In this series I’ll be looking at places I’ve visited and what meaning they have had for me or my stories, what inspiration I’ve drawn from them or what strange link I have in my head between these places and some of my characters. I’ll be looking at Paris, Corfu, France (including the Pyrenees), Scotland, Lanzarote, Lapland and more! So keep reading for some entertaining rambling and some lovely pictures! (And if you’re here from my Youtube video say Hi in the comments below.)
This week I’m going to talk about Corfu.
What I knew about the place?
Yeah, that was it.
So let’s give you a wee bit more of a setting than that although considering how popular it is as a tourist destination you could probably just visit any travel sight and get a good idea of what it looks like from there, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands. The principal city of the island and seat of the municipality is also named Corfu.
It is a mountainous, Mediterranean landscape with medieval castles punctuating strategic locations across the island which are a legacy of struggles in the Middle Ages against invasions by pirates and the Ottomans. Two of these castles enclose its capital (the only city in Greece to be surrounded in this way); this has given rise to Corfu’s capital being officially declared a Kastropolis (“castle city”) by the Greek government.
Their patron saint is Saint Spyridon the Thaumaturgist (Miracle-worker, ) who is revered for several miracles; most notably expelling the plague from the island and saving the island at the second great siege of Corfu of 1716 in which he is said to have approached the Ottoman forces bearing a flaming torch in one hand and a cross causing them to flee in panic.
It’s a beautiful island with lots of places to visit, eat at, swim in and hike up to so it made the perfect summer holiday for me (although some of the paler people I was with spent a small fortune on sun tan cream so they’d probably have appreciated the odd cooler day).
I think the strangest thing to try and get used to was the water situation. Do not drink it was the instruction very clearly and definitely given to us on arrival at our apartment and you couldn’t flush toilet paper down the loo either. This was… weird to be honest but you just need to remember to budget for bottled water if you’re going.
What I thought when I was there?
Cats! So many cats! Look, cat here, cat there. Kitten! Ahem, sorry. But in all seriousness I was genuinely surprised by the amount of cats around the island, most seemed to be semi-wild so I imagine neutering isn’t a big thing there. While it was cute seeing all these furry friends wandering around I did worry about if they had homes. Quite a few seemed to set up next to restaurants so they weren’t dumb I can tell you that.
Oh, other than the cats? Well there was a lot I liked actually.
I love sun and swimming so that was what I spent ninety per cent of my time doing (everyone else was reading so why not) and I think it has probably been my favourite place to swim in my whole life. The best thing about it was that most places the sea was so clear you could see straight down to the bottom so you didn’t get that nasty lurching feeling in your stomach (that i sometimes get in murkier waters) of looking down and imagining some monster, out of sight, looking right back up at you. Here it was all crystal blue waters, white sands and sunny skies which was unbelievably picturesque.
And then there was the food. I think I tried everything new that I could while I was there and came away an unexpected fan of stuffed vine leaves which sounded odd to me when I first heard it (I mean vine leaves? The boring bit of the vine? How’s that going to taste nice? But it did!)
I loved the rugged, sun burnt landscape, and hearing the cicadas ‘singing’ was very relaxing to me (though everyone else hated it for some reason). Looking back I’m left with an impression of warmth after a day in the sun, the stiffness of dry salt on my skin, a full belly and a sleepy, happy feeling. And cats.
What impact did it leave on me/my characters? Did it inspire anything?
This place left no inspiration on my stories, certainly no direct one, but I include this section to show how life experience in general is a good thing even if not necessarily directly translated into work for me. I’ll have fond memories to look back on, I’ll have seen new sights and tried new things and, if I ever do write something set in a warmer climate, I’ll have resources in the back of my brain to turn to.
It was a lovely experience and I would go back.
What do you think of Corfu? Would you go? Where are you the most inspired, at peace or motivated? Let me know in the comments below.