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Published: July 17th 2019
We field an early morning call from Issy’s mum and her brother Tony. Issy tells her Mum that she’d get very fit going to church here in Greece, as all the churches seem to be at the tops of mountains. We’ve noticed that Greek monasteries are often on mountains, but this gets us wondering if the churches in the monasteries are only for the monks; perhaps ordinary Greeks go to other less noticeable churches at more manageable altitudes. We briefly consider ringing Issy’s Mum back to reassure her that if she moved here she’d probably still be able to go to church without needing to invest in mountaineering gear, but after further careful thought we conclude that perhaps it’s not all that likely that Issy’s Mum would ever want to move to Greece, so we decide to move onto thinking about more mundane things, such as what we’re going to have for breakfast.
We open the balcony door to the sound of steady rain. It sounds like beaches are going to be off the agenda again today, so we decide to pay a visit to the Corfu Donkey Rescue Centre, which is only a few kilometres away. The newly acquired
SIM card on Issy’s phone has decided to give up on communicating with the world, so we need to rely on more rudimentary measures to track down our destination.
The donkey centre was established in 2004, mainly to cater for donkeys who were too old or sick to be able to work, and it was then too much of a financial burden for their owners to continue to care for them. We see signs in the car park asking people not to dump cats and dogs here as the centre was not designed to take them, but it’s now overflowing with them anyway; it adds that donkeys are however always welcome. I don’t understand how anybody could just dump a poor animal anywhere, even here, but clearly we’re not all wired the same way. The centre is run almost entirely by volunteers, a lot of them from Germany, and one of them gives us a guided tour. There could be more than 40 donkeys here at any one time, and as well as the cats and dogs, they also have horses, roosters and a rabbit. They’ve been unable to get any funding from the Greek government despite repeated requests,
so rely on donations, mainly from organisations in Germany, The Netherlands and England, as well as from visitors. A small animal vet in Corfu Town looks after the cats, dogs, rabbit and roosters, but there are no large animal vets anywhere on the island to minister to the needs of the donkeys and horses. A German large animal vet did an internship here a few years ago. She now works in Thailand, so if the volunteers need any advice on how to treat the donkeys and horses they email her. As Issy says, you do what you can with the resources you’ve got.
Quite a few of the donkeys get adopted out, particularly to Germany. If I lived in Germany and wanted a donkey, I’m not sure my first thought would be to go shopping for one in Greece, but we suspect that most of the adoptive German parents are probably tourists who visited here and fell in love with one of these adorable creatures. The ones that don’t get adopted out live out their days here. Most of them are very friendly and happily sidle up to us to lick us and request attention. They’re so ridiculously cute.
We’re warned to keep well away from their hindquarters, as the risk of getting kicked is very real. Most of them are over twenty five years old, and one is over forty. There’s a separate paddock where the ”hooligans” are kept. These tend to be the younger donkeys, some of them as young as one, who haven’t quite got the art of socialising nailed just yet. The cats are also very friendly, and we have a constant stream of them rubbing against our legs asking to be scratched. The volunteers look to do an amazing job, and all for the love of these adorable animals.
It’s still raining, so we decide to head in to Corfu Town to see if the phone company we bought the SIM card from can get it to communicate with the universe again. The traffic gets heavier as we get closer to the town, and progress is slow. Progress then ceases altogether. Whilst we usually like going to world’s biggest attractions, this doesn’t extend to traffic jams. We can see two gigantic cruise ships in the harbour in front of us. We wonder if these are the cause of the congestion, but we’re pretty
sure most cruise ship passengers don’t bring their own cars aboard with them, so this wouldn’t seem to fully explain the total gridlock that now engulfs us. We crawl along the waterfront, but then run into a no entry sign, and a U-turn becomes our only option. We’ve only travelled a few hundred metres, and we’re now back where we were an hour ago. We conclude that it must be market day, and it seems that we’re locked into a route that’s taking us right past the town’s main market. This is not good. We’re supposed to be leaving Corfu the day after tomorrow; I hope we get out of the traffic by then. Parking is clearly an impossibility, so I drop Issy off and tell her that I’ll pick her up again tomorrow when I get around the block.
I ask Issy how she got on with the phone company, and to explain to me the complex set of procedures that they had to go through to put us in communication with the world once more. She says that they turned her phone off and back on again, and now everything works fine. Well there’s half a day
of our lives that we’ll never get back. I want to kill someone; I just don’t know who. Sometimes it sucks that the internet is so anonymous.
We drive back to Paleokastritsa and up the mountain behind the town to the small village of Lakones, which hangs off the cliff face above the harbour. For the first time since we arrived in Greece we feel like we’ve escaped the tourists and that we’re in a real Greek village. We watch men sit sipping coffee and discussing the day’s events in a cafe fronting the single lane main street. The views that we get as we wander along the alleyways that run up and down the mountainside are stunning.
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