Corfu without Liston without cosmopolitan beaches and old town; What kind of Corfu was that? Autumn… and that time I did not stay in town. I drove to the north of the island and traveled to the mount Pantokrator and its villages. And I discovered the unknown faces of a famous island, painted with the earthy colors of autumn.
I left behind the resorts in Dassia and Ipsos, – busy a few months ago, but then empty and with a little melancholy – as the steel colored sea was shining by the desolate beach. I ascended the successive bends over Pyrgi village through olive groves and the luxury villas. The spectacular view captured my sight: far away Corfu Town shone with its two castles and its two hill-peaks, the ones which gave the old name to the whole island (Coryfi-Coryfo- Corfu means peak in Greek).
The Spartilas village – famous for its view! – has beautiful little houses hanging on the steep slopes. Just after the village the road leads to a great panorama, that reveals the landscape of whole northwestern Corfu with olive groves and cypress trees, rising like spears over the green fields. I drove through small plateaus with terraced vineyards before arriving to the – famous for its wine -village of Strinylas. “We get mostly muscat grapes and make white wines,” said the farmer Spiros Koskinas as we talked below the 400 years old elm tree, sitting at the main square. We drank local wine. We enjoyed the sunny day. We were quite happy…
I followed the narrow and winding road uphill to the top of the mountain. Sharp gray rocks that crop up through the fallow fields painted with the deep red colors of autumn; that was the picture. Between the rocky landscapes I saw the “vothines”, small fields with greens, and an ideal pasture. The Peak of Pantokrator Mountain comes and goes through the grey clouds; we could hardly see it. It was also hard to distinguish the peak because of the abundant telecommunication antennas that haunt the place. «Pantokrator connecting people with God», as Takis Anagnostakis a Corfiot friend, said, making a joke of the Vodafone advertising motto “Vodafone, connecting people”!
The most prominent antenna lies inside the courtyard of the old monastery! The view from here, when the north wind scatters the mist, is dazzling: a unique panorama of the Corfu island, from the ultimate Lefkimmi coast and Paxos island, to the Diapontia islands to the west, swimming between Greece and Italy and at the eastern coasts, the Albanian villages, being so close that you can almost hear their roosters clucking… Still waters of the lagoon of Butrint shone and I tightened up my jacket to cut the chill off.
The Petaleia village is built in a horseshoe of mountains, to stay hidden from the eyes of the old pirates. It is a metropolitan village after its inhabitants left and built the Lafkos, Acharavi, Almyros and other villages nearby.
I descended through the asphalt road on the, covered with ferns oaks and hollies, slopes of the Pantokrator mountain. The north – northwest side of the mountain was once full of oaks, the unraveling of which (for shipbuilding) began the years when the island was under the rule of the Venetians. The deforestation was completed during the French occupation (after 1809).
I stopped for some photos by a dirt road outside Lafki village and as I was looking through the woods I saw the helmets of two cyclists polishing in the greenery. They braked their aluminum wheels and lifted their colorful glasses. They were athletes from the Athletic Club Acharavi and they were riding one of the many descents of the mountain. “The whole area of the Pantokrator mount is perfect for mountain bike. It has the necessary elevation – at just 17 km from the sea level you reach the peak at 917m. – and 10-12 special tracks for downhill, ” said Babis Vlahos, one of the leading members of the Group.
Babis, Andrei and their colorful group of bikers open trails, organize events, do bike excursions around the island. “Young people want to do something different and they have begun to learn about alternative tourism,” said Babis.
Time passed fast talking with the guys among the heather and fragrant shrubs. The afternoon light shone on their lightweight alloys, lycra shorts and orange logos. On the northern coast of Corfu the autumn wave was making a string of foam. I had to find a place to sleep before it got dark….
Where am I?
In Corfu, the most famous Greek island in the Ionian Sea. The fastest and best way to get to the island is by airplane from Athens airport. The slowest way – but a very nice route though – is to drive to Igoumenitsa (across almost all Western Mainland Greece) and take the ferry boat to Corfu. You can reach the northern Corfu villages driving through wonderful mountain trails.