Greetings from an autumnal Corfu. With the summer heat gone and the arrival of
early winter rains, Corfu's landscape has burst into a display of vibrant greens.
Olive trees are of course evergreen and their colour does not seasonally change,
except perhaps the new bright green shoots that appear in the spring. Corfu is
dominated by over 1,500,000 olive trees, and at this time of year, occasionally
speckled with the amber leaves of an autumnal deciduous tree. A seasonal sign that the
island is now returning to its winter state. The tourists are gone and the roads
sigh a silent relief, letting locals return to how they have lived for
During the winter months, many are involved in the olive harvest. Most families
own an olive grove or two, which have been passed down over the years. The
groves may be an excellent ‘tourist attraction’ and talking point, but believe me they are very hard work. The pruning,
cultivation and collection of olives is backbreaking work, not helped by the
terrain. Most olive groves are inaccessible by road, on steep terraced inclines,
making mechanical cultivation and collection impossible.
This is in stark contrast to other olive producing countries, where the groves
resemble a well ordered orchard. Trees grown in rows to facilitate mechanized
production methods, often leading to the overuse of chemicals in order to
increase yield. In Corfu that is impossible and hence the yields are lower (and
the effort greater), but many locals would argue that the quality of their oil
is far superior.
During October and November the
olive nets are prepared. Olive groves only give fruit every two years. (You
did not know that did you!) Nets from
groves not giving fruit need to be moved to those that are - not an easy
Before setting the nets under the trees, the
ground needs to be cleared of 'undergrowth'. With Corfu's warm climate weeds
and brambles thrive making the task of clearing difficult - often a petrol 'strimmer'
is employed rather than Olga's hand scythe.
The nets are 'laid' under the trees. Each net
is about 10m by 30m, making them awkward to position under the trees. They are 'sewn' together with nails or large plastic
pins. Usually the whole grove is covered with nets.
During December till April, the
olives slowly ripen and then drop. Every ten days or so during this period,
a visit to each grove is needed to collect the fallen olives. If they are
left any longer, they start to shrivel and their oil becomes useless.
The olives are collected using a short stick
with a nail in the end. Starting from the top of the grove, the stick is
pressed into the net, turned 90 degrees and then lifted. This action of
raising the net makes the olives run downwards. Once the olives start
rolling, coupled with a swift wrist action, the olives can be gathered into
small piles. The whole grove needs to be worked in this fashion.
Each pile of olives has to be
sifted of leaves and twigs. They are then scooped
up and put into sacks.
The sacks need to be carried back to the road.
This is often
some distance, and so one of these is required:
Next month, I will add a report about the
pressing of the collected olives.
strewn overhead so that the local community path is not blocked.
winter rains, the neat dry stone terrace walls can collapse. Constant repairs
and work is required to keep the grove productive.
It is amazing when I meet other English people – don’t forget I have been here
10 years now - how my distant memory of back home has faded. How England was and
the reality as to how it is now. Maybe it is because you only remember
the best, perhaps I do not want to remember what it was really like! But, I
never seem to remember the worst – only until I am reminded by those I meet.
During November, Angela has been
here helping me with this winter's site update. With much less open during the winter, we decided to take Angela to
town, to the supermarket. She needed to stock up on some grocery essentials. We
took her to our favourite supermarket, near the airport in Corfu town. We found
a space and parked outside, strolled up for
a trolley and wandered around the shopping isles. Amazing, Angela declared. So
few people, it is a Saturday morning – where is everyone? Back home, it would be
packed – bumper to bumper trolleys – people fighting and arguing over a parking
space and complaining at the checkouts. Nothing like that here in Corfu! The super markets
in Greece are
similar to elsewhere and have a good selection of products. Not on the scale of course
as other European cities. So why are ours different? Perhaps it is simply the sheer number of people and the pace of life. The sheer density of the population, the rapid growth
of building and the movement into big cities. These things I had forgotten about
until I was recently reminded how my old home village where I grew up had changed. I have not been back,
for any length of time now for many years.
No my home is now here in Corfu in my isolated
cocoon. What do the local people think of ‘foreigners’
snapping up properties here either to live or as holiday homes? I'll find out
and let you know next month!
Owning a property on Corfu
the most common question I get asked at Taverna Agni is; "How do go about owning a property
on Corfu?" Many are looking to buy a house here, but have very little guidance
on the subject. I aim to rectify that and have produced this guide. The
following is the introduction, and each month I will add an additional chapter.
Owning a property abroad,
whether in Greece or anywhere for that matter, is an important decision and
mistakes will be costly. The very principles, problems, and decisions to be made
are applicable to owning
a property, or second home in any country. The same care and proceedings you
would use in you home country should be exercised here in Greece. By reading
this guide, you doing the right thing - research - before you commit any
How do you start?
As with any solution, you first
need to define the requirements. Lets start by discussing the first question you need to ask, as it will shape how you
will plan to continue. What type
of property am I looking for?
A holiday vacation villa or a home for permanent
living or retirement?
