The night we arrived in Corfu, our taxi driver told us these wise words,
“Stay 1 week here, it changes your blood, stay 2 weeks, it changes your liver, week 3, you’ll never go home…”
Well, for his sake, it only took us 2 days to get to week 3.
On our 2nd day, Marcio and I devoted the entire day to walk on the moutain paths of Corfu. Corfu is a good place to vent out stress that you might carry from home, like your job, obviously. Frankly, it takes a couple days before you can really kick into vacation mode, because like most of us, we will check our work email and worry. We didn't start to fully relax until day 4 (especially Marcio). I had a nightmare on day 3 while Marcio had anxiety during the day. But we were grateful to be in Greece. Day two was about pushing through, but still enjoying the scenery along the way.
Our first stop was Lakones, a hidden village from Palaiokastrisia’s view. It’s lofty views from above make you want to cry. Ok not cry, but honestly, it’s pretty breathtaking up there.
It took us about 50 mins to reach the top. Trekking up this small path fit for a goat and shepherd, you’ll find nothing but shady olive tree groves, boulders, rocky cliffs, a fresh water mountain spring, green, green and green. I wouldn't want to hike down there at night, for there is no trace of light or human activity in these parts of the mountain. As we hiked upwards losing our breath, we passed wild, thick brush, lemon trees, gardens and bee hives stuck inside the canyon walls.
Once we entered the Lakones village, we found ourselves surrounded by crumbling homes with faded pastel colored facades of orange, pink and yellow that once showed brighter hues in the past. Iron balconies with black paint chipping off into the hot sun, the village was pretty desolate. It was, after all, around 15:00 in the late afternoon, too hot to move.
The village was so quiet that one man even left his door wide open and fell asleep in front of the TV. We covered the village pretty quickly from the village cemetery, the town church, 1 taverna and 1 village donkey tied up under a shady tree. Inside the village, paths twisted and turned like a pirate's labyrinth. We bought a couple apples from the local fruit truck guy and in my broken Greek I asked him the way to Krini. “Einea brosta,” he exclaimed. “Endoksi,” I replied. “Where are you from?” he asked us, and after our reply, he laughs, “Renaldo! And the US, very BIG country!” Nearly every local said the same thing to us when we told them our origin…
As we exited the village, walking along the main road, the steep cliffs drop abruptly down to the valleys of olive tree farms. For a biker or driver, it’s bone chilling with these twists and turns along the narrow roads. We hike along the road, facing traffic, but kept a close eye on our surroundings. Often in Greece, ever since the crisis, abandoned concrete foundations of never-finished homes stand still, haunted almost. From afar, we see a concrete structure overlooking the valley. I thought it was another abandoned, unfinished home. We decided to walk closer, but realized it was actually a modern ice-cream/coffee place called, Dolce Cafe. The cool concept of the place was the fact that the whole view overlooked the valley with the wide-stretched sheer glass walls.
After a short pitstop, slurping down a banana milkshake while Marcio devoured his homemade apple pie, we trailed on. We passed a few touristic restaurants along the cliffs, an area known as “Bella vista” where the tourists driving in their rental cars can stop. Looked nice, but we continued.
We passed another small, dusty village called Makrades (sorry no photos) and stopped in the village’s big souvenir shop. Marcio bought a pin and a Mediterranean evil eye key chain while I bought fresh olive oil and Kumquat soaps. Kumquat, from what I read, was brought to Corfu by a Japanese ambassador who planted this fruit over 100 years ago. Since then, the Corfu people have trademarked this little orange-like fruit into a soap, liquor, olive oil and more. We made a left at the fork in the road, passed an aggressive dog, barking from his junkyard and trekked up another hill.
Finally, we make it to Krini. Closer than we expected, it was about a 15 minute walk from Makrades. Krini was my favorite village in Corfu. Why? It was everything you would expect from a typical Greek village. Quiet, a few traditional houses, but also a few renovated ones, a natural mountain spring water fountain in the village’s center and the people. Old Greek villagers sat on the curbs in the main square, talking and checking out the new visitors, us. I so wish I took a photo of them; they were such characters.
They got a kick out of us and called us, “little kids (padeia)” and pointed to the fountain where we could drink the fresh mountain water. A cute labrador greeted us with a big smile and licked our palms. We think he got away from his owner’s house because his chain was dangling. We loved this guy, just look at that face.
We passed the town’s main taverna, called Sunset cafe, and were blown away by the view in the back. Instead of facing the olive tree groves down to Palieokastrisia, the view actually faced the opposite side where we could see the Diapontia islands from afar where apparently Odysseus was trapped under Calypsos’s spell right before he washed ashore in Paleokastrisia. We met the family who owned the taverna and talked for hours with the owner’s son, who was about our age. We did the same with another young guy in a taverna in Paleokastrisia. The friendly locals. They were good people. By no means did we ever feel cheated. Simply the “kali parea” or "good company" in English was enough. We appreciated their good food and company, thus it was natural for us to become friends :) It goes to show what kind of culture the Greeks have...
I ordered the lamb, which is slow cooked to the bone in a beautifully robust red-wine base, potatoes, peas and carrots while Marcio took his usual Souvlaki plate filled with warm pita, rosemary chicken grilled skewers and tangy tzatziki. We had our very own private view and restaurant for ourselves. Note* this actually happened the following day when we came back to Krini with our rented motorcycle because we were so impressed by the looks of the taverna the day before.
Leaving Krini, we finally made it to our destination, Angelokastro, or Castle Michel Angelo.
It's the most western tip of Despotate of Epirus, one of Greece's hegemonies which reigned in the West Balkans. It sits high and aloof, overlooking the most northwestern top of the island. We reached the place after hours and luckily the gate was still open with a few tourists and enough daylight left. On top, there are the anthropomorphic remnants of the coffin shaped imprints in the stone. Eerily, we find 7 and 2 of which are small for children. Although the graves were not officially found, I can't imagine being buried up there in such a desolate, yet beautifully holy place. We tried to imagine the royals, who they were or if they were royal Venetians...
So I won't rant on about the history. I didn't see too much in my guidebook. But I'll tell you the view is worth it.
Cheers for now, and until next time, stay tuned for more.
I have a blog post coming up about DIVING IN CORFU.