Corfu is one of the largest Greek islands, and a holiday destination that appeals to everyone from those seeking to follow in the genteel footsteps of The Durrells to the Brit ‘Spring Break’ crowds that flock to the chaos of Kavos.
It’s been on my ‘must go’ list for some time (though not, it has to be said, for the delights of Kavos).
Corfu’s strategic position at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea has seen it fought over by everyone from the Venetians to the French to the British, who left some of a legacy in that the main square in Corfu Town – the Liston – may be the only place in the Greek Islands to regularly play host to a game of cricket.
Corfu Town is a quiet, characterful spot, a place for people watching over a cold beer rather than hopping from nightclub to nightclub. The town’s square-facing arcades – the Liston – are a reminder of the days when Venice ruled this roost. If, as it’s turned out quite often in Corfu’s history, they were only the latest in the line.
Corfu Town won’t keep you busy for a fortnight, but there’s more than enough character and history here to merit a stay.
The Old Fortress is a commanding presence on the edge of the Old Town, a bastion that warded off Ottoman forces in the 18th Century and is idyllic in the golden dusk light. The chapel at the foot of the battlements was originally a church for the British garrison but was turned into a Greek Orthodox Church when they left. When I visited, a local dog was using the shade created by the church’s columns.
Corfu is the closest of the Greek Islands to Northern Europe, and this means a regular stream of aircraft coming in to land. The island’s airport is not far from Corfu Town, built across a wide lagoon ringed by hills.
If you’re a plane spotter, the cafe called Kanobi should be in your list. Here you can escape the heat of the day with a Nescafe Ice – instant coffee with milk, sugar syrup and ice – and watch as airliners of all shapes and sizes roar in. The loudest might even rattle the crockery.
From the cafe it’s a short walk down the hill to the lagoon, crossable by a stone causeway that links each arm of the lagoon. Here, you can stand under the planes as they descend on to the runway. Nearby, the small church of Panagoas Vlachernon, connected to the mainland by a pier, sits on a tiny island. It’s a peaceful spot to watch the jets fly in from, the church’s company of cats begging for treats from visitors.
I travelled in late September. By then, the summer crowds had mostly dispersed. The nights were still warm but it felt like the island was enjoying the last gasps of peak season before the charter flights stopped for winter. Since the economic uncertainty of 2008, Greece’s holiday economy is ever more important.
I only stayed in Corfu for a couple of nights – it was my point of entry for a longer trip to Albania, which is only a few miles away across the sea.
I bought a handful of cameras on my trip, but did most of my Corfu shooting on a Cosina CX-2. Lomo fans will know it as the camera that inspired Soviet designers to create the Lomo LC-A, the camera that created the Lomography movement. This early-80s camera is a viewfinder camera with four focus zones and a sharp lens that adds dramatic contrast and moody vignetting.
I love the freedom that comes with shooting cameras like the LC-A and CX-2. These cameras cry out to be used for spontaneous shooting – the ‘Don’t Think Just Shoot’ mantra of Lomography.
They work best with rich, saturated colour print films like Lomography’s own CN100, or the long-lost Agfa Ultra 100, or cross-processed slide films like Kodak Elite Chrome 100 or Agfa CT100 Precisa. Both films were discontinued years ago but can still be found on eBay. If you want to get the original Precisa’s eye-popping colours, make sure you buy rolls with the name “Agfa” rather than “Agfaphoto” – the latter is rebadged Fuji Provia 100, which goes a revolting green when cross-processed.
One of my favourite pics from this whistle-stop Corfu visit is the one below – a woman in traditional clothing negotiating the lagoon walkway. Some traditions remain – even as the jets bringing hordes of 21st Century tourists descend from the heavens.