Tag Archives: Perama

Corfu and the Achilleion Palace

Achilleion 04

In the afternoon we visited the Achilleion at Gastouri, squeezed in between Perama and Benitses.  It is a museum now but was once a summer Palace built in 1890 by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria who was a curious woman obsessed with the classical Homeric hero Achilles and with all things beautiful (including herself by all accounts).

The Palace with the neoclassical Greek statues that surround it is a monument to platonic romanticism and escapism and is filled with paintings and statues of the tragic hero Achilles, both in the main hall and in the gardens, depicting heroic struggles scenes of the Trojan War.

The dazzling white Palace has a wedding cake like appearance and the beautiful Imperial gardens on the hill look over the surrounding green hill crests and valleys and the azure blue Ionian Sea.

I had visited before of course and this was the Palace in 1984…

006

The centre piece of the gardens is a marble statue on a high pedestal of the mortally wounded Achilles stripped of body armour and heroic bravado and wearing only a simple cloth and an elaborate Greek hoplite helmet.  This statue was fashioned by German sculptor Ernst Gustav Herter and the hero is  without rank or status and seems notably human though tragic as he is forever trying despairingly to pull the poisoned arrow shot by Paris from his unfortunate heel.

His classically depicted face is full of pain and he gazes skyward as if to seek help from Olympus.

Achilles Heel

In Greek mythology when Achilles was a baby it was foretold that he would die young. To prevent this his mother Thetis took him to the River Styx which was said to offer powers of invulnerability and dipped his whole body into the water, however, as Thetis held Achilles by the heel, his heel was not washed over by the water of the magical river and was therefore tragically vulnerable.  I have always thought of this to be rather careless.

Dying Achilles

Oddly today there was no arrow on the statue, it seems to have been removed, maybe stolen or perhaps for preservation and repairs, it was certainly there in 1984…

Achilles 1984

and in the souvenir tile that I bought several years later, on the island of Santorini if I remember correctly…

Achilles

In contrast to the painful death of Achilles at the great staircase in the main hall is a giant painting of the triumphant warrior full of pride.  Dressed in full royal military regalia and erect on his racing chariot he pulls the lifeless body of Hector of Troy in front of the stunned crowd watching helplessly from inside the walls of the City.

The Achilleion must have been an idyllic holiday home but in 1898 at the age of sixty the Empress was assassinated when she was stabbed by an anarchist whilst walking in a park in Geneva, Switzerland.  After her death the palace was sold to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II who also liked to take summer holidays on Corfu and later, after World-War One it was acquired by the Greek State who converted it into a museum.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria

It is a beautiful place with grand sweeping gardens befitting royal ownership and we enjoyed the visit and even went back later to see the sunset from the Kaiser’s chair which is an area at the highest point in the gardens where Wilhelm would go in the evening to enjoy the end of the day.

On the way out we passed Kaiser’s Bridge which is just two stumps of brickwork now but was originally built for the Kaiser so that he could leave his yacht and walk to his palace without crossing the road. How self-indulgent was that?  The road can hardly have been busy or dangerous in 1900!

Two stumps of brickwork now because in 1942 it was ironically blown up by the occupying German troops because it was too low for their tanks to pass below.

Kaiser's Bridge

And so we returned to Kalami and our short holiday was over, we packed our bags and cleaned the apartment, I always like to clean an apartment in case we get a bad reputation as untidy guests and then inevitably we returned to the same beach side taverna for a final meal.  It had been a very good week, beaches, sunshine, long walks, a boat ride and a lot of history.  Corfu remains one of my favourite places in Greece and all of Europe.

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Car Hire Misadventures – Corfu, 1984

Corfu Red Jeep

In the middle of the holiday we hired a flame red open top jeep for three days and set about visiting other parts of the island.

Perama is just about right in the centre of the island so this was a good place to begin the day trips out.  On the first day we went north bypassing Corfu town on the way and driving along the main island road along the eastern side of the island through the seaside towns of Gouvia, Dassia, Ipsos and Pyrgi, stopping frequently and finally arriving at the town of Kassiopi.

Read the full story…

 

Postcards from Corfu

Greek StampsCorfu Postcard 1984

Corfu Postcard Map

Corfu Achillion

Corfu Town

Perama Mouse Island

Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Boats

George George's Boat 1984

After four hours or so walking around Corfu Town we were ready to go back to Kalami so we strolled to the harbour and waited for the boat.  As we sat and looked out to sea the small day trip tourist boats reminded me of a previous boating experience in Corfu.

Towards the end of a holiday in 1984 we went on a day trip which turned out to be one of the highlights of the week, a full day on a Greek boat with a Corfiot skipper and plenty of alcohol.

This was George’s boat and at mid morning we joined about thirty other holiday makers when we arrived at the concrete quayside opposite the hotel and were welcomed on board by George himself, a man with a big smile and a flamboyant sense of humour who worked hard to get us all to enjoy ourselves before casting off and steering the brightly coloured boat with the steady rhythm of its chugging diesel engine away from Corfu and out into the Ionian Sea.