Of course your answer to that question greatly defines the
type of property you are searching for. If the
property is for a holiday home, then you may be looking for aspects such as a
swimming pool, rentability, location, ease of maintenance. Where as a property
for permanent living, will have the emphasis on livability such as the
kitchen, practicality, the location (in respect to others living nearby), access,
amenities and local
community. A house high up in the hills in a remote location, offering stunning
panoramas may be a perfect choice for a two week summer vacation hideaway, but may prove too isolated and cutoff for all year round
Once you have decided the type of property that you are looking for,
there is another very important decision to be made, which is not a easy to
answer at this stage.
Should I build
from scratch, or purchase an existing property?
immediately opt for the later only to review their answer once they start
searching. Purchasing an existing property, can further be broken down into:
Buy an existing property that can be moved straight into; contract a ready built
so called 'turn key' property; or renovate an older neglected building.
The romantic thoughts of converting an old beachside
press' into a holiday home attracts many - but how realistic is that dream? Many
imagine that there are numerous abandoned olive presses by the waters edge with
a small private beach, an old disused press inside with stone huge wheels that will make a feature of the
living room and all this with a budget of 20,000 Euros. The reality is they do not exist.
Those properties that look abandoned on the waters edge often have generation
long disputes over ownership. You may stumble across an empty abandoned
property - its roof caving in making it seem unwanted, and yet it is very
very much fought over by the owners.
The problem often goes back many years.
Many parents simply did not have a legal will. The property would be left to the children.
Those days the property had very little value - and anyway 'its right on the
beach - who wants it!' Many locals after the harsh second world war, moved to
America or Australia seeking a better life. In time they
forgot about their family home. Gradually they have returned (often ironically
seeking a better life!) Property values of course have
greatly increased and the number of entitled owners grown. Often a family feud
has started over who should now claim ownership of the property. Some houses
have been divided but as time goes by and the generations get bigger, 10-20
people can easily be come the 'owner' and yet it only takes one to disagree to
what should be done and the deal is off. A lesson indeed to make sure that the
property you intend to buy is indeed owned by the alleged seller.
A dream home on Corfu can be
yours, but you need patience. Especially as it will not be until next month that
I will add another chapter to this guide!
The last day of November saw
the first sprinkle of snow over the distant mountains. It is still
surprisingly mild with warm sunny days - ideal for walking.
The Taverna is
now completely closed up. I pop down most days though just to keep an eye things
- and it gets me away from the computer! Normally I will visit Olga and we will
have a coffee together - or if it is after 9am, then an ouzo!
Some of you may have noticed
the small narrow building between the Toula Taverna and the end cottage on the
corner (Agni Cottage). Well, amazingly it is being converted into a small two
bed-roomed cottage. Local materials are being used and the renovation work is to
the highest standard ensuring that it will blend in with existing buildings. I
am told that Toula is furious!
To add a caption to this photo, follow this
December Caption Competition
Web Site News
cannot have missed it! Yes this winter's web site update has started. A new
navigation system has been added to aid finding information. New layouts using
style sheets to assist future updating, and a brand new chat system which is
causing a storm - it has sounds! If you have not experienced it yet, then you
are missing out. *Chat
We will spend
December adding new content and goodies to the web site. Thanks to Angela who
has been here in Corfu helping. Also thanks to Sofri from the Agni Travel office
who programmed the new menus and navigation system. He is planning to further
improve the system over the next few weeks - in between running the office of
Corfu During the Winter
the website, we spent some time visiting some of the resorts. Amazingly, my wife
Eleni had never visited Sidari before!
Roda - high street!
Villa Michael - Beyond our vision
30 September – 14th October 2003
Fuelled with excitement, we
boarded our Britannia flight with our friends Ian and Sally, who were looking
forward to their first ‘Corfu Experience’. Of course, for us, we were not only
looking forward to our holiday and meeting all our friends in Agni but also
seeing how Villa Michael was progressing.
We knew from Yiannis that excavation had been completed and work had started on
the concrete structure. However, due to the softness of the earth, the
foundations had to be dug deeper than first expected. As a result, the driveway
resembles a ‘bobsleigh run’ and now there is no way of accessing the garage by
With four up in a Renault Twingo, limping up the steep hill and thinking that
any minute Ian would have to get out and push, we arrived at Villa Michael and
WOW!! STEP BACK IN AMAZEMENT!! it is well and truly taking shape. The
construction looks SO BIG! It isn’t of course, it is quite modest in size but
looks far bigger than we imagined, which was a pleasant surprise.
To our delight, the fantastic panoramic views will be clearly seen from the
bedrooms on the ground floor. This is a bonus because we thought the scenery
would only be captured from the first floor. On this day the view was so clear
that you could see the small estuaries winding through the valleys and the
mountains were crisp and clear, despite the fact that there had been storms the
day before we arrived.
See the photo below and try to capture our feelings:
We immediately telephoned Yiannis to enthuse over the progress and the way the
Villa was shaping up. Yiannis suggested we meet on site to discuss the way
forward. This we did and in true Greek style WE turned up late. It wasn’t
intentional on our part but we were unfortunately stuck behind a coach who had
come face to face with another coach and as many of you will know, this caused a
major problem. Had we realised that there was a short cut, that we have now
found, from Agni to the Villa we would have taken it. This ‘hairy’ route starts
in Kentroma and cuts down the travelling time by more than half.
