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Pass through the main part of the town and head out into Corfu’s lush and verdant
countryside of olive, orange, and lemon trees. Your destination is the village of Gastouri,
where you will visit the Achilleion—the mansion built by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria
and later owned by Kaiser Wilhelm II. Its beautiful gardens and statues have been left
intact for visitors to admire.
Your next visit will be The Mon Repo Palace, built for the
second British Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands,
Sir Frederic Adam in 1828. It was then utilized as the summer
residence of the High Commissioner, while their official
Residence was the Palace of St. Michael and St. George in Corfu itself. Many other
important personalities stayed in the Palace after the Ionian Islands were ceded to
Greece after 1864 whereupon it was donated to the Greek royal family. In fact, the
second son of King George I, George II was born here in 1869. In 1900, the wedding
of Princess Maria, daughter of King George I and Olga, took place here when she married the Archduke Georgio
Mihailovic of Russia. The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip was born (1921) and baptized here. The Greek Royal
family spent their summer holidays at Mon Repo, hosting their guests (Tito of Jugoslavia, Haile Selasie of
Ethiopia, Nasser of Egypt etc.)
Once in the Old Quarter of Corfu Town, the coaches drop you off in front of
the Old Venetian Fortress (14th Century – UNESCO World Heritage), opposite
the central “Esplanade Square”. Whilst your coach awaits at this point for your
return, your guide takes you on a beautiful walking tour of the historic center
of the Old Corfu Town. Walking around in the maze of winding narrow
cobbled streets are known as “kandounia”, you visit some of the most elegant
quarters of this Venetian-built town, which competes with Napoli, Florence
and Venice in terms of beauty, style, character, and charm. Walking along the old cricket grounds – a tradition
leftover by the British – you see the Royal Palace of St. George & St. Michael,
an imposing building built entirely of yellow Maltese stone by the first British
Commissioner of the island, the spectacular arcades of the Liston Piazza, a
down-sized replica of the Rue de Rivoli of Paris, built by the French in the 19th
century – before heading into the heart of the old town. You visit the 300-year
old Church of Saint Spiridon with its priceless collection of icons and gifts
offered to the Patron Saint of the Island, explore the old flee-market, passing
by the old Town Hall and you find yourself in the busy shopping district.
Following your tour, the next stop will be at Kanoni, from where you will enjoy some excellent views of the Convent
of Vlacherna and the picturesque Mouse Island. It is synonymous with the image of Corfu, one of its most
famous landscapes and the one found in the lyrics of multiple songs! Of course, it is the one and
only Pontikonisi, the small island at the entrance of the ancient Ellaiko port were, the Lagoon of
Chalikiopoulos is today.
Pontikonisi is a verdant area, full of tall cypress trees and other plants of rare beauty. For this reason, this
the island is considered a natural monument and it is not allowed for visitors to disembark there, but only for a
a little while and under strict surveillance by guards.
The name Pontikonisi derives from its shape because if someone sees it from high above, it looks like a small
animal (mouse)! According to the myth, Pontikonisi was the ship of Odysseus which was transformed into a
rock by Poseidon, as he was furious with the resourceful king of Ithaca, in order to prevent him once more from
returning to his homeland.
During the 18th century, during the reign of King Otto, the Monastery of Pantokratoras was built
in Pontikonisi, which is ruined today, with a church devoted to the Metamorfosis of Sotiros which celebrates
on the 6th of August. On this day, as an exception, visitors are allowed access to the island for religious
Today Pontikonisi is under the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Kerkyraion which built the little
pier for boats that depart from Panagia in Vlaherna.
However, the best view towards Pontikonisi is from Kanoni: In front
of you is the serene sea, the picturesque Panagia in Vlaherna and in
the background of the Pontikonisi. What makes this experience unique,
are the aircraft which are passing very close to it, during their take-
off or landing, on the airport of Corfu which is nearby.
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