The Gordon Highlanders in Corfu, 1851
The 92nd Highlanders Regiment of Foot, known as the ‘Gordon Highlanders’ after their first commander, General George Gordon became part of the British Empire forces in 1794 and participated in several battles, including Waterloo in 1815 against Napolean. After missions to places such as Jamaica, where many of them died of yellow fever, Gibraltar and Barbados, they returned to their base in Scotland in 1844.
In 1851, under Lt. General Sir William MacBean, they received orders to go to the Ionian Islands, which was still under British rule and whose commissioner was the merciless Sir Henry George Ward – hated by the Ionian people and known as ‘Wardo’.
The majority of the regiment was stationed in Corfu, the capital of the Ionian Islands, in the British Barracks in the Old Fortress, whose construction had been completed the previous year. Some units were sent to guard other Ionian Islands, including Kefalonia, where there had been bloody uprisings two years previously.
The Scots passed two peaceful years in Corfu. It must have been a strange sight for the locals when they paraded in their tall bearskin hats, tartan kilts, drums and bagpipes. Based on pictures from that time, they had brass bands and so they certainly must have performed in concerts in Spianada Square as was the custom wherever the British forces went during the Victorian period.
The 92nd Highlanders Regiment remained in the Ionian Islands until 1853 and a century passed before Scottish soldiers came to Corfu again. After the end of the 2nd World War, along with the British allies, a detachment of Scottish soldiers landed and paraded in Liston with drums and bagpipes.
After a 200-year history, the 92nd ‘Gordon’ Regiment joined up with other Scottish units and since 2006 has been part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Mandolato and Pasteli
Widely sold in Corfu, these two sweets have a long history. Mandolato is a traditional Greek nougat and it is said that the tastiest Mandolato comes from Corfu. It is made from a combination of honey, sugar, nuts and dried fruit, and flavoured with vanilla, almond or orange blossom. It is often sold sandwiched between two wafers. In Byzantine times, Mandolato was the favourite titbit of the Emperor Justinian, who allegedly wooed the future Empress Theodora with the help of its aphrodisiac properties. The original recipe has been preserved on parchment from the 18th century and its taste is unaltered since that time. Pasteli, made from honey and sesame seeds, has an even longer history and dates back to ancient Greece. These bars are traditionally consumed during times of fasting and are a concentrated source of calories.
The Ionian University (Iόνιο Πανεπιστήμιο) was established in 1984 in recognition of Corfu's contribution to education in Greece as the seat of the
first University of Greece, the Ionian Academy which was founded in 1824. It has six departments.
- Department of History
- Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting
- Department of Music Studies
- Department of Archives and Library Science
- Department of Computer Science
- Department of Audio and Visual Arts
Greece's First Masonic Lodge
The first masonic lodge in Greece was created in Corfu in 1782, under Venetian rule. Called Beneficenza (Good Deeds) it was a branch of the Grand Lodge of Verona at Padua, Italy. In 1810, Dionysios Romas joined the two lodges of Corfu into one establishment, creating the first grand lodge in Greece in 1811. It became known as the Serene Grand Orient of Greece in Anatolian Corfu. Over the years masonry spread over the Ionian islands and its contribution to the Greek War of Independence was huge. They claim to have had numerous important revolutionaries among their fold including Palaion Patron Germanos, Patriarch Grigorios V, Theodoros Kolokotronis, Alexandros Mavrokordatos, Nikolaos Ypsilandis, Alexandros Mourouzis and Yiannis Kapodistrias. In 1843, the lodge stopped operating. However, a new building was created in Athens in 1863, known as Panellinion and later other lodges were created, joining together and seeking the establishment of an independent lodge of Greece which was granted in 1936 with the revision of the Constitution for Free-Masons that year.
The Corfu Declaration
The Corfu Declaration was the agreement that led the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1916, the Serbian Parliament in exile (which was based in Corfu following the Serbian Army's defeat and subsequent retreat across the Balkans) met in Corfu's Municipal Theatre. They were joined by representatives of the Slovenes and Croats as well as Serbs living in Austria-Hungary. The meeting was sponsorsed by Great Britain and France, under their avowed principles of national self-determination. The Declaration was the first step toward building the new State of Yugoslavia which was envisaged as a parliamentary monarchy with indivisible territory and unitary power, three national denominations and the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets equal before the law, religious freedom and universal suffrage. "This State will be a guarantee of their national independence and of their general national progress and civilization, and a powerful rampart against the pressure of the Germans", the Declaration concluded. The two chiefly responsible for devising the wording of the Corfu Declaration were the Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić and the Croatian exile Ante Trumbić, who worked to overcome official Serbian resistance. Pašić and the Serbian Court Party had remained intent upon the simple expansion of a Greater Serbia by means of unilateral territorial gains to be derived from a beaten Austro-Hungarian Empire. The outbreak of the February Revolution in Russia had withdrawn Serbia's Major Power champion from the diplomatic table. Pašić compromised, signed the Declaration and began to work behind the scenes in an attempt to discredit the Yugoslav Committee, lest the Allied Powers regard the Committee as the rightful government-in-exile at the coming Armistice. As a consequence, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was created on 1 December 1918.
Althogh most Corfiots are Greek Orthodox (the state religion), the Catholic Church in Corfu has about 4,000 members. Most of these are descended from families that originated in Malta, but some date as far back as the Venetian occupation, which promoted the Catholic church during its four centuries in Corfu. Greek Catholics celebrate Easter on the same day as Orthodox Greeks.
The Judas Tree
The Judas Tree can be found all over Corfu and is one of the first harbingers of Spring. According to Christian tradition, it is the tree from which Judas hanged himself
after denouncing Christ. Guilt-ridden, it has been made to blush with shame ever since - a reference to the pink flowers that erupt from the bare stems and trunk
before the leaves appear. Judas Trees flower from March to April.
