car, especially because it is not allowed nowadays to give deposits in cash as the Greek government may treat it as a fraud transaction (due to the crisis situation).
You are able to reach many beautiful beaches all over the island but sometimes you need to get creative. There are some beaches that you can only reach from water. It means that you have to go to one beach to for example rent a speed boat or a pedalo to reach other beach. I find it really amazing! You can rent a small speed boat for 100 EUR, or even a boat for 50 EUR for a day till sun set. If you plan to do that please have in mind that you are not allowed to drive into the beach directly with the boat as there is a bedrock. So be prepared to walk in the water or swim (more probably) to reach the beach. It is good to have a snorkeling kit so that you can see the underwater mysteries. It also allows you to feel more comfortable in water, you don’t have to think about breathing while using it. There are many caves all around the beaches. You can also reach many of them from the land but it takes about an hour to walk through the rocks to get to the beach. This is also a very nice experience, but the way back is always the worse. It is good to do it here as for example in Spain those routes through the mountains and rocks and tiny rivers can take much longer (few hours). The views are always amazing and there is always a lot of satisfaction after reaching the beach that way. The sun bathing or playing in the water become a true reward. I personally prefer the water way to the beach though, even in a very old boat!
How the Greek people are
Roaming around the island you will be able to see many small villages, which sometimes are just a few houses on both sides of a road. There is at least one place where along the village the road becomes just one direction and it is regulated by the street lights on both sides of it! Here definitely all what the citizens need is respected and there is always a way to fulfill their needs.
I do not know the legal side of it but each village creates its community. Once we have taken some road high in the mountains and we ended up interrupting a huge party as the road was in between with tables all around. People were walking everywhere (in both sides of the village) and there were decoration lights and some Greek music all over that open space. It was something that I really enjoyed but we decided not to step on the way of Greeks, happy to be in their own company.
I think that this is what makes Greeks happy people – they do not care about details, they just make things work anyhow, they find the way to make their life easier and they definitely find a way to have a good time and party. I think that this traditional, kind of village style (with all its characteristics like a lot of rumors all around and the fact that everyone knows everything about everyone else) is something that I am jealous of, but in the same time I know that there are a lot of (especially young) Greeks that want to run away from it. I find that perfect, warm folklore amazing. But you never appreciate what you have, as they say.
More tourist tips in the next article!