27.08.2013. Greece is to be the last country for this 3 months backpacking trip. Turkey and Israel had to be drop from my plan, which on hindsight was simply too ambitious. The ‘Middle East’ Lonely Planet guide in my rucksack, the only travel guide I foolishly carried, shall remain unused. But I am sure there is another time for it.
Arriving in Greece I have made several mistakes. First, its geography is not the simplest to navigate, with hundreds of islands spanning the Ionian and Aegean seas flanking the almost triangular-shaped mainland. It requires the type of careful planning and ruthless cherry-picking, hardly the sort of free spirited and last minute travelling I do. Second, I have allowed myself just 2 weeks, which is simply not enough for a country so endlessly fascinating. Third, the final flight back to Singapore has been booked. I have a deadline now.
Sacrifices had to be made. First to go was Delphi, the historic site where ancient Greeks believed to be the centre of the Earth. Also to be strike off from my list were Mount Athos, a famous monastery site; and Monemvassia, a Byzantine town sometimes also known as the Gibraltar of Greece. Countless other places had to be dropped for sake of time and practicality.
The rough itinerary was formed. I will begin with the biggest island on the Ionian Sea (Corfu), travel across mainland Greece through Meteora and Athens, stopping at some lesser known towns, before spending the rest of my days island-hopping in the Aegean sea. Put simply, the route would be from west to east.
Corfu is one of the largest island in Greece, and definitely one of its most touristy. Arriving from Albania the contrast could not have been starker- its port is fully Wifi-enabled; most people speak English; and buses come with seat belts and air conditioning that actually work. The adventurous days of the Balkans, despite just 30 minutes across the straits away, had quickly became a distant memory.
Kerkyra is the only town on the island, and is where the main bulk of its tourism and commercialism merge, the latter established by the presence of a MacDonald’s joint. Though the views will be shared with many other tourists, Kerkyra is an elegant town, with many beautiful Venetian architecture characteristic of cities and towns in the Dalmatian coast region.
Near Kerkyra is the tiny isles of Pontikonisi, or ‘Mouse Island’, named for its peculiar shape. A beautiful sight, it is one of Corfu’s most famous.
Despite its size, Corfu is said to be the greenest of the Greek islands. This is most apparent as one travels inward the island away from the coast, with columns of trees lining up the roadside. Such views greeted me as I made my way to Paleokastritsa, a village located north west of the island with the most beautiful beaches and spectacular cliffs.
If the rest of Greece is the big ticket performance I hope to close this journey, then Corfu has been its most tantalising curtain opening act.