It is believed that the Skyrian horses' ancestors originated in North America around 100,000 years ago and migrated over the frozen Bering Strait and dispersed into Asia and Europe. There exists a legend that maintains that Alexander the Great took Skyrian horses with him when he left Macedonia to conquer the world. Another claims that the magnificent horses depicted in the great friezes of the Parthenon are Skyrians. During the 5th-8th centuries BC, Athenian colonists introduced horses to the island of Skyros where their non-aggressive demeanour enabled farmers to use them for agricultural work. In the 1970s the people of Skyros realised that the breed was in danger of extinction and a breeding programme was started. In 1998 The Silva Project was founded in Corfu by Sylvia Dimitrades Steen as a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the now rare Skyrian horse. It has since become the most comprehensive Skyrian horse breeding program in the world. The breed’s risk status is still officially rated as critical and without the formation of Silva the future of the breed would be in jeopardy.
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Corfu is home to two species of freshwater or pond terrapins - Emys Orbicularis and the rarer Mayremys Caspica Rivulata. Both can grow up to 10-12 inches long and like to hide in the vegetation at the water's edge. As they are cold-blooded, they clamber onto the bank or a convenient rock to bask in the sun. They lay 10 to 15 eggs in sandy soil on the bank, which take about three months to incubate. Adults hibernate in the mud on the bottom of the pond or slow moving river. Food consists of small fish, frogs etc.
Freshwater terrapins can be spotted in several places in Corfu including the river that runs through the Ropa Valley to the sea at Ermones and which passes Corfu Golf Club.
Alpha Bank's Banknote Museum is located in the square next to St. Spiridon chirch. It showcases an almost complete collection of the Greek currency from 1822 to present (about 2000 items) and includes the first treasury bonds issued by the newly liberated Greek State in 1822 until the replacement of the drachma by the euro in 2002. It also includes sketches, essays and printing plates of Greek banknotes. The museum was established in 1981 by the Ionian Bank and it is housed at the former Ionian Bank building designed by Corfiote architect Ioannis Chronis in about 1840. In 2000 Ionian Bank merged with Alpha Bank and subsequently the Banknote Museum was renovated and reopened in 2005. An additional exhibit hall was added showcasing "Ionian Bank Limited" which was a British venture and the first bank to operate in Greek territory. The museum's collection is considered one of the most complete of its kind in the world.
The Italian Occupation of Corfu in 1923
For almost a month in 1923 Corfu was occupied by Italian forces. The occupation came about as a result of the murder on the morning of August 27, 1923, of General Enrico Tellini and three officers of the Italian border commission on the Greek-Albanian border. Italy made an announcement demanding within 24 hours the following concessions: an official apology by the Greek government; the commemoration of the dead in the Catholic Church of Athens, with all the members of the Greek government in attendance; the rendering of honours to the Italian flag and the Italian naval squadron anchored in Faliro; an investigation of the murders by the Greek authorities in conjunction with the Italian military; the death penalty for those found guilty; the payment of 50 million Italian lire within 5 days by the Greek government; and finally, that the dead should be honored with military honours in Preveza. The Greek government responded accepting only the first three and the last of these demands. Using this as a pretext, the Italian Army suddenly attacked Corfu on August 31, 1923. The Italian commander ordered the Prefect of Corfu to surrender the island. The Prefect refused and the Italians warned him that their forces would attack at 17:00 if the Corfiots refused to raise the white flag in the fortress. Seven thousand refugees, 300 orphans plus the military hospital were lodged in the Old Fortress, as well as the School of Police in the New Fortress. At 17:05 the Italians bombarded Corfu for 20 minutes. There were victims among the refugees of the old Fortress and the Prefect ordered the raising of the white flag. The Italians besieged the island and sent their forces ashore. They declared that their occupation would be permanent. They requisitioned houses and censored the newspapers. Greece asked for the intervention of the League of Nations, of which both Greece and Italy were members, and demanded the solution of the problem through arbitration. The Italian government of Benito Mussolini refused, declaring that Corfu would remain occupied until the acceptance of the Italian terms. On September 7, 1923, the Conference of Ambassadors in Paris agreed the withdrawl of the Italian forces from Corfu. This finally began on September 20, 1923 and ended on the 27th of the same month.
A large community of descendants of Maltese Italians is still present in Corfu. Their ancestors came to the island during the 19th century, when the British authorities brought many skilled workers from Malta to the Ionian Islands. The British needed married men so that their work would be continued by their children, and as a consequence 80 people (40 families from 1815 until 1860) were transported to Corfu and their descendants remain there till today.
In 1901, there were almost one thousand people in Corfu who considered themselves as ethnic Maltese. Maltese emigration to Corfu practically ceased when it was returned to Greece in 1864. Two villages in Corfu bear names testifying to Maltese presence: Maltezika is named after Malta and Cozzella got its name from Gozo. In Cozzella the Franciscan Sisters of Malta opened a convent and a school in 1907. Those two institutions still flourish.
The Corfiot Maltese community currently numbers 3,500 people in the entire island. They constitute the center of the Catholic community of Corfu, but no one among them speaks the Maltese language anymore.
The Four Gates of Corfu
Built during the Venetian occupation of Corfu, four main gates gave access to the city. Two of the gates can still be seen today. The first, Porta Spilia, faces the old port and is known as the Bonati Arch. The second, Porta San Nicolo, is on the northern side of the Esplanade at the base of the walls below the level of the coastal road. The other two gates were destroyed during various rebuilding projects. Porta Raimonda was on the southern side of the Esplanade, in the district of the same name, and led to Garitsa. It was pulled down in the 19th century. The fourth gate, Porta Reale, shared the same fate. It stood in G. Theotoki Street, next to what is now Marks and Spencers.
