Friday, November 8, 2013

Stops in Katakolon and Corfu, Greece

On October 20th, I got up early to walk the lower promenade deck for 30 minutes or so and watched as the ship pulled into port.  Katakolon is a small port on the western coast of Greece.

Cruise ships stop here so passengers can travel to ancient Olympia, the site of the original Olympic games.  Ron and I chose to skip an excursion to Olympia because it was just too difficult to do for him with a lot of walking and climbing over rough terrain. So we walked into the little town and checked out the shops. We also took a little "Tourist Train" - a tram with cars. for a 30 minute trip out into the countryside to see a resort beach, a small farming village, and a vineyard/winery.  Unfortunately, I left my wallet in my stateroom and when I discovered it missing from my purse, the visit was ruined as we both thought I had lost my wallet.

After recovering my wallet from my stateroom, I returned to buy some flavored-infused olive oil, some local honey-thyme balsamic vinegar, some mother of pearl bracelets, a new lambskin wallet for myself, and a bottle of Ouzo.
Olive oils infused with Basil and Truffle flavors.
The honey-thyme balsamic vinegar is a local specialty.

These silver and mother of pearl bracelets will make nice gifts.
And a lambskin wallet for me!

One of my favorite liquers, the strong licorice-flavored
Ouzo, native to Greece.
Our friends, Bob and Sharon, had taken the shore excursion to Olympia and the Mercouri Vineyards and  I asked them to buy a bottle of wine for me.  They reported that the wines weren't very good so I would have to wait until we got to Italy to buy a bottle of wine for our stateroom. Wine is the only alcohol you can bring on board to consume.  The Ouzo went into ship's storage until we finished our cruise. The cost of a glass of wine, a beer or cocktail, or even a Coke on board averaged $5.95-10.95, plus a 15% service charge. The cruise industry increase their profits with many incidental fees. After my stressful day in Katakolon, I fell prey to my one and only spa treatment during the cruise.  Nev, my spa technician (is that the right word?), was from India, now living in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and 5 year old son. She would not see her family and home until next July because cruise workers have long contracts.  She said she appreciated the opportunity to work in the ship's spa despite missing her family. Most of our ship's crew were from Indonesia and the Philippines, so this story was repeated often.

We left port after 8 hours and headed for the beautiful island of Corfu. We arrived to the New Port of Kerkira (the island of Corfu in Greek) before eight the morning of October 21.  I again was on deck to watch our arrival into port.  Ron and I took the free shuttle bus to Corfu Town which was just a short way from the dock.

Corfu Town

The turquoise water of Corfu
A Plaza in Corfu City

The New fortress or Neo Frourio

Beautiful Venetian-style buildings and narrow streets
predominate Corfu City

The Palaio Frourio or Old Fortress separated from Old Corfu by a moat

Lots of open air cafes and shops make for a delightful visit

This island reflects a long history of conquest by various civilizations. There is evidence of original Mycenaean civilization, but most of those traces have been covered over by tons of rubble from constant seismic activity common to the Ionian islands region. Corfu was dominated by the City State of Corinth in the 8th Century BC, but revolted and freed itself in the 7th century BC.  It then allied itself with the City State of Athens and was totally depleted in the Peloponnesean Wars (431-404 BC) as Corinth allied itself with Sparta. In the 3rd century BC, Corfu fell under the Roman Empire. After the Empire fell, Corfu was subject to many invasions, but never became part of the Ottoman Empire.  Eventually the Venetians took over Corfu, followed by France (under Napoleon), Russia and Britain. The island was ceded to Greece by Britain in 1864.  During WWII, Mussolini invaded Corfu to implement his plan to resurrect the Roman Empire.  When Mussolini surrendered to the Allies in 1943, Germany, in revenge,  massacred thousands of Italians on the island and sent 5000 Jews of Corfu to Auschwitz.  The architecture and layout of the town reflects much of the various cultures, and particularly the architectural influence of Venice in the buildings.

All the street signs are in Greek. No problem!  Just wander aimlessly through the delightful streets.

The fresh fruits and vegetables looked so good!

This is where shoppers get their fresh food daily
We stumbled into this little outdoor cafe (Bellissimo) in a hidden square. We had a snack of bread, cheese and olives and Greek beer while I sketched the scene. It's family-owned and highly recommended. That is papa and son carefully attending to their guests.
Leaving Corfu Town, Ron and I couldn't resist stopping for grilled prawns at an outdoor cafe before our ship left Greece at 4:30PM  and headed for Kotor, Montenegro. The Captain suggested to the passengers that we might get up early the next morning to view the beautiful fjord leading to the harbor of Kotor.  Indeed, Kotor was a delightful surprise during this cruise. I'll cover that port of call in my next post.

Ron wearing his new stylish sunglasses that he purchased in Katakolon

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