June 2006

June 2006

May Day

May is filed away in our memories of Corfu now, but reminders of it linger on to make sure we remember what a wonderful month it is and one of the best times to visit Corfu.

May Day, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

May Day wreaths of dried flowers still hang on doors and gates throughout Greece. In many parts of the world, May Day is celebrated by commemorating past political and military events and The Worker is the Hero of the day.

In Greece, after the processions, banner-waving and slogan-shouting, Greeks do what they like doing best, going off to the country to pick flowers and wild greens and celebrate with a picnic or a good meal at a country tavern. People sit for hours happily weaving wreaths of wild flowers, with the bright yellow margarita daisy being most popular. The wreaths go home, temporary ornaments for the family car, to be hung up eventually on, above or beside the door of the home. According to ancient tradition, these wreaths bring luck and fertility to the house. In some parts of Greece, they hang on the doors until they wither and disintegrate, in other places they are taken down on the Feast of St. John in June and burned. Young men and women leap over and through the flames of the bonfires, apparently to ensure their fertility and virility. As with so many Greek customs, a certain amount of risk is involved!

May Day, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The old English saying 'Ne'er cast a clout til May be out' was always open to two interpretations. One: don't leave your vest off before the first of June. Two: you may safely leave it off as soon as the May bush comes out into flower.

In Greece, however, there are no two ways about it - on 15th May, it was officially summer, and the police, coastguard and armed forces and indeed anyone who wears uniform, appeared in summer-weight clothing. Bus timetables changed on that day too; shops changed their opening hours, and in general, the country moved into its summer rhythm. Few Greek people swim in May, apart from the growing number of year-round bathers. Those of us who came to live here many years ago brought our foreign ways with us, and some of us used to swim in March, finding the sea temperature quite bearable. The village women would rush to wrap us in shawls as we emerged from the sea. But we have grown more Greek with years of living in Corfu, and rarely bathe before June, and the village women are now used to almost anything the foreigners do in May or indeed in any month. You no longer run the risk of being wrapped in a shawl!

May Events

21st May. This was the name day of Saint Constantine and Saint Eleni, the day on which we must remember to say 'Chronia Polla', the equivalent of 'Many Happy Returns', to all our friends called Constantine or Constantina, or Eleni. This includes people known by the diminutive forms of these names - Dina or Dino, Costas, Nitsa. It is also the day on which the Corfiots celebrate the Unification of the Ionian Islands with Greece, an event that took place in 1864, when Corfu and the other Ionian Islands passed from the protection of Britain and were united with the rest of Greece

May Events, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
That reminds me

The history of the Ionian Islands is fascinating and well worth reading about. (One of the best books on the subject is 'Britain's Greek Empire' by Michael Pratt). At various times, the islands have been conquered and 'protected' by just about every great Mediterranean power, with the sole exception of the Turkish Empire. This, coupled with the fact that Corfu was a part of the Venetian Empire for several centuries, resulted in the island being so different from the rest of Greece- differences which are apparent in the island's architecture, its local dialect, its traditional costume, songs and customs, its food and wine, and even in its appearance.

May Events, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

At times, looking out across a calm sea to the mainland, it is easy to imagine you are on the shores of one of the Italian Lakes. The Venetians were responsible for the destruction of most of the island's native vineyards - didn't want the Corfiots posing a threat to Italian wines did we? - and the intensive planting of olive trees - to provide Venice with olive oil. Fair trade?

Flora and fauna in May

The pale pinks and mauves of the flowers of April and early May - crocus, iris, silene, asphodel, wisteria and Judas tree - gave way to yellow. Yellow broom covered the flanks of the hills and lined the country lanes until the first days of June; the heavy yellow flower heads of Jerusalem sage are still to be seen. set off by the grey-green, furry leaves, and golden margaritas, a member of the chrysanthemum family, are just asking to be picked and popped into villa vases.

Flora and fauna in May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
Trivia:

In ancient times, the Spanish Broom was used to make ship's ropes, and its stems broken down to make fibres from which ship's sails were woven. Linen and hemp were not resistant enough to salt water.

Flora and fauna in May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Very visible birds this month have been the flashy magpies, swooping down to clear the roads of overnight road kill, the gentle collared pigeons that colonise entire trees, the swallows that tend their babies so diligently. A meal or a drink in a country taverna or bar is considerably enlivened by the antics of the swallows nesting in the beams. The local people, so many of whom spend the winter shooting birds, are charmingly tolerant and kindly towards swallows, keeping the old nests in place for the birds to return to, hanging trays below them so that they will not drop anything untoward on the people below.

Flora and fauna in May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

An evening stroll or drive in the country is almost always going to let you hear the thrilling song of a nightingale. Look out, too, for a flash of yellow so vivid and yet so swiftly gone you think it was an optical illusion that was a golden oriole.
An insect that is peculiar to the summer months, and in Corfu more especially to the month of May, is the firefly. A glance at our Agni 'message boards' will show how many people anxiously plan their visits to coincide with the period in which these little creatures are active. In America, where it proliferates, it is called the 'lightning bug', but the firefly is neither a bug nor a fly. It is a beetle, belonging to a scientific family that contains the largest order of living things - 290,000 species.

