Each summer we always spent several weeks on the Greek island of Corfu
(where we first met in the late 70's). Over the
years several villages have been tried, often for many enjoyable return
trips, before the "English" disease takes over - viz. the "English" pubs /
restaurants open and the local Greek atmosphere disappears. The last few
years we have been to Agios Georgios, where small taverna's still serve excellent Greek food and
there are two long sandy beaches for the lazy days. Agios Georgios is a
small resort in the south of island, some fifty minutes taxi ride from the
In 2007, we decided to investigate the
possibility of buying a plot of land or a house to serve as a holiday home
for our frequent visits. Towards the end of that year we completed the
purchase of a plot with a "shell" - the basics of a house but no doors /
windows, etc., which had been started some 10+ years earlier and then
abandoned. During the following nine months this was turned in to a
house with all the normal mod-cons, etc. We now use this as our base
whenever holidaying on the island.
There are many good guide books and web pages listing the sites and
delights of Corfu - therefore we will only highlight a couple of favourites
in this section.
Arrival is normally by plane at the islands airport to the south of
Corfu Town. The runway is 2,373m long, with water at one end, water on the
left, water on the right and a main road at the other end - not as exciting
as ,the old Hong Kong airport, but still bad enough for some people!.
That said, there have been no reported accidents with take-offs / landings.
One of the general problems with the airport though is that it relies on
a visual approach - if the pilot cannot see the runway he will not land the
plane (viz. there is no automated approach mechanism available). This
can lead to diversions, and often an overnight stay if the flight is later
in the day or the crew are running out of hours, before an attempt is made
to land the next day.
Leaving the island is slightly better, with traffic lights normally
stopping traffic when planes are taking off!.
Driving in Corfu is not for the faint hearted. Although
much improved over the last few years, the quality of road surface and the
quality of driving throw up many surprises!. Based on our experiences over
the years, we would say / warn:
Greek drivers do not like to be in a queue of traffic - they will come up
very close behind you and eventually overtake you. Do not
attempt to outrun them as they will just keep up with you - just try
to pull over a bit so that they can pass. (On one occasion on the
Lefkimi bypass we were overtaken by a car that was itself being
overtaken by another!);
drivers can and will overtake on blind bends;
drivers do cut corners, even when there is oncoming traffic;
illegal, the mobile phone is regularly in use while driving - you
will normally realise when this is the case as the car goes
(slightly) more slowly along the road. We have also noticed
recently that some drivers put on their hazard lights while driving
(more slowly) while using the phone!;
lines in the middle of the roads do exist but they are mainly
bleached out by the sun - this can make it difficult to judge some
bends. "Cats Eyes" do exist in some places, but they have mostly
been lost (because they are stuck to the road with hot tar, and this
never sets, so the first car to go over the cats eye displaces it);
parking is often undertaken, with no concern for the effect this has
on other drivers;
on the cars hazard lights while driving normally indicates that the
driver is going to stop in the road (e.g. outside a shop);
drivers (bikes and cars) do not use indicators prior to turning -
you are expected to guess what they are going to do!;
bikers and pedestrians do not look where they are going, with the
latter frequently just stepping out in to the road to reach a shop
on the other side without looking, so you need your wits about you
when driving (a Greek friend who now lives in England and recently
returned to the island for a holiday said you need 20 pairs of eyes
are often carried on motor bikes / mopeds - one in front of the
driver and one sitting behind. It is also common to see
(older) women riding side saddle as passengers on the bikes. We have
also seen the driver holding an umbrella when driving in the rain;
areas particularly, you will often see donkeys being ridden on the
road, and goats being herded along - don't get too close;
carrying a crash helmet on motor bikes is mandatory, many Greek
riders hang the helmet around their wrist when riding - this is not
to be recommended!. (We have heard that this is the result of
a badly worded law - wearing them is not mandatory but they must be
an increasing number of traffic lights on the island, but they
differ in a couple of key areas when compared with the UK - there
are no lights on the far side of the junction so you must stop well
short if you are to see the lights changing, and, when the lights do
change from red, they go straight to green (viz. no amber) - if you
don't move away instantly (or before!), a cacophony of horns will
sound behind you!. It should also be noted that some Greeks
ignore the traffic lights altogether;
also an increasing number of roundabouts - again, you need your wits
about you as the priorities are not the same at every roundabout
and, quite often, vehicles on the "main" road have priority over
vehicles on the roundabout. It is also the case, as with
traffic lights, that some Greeks will totally ignore any advertised
drivers will do the unexpected - just because you are driving on the
main road does not mean that the car coming out of the driveway of a
house or from a minor road will not pull straight out in front of
you. Similarly, they may suddenly stop just because they have seen
Spiros / Kostas outside a shop and want to have a chat - the fact
that you are driving immediately behind them is irrelevant.
The price of petrol varies quite considerably between
petrol stations with, in October 2018, prices for Unleaded in the EUR 1.66
- EUR1.71 per litre bracket.
Driving is often the only way to reach some of the
countryside and the isolated beaches - you just have to be very careful.
These fall into two main categories - local (Blue) and
"long" distance (Green). The former used to have a few (wooden) seats and
limited (or no) air conditioning but these have largely been replaced by new
buses which are far more comfortable, including the notorious "bendy" bus.
Both types of service though are often very crowded - the "Green" bus from Ágios
Geórgios to Corfu Town (there were four a day during the height of summer in
2018) is often "standing room only" before it leaves the resort.
They are though, very reasonably priced. By way of
comparison, the bus from Ágios Geórgios to Corfu Town costs around EUR 3.20,
while a taxi can be in the region of EUR 65 (2018). It is
important to check the bus times as they do change.
Corfu Town has been the subject of occupation by a number of different
nationalities, including the British in 1815. Evidence of the latter is
found in the main Esplanade where a cricket "square" can be found and the
sound of leather on willow is often heard (too energetic for my liking!) -
Wednesdays and weekends being the most popular times for matches. At
the end of April 2011 there was even an Aussie Rules match played. There is
also a British Cemetery near the town centre - this apparently has a
fantastic display of orchids.
Alongside the Esplanade lies the old Fort on one side, and
on the other, the famous Liston which fronts the Esplanade on the old town
side. This graceful arcaded façade was inspired by the Rue de Rivoli in
Paris (the French were also past occupiers of Corfu). As well as cafes
(which are more expensive than those in the side streets), this can provide
welcome shade from the searing heat.
A fascinating maze of narrow streets, arched alleys and
steep stairways lies between the Esplanade and the Old Port. These are a
relic of Venetian rule, when they became homesick and built replicas of
"home" (but without the canals and gondolas!).
Driving in Corfu Town is not to be recommended.
Streets are often narrow with much parking on the road side - there are only
a few car parks and the central ones are often full by 09:30, although there
are some (e.g. down by the harbour) that normally have spaces throughout the
day and are within easy walking distance of the town centre - these mostly
cost EUR 3 for the whole day. In June 2010, the local
authorities started installing a series of cycle lanes in the town centre -
this reduced car parking spaces quite dramatically, as well as making the
already narrow roads even narrower. Having said that, the bollards marking
the edge of the cycle lanes had been largely broken off by early 2011, and
car parking along the roadside restarted!. There have been several attempts
to reinstate the cycle lanes since then.
From the road alongside the main harbour is a view of the mountains of
Albania - little more than two kilometres away.