A Day in Corfu, A Walk through the Tempest
The Captain and I run down the cobblestone streets of Corfu as heavy rain pours down on us, our boots pounding the pavement and splashing puddles as we look for shelter. Ancient stonework fades into the misting deluge, much as it did thousands of years ago. We pass by buildings with signs written in Greek symbols and other people who are also looking for refuge from the rain. Since neither of us can read or speak the language we scan the windows, desperate to find a safe haven. Finally, we spot a cafe and are soon out of the storm.
Minutes later my husband sits quietly across from me browsing the menu as I sip my coffee and stare at the television screen. Vibrant photographs taken all around the world play on the monitor as I try to identify each of their locations.
A server comes to our table to take our order and soon the Captain and I start conversing about our Mediterranean cruise. Corfu is our last stop and by morning we will arrive in Venice where we will take the train to Rome to spend the night before going home to the United States. It has been quite the adventure for the both of us and we are a bit sad that our voyage is coming to an end.
Soaked to the bone by the relentless Mediterranean rains, the Captain orders coffee. Coffee means different things to different people around the world, and there are few drinks that are so universal and yet simultaneously so indicative of individual culture. The Arabs often drink finely ground coffee with cardamom, the Italians have theirs strong, black, and finely roasted. An order of coffee in a Parisian cafe results in a small cup that can last hours as one dreamily watches life go by on the Champs Elysees. In Greece, much like neighboring Turkey, the coffee is served black and sweet, with the grounds still deliciously coating the bottom of a small demitasse cup. To our rain-soaked bodies, it was a kiss from heaven.
Once it stopped raining we made our way out of the cafe and walked around town. Like, Dubrovnik, my husband and I didn’t know much about Corfu so we looked forward to seeing and learning as much as we could about this Ionian Island off the coast of Greece.
Settled by Corinthians in the 8th century B.C., Corfu became one of the more prosperous isles in the Ionian Sea and allied itself with Athens during the Pelopennsian Wars. It became a base for Octavian’s war with Mark Antony in Roman times before being absorbed into the Byzantine Empire. After the fall of Constantinople the island sought protection from Venice, and Corfu remained a Venetian possession until the 1700s.
One can almost feel the presence of the ancient civilizations that called this place home. The soaring stone towers and the sudden Ionian tempest could not help but to bring to mind Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
Indeed, it often seemed as if the island itself might dissolve beneath the ceaseless rain, but in its aftermath a quiet calm pervaded. As we walk around the Palaio Frourio or the Old Fortress, the Captain and I take numerous pictures. The Palaio Frourio dominated the isle in Venetian times, and was critical in ensuring the isle’s safety from maureding pirates and would-be invaders. Now it stands as a silent sentinel, a portal to a different time, at once inspiring and imposing. Despite its faded grandeur and visual prominence, the stone hallways are almost completely deserted as we venture up the ramparts. The wind whips up as we crest the fort’s walls, and we are treated to a sweeping vista of the Ionian Sea. Back in town, the vestiges of empire blend with ATMs and sports cars, but up here with the wind carrying a haunting chill to its embrace, the view of the sea is the exact same as it was when Venetian soldiers scanned the horizon for the hint of a sail. It is a deep, surreal, and almost indescribable feeling that makes the centuries feel very short indeed.