MUSEUM OF ASIAN ART
The Museum of Asian Art in Corfu is the only museum of this kind in Greece. It is housed in an imposing neoclassical building near Liston promenade, Espianada square, in the Palace of Saint Michael and Saint George. This building was constructed between 1819 and 1824 by the British and initially served as the residence of the British High Commissioners of the Ionian islands. Later, it became the seat of the Ionian Senate, the Ionian Parliament, and the headquarters of the Chivalric Orders of Saint Michael and Saint George (in the mid 19th century), from where it took its name. When the Ionian islands were united to the Greek state in 1864, this building was used as a summer residence by the Royal Family. However, it lost its place as a royal residence because the King preferred to spend his summer months in Mon Repos palace (see below). The Palace of Saint Michel and Saint George was mostly used as an office by the King rather than as a residence. In 1967, the Palace was given to the Municipality of Corfu and housed the Archaeological Museum for some years and, until 1974, it was the Sino-Japanese Museum. Later on, the Sino-Japanese Museum was turned into an Asian Museum to host the collection of Gregorios Manos, an ambassador who had donated to the Municipality a great range of Asian items and works of art. The exhibits of this museum were enriched with the collections of N. Hatzivassiliou, Ch. Hiotakis and some others. The exhibits include items from China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Korea, Siam, Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand. Among the items displayed, you will find Samurai armor and weapons, masks of the No theatre, Chinese porcelain and bronzes, pieces of sculpture, and ceramics. These exhibits are displayed in five rooms. The ground floor of the museum used to be the hall of the Ionian Senate and the portraits of the Senate's presidents hang there. On the second floor, we find the throne room, the ball room and the dining room, with the medals of the Chivalric order painted on the walls. This museum also hosts some other exhibitions from time to time and organizes other cultural events.
The neoclassical palace of Mon Repos sits atop Analipsis hill on the Kanoni Peninsula on the southern outskirts of town. It is surrounded by an extensive, wooded parkland estate. A small but very beautiful palace, this is the house where Prince Philip was born in June 1921. It houses the Museum of Palaeopolis, with entertaining archaeological displays and exhibits on the history of Corfu Town. Paths lead through lush grounds to the ruins of two Doric temples; the first is truly a ruin, but the southerly Temple of Artemis is serenely impressive.
It is on the sea and ten minutes walk through down the paths through the laurel wood, is a particularly beautiful stone pier, which has an undulating shape from past subsidence. It is a lovely spot for a dip.
Take a picnic and plenty of water, as there are no nearby shops. Bus 2a goes to Kanoni from the Spianada (€1.70, every 20 minutes), but it's walkable, if you bring your swimsuit for a plunge to relieve the heat.
I love to walk through the market. Greek tomatoes might be the best in the world, so doing a little shopping for the ingredients for a greek salad is worth it. If you can find sikomaïda (spiced, fig paste, flavoured with pepper and ouzo), give it a try; it’s not for everyone but I think it’s great.
The Old Fortress of Corfu is one of the most impressive fortification works in Europe. It is the first thing you see as the ferry approaches Corfu. It stands on the eastern side of the town, on a rocky peninsula jutting out into the sea. This fortress is called Old in contrast to the New Fortress (of Saint Mark), that was also built to protect the town from enemies and pirates. This fortress was constructed by the Venetians in the 15th century on the site of a former Byzantine castle. To make it more secure, they made an artificial fosse and thus they separated the fortress from the mainland. The fortress was connected to the land by a movable, wooden bridge. In 1819, the British replaced this bridge with the present stable pathway, which is 60 m long and stands 15 m above the fosse, locally known as contafossa. The entrance to the fortress is available across from the Spianada, the famous square of Corfu. The entrance is arched and has a Venetian symbol above it, carved in marble. After the entrance, there are two rooms on both sides that now host the Byzantine Collection of Corfu and a gift shop. A few steps away, there is another fosse of 22m, now dry, that was used as an additional protection measure. After the entrance, on the right, there is the small chapel of Madonna del Carmine.
The huge building in front was constructed by the British in the 18th century to host the barracks, but now it houses the Public Library of Corfu, which houses rare manuscripts and editions. Two stone stairs lead to a high spot, where there is a beautiful polygonal well dating from 1732. The highest point of the fortress is a tall clock tower, which takes about 20 minutes reach. Historians believe that there used to be an ancient temple there. Also, some accounts of the Medieval times inform us that this peak, named Citadella, was inhabited and had some houses, churches, water cisterns and storehouses for gunpowder. In fact, in 1499, 1800 people were living in Citadella. Unfortunately, an explosion in 1718 destroyed a large part of it and the church of Agioi Apostoli. The view from there is incredible.
On the eastern side of the fortress, there is a flat square, used today for cultural events. Here you'll find the church of Saint George, built by the Venetians in the style of an ancient temple. This is actually the only church in Greece that has been constructed according to the Doric style. Above this square, there is a cafeteria. For more than four centuries, this fortress had been the symbol of the Venetian occupation in the Ionian islands and today it is one of the most impressive sights on Corfu.
NEW FORTRESS (FORTRESS OF ST. MARK)
The Fortress of Saint Mark in Corfu is also referred to as the Fortress of San Marco. It was built by the Venetians and is strategically located in close proximity to the Old Harbour of town. It was constructed over a long period (1576 and 1645). Construction of this impregnable fortress was completed soon after the infamous Turkish invasion. The design and construction of the Fortress was undertaken by the renowned Italian military engineer, Ferraute Vitteli. The fortress played a pivotal role in protecting the town of Corfu and its residents. The entire fortress is an intricate network of compartments and galleries. The ramparts were built by the French and completed by the British. The fortress has a dry moat that meanders along its western side which is typical of the 17th century architectural style. The moat begins from the current location of the fruit and vegetable market and finishes at the New Harbour. Of particular significance are the two winged lions of Saint Mark, which are the official emblem of Venice. The two main gates of the fortress have withstood the ravages of time and are still very well preserved. The first gate faces to the Old Harbor's square while the other faces south.
ST. SPYRIDON CHURCH
The church of Saint Spyridon was initially built in Sarocco square, Corfu Town. However, in 1590 it was erected in its present location. Its design is typical of the Venetian architecture that dominates the Old Town of Corfu. Its bell tower is the highest in town. Saint Spyridon is considered the keeper of Corfu. According to legend, he has saved the island four times from Ottoman invasion, one of the reasons that this church is so beloved. Spyridon, often shortened to Spyros, is a very common name on the island and the locals will still refer to their saint protector in an oath. The church, which is located just behind The Liston, holds the supposed remains of the saint. According to the local customs, his remains are carried around the town of Corfu in a litany four times a year to celebrate his miracles (Palm Sunday, Good Friday, August 11th, first Sunday of November). The litanies are accompanied by local bands and they remain a strong tradition on Corfu.
During the First World War, the island served as a refuge for the Serbian army that retreated there on Allied forces' ships from a homeland occupied by the Austrians, Germans and Bulgarians. During their stay, a large portion of Serbian soldiers died from exhaustion, food shortage, and various diseases. Most of their remains were buried at sea near the island of Vido, a small island at the mouth of Corfu port, and a monument of thanks to the Greek nation has been erected at Vido by the grateful Serbs; consequently, the waters around Vido Island are known by the Serbian people as the Blue Tomb after a poem written by Milutin Bojić following World War I.