Sunday, 8 April 2012

Corfu, Greece: Day 1

Our family, everyone says, has gone global. My dad’s working in Italy, mom and brothers are in India and Me, the wandering soul, floating from Malaysia to UK. It’s been almost 2 yrs living like this. And now, by some miracle, our holidays aligned and we got a chance to spend our vacation together.
A trip to the Greek Island of Corfu really seemed like a prayer answered.
We came with Endeavour Lines to Corfu. Travelling by ship let us take our car with us. So no travel hassles once in the island! The ship journey was 8 hours long. 8 Long Hours across the Mediterranean sea.

We spent the first couple of hours exploring the ship. This was our first time on a ship and luckily none of us got seasick. We had a nice spot on the deck, facing the sea and quite nice co passengers too.

 The families next to us were Macedonian Muslims. One of them had a cute little boy of around 4 who did a good job of keeping us entertained with his antics. We reached Corfu around 11 pm local time. We were let down by our otherwise trusty GPS navigator device as it didn't have Greece on the list of countries it can 'navigate'. Can’t believe even the navigator ignores the not so well off!

It took us one hour of driving around to locate our resort. My dad and I planned this trip two weeks back over skype. We found a nice apartment (through in Gouvia, a bayside village in the east of Corfu. Our apartment is nice and airy…and is just a stone’s throw from the beach! Finally when we reached we were greeted by a portly security man, Nikolas, who gave us quite a warm welcome (this warmth and hospitality, we later found, is a cherished Greek trait)

Today we all woke up quite early (Going by the Fazal household’s standard time). We walked down to the market area nearby and, not-so-surprisingly, ended up at a nice Greek patisserie. So breakfast was baklava, croissants, cheesecake, profiterole and buns. Yes, it was absolutely delicious!

After our sinfully rich breakfast, equipped with a full fuel tank, a map and sack full of snacks, we started our drive around the island. We wanted to drive around the periphery and stick to coastline. However, corfu  being mountainous ( The name 'Corfu' actually means 'The city of peaks'!),we ended up playing hide and seek with the coast.But when we did get glimpses of the sea, it was glorious! Even without a clear sky, the sea was a glistening blue.

 Corfu (Kerkyra in Greek) is a small island and can be covered quite fast. There are numerous shops, scattered across the island, which let you rent cars, bicycles and motor bikes. Bicycles seems to be a popular choice of transport among the tourists. Our drive was wonderful. We drove through tiny villages, with narrow streets. The architecture is not quite we thought it would be, but it settles well with the surroundings. The houses quite similar to the ones in Kerala. Small house painted in different pastel shades. What I love about these houses are their gardens. Almost all of them have lovely gardens with lavender growing on the walls, and citrus trees bursting with ripe fruits. Then there are beautiful wild flowers sprouting up from ever possible places. They grow on rocks, walls…different shades of violet, pink, yellow and red. Our receptionist told us that all these flowers were brought to the Island by the British. When this island was colonized 1000s of varieties of plants were brought by them. 

And, obviously, there are olive trees everywhere. Literally everywhere. We drove past quite a few olive farms with nets spread across and in some of the farms we saw friendly faces driving tractors loaded with sacks of olives. There are about 3 million olives trees in corfu. Some of them are hundreds of years old. These trees have hollowed out, bent and twisted with age. Apart from the olive trees there are a lot of Almond trees along the roadside which flower during May-September. The bright pink flowers can be spotted from quite far and make the drive really enjoyable. 

While my parents and I enjoyed the raw, natural beauty of the place, my brothers had already had too much  of it and were demanding to go elsewhere. Finally my dad made an impromptu stop at one of the villages. We ventured into a monastery-Monastery Pantokratoros- lured by the pretty trail leading up to a small enclosure. The monastery area is really small and is surrounded by a home grown vegetable garden. There are two buildings- one is the convent and the other is the church. There are a lot of flower patches scattered here and there, from fiery red tulips to baby pink roses. We were greeted in by some of the warmest people I’ve ever met. There are 5-6  Greek Orthodox Christian nuns living there. All of them covered up exactly like muslim women. Except, they have a tiny crucifix embroidered on their headscarf. None of them knew English, yet they held our hands and walked us in. Luckily another woman walked in and she instantly became our translator. Penelope is a nursery school teacher and visits the monastery often. She gave us a quick tour around the monastery which is about 200 years old.

 We were invited in for a cup of greek coffee by the nuns. As we sipped coffee (which was a tad too bitter for my taste) and nibbled on halwas ( A sweet not very different from the Indian halwa) our conversation flowed (Thanks to Penelope’s running translation). We asked them about Greece, orthodox Christianity and how it differed from Catholicism. They asked us about India and out life there. They were surprised when they heard that we Muslims and Christians share prophets upto Jesus with them. It was interesting to note that their painting of Jesus have him with Mediterranean skin tone.They were so warm and kind that we really felt like staying there longer and talking more. But Penelope seemed quite exhausted so we had to make a move :D

With Penelope

From there we drove northwards and hit the beautiful Sidari beach. It was quite chilly but we had a nice walk there. My dad and brothers even managed to sneak in a crazy football game. 
At Sidari beach

We left the beach to drive south and finally stopped at Agios Stefanos for a coffee break. There we met a nice English couple from Oxford (who, incidentally, were watching the Oxford vs. Cambridge boat race). They were quite happy to hear that I am currently studying in Nottingham.This couple has been coming to Corfu for the past few years so they  recommended some places which we could visit in the next two days.
We left the café to go to Paleokastritsa, which is the highest point on the island. But two wrong turns and we were totally in the wrong direction. More olive farms, wild flowers and narrow streets later we decided to move Paleokastritsa for tomorrow. After asking about half a dozen people for directions we finally reached back to our apartment.
In the evening we went to a traditional greek taverna for dinner. We had a nice meal of greek salad, grilled fish and shrimp in red saganaki.
Tomorrow we are planning to start with Paleokastritsa and then visit some of the palaces and museums here. So, until the next post!


  1. Nazreen.. As always I really enjoyed your writing and the narration and really took us for a free trip to Greece. Have you had any chance to feel the traits of Greek tradition - philosophy, wisdom, admiration for warriors.. I am sure you would explore that too..Good .You guys are really global citizens..exploring the world.. we always admired fazal's quest and energy for travel..and any time tea (preferably sulaimani)is the most simple and powerful energy boost for him.. and I am happy that your portrayals would be a good collection for all to cherish..Wish we had you documenting our good old day trips --Jaisalmer saffari, delhi tours, mysore brindavan trips, bagdogra adventures with fazals magical maruti omni (gods own car..god only knows when it starts and when it stops)..great going Nazreen.. we have high hopes on you..Santhosh

  2. I did 3 days on the island of Corfu. Dream as nice. Memories of the island of Corfu have written here. You told you so nice. Thank you.