Hiking in Corfu: Greece's Verdant Isle

Intriguing History
  |  Gorp.com
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Aquamarine waves lap chalk-white slabs of stone as fishing boats bob in the distance. The coastline of Albania, scarcely two miles away, sits crisply across the water: a jumble of concrete buildings in the distant city, snowcapped mountains looming above. Here, the bright blooms of wildflowers explode from the grassy slopes that lead up to the remains of a Byzantine fortress.

A simple sign, half-hidden near the quay, points the way:"To the Fortress." The track deteriorates into a trail, leading right into the keyhole entrance to a once-mighty city which reached its peak in the 10th century A.D. This massive stone structure sits atop earlier ruins, a Roman outpost attributed to the Emperor Nero. Follow the paths leading along and outside the walls. An olive grove occupies most of the high ground, but well-worn trails take you up, over, and around the gray stone walls, leading down to the distant peninsula where slabs of glossy agate jut from wave-smoothed stone.

Like the giant stump of a tree worthy of Zeus, Anglokastro rises from Corfu's western shore, its stone roots reaching deep below the sapphire waves lapping at its base. I stood in awe on the beach at Paleokastrista, looking up at the mountain, realizing its stone cap had been carved into a fortress.

We ascend to the top of the mountain, my sisters and I. A rugged track leads through the olive groves from Lakones, but we choose the road and park as close to the summit as possible. The track is an eroded streambed, winding more than a thousand feet up the mountain, switch-backed and narrow. Rocks crumble beneath our feet. No invader ever succeeded in knocking the Norman knights off the mountain. Built in the 9th century A.D., Anglokastro remained impenetrable until it was abandoned.

We struggle for breath under the ancient archway and emerge into fortifications carved from the living rock. Steps lead up terraces with numbing drop-offs to the sea; a monk's cell commands a sweeping view of all of the coves of Paleokastritsa. A small white chapel crowns the mountain's peak. Carved from the stone beneath our feet lie the tombs of eight men, perhaps Crusaders. Windflowers rustle in the breeze. A viper slips through a hole into an underground chamber. I feel power in the stones; the wind whispers of the past.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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