Treaty of London (1864)
The Treaty of London ceded the United States of the Ionian Islands to Greece. (Great Britain had governed the islands as a protectorate since the 1815 Treaty of Paris.) The federated United States of the Ionian Islands was made up of Corfu, Ithaca, Paxos, Cephalonia, Zante (Zakinthos), and Santa Maura (Lefkas) and Cerigo (Kythera). Ever since Greece had achieved independence in 1832, the people of the Ionian islands had resented foreign rule. At a Cabinet meeting in 1862, the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, decided to cede the islands to Greece. This policy was also favoured by Queen Victoria. The practical reasoning was that maintenance of ownership in the area was too expensive. Besides, the islands did not have great strategic importance and the United Kingdom could still maintain a strategic presence in the Mediterranean from the island of Malta. After long negotiations with Greece, the Treaty of London was signed by Greek delegate Charilaos Trikoupis on March 29, 1864. On May 2, 1864 the British departed and the Ionian islands became three provinces of the Kingdom of Greece, although Britain retained use of the port on Corfu. This was the first example of voluntary decolonisation by Britain.
Most Distant Villages
- Furthest north - Agios Ilias
- Furthest south - Spartera
- Furthest east - Pantatika
- Furthest west - Arillas
Nikiforos Theotokis, born in Corfu in 1731, was a Greek scholar and theologian, who became an archbishop in the southern provinces of the Russian Empire. A polymath, he is respected in Greece as one of the "teachers of the nation". He studied in italy before returning to Corfu in 1748 to Corfu to join the Church as a monk, reaching the rank of hieromonk in 1754. However, he was more interested in educating the youth of his country than in church services and in 1758 he set up his own school in Corfu, the first school on the island, where a range of subjects were taught. Around this time he acquired some renown as a preacher at the local church of John the Baptist and an author of textbooks on physics and mathematics. After a brief period in 1765 as a preacher at Constantinople's main church, he spent much of the next decade between Leipzig, Germany and Jassy, Romania. In 1776, Nikiforos went to join fellow Corfiot, Eugenios Voulgaris, who had recently been appointed the Archbishop of Sloviansk and Kherson in south-central Ukraine. Eugenios groomed the younger theologian as his successor and Nikephoros replaced Eugenios when the latter retired in 1779. In 1786, Nikiforos was transferred to Astrakhan, where he served as the Archbishop of Astrakhan and Stavropol. He retired from his archbishop position in 1792 due to ill health and retired to Moscow where he was appointed the abbot of Danilov Monastery. He spent the rest of his days there, presiding over the monastery's small staff and continuing his literary work. He died in 1800 and was buried in the monastery's cemetery. The main shopping street in Corfu, Nikiforou Theotoki, is named after him.
Born in Corfu in 1923, Rena Vlachopoulou was an actress, comedienne, dancer and vocalist. She starred in over one hundred theatrical productions, as well as twenty-six films.
Dubbed by many as the "Lucille Ball of Greece," her biggest box office successes were in the 1960s. Her film "H Komissa Tis Kerkyras," (The Countess of Corfu) is regarded by many fans as her finest and was filmed on the island. To this day, her house is one of Corfu's most visited landmarks. Rena Vlachopoulou died in July 2004.
The Corfu Reading Society
The Corfu Reading Society is the oldest intellectual institution of Greece. It was founded as a "Literary Club" in 1836 by foreign university graduates. The main objective was for its members to come into contact with the political, scientific and intellectual activities of western Europe during that period.
The first president was the important philosopher, politician, diplomat and professor of the Ionian Academy Petros Brailas-Armenis. The Reading Society was instrumental in the establishment of a free press as well as the imposition of Greek as an official language in the Ionian islands and its library has a priceless collection of 10.000 books, newspapers, booklets, old maps, engravings and photographs.
The Reading Society is housed in a building designed by the renowned architect Ioannis Chronis and is considered one of the most characteristic in Corfu Town.
When driving around Corfu you can see metal boxes on legs (and their grander modern equivalents, often modelled on churches) by the side of the road. Inside the small glass doors an oil-lamp flickers next to an picture of a saint, an icon and sometimes personal mementoes. The top of the box is usually crowned with a cross.
These roadside shrines are erected to serve as a memorial for the victim of a road accident. Alternatively they may have been placed there by the survivor of a potentially fatal accident, to publicly thank a saint for saving them.
Ban on Smoking
The first (unsuccessful) anti-smoking legislation in Greece was passed in 1856 amid fears that civil servants could cause fires in their offices.
The Winged Lion of St. Mark
There are many examples of this Venetian logo to be found around Corfu Town and the rest of the island. So how did a maritime city like Venice come to have a lion as its mascot? The answer lies in the 9th Century, when - according to legend - some Venetians stole the remains of Saint Mark the Apostle from his tomb in Alexandria, Egypt. After crossing the Mediterranean, the graverobbers reached Venice and handed their cargo over to the Doge. The local religious and civic authorities quickly elected St. Mark as Venice's patron saint, and the apostle's traditional symbol - a winged lion - became the logo of the Venetian Republic, which later included Corfu among its conquests.
Mayors of Corfu Town
- Nikolaos Manesis (1866-1870)
- Christodoulos Kiriakis (1870-1879)
- Georgios Theotokis (1879-1887)
- Michael Theotokis (1887-1895)
- Aggellos Psoroulas (1895-1899)
- Dimitrios Kolas (1899-1911)
- Ioannis Mavrogian (1914-1925)
- Spiridon Kolas (1925-1951)
- Stamatios Desylas (1951-1955).