As soon as George had completed the tricky bits and negotiated his way out of the harbour the fun began when the wine was opened and passed around and drunk from plastic cups and he began an amusing narrative and a stream of jokes, which were corny to begin with but got ruder as the day progressed.

George's Boat

Eventually someone had to be the first to use the on deck toilet which was located within a sort of canvas modesty tent and this was the moment George was waiting for because as soon as they were inside he scooped up a bucket of sea water and then to everyone’s amusement (except the young girl in the loo) he poured it through the open top and drenched her.  Her shrieks could probably be heard on the mainland and the whole boat was in fits of laughter.

After this there was no stopping George and his next party trick was to scoop up more water and then discharge this over unsuspecting people minding their own business and sunbathing on pedalos bobbing gently on the water.  HELLOOO! he shouted just as he emptied the bucket load all over them.  Some thought it was funny but some, it has to be said,  didn’t share the joke.  Everyone on board found this hilarious and encouraged George to repeat it over and again at every opportunity.

George took us first to a remote beach that was inaccessible from the land and he dropped anchor and invited us to jump from the prow of the boat into the warm crystal clear water below and we stayed there for a while swimming and diving and then sitting on deck in the sunshine drinking more wine.  After the swimming break we set off again for a stop at a small village for a barbeque lunch of fish and salad and yet more local wine.  It wasn’t the best wine I’ve ever tasted but it was ok in an emergency and sitting by the water with a cool breeze rippling the sea and the table cloths it was delightful and we could easily have stayed much longer than the time allocated and before we were really ready we had to set off on the journey back with more wine, more japes and a thoroughly good time.

Perama Mouse Island

I’ve googled and checked and thirty years later George’s boat is still running:

George’s-boat-corfu

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Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal:

Malta Tony-Oki-Koki

Rowing Boat on Lake Bled in Slovenia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Croatia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Wales

Gondola Ride in Venice

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Corfu, My Family and Other Disasters – Achilles Heel

Corfu Achillion

In Corfu we visited the Achilleion at Gastouri, in between Perama and Benitses, which is a casino and a museum now but was once a summer Palace built in 1890 by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria who was a curious woman obsessed with the classical Homeric hero Achilles and with all things beautiful (including herself apparently).

It was also used as a location in the James Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’  as were several other places on Corfu including Kalami Bay where we were staying this time.

The Palace, with the neoclassical Greek statues that surround it, is a monument to platonic romanticism and escapism and is filled with paintings and statues of Achilles, both in the main hall and in the gardens, depicting the scenes of the Trojan War.

The dazzling white Palace has a wedding cake like appearance and the beautiful Imperial gardens on the hill look over the surrounding green hill crests and valleys and the azure blue Ionian Sea.

Achilles Perama Corfu Achillion

The centre piece of the gardens is a marble statue on a high pedestal, of the mortally wounded Achilles wearing only a simple cloth and an ancient Greek hoplite helmet.  This statue was created by German sculptor Ernst Gustav Herter and the hero is presented devoid of rank or status, and seems notably human though heroic, as he is forever trying to pull the arrow shot by Paris from his heel.  His classically depicted face is full of pain and he gazes skyward, as if to seek help from the Gods on Olympus.

In contrast, at the great staircase in the main hall is a giant painting of the triumphant Achilles full of pride.  Dressed in full royal military regalia and erect on his racing chariot, he pulls the lifeless body of Hector of Troy in front of the stunned crowd watching helplessly from inside the walls of the Trojan citadel.

In 1898 at the age of sixty the Empress was assassinated when she was stabbed by a lunatic anarchist whilst walking in a park in Geneva, Switzerland.  After her death the palace was sold to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II who also liked to take summer holidays on Corfu and later it was acquired by the Greek State who converted it into a museum.

It is a beautiful place with grand sweeping gardens befitting royal ownership and we enjoyed the visit and even went back later to see the sunset from the Kaiser’s chair, which is an area at the highest point in the gardens where Wilhelm would go in the evening to enjoy the end of the day.

Achilles

Corfu 1984, George’s Boat and Water Skiing

Sidari Corfu

“Other countries may offer you discoveries in manners or lore or landscape; Greece offers you something harder – the discovery of yourself”             Lawrence Durrell – ‘Prospero’s Cell’

After three days we returned the car and went back to the routine of the first week with long days around the swimming pool, sunset drinks on the hotel terrace and seeking out different tavernas for evening meals.  Some days when we tired of the pool we visited the scruffy beach which was across a busy main road and through a gloomy underpass, which we rarely used, preferring instead to take our chances against the traffic.

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Corfu 1984, Red Jeep around the island

Corfu Postcard Map

Corfu: ”this brilliant little speck of an island in the Ionian” – Lawrence Durrell – ‘Prospero’s Cell’

In the middle of the holiday we hired a flame red open top jeep for three days and set about visiting other parts of the island.  Perama is just about right in the centre of the island so this was a good place to begin the day trips out.  On the first day we went north bypassing Corfu town on the way and driving along the main island road along the eastern side of the island through the seaside towns of Gouvia, Dassia, Ipsos and Pyrgi, stopping frequently and finally arriving at the town of Kassiopi.

Read the full story…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…