Yiannis and Fotis welcomed us and carefully explained how the build would
progress. Commencement of works was scheduled for June but didn’t start until
August due to our delay in setting up Power of Attorney to enable Spiros, our
Lawyer, to make stage payments on our behalf. Winter weather permitting we are
still looking at completion by the end of 2004, which is fine by us.
Our next meeting with Yiannis was at his office in Corfu Town, prior to which we
needed to get our heads around a number of matters. These being, the number and
position of electric points/telephone/tv/plumbing etc., So over a few glasses of
wine and a plate of Red Mullet, for brain power we took on the task, which once
started was quite time consuming and it’s amazing how many lights and sockets
During our meeting with Yiannis and Fotis, they guided us through our plans with
an enormous amount of patience and we eventually settled upon suitable cabling
and points for all the rooms. One major oversight though, which amused them, was
that we had totally forgotten to include wall switches, a rather crucial
omission, wouldn’t you say? All we need to do now is give some more thought to
the kitchen layout, as the design has not yet been finalised.
We now await some ideas for how best to utilise the existing garage space, and
the positioning of a garage suitable for housing a car rather than a toboggan!
The final task was to visit the Town Hall with Yiannis, during which we were
introduced to the Mayor, to complete the paperwork allowing Yiannis to connect
electricity and pay Greek Social Insurance contributions (IKA) on our behalf.
Well, that’s it for now. We had another fantastic holiday in Agni and Villa
Michael is progressing beyond our WILDEST DREAMS. Ian and Sally enjoyed their
stay so much that they are planning to return for a month next May and we’ll be
back in February to start choosing tiles, flooring, colours, windows, doors and
sanitary wear and we are sure many things we have not yet thought about ………….
It’s all SO EXCITING!
Bre & Al Wild
Corfu Resort Guide
Helping you choose where to stay.
Planning to visit Taverna Agni?
Corfu Holiday FAQs
Take a new look at our FAQ page.
How they are grown, collected and pressed on Corfu?
Properties with pools, traditional local houses and quiet apartments. Agni Travel can help you find your perfect holiday.
A Winter Visit
"Lazing on a beach in hot sunshine, dipping your toes in
the sea to cool down and eating in the local tavernas
for two whole weeks."
If this is your idea
of a holiday when visiting a Greek Island, or in this
case Corfu, then this chapter is not really for you.
Many of us have visited Corfu (or any other Greek Island
for that matter) and thought what it must be like in the
winter? When all the tourists have gone, how do the
local people live in the winter when they have their
Island back to themselves?
These two questions occur to me during every visit, and
this year I had the opportunity to find out. Graham and
I recently bought our own property in the village of
Kendroma above Agni Bay, and with our own apartment to
stay in, it made the accommodation situation easy for
me. However there are plenty of houses available for
winter rental with heating, which is definitely required
during the winter months. My visit was for six weeks,
through the whole of November and beginning of December,
maybe this was not the worst of the winter months, but
it certainly answered my questions and showed me Greek
I would mention that I spent this time on my own and
without transport in an old traditional Greek village,
very close to the sea and not far from our favourite
Agni bay. Of course the three Tavernas on Agni beach
were closed and I did not see a Taverna for miles around
that was open, but I did on many occasions have Agni
beach all to myself, apart from a few cats. On really
nice sunny days, especially on Sundays, there would be a
few of the local people down on the beaches fishing off
the end of the little piers and many little boats on the
sea, all trying to catch some fresh fish. Fishing seems
to be a very popular sport at the weekends when no-one
is working and the beaches and rocky coves are all free
from tourists, but then perhaps even the fish are more
laid back and easy to catch when the tourists are not
around! It was quite warm sitting in the sunshine and
there were many sunny days, not quite sunbathing
weather, but I did on the warmer days see people
swimming in the sea.
Our village, like most of the little Greek villages, is
on a bus route, so getting into Corfu town is not
difficult, but the bus service is limited and the last
returning bus is about 2.30pm in the winter months, so
visiting Corfu town has to be in the morning but there
is time enough to shop before catching the last bus home
and anyway the shops close at 2.30pm.
Of course cooking becomes an essential part of life with
no tavernas and no transport to go further a field.
There are some tavernas open which the local people use,
mainly at weekends. most of them are in the larger
resort areas such as Kassiopi and Acharavi especially,
and of course Corfu town, but without transport not even
those are available.
I had brought with me a book about Greek olive oil which
contained recipes. This proved very useful, the dishes
were delicious and simple to cook, I just had to make
sure that I stocked up on plenty of herbs and spices,
the vital ingredients to tasty Greek dishes. You can
also find some very tasty recipes in the Corfiot
magazine in the winter editions, if you come without a
book. So no ready meals, frozen pizzas, or takeaways,
just real Greek home cooking and very enjoyable it was.