- Maria Desyla-Kapodistria (1956-1959)
- Panagiotis Zafiropoulos (1959-1964)
- Spiridon Rath (1964-1967)
- Konstantinos Alexopoulos (1974-1975)
- Spiridon Rath (1975-1978)
- Ioannis Kourkoulos (1979-1990)
- Chrisanthos Sarlis (1991-2002)
- Alexandros Mastoras (2003-2006)
- Sotirios Micallef (2007–2010)
- Ioannis Trepeklis (2011–2014)
- Kostas Nikolouzos (2014 to present)
Red Easter Eggs
It is a Greek custom to use red eggs as part of the Easter celebration. For Orthodox Christians, the Easter egg represents the Resurrection of Jesus and Orthodox Easter eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ, shed on the Cross, while the hard shell of the egg is the sealed Tomb of Christ - the cracking of which symbolises his resurrection from the dead. Nowadays food colouring or commercial dyes are mostly used but some still adhere to the old-fashioned method and dye their eggs red by using onion skins.
Situated close to the Old Fortress is a large tree-lined square called Spianada. It is bisected by a road and the two parts are known as "Ano Plateia" (Upper Square) and "Kato Plateia" (Lower Square). Spianada is the largest square in the Balkans and one of the largest in Europe. As well as its lawns and paths it boasts a Roman-style rotunda known as the Maitland monument, built to commemorate the British High Commissioner Sir Thomas Maitland; an ornate music pavillion which hosts performances by the local philharmonic bands; and a cricket pitch dating back to the time of British administration where visiting teams play the local Corfu sides.
Anastasios "Sakis" Rouvas
Sakis Rouvas (musician, actor, television presenter, model, businessman and former pole vaulter) was born in Potamos, Corfu on 5 January 1972. After a career as a member of the national athletics team, Rouvas commenced his musical career in 1991. After winning the Thessaloniki Song Festival, Rouvas became a dominant figure in Greek entertainment, with a large fanbase. He represented his country in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2004 and 2009 and co-presented the 2006 contest. Rouvas had sold an estimated two million records as of 2008, making him one of Greece's highest ever selling artists. Rouvas' distinct musical and performance style has influenced other artists, while his contributions to music have made him a prominent part of Greek popular culture for nearly two decades.
- Naturalists have recorded 83 species of butterflies on Corfu.
- Corfu has 40 species of dragonflies, out of 41 species recorded in the whole Ionian.
- Corfu is a beetle-watcher's paradise. One beetle, Agapanthia schurmanni, is only found on Corfu and in parts of Northern Greece and Macedonia.
- The island has 64 species of crickets and grasshoppers, among them the bizarre Mole Cricket, which as its name suggests digs burrows, in locations with moist soils, for its eggs.
Corfu and The Holocaust
When Italian fascism fell in 1943, the Italian occupying forces in Corfu surrendered and the island was subsequently occupied by the Germans. Corfu's mayor at the time, Kollas, was a known collaborator and various anti-semitic laws were passed by the Nazis that now formed the occupation government of the island. In early June 1944 the Gestapo rounded up the Jews of the city, temporarily incarcerated them at the old fortress, and on 10 June sent them to Auschwitz and Birkenau, where very few survived. Approximately two hundred out of a total population of 1,900 escaped. Many of those because members of the local population provided shelter and refuge. A prominent section of the old town is to this day called Evraiki - meaning Jewish quarter - in recognition of the Jewish contribution and continued presence in Corfu Town. An active synagogue with about 65 members is an integral part of Evraiki. In 2001 a bronze sculpture remembering the Holocaust was erected at Spilia (New Fortress Square) and each January, a Holocaust Remembrance Day is held there.
The First Bank in Greece
The Ionian State Bank was established in 1839, to finance trade between the Ionian Islands (a British protectorate) and Great Britain. This makes the bank the oldest in Greece. The bank received a 20-year grant of the exclusive privilege of issuing and circulating banknotes for the Ionian Islands. The bank soon changed its name to Ionian Bank and initially only operated in the Ionian Islands, opening branches in Corfu, Zakynthos and Kefalonia. In 1845, a year after the bank received a UK Royal Charter, it established agencies in Athens and Patras, and appointed special agents in Venice and Trieste. In 1864, the Ionian Islands united with Greece and Ionian Bank converted its agencies in Athens and Patras to full branches. It then extended its operations to the rest of Greece. The Athens office took over as Head Office from the Corfu office in 1873. By 1880, the bank lost its legal monopoly position in the Islands, but gained an extension to its (no longer exclusive) right of note issue. In 1883, the bank gave up its Royal Charter and registered as a limited liability company.
Corfu's Historic Lighthouse
The first lighthouse in Greece was built in Corfu by the British in 1822, to light the way to their principal naval base in the Ionian Islands. The (now rather decrepit) round stone tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a small one-storey stone keeper's cottage, still stands within the Old Fortress. Up until 1864, when the Ionian islands were united with Greece, further lighthouses were built around the Ionian Islands, many of which still operate today. Greece's first floating lighthouse was also in Corfu; it was built in Lefkimi in 1825.
Corfu's Twin Cities
Corfu is twinned with Krusevac, Serbia; Paphos, Cyprus; Famagusta, Cyprus; Meissen, Germany; Troisdorf, Germany; Asha, Cyprus; Brindisi, Italy; Vathi, Samos Greece; Carovigno, Italy; Verona, Italy; Koper/Capodistria, Slovenia; Saranda, Albania; Tremetousia, Cyprus; and Ioannina, Greece.
Corfu's Anglican Church
There has been an Anglican presence in Corfu since the British Garrison was there at the time of the Protectorate. On cession of the Ionian Islands to Greece in 1864 the original church in the old fortress reverted to the Orthodox faith. In exchange, in 1869 the Greek authorities offered the
Ionian Parliment building "to the Corfu Community of the Anglican faith." Accordingly, this building became Holy Trinity Church and the adjoining premises became the chaplain's residence. During the Second World War the church was bombed and gutted, leaving only parts of the outside walls. The residence was also severely damaged but both were later repaired and on Easter Day 1971, Holy Trinity Corfu was re-opened on a permanent basis for the first time in 31 years.
