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Travel

Kerkyra: Sheer Magic in the Ionian

To describe this place as ‘magical’ may well be an understatement. A destination filled with history and elegance, the Ionian island of Kerkyra, also known as Corfu, is sure to charm. Its rich aura, beautiful beaches, green hills, romantic architecture, picturesque villages, and famous Spianada Square are among the many treasures visitors will discover there.

An important point of trade, Kerkyra was a popular island among conquerors and rulers. The island’s unique mix of influence by the Venetians, English, and French, is evident in its glamorous mansions, quaint cobblestone streets, and impressive fortresses. With the prevailing architecture belonging to the 18th and 19th centuries, Kerkyra is steeped in tradition, making for one of the most beautiful of European destinations. 

The island is host to various attractions. To name a few:

Liston Street:

A large pedestrian way situated on the western edge of Spianada Square, Liston Street’s buildings are decorated with beautiful stone arches, under which, visitors may enjoy food and drink. The street’s large lush trees add that special touch to a most elegant scene.

Achilleion Palace:

Built in Gastouri in 1890 for the Empress of Austria, who possessed a deep admiration for the hero Achilles, the Achilleion is wonderful neoclassical palace filled with art, making for a most romantic and mythical setting. Indoors is a magnificent fresco depicting the famous scene where Achilles drags Hector’s lifeless body before the gates of Troy. Visitors to the palace will enjoy its garden, in which they will find a statue of Achilles. The palace is filled with history and fun facts … one of which is that the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only was filmed there.

The Old Fortress:

The Old Fortress is a most impressive piece of architecture built by the Venetians on a rocky peninsula to protect the islanders from unwanted guests. The 15th century structure was connected to the mainland by wooden bridge prior to its more modern-built pathway. Inside, visitors will find a number of attractions including a small chapel, clock tower, café, and the church of Saint George, which will surprise, as it was built in the form of an ancient Doric-style temple – a most magical sight, especially when lit up at night.

The New Fortress (St. Mark): Contrasting the Old Fortress, this one was started by the Venetians after the Turkish invasion, and completed around 1645, with additions by the French and British. Its characteristic winged lion carvings and beautiful views make this fortress a must-see, among others.

Spianada Square: Said to be the largest square of its kind in the Balkans, Spianada Square’s stairs, floral arrangements, views of the Old Fortress, and liveliness, make for a wonderful stroll in the park. 

Unique Celebrations: Those lucky enough to visit Kerkyra during Easter or the celebration of Saint Spyridon (the island’s patron saint), will experience something very unique. With Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox influence combined, Kerkyra is home to customs very characteristic of the island, including large processions led by choirs and marching bands – the famed ‘filarmoniki'.

To this day, Holy Saturday is celebrated by locals throwing clay pots from their balconies. Saint Spyridon, who is said to have saved the islanders from various misfortunes, is celebrated four times a year (the Sunday before Easter, the first Sunday in November, on August 11, and the better-known feast day of December 12.)

Museums & Galleries: Aside from the Achilleion, Kerkyra is home to a number of wonderful museums, including the Municipal Art Gallery, the Byzantine Museum, and the Museum of Asian Art, all housed in ornate historical buildings. 

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