For someone who does not like cooking at home, I really
I visited the local Kafenion, where I suprisingly found
many essential food items for sale. The local bakery is
down the road in the next village. On Wednesday and
Saturday the vegetable van arrived in the village square
and I would walk up and sit in the warm sunshine with
the older Greek ladies and await it’s arrival whilst
admiring the stunning views towards Corfu town (on one
or two occasion I had to do this in the rain, but it had
no effect on the views, they were still stunning!!). The
ladies would greet me and try to tell me the names of
some of the vegetables, I just wish my Greek was better
and I could have chatted with them. One Wednesday even
the fish van came , they pointed him out to me and
explained that he was selling fresh fish, so it was not
difficult to get supplies and trips to the town were not
needed very often.
If you bear in mind that you have to cook for yourself
in the winter months, and buy the produce, this takes up
some of your time. Visiting friends and people you may
have met in the summer is also very enjoyable because
they have time to talk and spend time with you and
people who would normally be very busy in the summer are
at last taking it easy and much more relaxed and they
make you so very welcome.
My Greek neighbours are very friendly and they also made
me feel very welcome, although their English is limited
and my Greek even more limited, we were still able to
convey a friendliness and I never really felt alone. I
am sure, should I have needed help in any way they would
have been only too pleased to assist.
A hobby or an interest of some kind makes a winter visit
even more fulfilling such as painting, writing, reading
and weather permitting, walking and the all popular
fishing. Even just relaxing and taking life easy in
general can be fulfilling and an escape from the hectic
life and work at home. I had no television and I did not
miss it, although it is available in some of the winter
lets. I will of course confess to my one piece of
‘technology’ that I did have and that was my PC!! (well
just how do you live without one in this day and age!!!)
I was helping Nathan with his winter update on the
website, which made my visit very interesting and
occupied some of my time. Websites, PC technology and
communication, are of my indoor interests and hobby,
however, without it I really feel I could have still
filled my time with the other interests that I have
mentioned. Of course not many people would visit alone,
and with such warm and friendly hospitality, not all of
my time was spent alone, but with a partner or
companion, even some old fashioned games would pass away
the dark, cooler evenings, I had to play them on the
It is an excellent time of year to walk, and I spent
many hours walking the coastal footpaths, visiting many
beaches that I had seen so busy and full in the summer
months. You can have every beach on the North East coast
to yourself if you are lucky, but you may find one or
two people around on the good days. I also walked up
into the hills, where it is far too hot to walk in the
summer and the views are fantastic. You can see so much
more of life on foot than in a car. Walking up into the
hills is a fantastic experience, it is nothing like the
hard work it is in the summer heat and it is surprising
how quickly you are high up into the mountains exploring
the quiet and in some cases deserted mountain villages,
a part of Corfu that some people never get to see.
So next time you wonder what it is like in the winter,
save some of those well earned holidays and give Corfu a
try in the winter months. I do believe that if you love
Corfu, the countryside, reading, writing, painting,
fishing, the simple things in life and all that nature
has to offer, then you would really love a winter visit.
Agni Travel is
currently offering suitable properties for winter
rental. Contact Sofri at the Agni Travel office for
Driving to Corfu
In the very early months of this year,
2003, having read some of the posts on the message
boards about driving to Corfu, we were quite surprised
as to how many people had actually made this journey.
Having read Nathan's write up of his own experience of
this journey and wanting to take some goods out to our
house, we were encouraged to give it a go and drive
there ourselves. As an update to Nathan's report this is
how we did it, as a guide I have given the costs but
this is a guide only as there are various options, and
of course prices change. I hope the report is of
interest and useful to others who may be thinking of
making this journey.
We decided to go at Easter, as we could
then include some bank holidays along with those
precious leave days from work giving us a two and a half
week holiday using only nine days works leave. Our
journey may not have been the shortest or the cheapest
way of driving to Corfu, but since we have done it, we
now realise that there is no one set way of making this
journey, it can be as short/long, cheap/expensive as you
wish to make it. We bought a copy of ‘Philip’s
Multiscale Europe 2003’ maps which we found very clear
and simple to use.
We left England on (UK) Good Friday
afternoon about 4.00pm from Long Eaton in Derbyshire and
drove to Harwich where we took the night ferry to Hook
of Holland, arriving about 7.00am Saturday morning. We
booked a cabin at a cost of about 60 GBP for two people
(single journey), in addition to the standard fare for a
car and 2 people of 105 GBP (single journey). The cost
can be reduced by not taking the cabin and booking an
aircraft type seat for about 10 GBP per person (single
journey). Having had a meal, a good nights sleep and a
good breakfast (meals are included on this ferry) we
could then enjoy a full days driving feeling quite
refreshed. This is not the cheapest way to cross the
channel, the short crossing to France would have been
cheaper as cabins would not have been needed but
crossing the channel very much depends on where you are
starting your journey from in the UK, and how far you
wish to drive before taking your first stop. What is
saved on a crossing would probably be spent on an extra
nights stop in Europe. We felt it was important to
consider how long we would be driving for and as a
safety issue not be feeling too tired at the start of
the drive through Europe.
