Information about Kerkyra - Corfu

kerkyra

The main town of Corfu island is Kerkyra one of the most interesting cities in Greece due to the heavy influence of the Venetians who for centuries controlled the island. Like the other Ionian islands Corfu was never occupied by the Turks, which gives it a charactor very different from the rest of Greece. But Kerkyra has seen other influences as well including the British, the Normans, the French, and the Greeks and Romans whose ancient buildings are still in evidence in several archaeology sites and the excellent archaeological museum.
The population of the Kerkyra town is about 30,000 and is quite cosmopolitan compared to the other islands of Greece. It is an interesting mixture of old tavernas, new cafes, discos, clubs and shops of all types plus an amazing old city that sits in a protected area between the two fortresses. The Theater of San Giacomo constructed entirely of stone in the style of the Italian Renaisance had it's foundations first laid in1663 and is just one example of then many historical buildings that make walking the streets of this city a pleasure

Kerkyra really resembles an Italian city though their are other influences such as the Liston, the building which borders the main esplanade or Spianada, built by the French, which houses some of the finest cafes and restaurants in Corfu.
On the esplanade itself the men compete in weekend cricket matches, the only place in Greece where the sport is played. If you can't have baseball then watching a visiting British team in a cricket match, drinking the local ginger beer or a gin and tonic is the next best thing. The French were the ones who turned the Spianada into a public square. Before the nineteenth century it was a large empty lot that was used for defensive purposes.

The French planted trees and created one of the most attractive town squares in all of Greece. Bordering the south side of the Spaniada is the Ionion Acadamy the first University in Greece, founded by Ioanis Capodistrias in 1808. The acadamy had a library and a botanical garden and classes were taught in Italian. It was almost completely destroyed by German bombs in 1943.

On the south side of the Spianada is the Palace of Saint Michael and George built by the British in 1824 and used as the official residence of the high comissioner, the seat of the Ionian Senate and the headquarters of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, created for the purpose of awarding medals to residents of Malta and the Ionian islands who had performed important service for the Great Britain.
There are several interesting museums in Kerkyra town and two major fortresses as well as numerous small squares and fountains. The town itself was built so that it could be defended. The buildings in the old city remain intact and wandering through the narrow streets is like a lesson in history and architecture.
Kerkyra contains a large number of buildings which have survived the centuries and is on the list of Europe's most historic cities. You can rent a horse drawn carriage for a tour of the town or take the little train that rides through the old city. The old fortess is separated from the rest of the town by a moat and this area is one of the most quiet and beautiful spots in the city. There are fishing boats, tree-shaded grass and a 60 foot metal bridge which now stands where the old draw-bridge used to be. The Turks beseiged the island in 1537 and 1571 and it is during this period that most of the fortifications were built by the Venetians.
The fortess has been inhabited continuously for 1500 years and historically it is probably the most important monument on the island. But it is also one of the most beautiful places on the island with great views of the city and during the summer this is where the sound and light is performed

The New fortress was built between 1576 and 1588 in an effort to protect more of the houses of the people of Corfu.
The Venetian fortifications are considered a masterpiece of military architecture. Of the four gates to the fortress only two survive, the Porto San Nicolo at the north end of the esplanade and the Porta Spillia, east of the fortress. Later the British and the French added fortifications of their own.
The island's patron saint is Spyridon and his mummified body lies in the church dedicated to him. Origianlly from Cyprus, he was the bishop of that island who performed miracles, took part in the first Ecumenical council of Nicea in 325AD and died a martyrs death shortly thereafter.

His remains were taken to the center of the Byzantine empire in Constantinople in the church of the Holy Apostles until 1453 when the city fell to the Turks and he was brought to Corfu along with the remains of Saint Theodocia. They say that when the Turks attacked the island on August 11, 1716, Saint Spiridon appeared with a lighted torch and scared the invaders away.
That day is now a commemorative day of the Saint as is December 12th, Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday when the saint saved the island from the plague and an epidemic. Most of the boys on the island are named (Spiros). Kerkyra town is the transportation hub for the island and you can get anywhere by bus, taxi or by renting a car.
There are many different catagories of hotels for those who want to stay in Kerkyra town to enjoy the pleasures of city-life and assortment of excellent restaurants and nightlife and venture to the beaches by day.

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