Italian Occupation of Corfu
During the Greco-Italian War, Corfu was occupied by the Italians in April 1941. They administered Corfu and the Ionian islands as a separate entity from Greece until September 1943. During the Second World War the 10th infantry regiment of the Greek Army, composed mainly of Corfiot soldiers, was assigned the task of defending Corfu. The regiment took part in Operation Latzides, which was a heroic but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to stem the forces of the Italians. After Greece's surrender to the Axis, the island came under Italian control and occupation. On the first Sunday of November 1941, high school students from all over Corfu took part in student protests against the occupying Italian army; these student protests were among the first acts of overt popular Resistance in occupied Greece and a rare phenomenon even by wartime European standards. Subsequently, a considerable number of Corfiots escaped to Epirus in mainland Greece and enlisted as partisans in ELAS and EDES, in order to join the resistance movement gathering in the mainland.
German Kaiser Wilhelm II was fond of holidaying in Corfu. Having purchased the Achilleion Palace at Gastouri in 1907, he built a bridge (called "Kaiser's Bridge" by the locals) to access the nearby beach without crossing the road forming the island's main artery to the south. The bridge, arching over the road, spanned the distance between the lower gardens of Achilleion and the beach. The bridge's central section was, ironically, demolished by the Wehrmacht during the German occupation of World War II to allow for the free movement of its vehicles. The bridge’s remains can still be seen on each side of the road.
The Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo
During Venetian rule, the Corfiots developed a fervent appreciation of Italian opera. The opera house during 18th and 19th century was the Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo, named after the neighbouring catholic cathedral. It was both the first theatre and first opera house in Greece in modern times and the place where the first Greek opera, Spyridon Xyndas' "The Parliamentary Candidate", based on an exclusively Greek libretto was performed. Many local composers developed careers intertwined with the theatre. The opera house was turned into the town hall and San Giacomo's place was taken by the Municipal Theatre in 1902, which maintained the operatic tradition vividly until its destruction during World War II as a result of a 1943 German air raid. The first opera to be performed in the San Giacomo had been as far back as 1733 ("Gerone, tiranno di Siracusa"), and for almost two hundred years, between 1771 and 1943, nearly every major opera from the Italian tradition, as well as many others from Greek and French composers, were performed at the stage of the San Giacomo.
In 1956 Maria Desylla Kapodistria, relative of first Governor of Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias, was elected mayor of Corfu and became the first female mayor in Greece.
The Petegolia (the Gossip)
Re-enacted in the Old Town on the last Thursday of Carnival every year, the custom of The Corfiot Petegoletsia dates back to an old tradition of street theatre. Corfu Town's narrow cobblestoned streets - called "kantounia" - are lined by tall houses. Actors, playing local housewives, stand in their windows exchange scurrilous gossip about local affairs, in authentic Corfiot dialect. The performance culminates with traditional songs and mandolin music.
The English eccentric, Frederick North, was born in 1766 and became Lord Guilford in 1817. He represented Banbury in Parliament from 1792 to 1794 and served as Governor of Ceylon from 1798 to 1805. In 1824 he settled in Corfu, which was then under British control, and established the Ionian Academy. It was the first University to be established in modern Greece. Lord Guilford, as chancellor of the university, invariably wore a purple robe in imitation of Socrates, with an ancient-style mantle tied round his shoulders with a gold clasp. Round his head he wore a velvet band embroidered with olives and the owl of Ancient Athens. The academy has now closed but a statue of the Earl in his robes stands in Corfu Town. A library and a street are also named after him. Lord Guilford died in 1827.
The Shakespeare Connection
Around 1611 Shakespeare wrote The Tempest, possibly his final play, and some would also say the most fascinating. The Tempest is generally agreed to be set in Corfu. This is never made explicit but the details fit. Shakespeare had already set another play, Twelfth Night, in Illyria, just across from Corfu, and other plays of his take place in northern Italy (such as The Merchant of Venice), so this was clearly an area of the world he liked to use as a setting.
Agni - Avlaki - Benitses - Corfu Town (Old Port)- Corfu Town (New Port) - Gouvia - Imerolia - Ipsos - Kalami - Kassiopi - Kouloura - Lefkimi - Mandraki - NAOK - Kerasia - Paliokastritsa - Pentati - Petriti - Queens Quay - San George - San Stefanos (Avliotes) - San Stefanos (Sinion).
Lazaretto Island, formerly known as Aghios Dimitrios, is located two nautical miles northeast of Corfu. The island has an area of 17.5 acres and comes under the administration of the Greek National Tourist Organization. During World War II the Axis Occupation of Greece established a concentration camp there for prisoners of the Greek National Resistance movement. Remaining today are the two-storied building that served as the Headquarters of the Italian army, a small church, and the wall against which those condemned to death were shot.
During Venetian rule in the early 16th century, a monastery was built on the islet and a leprosarium established later in the century, after which the island was named. In 1798, during the French occupation, the islet was occupied by the Russo-Turkish fleet, who ran it as as a military hospital. During the British occupation, in 1814, the leprosarium was once again opened after renovations, and following union with Greece in 1864 the leprosarium again saw occasional use.
Ginger beer, or tsin tsin birra to give it the proper Corfiot name, is still available in Corfu and can be bought at the cafes on The Liston. A legacy of the British protectorate, the drink is made in traditional fashion using the finest ingredients of grated ginger, lemon juice, lemon oil, water and sugar. The mix is brewed in large cauldrons and is best taken fresh, though traditionally it was stored for long periods in stone bottles that were sealed with little glass marble stoppers and kept in the cool waters of the island wells.