Arriving in Hook on the Saturday morning,
we drove south through Holland passing through Breda and
into Germany through to Koln. We drove for most of the
day passing through Frankfurt, Wurzburg, Nurnberg, and
Munchen stopping at the motorway services two or three
times. If cost is important we would recommend using
the shops on the services for sandwiches and snacks,
coffee is also available, as it is much cheaper than
using the café/restaurants. By the end of the day we
were in the south of Germany and now very close to the
Austrian border. We stopped in the evening for a meal in
a lovely restaurant in the small town of Rosenheim and
would recommend making this an overnight stop. There
are many B&B accommodations in this area, so it would
not be difficult to find accommodation out of the
season, perhaps booking would be advisable in the busy
Summer season. Accommodation could also be taken at
many of the Motorway service areas. (I do not know the
cost for these rooms - we slept in the car overnight as
we did not want to leave a car loaded with goods
including computer equipment unattended for the night).
This is another part of the journey where the cost can
be reduced by sleeping in the car, but taking into
account the amount of driving done during the day and
the remaining amount to be done, we would recommend
taking a room for a proper nights rest as we did on the
The following morning we woke at dawn to
see the beautiful Austrian mountains in front of us
topped with snow. A really beautiful sight and quite a
surprise as it was dark by the time we had left the
restaurant and parked up the previous evening. We had a
really early start with staying in the car, so we were
off on the road again at about 6.30am after coffee and a
wash and brush up in the service station. The toilet
facilities in the services were excellent, and nowhere
appeared to be very busy. Had we taken a room for the
night we would probably have had a little later start
about 8.00am. We had pre booked the Venice–Corfu ferry
which left at 3.00pm on the Sunday afternoon, so an
early start was needed, especially as we later found out
that we had misjudged the mileage on the last stretch of
the journey by about 100 miles.
We continued the journey into Austria,
which was the best part of the journey, through Salzburg
and on towards Villach near the Italian border. The
scenery was breathtaking, as we drove through valleys
and snow capped mountain passes. We passed by some of
the ski-ing areas in the little Alpine villages of
Austria and if we could make a leisurely journey with
plenty of time to spare we would certainly consider
stopping and visiting some of the lovely villages in
this area and in the South of Germany. However, we had
a ferry to catch and had to continue, so after passing
through many tunnels and mountain passes we continued
until we arrived at villach, it is here where we turn
right for Italy and left for Slovenija, so we had to
make sure we took the correct slip road on the motorway
as we did not have time to make any mistakes !!
We managed to get it right and passed
over the border into Italy where we stopped for a coffee
and very late breakfast break at the motorway services
in Italy, the standard of which is not as good as the
German and Austrian services. This is were Graham had a
brain malfunction as he suddenly declared “we are going
the wrong way” the blood drained from his face as he
looked up and said “the sun is in the wrong place, it
should be over there”. He had driven along way and as I
was the one reading the map, following every twist and
turn in the road and reading every sign, I had no doubt
as to which direction we were going. So I just stared at
him and replied that if he wished to continue the
journey using the SUN as a guide to getting to Venice he
could do so – on his own – as I was going to stay with
the map !! (I think for a moment, he thought he was a
Greek – an Ancient Greek!!)
It is the mountain passes that made the
distance look much less on the map where the roads twist
and turn through the mountains (and where the sun
appears in the wrong place !!) and this is why we
misjudged the remaining distance by about 100 miles. As
we did not have much time to spare for this stop we
stood outside in the bright morning sunshine, drank our
coffee and was soon away again for the remaining part of
We continued on – in the right direction
- towards Udine where the motorway splits left for
Trieste and right for Venice, the last leg!! Not much
further to go now and we were really looking forward to
seeing Venice as neither of us had been before.
We arrived in Venice at about 11.30am in
good time to catch the ferry. Boarding time was about
1.00pm, we had made it in perfect time, but should
anything have gone wrong we would have struggled to make
it. It would perhaps be advisable to leave a little
more time to reach the ferry but it worked out perfect
for us. We had no time to visit Venice but did not have
to wait long before it was time to board to ferry. Not
being able to visit Venice was not that much of a
disappointment as when the ferry pulled away it sailed
right along the Grand Canal and you could see all of
Venice in front of you from the deck of the ferry!! It
was fantastic, a real birds eye view and it is well
worth taking the ferry for the sail around Venice.
The ferry is like a small cruise ship,
with bars, restaurants (al a carte and self service)
spacious lounges, a large sun deck and swimming pool.
It is a 24 hour journey to Corfu so we booked a cabin,
which really bumps the price of the journey up, at a
cost of 175 GBP per person return. This is an option and
it is possible to take an Aircraft type seat for 83 GBP
per person return or a deck passenger ticket for 63 GBP
return. In addition to these prices is the vehicle cost
of 77 GBP return for a normal vehicle up to 5.5 metres
in length. If travelling as a deck passenger I think
that you would have to sleep on the outside decks as we
did see people on the deck in sleeping bags the
After a very relaxing afternoon, a much
needed shower, a nice evening meal and a good nights
sleep, we awoke the following morning, had breakfast and
went up onto the deck of the ship. It would have been
about 10.30am by this time and we were by then cruising
along the Albanian coastline and there was Corfu and her
Northern Islands clearly ahead of us. We passed Agni
bay at about 11.30am, as the Minoan ferry does most
mornings at about this time and at this point usually
passes the sister ship going in the opposite direction.
