Kerkyra Experience - Day 1

Trip Start Feb 28, 2011
Trip End May 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Maltezos Hotel Gouvia
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Roamed the Island

Flag of Greece  , Ionian Islands,
Friday, May 20, 2011

All right, where do I begin... Just as The Script said, “This is the End where I begin”.
Now I am in Ioannina, waiting for the bus to Kozani, which, as it turns out, is just tomorrow morning (despite that on the Ioannina Ktel Website says every two hours until 20:30). Luckily, there's a bus for Thessaloniki at 20:30, which, although does not have Kozani in its itinerary, follows the A2 Egnatia Odos motorway that passes Kozani at a (Google maps says - don't believe Greek internet) 5-6 kms distance. hopefully I will be able to convince the driver to drop me off at the nearest junction and then walk home in an hour or so.
So, I am back from the first leg of my Ionian Experience, three days in Corfu, or Kerkyra in Greek. All-in-all I must conclude that it has been an amazing trip, with a lot of ups and few downs. I was not alone - unusual for me on these kinds of trips - as I was accompanied by my Romanian roommate from Kozani.
After a 10€ taxi ride from Kozani to the near village of Drepano (long-distance bus network of Greece is not quite effective…), we hopped onto the Thessaloniki-Igoumenitsa bus. After a relaxing three-hour, mostly motorway drive (which I spent “reading” an audiobook – The Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven) we arrived to the port of Igoumenitsa, the major port-town of the Greek Ionian coast, with daily ferries to multiple cities in Italy (at least the advertising boards said so, though I tend not to become a victim to all of them, having spent three gruelling :p months in Greece). 

It was really easy to find tickets for Kerkyra, as the ticket offices were right on the embankment and the price was even lower (5€) than the price I had been quoted on the internet. Nieras mixed-use ferry took us to the capital of Corfu Island, Corfu Town. Green-blue clear and indulging waters (The port was moderately clean given its size – a pleasant surprise btw).Our teacher was kind enough to book us a hotel in advance, we just had to find some wheels to get it, as it was in the near town of Gouvia. The wheels came on the chassis of a Matiz in couple of minutes. A couple minutes later and quite a few euros lighter,   “outward bound”!
 Hotel Maltezos is typical Greek Hotel, I suspect owned by the very welcoming, slightly ageing couple that welcomed us and checked us in. It had small but nice outside pool, but I did not have the chance to try it because of the nearness of sooo much sea! Neat, western stlye breakfast, eat-as-much-as-you-can.

The first day was dedicated to mapping the area and, of course to have a “csobb” in the sea. With myself being the driver, our first route was into Kerkya Town center (or kentpo). Most likely I would compare the old center of Kerkyra to Venice or (evidently) the small Greek island (Skiathos, as I recall) I visited 5 years ago, during my first encounter with Zeusland. The very (I mean VERY) narrow streets are at least a hundred years old (or at least they look like – too bad if not) painted in the usual light and pale colours of the islands with angular, Greek style windows and, despite the sizeable tourist body that frequents it every year, well kept. If you stroll away from the regular path, you would find divine calm and silence with your face gently brushed by the salty sea breeze, trying to figure out when was the last time you were enchanted. Then, you would only be disturbed by the meow-miaus and the vau-woofs of the 52nd squadron of the Greek adorable feed-me-I-bite-you-in-return street-animal army. (I think Kozani proudly leads the “per capita list”) Given the streets’ minute size, the entire centre (quite a respectable land area, actually) is a pedestrian-only zone. This pattern is only broken by the few mopeds that deliver goods. The main arteries are stuffed with international travel-junk, but you can find a few very nice and well-kept authentic clothes-shops, jewellery-smiths and even a few fur-smiths (mexa in Greek, I think).  

