Thursday, 29 December 2011

A beautiful article about the Philharmonic Society of Corfu

   The Ionian magazine kindly published an article about the oldest philharmonic society in Greece in their January 2012 issue. I have contributed to the article by providing two photos and making some remarks about my experience as a member of this band. Also it features a brief history of the philharmonic and mention a passage from reknown british writer Lawrence Durrell's desciption of a typical corfiot religious procession in his "Prospero's cell" novel. 

Download the photo in your computer for better resolution (courtesy of the "Ιonian magazine")

- You can download the issue from  the magazine's site:

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas from John!

  I wish to all my readers Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2012 filled with peace and prosperity. I hope to see you all in our beautiful island next year!

Here are three videos from a christmas concert given by the Corfu conservatory's children choir and the brass ensemble in the catholic cathedral of San Giacomo. In the first one, the choir is singing the famous spanish carol "Feliz Navidad" while in the last two the brass ensemble is perfomorming "Christmas swing" and a selection of corfiot and other greek carols.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Corfu then and now 6: The Paleo-Christian church across the Mon Repos gate

   Yesterday, I came across a very interesting image posted by an old photo collector in a Facebook group about old Corfu. On first sight, I didn't recognized the church shown in that documentary 1880 photo but after reading the comments posted by some members, I found out that it is an image showing the interior of the paleo-christian church which now is in ruins, right across the Mon Repos estate gate. It came as a suprise to me that this ancient church was still in perfect condition in late 1800s. What happened to it?

The church relics as seen from the satellite
    Let's have a quick look into the church's history. The Paleo-christian church of Paleopolis was built in 463 AD by the bishop of Corfu, Iovianos. The church was built in the very heart of the ancient Corfu town, next to the roman forum site, across the roman baths and very close to the ancient port of Alkinoos. The church was built on the site where a roman temple once stood. Its materials had been used to built the christian church. The church had been destructed in the 6th century by the barbarians but soon it had been restored to its former glory. In the 15th century the ancient basilica was owned by a monastery dedicated to Virgin Mary. It was mercilessly bombed by the german Nazis during the Second world war and since then it had not been rebuilt.
    The church is a basilica with wooden roof. In the 1880 image below, perhaps the unique photograph showing the church's interior intact, we can see clearly how simplistic but in the same time, beautiful was that building. I think it is time the local Church authorities raise some money to renovate it, using the image below as a reference. It is a pity, one of the oldest churches in Greece to be in such terrible condition!
The church in 1880 - as you can see, it was in excellent condition!
The same view nowadays
Some images taken from the "Corfu tour" page 

- A virtual tour of the interior by the site.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The renovated Farmer's market

  This month, the long awaited renovation of the Farmer's market has been completed and the vendors started to move in in their brand new stalls. Being hosted for more or less five years in a temporary market on the site of a municipal parking area, the Farmer's market looks now more human and organized. 

  Below there is a satellite view of the new market (still under construction by the time this image was shot) and the old temporary one on the upper left. Note how messy and primitive looked the old one from above and how well designed and spacious look the new one.

  The old temporary ungly market is now being dismantled and the site will be again used as a parking area providing some additional valuable spaces relieving a bit the parking problem.

  As mentioned in a last year post in this blog, the site on which the farmers market was built originally was part of the defensive system of the New Fortress. Last years, while excavating, the ruins of a building built by the british as a part of the fortress had been found. Hopefully, a large part of it has been preserved and serve as a local landmark. 

  The market itself look way better than its predecesors. The old one on the same site was rather messy and unequal. As far as I remember, it was a mixture of stalls of different size and look. Now, all stalls look identical and all built by the same standards. Another good thing about the new market is that it is no longer allowed for private cars to pass through it as it was the case with the older one.

   Without doubt, the New Farmer's market was a long awaited construction but at this point, I should say that I rather prefer the market would had been moved to another place, restoring this ancient fortifications and a brand new building had been built, inspired by the old Markas market (sadly bombed by the Nazis in the September 1943 bombardment) which stood on the site of where the Spilia square is nowadays.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Strong walnut sized hailstorm in Corfu today!