The ships always acknowledge each other with a blast on
the horn, and can often be heard when lazing on Agni
beach. As the boat unloads at Igouminitsa first, it is
about 2.30pm before we finally arrived at Corfu docks.
As a guide to the distance and the actual
cost of the trip, our mileage was 945 miles from Harwich
to Venice and the same again on the return as we took
exactly the same route. The Petrol cost was
approximately 200 GBP (using a 4x4 Diesel Engine
vehicle) including the return journey, bearing in mind
that Diesel is very much cheaper in Europe than in the
UK. We had taken single journey tickets on the
Harwich–Hook ferry as we were unsure as to the time we
would be crossing on the journey back. On the return
journey we crossed during the day, so a cabin was not
necessary, the cost was approximately 30 GBP per person
and 40 GBP for the vehicle. We also had a Bed and
Breakfast stop on the return journey (I would not
recommend sleeping in the car) at a cost of 60 GBP for
two people. The rooms on the Motorway I believe would be
less than this.
The total cost of our journey was
therefore approximately 952 GBP plus meals and snacks on
route at 2003 prices. These prices are only a guide and
will vary according to the time of year and current
When comparing the costs with flying, the
summer charter flights are obviously the cheapest, but
travelling out of season we estimated the air fare via
Athens to be about 260 GBP each, but do not forget to
take into account about 250 GBP car hire for 2 weeks and
about 100 GBP for airport car parking, then the cost is
not so much more than travelling by air.
It was a wonderful experience, a lovely
journey with so much to see on route even without
stopping and visiting places of interest. We shall
certainly be making this journey again next year and as
soon as we can spare the time we shall do it over a much
longer length of time and visit some of those places of
interest on the way. I think on that occasion it will
probably take us about a week or more to get to Corfu.
‘phone vibrated like an angry bee, waggling its rump in a circular war-dance on
my dressing table. The insistent beeping woke me from a deep sleep at 6.00 am. A
laryngitic cockerel was already heralding the approaching new day, although a
good hour before sunrise. Looking blearily out of my cabin window I could just
discern a lightening of the sky, a dull purple glow over the mountains and hills
of Albania four nautical miles across the sea from our anchorage in Kassiopi
harbour. Lights were still sparkling like fireflies in the small town of
Sarandes. On the misty silhouette of the dark hillsides strips of brush fires
glowed at intervals like the veins of Etna.
Sliding out of bed my feet bumped heavily on the floor, our double bed on
‘Sarava’ is cabin-style with a cushioned bench seat half-way down its side,
necessitating a two stage descent for those of small stature. I picked up my
phone and went outside into the cockpit. The air was full of the scents and
sounds of Kassiopi waking up. Freshly made bread and cinnamon from the bakery in
the main street, jasmine on the table, picked the day before from the wall by
the bins at one of the harbour-side restaurants where it thrives amongst the
smell of rubbish, with the biggest and most highly scented flowers of any plant
on the island. It was as if the plant was striving with all its might to
overpower the malodorous garbage. Mingled with these scents were those of pine,
eucalyptus, juniper, myrtle and curry plant from the dew-damp trees and shrubs
growing along the coast path and around the point leading to the white pebble
beach. Wafts of salty air moved over the placid sea, now ribboned with pink and
“Message received” said my ‘phone. “R u up? Dave & I want b.fast & K * not open
til 8, starving, luv Rory”.
Reply: “Yes, come 2 boat 4 b.fast. Gr8. C u, luv Mummy”. Rory had a summer job
in the most popular bar in the town, working as a disc-jockey. As the bar did
not close until dawn, breakfast always preceded bed in his case.
And thus my Panayia Day had begun. On August 15th each year Kassiopi celebrates
with a feast day in honour of its patron saint, The Virgin Mary. All the
townspeople are involved, either in the church procession, the service,
catering, decorating or simply dressing in their best to enjoy the festivities.
I threw on my bikini, wrapped a sarong around my waist, brushed my hair and
teeth, grabbed some large sunglasses to cover my early-morning eyes, squirted
some scent on my neck and appeared to meet the boys as if this was all perfectly
normal at that hour of the day.