After a quick and very delicious bite on the promenade, we left the kentpo for a yet-not –chosen beach. [I managed to get on the Ioannina-Thessaloniki bus. I can see there are still patches of snow on the surrounding peaks. Wonder how high they must be. Cold spring this year…] After a bit of exploring around and puzzling our way out of the maze of roads Kerkyra town is and the absolutely chaotic traffic (They are like entropy. Like gas molecules, in the event of a collision, they just change direction and accelerate!) The “impeccable” gearbox of the rental car did not help either. Now I am staring to understand why we do not see Matiz’ in Formula One… But I am sure our car would not have problems with the “one gearbox per six races” rule. It has served at least a thousand times that so far…

Issou beach (I am convinced I just have misspelled that one…) turned out to be our final destination. The beach was amazing, arguably amongst the most posh ones I have explored so far. And that includes Hawaii… Okay, maybe Issou does not beat Maui, but certainly can sit at the same table with Pensacola beach, Florida, with head held high. The beach was covered with a sand so soft, I would have labelled it as trap sand. I still haven’t decided upon if it was brought or natural, but it was at least one meter deep. It is difficult to compare seas, but I must say I liked the Ionian (my first encounter, if we count the Adriatic separately) better than the Aegean. It seemed more pure, more turquoise than blue. And it was soooo….cold! I talked myself round to get into it and now I would regret it if I would not have. Luckily, I had my swimming goggles on me so I could explore the crystal clear seabed, thriving with sparkling fishes, ranging from a few centimetres up to 20-30 cms long. They came in white colour mostly, but I saw a few orange ones too. They tended to be larger and in the more open. I forgot to buy a disposable underwater camera again, so now underwater shots as my EOS cannot swim. As Issou was a well-isolated beach, away from settlements, the sunset was very picturesque. The sea and its sand army would watch this red giant ball die again and again, hoping for a better tomorrow. Just as Greece does.

[Just arrived home, in the mean time - Hazaértem, persze. A folyamat során mondjuk hivatalosan is jármű lettem, miután 2km-t tettem meg autópályán, fő meghajtásként a lábamat használva. Miután nem kis erőfeszítés árán sikerült az english-deutsch-francais-italiano-magyar? vízválasztó kérdésemre rendíthetetlenül és megingathatatlanul egy stabil "ohi"-val válaszoló sofőrt meggyőznöm, hogy már pedig én muszáj a Kozanihoz legközelebb eső kijáratnál leszálljak, ott az autópályán,  már csak 6km választott el a megváltó, hirtelen a kirándulás trófeájává előléptetett ágyikótól. Nagy szerencsémre a motivációval nem volt problémám, erről a környező telkek, magukat egyszerű kutyának álcázó, kiéheztetett farkasfalkái is alaposan megbizonyodtak. Így hát Marie Jones művét szószerint értelmezve, kövekkel a zsebemben viharzottam hazafele. Az bemelegítést egy ilyen kaliberű sétára még Igoumenitsában megejtettem. Történt ugyanis, hogy besétáltam a buszállomásra, egyensen az ablakhoz. Homéroszt és Shakespeare-t egyaránt túlszárnyaló angol-görög nyelvmixet felvonultatva, kértem egy diákjegyet Ioanninaba, hozzátéve, hogy nekem görög diákigazolványom van és kártyával fizetném. A túloldalon addig féistenként pöffeszkedő úriember arcán kirajzolódó redőkből kiolvasni véltem, hogy ez a mennyiségű információ túl sok volt így egyszerre. Aztán hamarosan kiderült, hogy nem hogy kártyával nem lehet fizetni, de még pénzzel is csak egész jegyért és busz előtt tíz perccel. Há mondom, no problemo, akkor hol itt a bankomat? Hát olyan itt nincsen. Akkor hol van? A központban. Mivel az ide 2km-re van, ha siet az úrfi, még visszaérhet a buszra...]

I will shortly follow with the adventures of the other two days with more swimming, Sissi’s Achilleion Palace and scenic vista of Kerkyra after a rocky “drum forestier” ride with an ATV!

22nd of May 2011
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