Living in Vienna, I am certain our residency cards would have been revoked upon return had we not visited Achilleion, the Hapsburg Empress Elizabeth’s favorite destination. And so our last day on the island began with a visit to her Pompeian style palace. Truth be, once I reached the upper terraces and gazed out over the waters, it was only when Tony reminded me that we were both heading to a beach in the afternoon and that I could sit in the gardens at Schloss Schönbrunn all summer if I wanted, did I move along.
Our timing to the palace was impeccable. One small tour bus (15 passengers) when we arrived; three jumbo cruise ship day tripper motor coaches when we departed. Because we do not travel via group, we wondered, “Is it a requirement to gaggle and block pathways when on a group day trip?”
The palace really is simple and elegant in style, and when compared to Hofburg and Schönbrunn it is easy to understand why this was the favorite destination of the Empress.
Trying on the palace for size.
During WWI the palace was used as a military hospital; during WWII, as headquarters by axis powers. Perhaps that explains why the beautiful walls were painted over.
This elegant ballroom opened to an even more elegant terrace.
Dying Achilles, the inspiration for SiSi’s palace “worthy of those who despised all mortals and did not fear even the gods.”
Wouldn’t you want to spend your summer on this terrace?
Tony convinced me of the need to move along yet again, and so I obliged. Our next stop was the viewing point to Pontikonisi, where one of the many legends holds that the island is actually the petrified ship of Odysseus, where it crashed during the storm caused by the enraged Poseidon. Neither of us can exactly recall the Homer we read a hundred years ago when we were in secondary school, but we liked the view nonetheless.
Around the bay from the island is Kanoni and the Vlacheraina Monastery, which sits at the end of a small causeway in a pretty little harbor. The entire setting was charming, and we wandered about for a little while.
The monastery with views of “Odysseus’ ship” in the background.
Our final pursuit for the holiday was one more afternoon at the beach. We pointed our little roadster toward Barbati, another beach just a bit north of Corfu Town and sat for lunch at a beachside taverna. Fresh fried calamari? But of course. And no British “chips.” Hurrah!
And then, a nap. We congratulated one another for having mastered the afternoon beach nap in such short time.
Much later, after our wander through Corfu Town one last time for gifts for the children, we returned again to the restaurant we discovered on our first evening for a final seafood feast. The proprietor shook hands with Tony to welcome us, and without our request, brought a piping hot plate of Saganaki to our table to start our meal.
(More) fried squid, expertly prepared for me; and the grilled octopus for Tony. And no British, “chips.” Every last morsel was savored, and we strolled ever so slowly back to the hotel and our rental car, to catch our midnight flight back to Vienna.
We awoke to a clean home; a vehicle filled with petrol; the few requested comestibles in the refrigerator (it was Sunday, so the Teenagers had to grocery shop the day before); flowers that had been watered; and two children who have it all together and make us proud to be their parents.
While we truly loved our Grecian getaway, that we had traveled before the peak tourist season, I think, made all the difference. We lived in DC for twenty years and avoided the Smithsonians between June and September, leaving it for all those travelers on a museum death march. Similarly, our annual Cape Cod holiday was always at the end of August, when the island was largely deserted because of families returning home for the start of the school year. This holiday certainly piqued our interest in exploring the other Greek islands, but never, ever, in peak season.