As Rory cooked bacon and eggs in the galley I sat watching the sea, the colours
disappearing. Just before the huge, scarlet sun peeped over the hills, the water
turned almost white, pearlised and opalescent, smooth as silk, only the gentle
lapping on the rocks of the quayside betraying that it was moving at all. Mr.K
walked briskly to his supermarket at his usual time, 6.45, stopping to chat with
Andreas the fisherman who hopped into his little boat, plastic bag in hand
(breakfast perhaps) bad-tempered because his pre-dawn catch had been, “Ena!” one
A solitary cicada warmed up with its scratchy overture, soon followed by another
until the olive trees on land were a cacophony of raucous noise. The sleek
coastguard boat sped across the water, patrolling the area like a grey predator,
looking for smugglers or illegal immigrants from Albania. Sometimes these poor
souls would swim for freedom to the tempting shores of Corfu, or cram into tiny
and often un-seaworthy craft in a desperate attempt to escape the poverty of
life in their country. The guards would bring their boat alongside, hovering
just within reach of the quay. One smartly uniformed and fit looking young
officer would leap athletically from the bow onto the jetty and head off
determinedly in the direction of the nearest taverna to pick up a takeaway
breakfast. Meanwhile the vessel hovered on the water, engines revving, churning
white foam around its sides, waiting impatiently for its passenger’s return. I
witnessed this operation so often and in so many locations, sometimes at
suppertime, sometimes lunchtime, that I wondered if the crew telephoned their
order ahead of their arrival to ensure a swift collection. Laden with plastic
bags full of hot food the guard jumped aboard like a ship’s cat, disappeared
into the bowels of the boat and off it roared into the distance leaving a frothy
trail and the smell of charcoal grilled kebabs in its wake.
Suddenly, from behind the headland, the huge bows of the Minoan Lines high-speed
ferry appeared, smart in its red and white livery, lights still twinkling,
gliding majestically and almost silently from Venice, looking like a child’s
toy. The wash followed a while after, black rolls of water approaching
menacingly, crashing onto the jagged rocks of the breakwater and over the top,
sending the small sailing boats next to us into a frenzy of excited movement,
bobbing and rolling madly. I meanwhile, on our lovely stable catamaran, merely
rocked as gently as a baby in its cradle.
There is no music more suitable for watching a sunrise, in my opinion, than the
first track of “Songs of Sanctuary” by Adiemus. Most mornings I start the day
with this playing through the earphones of my mini-disc recorder. This morning,
right on cue, a tiny kingfisher plopped onto one of our mooring ropes, bobbed up
and down a couple of times, peering into the water intently as the rising sun
lit up the turquoise feathering on his back. A group of small fish were circling
nearby, their tiny heads poking up out of the sea, mouths agape; were they
taking in air or catching drowning flies? The Greek name for kingfisher is
Halcyon, a mythical bird believed to have had the power to calm the waves at the
time of the winter solstice when it nested at sea. Hence our modern-day
expression, “ halcyon days”, the seven days before and the seven days after
St.Thomas’s Day, the 14th to the 28th December, which would denote a calm and
tranquil period in winter. In Ancient Greece a dead kingfisher was hung up as a
protection against lightning. Last year in exactly this same spot near the
harbour wall I had spotted a large shape gliding through the water close to our
boat. Jumping up quickly onto the decks slippery with dew, I saw a beautiful
dolphin, much bigger than any I had seen before, cruising slowly and peacefully
around the harbour before heading out to the open sea and disappearing up the
sparkling gold reflection of the early morning sun.
The church bell called the faithful to prayer, echoing solemnly around the
harbour and little town. I dressed quickly, not wanting to miss the start of the
procession. First came the papas, the priest, followed by dignitaries of the
church, the choir and congregation, then the enchanting little girls, all in
white, to represent the Virgin Mary. I made my way through the crowd until I was
able to squeeze into the church. The air-conditioning was on full throttle and
inside it was as cold as the grave. The floor was littered with fresh bay
leaves, in Greek legend the tree was made sacred by Apollo who, having slain the
dragon Python, bathed in the river and cut laurel sprigs from its banks. He then
marched triumphant into Delphi crowned with the leaves. From then on the bay
became a symbol of purity, victory and glory. The laurel wreath is still used
today as the crowning glory for victors which originated at the first Olympic
Games. It was used to ward against bad luck and illness and the leaves are
always strewn on church floors by the Corfiots when a village celebrates its
saint’s day. The scent of the leaves crushed under the feet of the worshippers
mingled with the magical and mysterious smell of incense and the fresh basil
which smothered the altar. Basil is also considered sacred in the Greek Orthodox
Church, it is said to have grown where St.Helen discovered the Holy Cross. The
clumps of emerald green basil were liberally interspersed with kumquat-coloured
marigolds for happiness.
Having followed the queue to the altar and said a prayer, I imitated my fellow
congregation by helping myself to a small sprig of basil and a solitary
marigold. Feeling a trifle guilty, as if I were committing an act of
desecration, I salved my conscience by telling myself that I would put my little
bouquet in water on the boat and it would survive and be admired for many days
instead of withering on the altar and ending up in an ecclesiastical rubbish
bin. I did not, however, stoop to kiss the pictures of the Blessed Virgin and
various saints surrounding the icon for reasons of hygiene.
On leaving the church the heat hit me like a blanket and my eyes were dazzled by
the bright white sunlight. I jostled with the throng surrounding the picturesque
little church, periodically being grabbed, hugged and kissed on both cheeks when
I was recognised and greeted with the words, “Chronia pola!” (long life)
sometimes by friends, sometimes by complete strangers. It was a heartwarming, if
hot and sticky, gesture and I felt very much part of this small community,
honoured by their acceptance of me into the fold and by their display of genuine
“Ella, ella Mrs.Jani!” boomed a rich, deep voice from the front of the crowd.