October 28 - Ochi Day
Celebrated throughout Greece on its anniversary each year, Ochi Day commemorates Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas's rejection of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Mussolini on October 28 1940. This ultimatum, which was presented to Metaxas by the Italian ambassador to Greece, demanded that Greece allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified "strategic locations" or otherwise face war. It was allegedly answered with a single word: όχι or no. In response to Metaxas's refusal, Italian troops stationed in Albania, then an Italian protectorate, attacked the Greek border. Metaxas's reply marked the beginning of Greece's participation in World War II.
- Estiatorio - a restaurant offering international cuisine.
- Taverna - serves traditional Greek food.
- Psistario - a spit-roast and charcoal grill taverna.
- Psarotaverna - a fish taverna.
- Kafenio - a village café.
- Zaharoplastio - a café-patisserie.
This is a famous Corfiot liqueur. It is distilled from the tiny kumquat, a citrus fruit that looks like a miniature orange. It is native to South East Asia and was introduced to Corfu in the 1860s. The standard kumquat drink is bright orange, the colour being from the rind; it is very sweet. There is a colourless distillation of kumquat juice which is far more potent and adventurous and can be identified by the twig with attached crystals that floats inside the bottle. All manner of other drinks, candies and sweets are produced using kumquats.
Any summer vistor to Corfu will have heard cicadas chirping in the olive groves. But how many know that cicadas spend most of their life underground. In fact, as nymphs, they live underground for around six to seven years. In contrast, the life of adult cicadas is very short, lasting only a few weeks. After mating, the adult female cicada lays its eggs. It does this by piercing plant stems with its ovipositor (egg-laying spike at the tip of the abdomen) and inserting the eggs into the slits it has made. The eggs hatch into small wingless cicadas which are known as nymphs. They fall to the ground and burrow below the surface. Here they live on the sap from plant roots for a period which may last several years. They shed their skin at intervals as they grow. When the nymph reaches full size it digs its way to the surface with its front legs, which are specially adapted for digging. It generally surfaces about nightfall in late spring or early summer. The nymph then climbs on to a tree trunk or other object and sheds its skin for the last time.
The Ionian Academy
Corfu is the home of the first University of Greece, the Ionian Academy, which was founded in 1824 and upheld and strengthened the tradition of Greek Education while the rest of Greece was still fighting against the Turkish occupation.
Notable Turkish Sieges of Corfu
1537, 1571, 1573 and 1716.
Corfu in Mythology
- It is in Corfu that Hercules, just before embarking on his ten labours, slept with the Naiad 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 (and alternatively Ermones) is considered to be the place where Odysseus disembarked and met Nausicaa for the first time.
HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark was born on 10 June 1921 at Villa Mon Repos on Corfu. His father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, the fourth son of George I of Greece and Queen Olga. His mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg. The Prince was baptised a few days after his birth at St. George's Church in the Palaio Frourio ("Old Fortress"). His godparents were Queen Olga and the Corfu community (represented by Alexander S. Kokotos, Mayor of Corfu, and Stylianos I. Maniarizis, Chairman of Corfu City Council). Prince Andrew and Princess Alice remained in residence on the Island of Corfu for 18 months. Greece was politically unstable, and it was expected that the monarchy would soon be overthrown. On 22 September 1922, Constantine I was forced to abdicate the throne. A revolutionary court sentenced Prince Andrew, his younger brother, to banishment for life. Fortunately for the family, George V ordered that the Royal Navy vessel, HMS Calypso, evacuate the family, and Philip was carried to safety in a cot made from an orange box.
Requirements for a Civil Marriage in Corfu
- Full birth certificate
- Photocopy of passport
- Certificate of impediments to marriage
- Decree absolute (if applicable)
- Former spouse's death certificate (if applicable)
- Deed poll certificate
- Adoption certificate (if applicable)
- Translations of all documents
- Two witnesses
Consulates in Corfu
The following countries have Consulates in Corfu: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.
While other cultures have Christmas elves, the Greek equivalent is not so benign. Mischievous sprites called Kallikantzari, prey upon people only during the twelve days of Christmas. Descriptions of them vary, and in one area they are believed to wear wooden or iron boots, the better to kick people, while other areas insist that they are hooved, not booted.
Some households keep fires burning through the twelve days, to keep the spirits from entering by the chimney and protective herbs such as hyssop, thistle, and asparagus are hung by the fireplace, to keep the Kallinkantzari away. Other households, perhaps less devout, resort to simple bribery and put meat out for them. At Epiphany, the ceremonial blessing of the waters by the local priest is believed to settle the nasty creatures until the following year.
The first Greek postage stamps (see below) were issued in Corfu on 15 May 1859. These stamps had lettering in Greek and values of half a penny, one penny and two pence. The stamps became invalid when the islands were returned to Greece on 28 May 1864. Greek stamps have been used since that time except for two short periods in 1921 and 1941.
Following World War I, Italy occupied Corfu and Italian stamps were overprinted during a temporary dispute with Greece. Italian forces invaded in 1941 and stocks of Greek stamps in the islands, mainly of 1937 issue, were over-printed. These were then replaced by Italian stamps overprinted ISOLE JONIE which were used until 1943. In that year the Italian regime collapsed and occupation was taken over by the Germans. They reissued some of the Italian overprints with the additional marking ELLAS (Greece) and 2-x-43 (the date of occupation). Since the recapture of the island, Greek stamps have been used.
Corfu Postal Codes and Sorting Offices
- 49100 - Kerkyra
- 49080 - Lefkimmi
- 49081 - Karoussades
- 49083 - Skripero
- 49084 - Kastellani Mesi
The island is linked by two highways starting in Corfu Town; GR-24 to Paleokastritsa in the north-west and GR-25 to Lefkimmi in the south.
Corfu Locations in "For Your Eyes Only" (1981)
- Corfu Town - Bond and Melina 'shopping'.
- The Old Fortress - Kristatos' Albanian warehouse.
- Vlacherna - Melina arrives by boat.
