Exploring Corfu: January 26 2010
Well, it looks like Mother Nature is on our side at the moment. Reduced wind and rain meant that we could keep going on boat projects (Jan 7). Chris went up the mast to replace a corroded VHF antenna. Fingers crossed that our range will now be much improved. The trampoline was removed and delivered to the sail loft as well as full enclosure panels for templating. Sadly, the full enclosure simply cannot be band-aided any longer...plastic zipper teeth are crumbling to dust and stitching has totally burned out from the sun. Duct tape currently holds the door closed as we shimmy through a side zipper that is only barely holding together (thanks Astrid and Maria at Under Cover tel. 26610 99172).
After continued avoidance and much trepidation we finally leapt into a bit of fiberglass work. It was a dreaded project largely due to the anticipated mess...fiberglass sanding dust. Work would be in both bedrooms and the main salon. Ouch, fiberglass dust in our bed was not our idea of a successfully completed project...scratchy, itchy. However, when actually begun the project was not so bad thanks to Martin's industrial vacuum that attached directly to the sander...keeping the dust concentrated at the specific work spot (Jan 11). Darn, but the small space was tough to maneuver around in and dust swirled...Chris stood on an Igloo cooler wearing protective gear that consisted of a head lamp, swim goggles and a respirator mask...OSHA would be proud. The biggest casualty of the project was a bit of resin that had to be cut out of Chris' hair.
January 12 was a clear morning and time for us to investigate the Old Fortress (Paleo Frourio). Brisk temperatures were perfect for the quick climb to the top for a bird's eye view from Corfu Town to the snow capped mountains of Albania. The naturally occurring twin peaks were originally fortified by the Byzantines. However, it was the Venetians who outdid themselves with a defense policy that created the fortress in the 15th and 16th centuries...guarding trade within the eastern Mediterranean during their rule of the island for more than 400 years (1386-1797). Amazingly, the peninsula was dug out to create an island across a moat. Such impressive efforts were not in vain as several attacks by Ottoman Turks were held off and rendered unsuccessful (in 1537, 1571, 1574 and 1716). Later, the British added new defense works (1815-1864) before the promontory was put out of commission and subsequently suffered damage during World War II. Panoramic views from the top were stunning. We sat for some time and just marveled at the landscape; however, the chill finally got to us and we headed down to the Liston for a mug of creamy hot chocolate...topped with white and dark chocolate shavings...decadent.
Martin and Tracy made it back from the UK (Jan 16)...their two week Christmas holiday turned into four weeks because they could not drive through the countless snowstorms plaguing England. Aaagggghh. No worries guys...we watched their cats, TV and car while they were gone. It was a fun reunion at Navigator's catching up on all the adventures and a bit of gossip, too. As always, boat projects continued to click along...like new eyebrows for the front windows (Jan 20). They look great and really reduce the glare of the sun inside the salon...kinda like super-tinted car windows. Snaps and positive locking toggles keep it in place and secure in the wind...yes, drilled into the boat...but Chris is much more comfortable with drilling into the boat than he was a few years ago. The cockpit table is the next big nut to crack. Sadly, the teak table varnished to a glossy shine in humid Thailand did not react well to time in the dry Red Sea. It now more closely resembles a clam shell rather than a flat table. Chris made drawings and Steve pointed us in the direction of a wood yard for teak purchase and cutting (Ventouras Bros SA Timber Trading tel. 26610 22006).
But Corfu is full of fascinating places and we took another break January 24 to visit Achilleion...six miles south of Corfu Town. This villa (we'd call it a palace) was built by the eccentric Empress Elizabeth (Sissi) of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1890. She was obsessed by beauty, extremely powerful, immersed herself in the Greek culture and, today, has almost a cult following in Austria. The villa is based on structures from Pompeii with the theme of Achilles running throughout (apparently Elizabeth associated her only son, Rudolf, with Achilles...young Rudolf and his mistress were found dead after a questionable double-suicide in a hunting lodge in 1889). Every inch of the villa is painted or carved or ornamented for a spectacular depth of texture. But Sissi was not the final resident. Subsequent villa residents included Kaiser Wilhelm II (purchased it), Greek government after World War I (appropriated it), German government during World War I (occupied it), private company that ran a casino on the second floor (leased it) and finally, today, Greek National Trust...oh, if these walls could talk?! Yikes, and if that is not enough...Hollywood filmed a casino scene on the second floor for the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.
We were the only people on the grounds during our visit...always special in "touristy" spots. We soaked up the panoramas out to sea from the sculptured gardens...beautiful even in winter...including an impressive 15-foot statue of Achilles. The statue was commissioned and built by Kaiser Wilhelm II...inscribed, "To The Greatest Greek From The Greatest German." No lack of ego there...but...hhhmmm, the inscription was removed after World War II.
Temperatures are staying at 50 degrees F during the day and 30 degrees at night for the moment. Frost sparkles in the morning sun but reduced rain makes it all just fine. Cooler temperatures have also given Erin a chance to make a traditional Greek lentil soup (fakes soupa). It is quick to make, flavorful and can be reheated as many times as you like (Jan 25).
Fakes Soupa: 2 Tablespoons olive oil; 3 med. white onions, chopped; 4 cloves garlic, chopped; 1/2 lb (250g) green/brown lentils, softened in warm water for one hour; 5 cups water; 2 bay leaves; 1 laurel leaf; 3 Tablespoons white vinegar; 1/2 cup olive oil; 2.5 oz tomato paste; 1 can (13 oz) crushed tomatoes; salt and pepper to taste. 1. Soften lentils in warm water for one hour (or simply simmer longer). 2. Heat 2 T olive oil and sauté onions and garlic until translucent. 3. Add water, strained lentils, bay leaves, laurel leaf, vinegar, olive oil...simmer for 30 minutes. 4. Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste and salt and pepper. 5. Simmer another 30 minutes or until soup is thickened and lentils are soft. Serve with crusty bread. If desired add to each bowl a bit more vinegar, salt or pepper to taste...even a thick slice of feta.