After four weeks backpacking throughout Eastern Europe, my final country of the trip took me to Greece and after exploring the capital, Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki, my travels took me to the island of Corfu in the Adriatic Sea. A few days relaxation before taking the flight home back to England was needed and I found an awesome place on this beautiful island which also matched my budget (which was to do things using not a lot of cash).
An overnight coach journey from Athens and a ferry crossing later, I arrived in the resort of Agios Gordios on the western side of the island. Known for its beautiful beach and rugged coastline, Agios Gordios provided the much needed rest.
Where I stayed in this stunning destination is a place I recommend anyone who is doing this on a budget and wants to let their hair down. I stayed at the Pink Palace hostel which turned out to be one of the best hostels I have ever stayed at. Located on a hill overlooking the sea, the hostel offers dorms plus private room. The private rooms were fantastic for the price, offered a large bed and a private washroom. Also included in the price was a buffet style breakfast and dinner. I couldn’t complain about the price at all.
Also in the hostel known for its ‘tonga parties’ and having a fully stocked bar with a nightclub, Pink Palace also offers a range of activities to keep visitors entertained (for a price of course) such as booze cruises, kayak safari, volleyball and the rental of quad bikes. I also managed to arrive at Agios Gordios on the night bus they provided which runs between the resort and Athens and the price included the ferry crossing which I thought was a bargain and was another reason for me to stay here. They also now provided bus service to Thessaloniki as well. One fact I found out about this hostel is that rock band Queen’s leading singer, Freddie mercury stayed here a few times before his passing in 1991.
Whilst staying at the hotel I also did a couple of day trips. First one was to Corfu Town which I manage to take a local bus from the nearby bus stop and dropped off on the outskirts of the centre (it’s a small centre). The town reminded of any other Greek town, white buildings, scooters parked all over the place and plenty of eateries to choose from. I remember walking pass the parks and seeing how green the grass was despite the strong heat of the summer sun blazing down on the town.
My favourite place in the town has to be the Old Fortress which was built by the Venetians (from modern day Italy), replacing the fortifications which stood here beforehand which were built in the Byzantine ear. The Venetians then also had the clever idea of building a moat around the citadel and turned it into an artificial island. After that, three battles with the Ottomans took place here and the Venetians held off and won.
I find the history behind some castles and fortresses quite interesting and found this place to be the same. After a few peaceful years (or centuries), the Venetians buggered off and the town (and the rest of the island) belonged to the Greeks. However, Nazi Germany invited themselves in for a stay during the Second World War and used the fortress to imprison the jewish communities of the island. It was on the 8th June 1944 that the Nazi’s announced to the Jews that they were to present themselves the next morning at the fort. Some of the local Jews said buggered this and fled to the countryside but most of the Jews went to present themselves because they feared for their families. At the fort, the Nazis did the usual thing to them (like everywhere else in Europe) and collected jewelry, cash, anything worth valuable before being lead into the prison inside the fortress. They were held here for a few days before being shipped over to the mainland and eventually were put on a train to the Birkenau extermination camp in Poland. 1,800 jews from here were taken and after the war, only 120 made it back.
Across the town is the New Fortress which was built by the Venetians from scratch but was built slowly over time. The new buildings I came across were actually built by the British when they ruled the island in the 19th century (something I didn’t know about my home country ruling Corfu). I loved walking around here and taking in the breathtaking views of the sea and the other side of the water where Greece mainland and Albania can be seen.
Mentioning Albania, a day trip with a local cruise company is offered and can be booked at hotels and other tourist information points on the island. The cruise (well, its a boat journey but it felt like a cruise with the summer heat and bright blue skies) takes thirty minutes from Corfu Town and comes into the Albanian Riverian town of Sarandë (or Saranda). Known for its deep blue waters and for its Greek communities living here, a lot of visitors come here over from Corfu to chill out on the beach and eat at the restaurants (which are cheaper than Greece). Walking along the promenades was also one of my favourite things to do and sitting on the sea wall and just watching life go by.
I only spent a few hours in the town of Saranda but it was more of a relaxing day tour and just checking out another beach, however, I still recommend doing a trip from Corfu if anyone wants a tastier of Albania. Corfu island itself is beautiful and has fantastic beaches. I wished I had more time exploring the place before flying home but I hope to return one day.
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