- Villa Sylva - the 'Spanish' villa of hired hitman Gonzales.
- Danilia Village - the church where Bond met Q.
- Kalami Bay - where Sir Timothy Havelock and his wife are assasinated.
- Near Spartilas - where Bond stops his Lotus to look at his road map.
- Around Kastellani - this is the road used in the 2CV car chase scenes.
- Near Vatonies - used in the first scene after Bond leaves Moneypenny's office.
- Pagi - Bond and Melina's yellow Citroen 2CV races some baddies in Peugeots.
- Achilleion Palace - the casino scene.
- Agios Georgios & Lake Korission - on these dunes Countess Lisl von Schlaf is murdered
How to make Greek Coffee
1. Ground coffee and sugar are spooned into the pot according to personal taste.
2. Using just enough water to fill the cup, pour it onto the coffee and sugar and bring it to a boil.
3. The coffee is ready when
the froth has risen right up
to the brim.
4. Pour the coffee carefully into the cup, leaving as much of the grounds as possible in the pot.
Cricket in Corfu
The first cricket match in Corfu was on 23rd April 1823 between officers of the British Navy and the Garrison. It took only twelve years for the Corfiots to learn the game, form two local sides and start taking on the British. Traditionally matches were played on the famous Esplanade in the centre of Corfu Town, but because of the increased space given over to car parking a new ground was recently built at Gouvia Marina. There are now eleven cricket teams in Corfu: Feax, Byron, Gymnastikos, Achilleas, Kerkyra, GEK, Ergatikos, Nafsithoos, Laodamas, Dekathlo and Atlas.
Flags of Corfu
1797-1799 & 1807-181
Local names for the winds
- North Winds - Vorias, Boreas, Tramonata
- NE Winds - Vorias Anatolikos, Gregorio, Grego
- SE Winds - Anatolikos, Levante, Ageliotes
- East Winds - Notios Anatolikos, Sirocco, Souroko, Euros
- South Winds - Notios, Ostra
- SW Winds - Notios Ditikos, Garbis
- West Winds - Pounente, Ditikos, Zephyros
- NW Winds - Vorias Ditikos, Maistro, Schiron
- Northerly Winds - Etesians, Meltemi
Herbs and Spices used in Corfiot Dishes
- Basil - Vasilikos
- Bay Leaves - Dafni
- Celery - Selino
- Dill - Anitho
- Fennel - Maratho
- Marjoram - Madjourana
- Mint - Dyosmos
- Oregano - Rigani
- Parsley - Maindano
- Rosemary - Dendrolivano
- Allspice - Bachari
- Cayenne - Kokkino Piperi
- Cinnamon - Kanella
- Nutmeg - Moschokarydo
- Paprika - Paprika
The Corfu Channel Incident
In the afternoon of 22nd October 1946, the British Cruiser Mauritius, leading the destroyer Saumarez, followed by the cruiser Leander and another destroyer Volage were in the channel between Corfu and the Greek mainland. The exercise was designed to show that ships could proceed safely in what were recognised international waters. During the passage down the channel a violent explosion occurred as the Saumarez hit a mine. Volage took Saumarez in tow but herself hit a mine which blew her bows off. Eventually all four ships returned to harbour, but there had been casualties - 44 men killed and 40 injured. The channel was immediately swept and the mines were found to be brand new and had not been long in the water. Albania was taken to the International Court by Britain for illegally mining the channel and was ordered to pay Britain £843,947 damages which included £50,000 for the lives lost and injuries caused. However, no apology was ever received from Albania for the deaths or injuries. Albania would not pay the damages at the time so Britain laid claim to Albanian gold recovered from the Nazis, but although this was returned after the death of President Hoxha, the fine remained unpaid.
- The coastline of Corfu is about 217 km in length.
- The area of Corfu is estimated at 227 sq miles (580 sq km)
- Agios Ilias is Corfu's northernmost village
- Arilas is Corfu's westernmost settlement
- Pantatika is Corfu's easternmost village
- Spartera is Corfu's southernmost village
Some Greek Cheeses
- Feta - traditionally made from goat or sheep's milk and stored in barrels of brine.
- Kasseri - a mild, sharp tasting cheese with a creamy texture. Pale yellow in colour.
- Mizithra - unsalted and made from a combination of whey, full fat milk and cream.
- Kefalotiri - very hard in texture and used for grating over spaghetti.
- Kefalograviera - a cross between Kefalotiri and Graviera.
- Graviera - mild in taste, this cheese resembles Gruyere in texture.
Names of fish
- Cod - Bakaliaros
- Sole - Glossa
- Red Mullet - Barbouni
- Swordfish - Xifias
- Mackerel - Skoubri
- Sea Scorpion - Skorpios
- Tuna - Tonos
- Sea Bream - Fagri
- Grey Mullet - Kefalos
- Gilthead - Tsipoures
- Red Snapper - Sinagrida
- Sardines - Sardeles
- Herring - Renga
- Sea Bream - Tsipoura
- Sea Bass - Lavraki
Greek National Anthem
The National Anthem of Greece consists of the first two verses of the poem "Hymn to Freedom" which was written in May 1823 in Zakynthos by the poet Dionysios Solomos. In 1828, Nicholas Mantzaros, a Corfu musician and friend of Solomos, set the poem to music. In 1864, after the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece, "Hymn to Freedom" was established as the national anthem. This English translation was written by Rudyard Kipling in 1918.
We knew thee of old,
Oh, divinely restored,
By the lights of thine eyes,
And the light of thy sword,
From the graves of our slain,
Shall thy valour prevail.
As we greet thee again-
Hail, Liberty! Hail!
