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Published: July 16th 2019
It’s a bit cool and overcast this morning, so we decide to skip the beach and visit some less sun-reliant destinations.
First cab off the rank is the Achilleion Palace which is on a hill overlooking the sea about ten kilometres south of Corfu Town. It was built in 1890 for Princess Elisabeth of Austria, who was apparently grief stricken over the death of her only son and heir to the throne, Crown Prince Rudolf, the previous year. The Prince killed himself in a suicide pact with his mistress in what became known as the Mayerling incident. It seems that Elisabeth didn’t get to enjoy the Palace for too long; she was assassinated by an Italian anarchist in 1896. That period in history sounds like it might be one best forgotten by the Austrian royals. The German Kaiser Wilhelm II bought the palace in 1907 and it became the scene of much European diplomatic activity. It was then used by the Axis powers as a military headquarters during World War II. The casino scene from the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only was also filmed here.
The palace was designed by an Italian architect and is spectacular.
The interior is very ornate, with classical statues and paintings in abundance. A massive statue of Achilles, after whom the palace is named, dominates one part of the garden, and a large terrace opens off the third floor to provide panoramic views over Corfu Town and the coast.
We drive along the coast towards Corfu Town and go into the Mon Repos Estate. We’re not exactly sure what this is, but a large sign at the entrance says that it’s where Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was born. I’d often heard him referred to as Phil The Greek, and this explains why. It seems he didn’t live in Greece for very long; his family was exiled when he was a baby. This explains why he doesn’t have a Greek accent. It seems that a lot of things are being explained today.
The estate is very large and most of it is forest running right down to the coast. The Mon Repos villa, where the Duke was born, was originally built between 1828 and 1831 as a summer residence for the British Lord High Commissioner. It later became the summer residence of the Greek Royal Family until they
were forced to flee the country in 1967. The villa is now an impressive museum, and includes a display of photos of life in Corfu during the British period, as well as a number of other assorted Greek and British exhibits. We expected the museum to be all about the Duke of Edinburgh, but we realise after we’ve left that the only time we saw his name mentioned in all our time there was on the sign at the entrance. I think that this might be a cunning marketing ploy by the Greek Government to lure unsuspecting British tourists into the Estate. I would have expected the Duke to rate at least a passing mention in the museum, so I’m now wondering if he might be persona non grata here in Greece. I think he’s fairly well known for making racist gaffs, so maybe he made one about the Greeks at some stage, and they've responded by deleting him from their records.
Issy’s keen that we visit the Corfu Donkey Rescue Centre, and says that if we don’t get our asses into gear now it will be closed before we get there. We’re clearly spending too much time together;
I think she’s now in grave danger of having my sense of humour rub off on her.
As we get closer to the rescue centre we decide that we don’t really have enough time to do it justice before it closes, so we decide instead to visit the La Grotta Lounge and Pub which is only a few hundred metres from the hotel. If there’s a common theme between these two venues then I think I’m failing to spot it. La Grotta clings to the rocks at the base of a tall cliff, and its setting is spectacular. Apart from drinking and snacking, the main activities on offer here are diving off a short pier, a large diving board, or a rope halfway up the cliff, into the crystal clear water below. The music is loud, and as seems to be happening a bit lately our attendance has bumped the average age of the patrons up by at least a couple of years.
As we walk back into the hotel I get a message from my phone provider back in Oz telling me how expensive it is to make and receive calls in Albania. This is nice to
know, but unless I’m really missing something we’re not in Albania. I know Albania’s only a few kilometres from Corfu at the closest point, but we’re on the opposite side of the island. I start to wonder if the Albanians might have invaded Corfu overnight while no one was looking. I haven’t noticed anything different today, but then again I wouldn’t know an Albanian if I tripped over one. I hope we’ll like Albanian food.
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