Your article on Corfu was “utter tripe”, writes Roly, who I’m guessing from his email address is a resident. Recently I described my July trip to the sunshine island, previously a firm favourite with not just me, but British, French and German tourists. But this summer’s visit highlighted how Europe’s economic storms have battered Greek holiday island Corfu, ordinarily a charming and reasonably clean place. I described the overgrown hedges, potholed roads and piles of uncollected decaying garbage. I also mentioned the deserted beachside tavernas, victims of not just the eurozone slump, but also the rise of the all-inclusive package holiday, with meals and drinks thrown in. As a result guests rarely dine or spend outside their hotel.
This appeals to the Russians, who have largely replaced the Brits and French. Except in the holiday nightmare Kavos, which still attracts the get-smashed-sunburned-and-shagged breed of Brit. Between every Kavos bar promising all-night disco, all-day English breakfast and live football is an emergency medical centre. You get the picture. But Roly objected, accusing me of negativity. He says he knows lots of UK holiday makers who think Corfu is a reasonably-priced and enchanting holiday spot. Bu then, “looking for the good and special points would not support your bigoted argument, would it?” Ah. So I’m bigoted. Actually, Roly, I think I was quite kind. Last time I spared the photos of the festering rubbish, so here they are. And I didn’t mention the rampant animal cruelty. Corfu is sadly not unique in this, but do dogs have to be chained all day in the glaring sun? What kind of taverna owner, when it’s pointed out to him by distressed children that his cats are visibly dying at their feet from starvation and infections, just laughs? And when asked why he allows this pitiful neglect, which would surely also deter customers, replies: “Oh, we had a hard winter. (It was now July 15). Maybe tourists will feed them.” We loaded up the sobbing kids and left. So Roly, why don’t you do something to improve this kind of shameless cruelty, instead of moaning that I highlighted the uncollected rubbish. Just a suggestion. If I was sickened by animal abuse, other people will be too.
Residents defend Corfu
Reader Jan has a UK email address, but seems to live in Corfu. She too felt moved to write. “Your 'blog' seems to be a new way of publishing which can damage when the writer has done insufficient research!” she observes. I’ve been to Corfu a few times, Jan, and enjoy it regardless, but stinking rubbish and over-priced tavernas do leave a lasting impression.
Many of the facts cannot be disputed, she concedes. “Yes there are potholes - but no worse than in UK I am told by British-based friends.” I’m sure you’re right Jan. We know what Britain is like. That’s why so many of us choose to live in Hong Kong. “Yes we have a rubbish collection problem,” she says, but I’m wrong about hardly any houses being built. She can count more than four in her village alone. Indeed there as many half-built shells in Corfu as in my home country Ireland, Jan. What I referred to was the scarcity of new projects.
And as for the hospital trying to fleece us when one of the children hurt her arm, Jan retorts: “Assuming your friend was an EU national where was her health card, she would then have been treated free of charge?” Sorry Jan, our group were Hong Kong residents, so no jammy EU health cards.
Do say where you found moussaka for 20 Euros- that is about double anywhere I have ever seen, she says. Apologies, I can’t remember exactly, it was in Corfu town. Food and drink prices varied widely – our group of five kids and five adults could be charged euros 16 in one cafe, and euros 24 for the same ten drinks in another.
Unique delights of Kavos
She admits drinks in the resort of Benitses are too pricey, “sadly so are its rents....no excuse I agree. It is still a pleasant place to it, sip and people watch.”
And as for Kavos – did it really deserve a whole paragraph, she asks. “It is one resort fortunately at one end of a long island”. Agreed, Jan, but it is spectacularly hedonistic. “Kavos – f**k or be f**ked” says the tee-shirt. Take a look at the British Channel 4 documentary What Happens in Kavos on YouTube. But not if you’re squeamish.
The south of the island is popular for its Greekness – had I tried Alonaki, perched on a cliff, the fish tavernas on the Boukari road, or visited the old hill villages where life has hardly changed for decades? Yes, Jan, we stayed in one. We roamed widely, visiting Moriatika, Messonghi and Bokari (in the south), Prassoudi and Pelekas (on the west coast), Corfu Town, and Agni and Agios Stefanos in the north. The food was mostly excellent, but prices veered from super-cheap to high.
Jan says I could have written something to help a country in crisis, but I “blew it in favour of some clever snide comments. A shame, and very irresponsible.” Sorry Jan, I just described the striking changes since my last, pre-crisis visit. At least we chipped in to the local economy. We hired cars, shopped in supermarkets, patronised tavernas and forked out for the kids at Aqualand. Even if some of the new wine made by Angelo in the village, at euros seven for a five-litre plastic drum, proved a mistake.
Bottom line is this: Corfu is still charming, but undeniably scruffy. Greece as a country is skint. But if your economy depends on tourism, how hard is it to tidy up?