Tuesday 12 March
It was time to venture out of the city so we taxied to the airport and picked up a hire car. The forecast was poor – dull with some rain.
Our first stop was the Achilleion Palace. The palace was built by Empress Elizabeth of Austria following the suicide of her only son in 1889. It was an escape from the pressures of court. She was an inveterate reader and this influenced the way she decorated the palace, which was named for the hero Achilles of Greece mythology. In the court yard she had statues of women and a colonnade of busts of famous ancient scholars. Her only exception was a rather more modern Shakespeare.
The palace was sumptuous and set on a hill above the coastline with magnificent views over the Ionian Sea to the mainland of Greece.
It rained while we were there so we missed the ramble around Elizabeth’s garden.
Elizabeth liked to travel incognito, however that didn’t provide enough protection. In September 1898 she was assassinated in Geneva, Switzerland by an Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni, who had a difficult upbringing and was looking to make a mark in the world. He was imprisoned for life and denied the death penalty. After several attempts he finally suicided in 1910.
We continued, as the weather stayed grey, to the west of the island to see Lake Korission. The area is famous for its long sandy beach and the salt inlet that attracts a variety of migrating birds including flamingos. As usual we found the beach sub-standard and once again realised how lucky we are in Australia.
We drove south, calling into villages on the way. Summer readiness was a long way off. We continued to the southern tip of Corfu, but once again the beach at Kavo didn’t impress.
As we returned to the old town we stopped at Mon Repos. The villa was built in 1831 as a Summer residence for the British High Commissioner Frederick Adam, but was vacated soon afterwards as he was relocated to India. Empress Elizabeth had stayed in the villa in 1863, where she fell in love with Corfu and later built the Achilleion Palace.
The villa was not open (not Summer yet) but the gardens around the villa were beautiful and gave us a good opportunity to stretch our legs after hours of driving.
The Greek Royal family used the villa until the declaration of the Hellenic Republic in 1974. It was in this villa that Prince Phillip and his older sister Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark were born.
Back to Old Corfu town and explored a little further.
Banks were still closed so we could not change our left over Albanian Lek in Euros. As it turned out, no-one would have our LEK (about $AUD50), so it was finally donated to the Lions Club in Sandringham – I hope they got some value for it.