Lord High Commissioners of Corfu
- 1815 - 1823 Sir Thomas Maitland
- 1823 - 1832 Sir Frederick Adam
- 1832 - 1832 Alexander Woodford
- 1832 - 1835 George Nugent Grenville
- 1835 - 1840 Howard Douglas
- 1840 - 1843 James Alexander Stewart Mackenzie
- 1843 - 1849 John Colborn,
- 1849 - 1855 Sir Henry George Ward
- 1855 - 1859 Sir John Young
- 1859 - 1859 William Ewart Gladstone
- 1859 - 1863 Sir Henry Knight Storks
Breeds of Warbler spotted in Corfu
Corfu Airport (LGKR)
- Named after Ioannis Kapodistrias, Corfu born diplomat and first Greek president (1827)
- IATA Code - CFU
- Position - 39°36'32"N, 019°54'51"E
- Elevation - 13m (42ft)
- Runway - Heading 17/35. Length 2,375m (7,791ft)
The Ionian Islands
- Ithaki (Ithaca)
- Kefallonia (Cephalonia)
- Kerkyra (Corfu)
- Kythira (Cerigo)
- Lefkada (Lefkas)
- Paxi (Paxos)
- Zakynthos (Zante)
Some Greek Proverbs
- Act quickly, think slowly.
- All things good to know are difficult to learn.
- An open enemy is better than a false friend.
- Eat and drink with your relatives; do business with strangers.
- If advice will not improve him, neither will the rod.
- Learn to obey before you command.
- No need to teach an eagle to fly.
- Painless poverty is better than embittered wealth.
- Success has many friends.
- The heart that loves is always young.
- Think not on what you lack as much as on what you have.
- Young wood makes a hot fire.
In Greece it's customary to celebrate your name day instead of, or besides, your birthday. Every day of the year is dedicated to the memory of a saint or martyr. If someone is named after a saint they celebrate on that day. (Those who are not named after a saint celebrate on All Saints' Day, 8 weeks after Easter.) Below are some examples. For a full list of Greek name days click here.
- Alexandra/Alexandros August 30
- Andreas November 30
- Anna December 9
- Antonis January 17
- Christina July 24
- Christos December 25
- Dimitra/Dimitris October 26
- Giorgos April 23
- Helena May 21
- Ioannis M January 7
- Katerina November 25
- Konstantina/Konstantinos May 21
- Maria August 15
- Michalis November 8
- Nikos December 6
- Panagiotis August 15
- Sofia September 17
- Spiros December 12
- Stavros September 14
- Stefanos December 27
Some Greek Gods
- Aphrodite - Goddess of love
- Apollo - God of light, medicine and poetry
- Ares - God of war
- Artemis - Goddess of hunting and childbirth
- Athena - Goddess of crafts, war, and wisdom
- Chronus - ruler of the Titans and father of Zeus
- Demeter - Goddess of growing things
- Dionysus - God of wine, fertility, and wild behavior
- Eros - God of love
- Gaea - Symbol of the earth and mother and wife of Uranus
- Hephaestus - Blacksmith for the gods and god of fire and metalworking
- Hera - Protector of marriage and women. Sister and wife of Zeus
- Hermes - Messenger for the gods
- Pluto - God of the underworld
- Poseidon - God of the sea
- Zeus - Ruler of the gods
Some Famous Visitors to Corfu
- Goethe - writer
- Napoleon - French Emperor
- Oscar Wilde - poet/writer
- Gerald Durrell - writer
- Lawrence Durrell - writer
- Alfred Sisley - artist
- Edward Lear - poet/artist
- Wilhelm II - German Emperor
- Elisabeth ("Sissy") - Austrian Empress
- George Best - footballer
- Lord Sainsbury - business magnate
- Lord Rothschild - business magnate
- Prince Charles - heir to British throne
- Diana - Princess of Wales
- Madonna - singer
- Nicholas Cage - actor
Kings of Greece
- Otto (1832-1862). A Bavarian prince who was offered the throne.
- George I (1863-1913). A Danish prince who was offered the throne.
- Constantine I (first time 1913-1917).
- Alexander (1917-1920).
- Constantine I (second time 1920-1922).
- George II (first time 1922-1924).
- First Greek Republic 1923-1935.
- George II (second time 1935-1947).
- Paul (1947-1964).
- Constantine II (1964-1973). Constantine went into exile in 1967. Regents assumed his role. The monarchy was abolished by referendum in 1973.
- Second Greek Republic (1973-present). The 1973 republic was declared by the Regime of the Colonels. In 1974, democracy was restored. A new referendum on the monarchy took place. The republican side won by 2 to 1.
Foreign Influence in Corfu
- Brass Bands. First established in the middle of the 19th century in imitation of the British garrison military band.
- Cricket. Also introduced by the British in the 19th century.
- Ginger Beer. Another legacy of British rule. The factory in Kelafationes is the only place left in the world that still commercially produces ginger beer as it used to be.
- Olive trees. The Venetians offered the Corfiots fianacial incentives to plant some 4 million olive trees that today give the island its characteristic appearance.
- Buildings. Built or influenced by the Venetians, French and British.
- Mashed potato. The traditional accompaniment to Sofrito. Potatoes were an introduction of the early 19th century.
- Food. Pastisada from Italy. Bourdetto from the Adriatic. Moussaka from the East.
- Cantadas. Lovely songs which are part of the island's musical tradition. Directly derived from the serenades of Italy.
Greek Beer Trivia
- Research indicates that just three lagers - Heineken, Amstel and Mythos - make up 90% of the beer sold on the Greek market.
- Over 75% of beer is consumed between April and September.
- The bulk of beer is consumed in bottles as opposed to cans or on draught.
- The first domestic beer, Fix, was brewed in 1864. The factory closed in the 1980s, but the brand name re-emerged in 1997 after Olympic Breweries purchased the rights.
- I'm thirsty - thipsao.
- I'd like a beer -tha eethela meea beera
- Cheers - steen eegheeia