“Come to take some Holy Bread!” It was a well-known restaurateur who had spotted
my familiar straw hat bobbing amongst the dark-haired locals. My hand was
unceremoniously grasped and I was dragged, hanging onto my hat for dear life, to
the front of a long queue. “We can’t push in like this”, I remonstrated with my
benefactor. “Oh yes we can, yous English so yous don’t have to queues up”.
Everyone was smiling so I smiled back nervously and was handed a hunk of bread
by one of church elders. This is a special bread baked for this holy day and
flavoured with aniseed. During the rest of the day I was plied with more and
more pieces of bread from acquaintances and friends alike, obviously concerned
that I may have missed out. Everyone on ‘Sarava’ enjoyed this bounty and for the
following few days we discovered that this bread was even more delicious when
popped under the grill, resulting in the mildly blasphemous nick-name of, “Holy
We busied ourselves for the rest of the day decorating the boat. Leafy branches,
flowers and long strands of a wild creeper with pretty heart-shaped leaves were
used to enhance the cockpit. Miranda made very realistic carnations of white
Kleenex tissues to add to the greenery. The male members of the crew hoisted
yards of signal flags over the top of the mast and Rory attached tiny white
fairy-lights to the rigging. By sunset ‘Sarava’ was dressed overall and I felt
her glowing with pride.
On the harbourside preparations had been in full swing. A stage had been
erected, tables and chairs had been positioned, whole lambs were roasting on
spits, the aroma of barbequing meat basted with olive oil and stuffed with fresh
rosemary had been tantalising us since lunchtime. Hundreds of bottles of wine
stood open and ready on long trestle tables. Cans of soft drinks and bottles of
mineral water were at the ready, keeping cool in large, portable, refrigerated
The crowd had assembled, the band struck up its first jolly Greek number and the
dancing began. From tiny children to octogenarians the dancing group filled the
area, circles within circles until it made you dizzy to watch. Even the papas
joined in, black robes flying as he whirled and twirled, arms held high, holding
the hands of his neighbours on both sides.
I looked over the crowds to ‘Sarava’, sitting quietly on the water, maintaining
her dignity, despite the gently fluttering bunting and the twinkling
fairy-lights. Jeremy’s comment that she looked like a garden centre at Christmas
was ignored by the rest of us. Suddenly a rocket flew up into the night sky,
right by ‘Sarava’s’ mooring ropes, it exploded into a million gold stars to
ecstatic shrieks and cheers from the revellers. It lit the sky and everything
below it. The second firework was heading skywards as Jeremy shot off towards
the boat shouting, “Cinders!” Wondering if midnight had arrived, my ballgown had
changed to rags and my coach had reverted to a pumpkin, I looked blank and
watched him running towards the boat. Then the penny dropped. The red-hot ash,
sparks and glowing debris from the fireworks were falling out of the sky and
‘Sarava’ was directly underneath. Constructed of fibreglass this could spell
disaster in the form of a fire on board or at best damage to her cream coloured
Family and friends were soon roped in to assist. It was really a case of “All
hands on deck” as we pounced on the cinders as they landed, squashing them with
wet cloths or simply tipping water on them.
Inside the boat was how I imagine being caught in an earthquake to feel,
thunderous noise, the whole craft reverberating with each explosion and
shuddering with aftershock. I scooped my small King Charles Cavalier Spaniel
into my arms and ran down into my cabin. He looked very frightened and was
trembling. I put him on my bed and put the earphones of my Walkman into his
ears. He immediately relaxed and lay quietly for the duration of the display, me
lying beside him. Regardless of my family’s disapproval at my musical
preferences, all I can say is that, on this occasion, Sir Cliff undoubtedly
saved the day.
The December issue of 'Pulse' which is the Anglican Church
monthly newsletter has been added to the site. Just follow this link:
The December Pulse
Have you ever spotted one of these on the
road side? Next month, we will tell you what they are
Villa Anastasia, Sinies - Above Agios Stephanos
Sleeps 3-7 people, from 1652 Euros per week
This exceptional house with private swimming pool stands amongst olive trees above the coastal road, with breathtaking sea views. The Villa is fully air conditioned villa and is the latest addition to our listing.
Kerasia Beach Villas - Kerasia
Sleeps 2-4 each, from 441 Euros per week
This unique villa positioned in a stunning location, with direct access to one of the north east coast’s best (blue flagged) beaches, is well sought after. Kerasia is a long and curved elegant bay, fringed with lofty trees almost hiding the few buildings behind this lovely shore. With clear sea and good swimming this is perfect for a mid morning dip or snorkel.
Geronimos House - Loustri, Agni
Sleeps 4-6, from 588 Euros per week
The Geromimos house is divided into to separate very spacious apartments - upper and lower, and have a stunning shared swimming pool which is just opposite. There is the
and Lower level>> .
The apartments are identical, but the lower level is more suitable for those with children as it is on the ground floor. Geronimos are also available for winter rental.