  Today around 3:15 p.m., Corfu town experienced one of the strongest hailstorms of last decades. It is a rainy day but nobody could imagine this rare phenomenon would happen. Walnut sized hail was falling for ten minutes turning the streets white, like if it had snowed. Hopefully, as far as I know up to this moment, it did not provoked any damage. Below there are few photos and a video from today's hailstorm.

Monday, 12 December 2011

A concert in honour of our patron saint

  Today our island celebrates its patron saint, Saint Spyridon who has helped Corfu and many people in many occasions. In order to honour him, every year on December the 12th, the Philharmonic Society of Corfu is giving a concert in its own mini concert hall on Nikiforou Theotoki street. The hall is always full of people waiting for the concert to start.
  Below, there are three videos from today's concert.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Beaked whales stranded along the western shore

Few days ago, I read from some other corfiot blogs that some beaked whales stranded at Ermones, Pelekas and St. George beaches. People suspect that they stranded because of the sonars used by the italian navy. Here is an except from an article of an enviromentalist site:

"Last week, beaked whales began stranding along the Greek island of Corfu, on the eastern edge of the Ionian Sea.  The whales stranded alive, and rescuers struggled to lead them back to deeper water.  Around the same time, a mother and calf stranded on the coast of Calabria, about 130 miles away on the other side of the water.  The mother perished.
At the western coast beach of Ermones, witnesses at two separate stranding sites reported hearing a strange whistling sound every ten or fifteen seconds – a truly remarkable thing since they were above the waterline and the signal probably came from below.

From November 27 through Dec. 2, the Italian Navy has been conducting a major exercise known as “Mare Aperto” (“Open Seas”) in the central-southern Tyrrhenian, Ionian, and southern Adriatic.  At least one of the participating ships in this year’s exercise, an Italian Maestrale-class frigate called the Scirocco, is equipped with active sonar made by Raytheon and identical to systems used by the U.S. Navy.
Of course, the Italian exercise covered a wide area, and we don’t yet know how closely it may be correlated in space and time with the mass strandings.  All possible causes, including other anthropogenic noise sources, should be investigated.  But the facts look ominous. Sonar has killed Cuvier’s beaked whales in the Ionian Sea before, and researchers suspect it has played a role in several other strandings involving the same population.  One biologist wrote that, thanks to these events, the population “may be steadily headed towards its extinction."

  It is known that beaked whales are very sensitive to some patricular sound ranges. Should the italian navy stop using such powerful sonars that can lead many species to a massive extinction?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Images of old Lisbon that look as if they were taken somewhere in old Corfu Town

   Last month I spent a week in beautiful Lisbon. One thing that striked my attention was the endless similarities between the old "bairros" (districts) of the portuguese capital with the older parts of Corfu town. Lisbon was built on seven hills which overlook Tagus estuary. The streets in older parts like Alfama, Sé and Mouraria are narrow and mazy like those in the Campielo district of Corfu town. Most buildings are 3-4 storeys tall with roofs featuring red ceramic tiles similar to those found in Greece. Like what happens in Corfu, those medieval neighbourhoods are inhabited by elderly people who still hang their laundry to dry out of the window. Many buildings had been coloured with vivid mediterranean colours which look bright and warm under Lisbon's strong sunlight. 
   I would like to point out that, unlike Corfu, most of those medieval alleys are pedestrianized and access by car is only allowed to permanent residents. Streets are clean and most old buildings are being renovated thanks to program run by the municipal authorities. Also, the old districts are teeming with tourists all year round and few buildings are uninhabited or rundown. Another similarity I noticed was the abundance of those horrid tag graffiti which can be found in both places.
   Below there is a selection of photos I took from various old neighbourhoods like Alfama and Bairro do Castelo. I wish our municipal authority had visited Lisbon and inspired by the way how Lisbon residents and officials respect and take care of their town.