CLAIRE’S BIRTHDAY YAYYYYY!
We hit up a few different sites today. First was Mon Repos, where British officers lived and British royalty vacationed. We saw photos of Corfu and Repos that were some of the first photos ever taken. The mansion displayed some artifacts for aesthetic appeal and not historically, much like the National Archaeological Museum had–without context.
After the mansion we headed out to the Temple of Kardaki (AKA Temple of Medea). This is the most well-preserved ancient monument in Corfu, and no one knows what deity it’s dedicated to. It was found by accident when the British were digging for an aqueduct. It would have had a wonderful view of the ocean, but we unfortunately had a bad angle. The walk up to the temple was gorgeous, though–lined with thick trees and occasional breaks in them to see the sea. It was a bit like the gorge from the other day.
Then off to the fortress! This one was known as the Old Fortress of Corfu. There is a new one that you could see from the top of the old one. The fortress is shaped kind of like a scorpion, Aristotle said, with bastions jutting out on the sides. There are hundreds of meters of underground tunnels connecting the different levels of the fortress. In one of those tunnels there’s still some live land mines/bombs from World War II. The long walk to the top (though not as long as Palamidi) was hot and exhausting, but the view, once again, made it all worth it. We all have come to learn that higher walks = better views. We appreciate them now.
Afterwards was what I’d been looking forward to all day–the Achilleion!
The Achilleion mansion was one of my favorite sites so far. A woman named Elisabeth built it. She was a free spirit who fell in love with Franz Josef, the emperor of Austria, when her fishing hook got stuck on his carriage. Her story is in a movie named Sisi that I now intend to watch.
Elisabeth’s daughter died, sending her into depression that made her want to travel a lot, and then her son died and she decided to build the mansion. Later, the King of Germany bought the place and remodeled a bit.
Every part of the building is influenced by Greek or Roman themes. There were a bunch of busts of ancient poets or philosophers, and then one out-of-place Shakespeare. We saw a huge painting of Achilles dragging Hector’s body behind his chariot. The painting was enormously impressive—large, intricately detailed, lifelike. An urban legend says that the artist committed suicide when he recognized his one mistake—the wheels on Achilles’ chariot are supposed to be moving, but they are pictured stationary. It’s barely noticeable when you’re focused on the grandiose of the painting.
Next we saw a large, impressive statue of Achilles pulling the arrow out of his heel, and it was supposed to represent her dying son. The German owner thought it was too focused on weakness and moved it to a less prominent place, to be replaced by a 40-ish-foot high bronze statue of a triumphant Achilles to be seen by sailors coming in to Corfu.
That night we celebrated Claire’s 21st birthday at a restaurant. We ate a cake that can only be found in one bakery in Corfu, with a marmalade made from local strawberries and phyllo pastry in between layers of cream. It was, safe to say, one of the best things I’ve eaten on this trip.
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBAAAAALL FUN FAAAAACTS
1. 60% of the surface area of Corfu is olive groves. Most of the trees were planted around the 1500s.
2. We passed an area of the sea in which two shark attacks happened—a British sailor, who lived, and a girl, who died.
3. The old British barracks at the Old Fortress are now used as the School of Music for the University of the Ionian Islands. You can see bullet holes in the side of the building from World War II.
4. Soon we’re going to watch a Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only,” part of which was filmed in the Achilleion mansion and around Corfu.
5. A legend says the last time Elisabeth was at the Achilleion before she was assassinated, she cracked a mirror and it was bad luck. We saw the cracked mirror in her bedroom when we were there.
6. Outside the Achilleion, there is a statue of Hermes that is apparently good luck if you rub his toe. I rubbed his toe.
ALL ZE FEELS
Minus some bodily malfunctions recently, I have been wonderful. I have found myself being able to read Greek better and quicker, albeit still slowly and badly. The letters make more sense to me, which is surprising since my only previous experience with the Greek alphabet is frats and sororities. [LOL]
Corfu was really cool. I am sad to leave but excited for Dodona and Ioannina tomorrow. Ioannina is the town in which Aristotle had his university years. Dodona is the oldest oracle in Greece, which is exciting.
Hopefully the WiFi at the next hotel will be sufficient to attach pictures. If not…y’all will just have to wait or go through a boring slideshow at some point.
I keep being reminded that the main trip is almost over, and I’ll have to say goodbye to some really awesome people before the island extension. I feel like I still have so much to learn and do here, and I am not ready to leave. It will be odd to go back to flushing toilet paper and eating dinner before 9pm. It will be weird to not flood the bathroom each time you shower and defecate only every 3 days or so.
Sorry about that last one. The struggle is real, you guys. The struggle is real.
Well, until tomorrow—Peace ‘n’ Blessin’s ❤