Fireflies are not the gentle creatures their romantic twinkling would suggest. They are carnivorous and feed off other insects, small animals in the soil and snails. They spend the winter as larvae underground, emerging in spring to pupate and become adults. The adult fireflies send signals to each other with their lights, and mate. The females lay their eggs on soil a few days later, and in 4 weeks, the eggs hatch into larvae that continue to feed until autumn, when they take their turn in burrowing underground to await the next spring.

The early summer displays we see are performed by the male fireflies. They give off a repeated half-flash while flying above the ground in search of a female of the same species. The female signals in response from a perch on or close to the ground. When the male sees her single flash he moves down to join her. Woe betides the male that falls for the false flash of a female of a different species she uses her ability to mimic the flash of another species to attract a suitor for food!

The light given off by fireflies is called bioluminescence. It happens when oxygen and the organic compound luciferin react together in the presence of the enzyme, luciferase. This creates light. The fireflies are not alone in producing light, but they are the only insects that can flash their light on and off in distinct signal patterns. Even the eggs and larvae of some firefly species glow, which gives rise to the term glow-worm. In this case, however, the light is to warn birds and other predators of the presence of defensive chemicals in their bodies, giving them a bad taste.
Perhaps all we need to know is that the fireflies are responsible for one of the most magical sights in Corfu.

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Food for May

Food for May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Staying in a villa gives you the ideal opportunity to sample the 'flavours of the month'.

Food for May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

In May, spring vegetables are still plentiful and form the basis of some of the best Greek dishes. Artichokes, leeks, fresh peas and carrots, broad beans, new potatoes, spring onions, lettuce and dill and lovely local lemons!

Food for May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Fresh lamb is still available, and combines perfectly with lettuce, dill, lemon and spring onions to make a fricassee, or with artichokes, peas and lemon.

Food for May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

However, the great dishes are a vegetarian's delight: leeks braised gently with tomato and rice, and perhaps the best of all - Artichokes a la Polita, consisting of artichokes, new potatoes, fresh young carrots, peas, spring onions and dill, all stewed carefully in a lemony white sauce. But 'first clean your artichoke' as Mrs Beeton might have said - a slightly tedious process, which takes time, and nearly all the artichoke leaves.

The classic 'Greek Salad is considered to be the one that combines tomatoes, cucumber, green peppers, onions, olives, feta cheese and, naturally, olive oil, but it is still a little too early for the true flavours to have developed in the sun. On the other hand, a salad of crisp Kos lettuce, torn into fine strips, with spring onions, feathery dill, and lashings of lemon and olive oil, is Spring personified.

Food for May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The winter fruits are on their way out, and soft fruits are making their appearance. Huge, dark red strawberries contrast with the miniscule wild strawberries for which Corfu is famous. Greeks sometimes sprinkle then with black pepper to bring out the flavour, or serve them in a glass with white wine. Juicy cherries are on the way (look out for the trees bearing their fruit in the Kassiopi and St. Stephano areas the beach of Kerassia, meaning 'cherry trees', was once surrounded by them ), and delicate apricots. Look out for 'mousmoula', also known locally as 'nespoules', which grow on an imposing tree in most gardens. They look like a shiny yellow apricot, but belong to the medlar family and have a fourth name loquat . What flesh there is tastes of pear and is very refreshing, but most of the space under the skin is taken up by a huge, glossy 'stone'.

Food for May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Memorable experiences in May

Walking is still enjoyable in May, with the countryside a patchwork of freshly unfurled greens in every shade. There are still few visitors about and roads are quiet. The days get warmer towards the end of the month and an early start is advisable. Wear sensible shoes and take some water. It is advisable to carry a stick and make some noise as you walk on the hillsides the snakes are waking up after winter hibernation, and it is easy to come across one unexpectedly. Both you and the snake will get a fright, but there is no need to panic. The bigger the snake, the more harmless is a useful rule, but there are some venomous snakes such as the adder.

Memorable experiences in May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

One of the greatest pleasures of walking in Corfu at this time is the likelihood that you will come across orchids - the higher you go the later they bloom - the slopes and summit of Pantocrator are ideal spots. The hills above St. Stephano are a paradise of flowers and birds, and still carry many reminders of the quaint old ways of life in spite of the proliferation of new villas. Even in busy Corfu town there is one peaceful oasis, famous for its orchids - the British Cemetery.

Memorable experiences in May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
Speed Boat

Another delight in May is the quieter water, renting a speed boat for the day will give you a whole new perspective of the Corfu coast,

Full moon - 13th May:

It may have been and gone for this month, but the good news is that it happens every month. There are few sights more memorable than the Corfu Channel in the light of the full moon, a hammered pewter shield spread between the hills of Corfu and Albania. For one of the best views, drive up to Vigla or Porta, above St. Stephano, though the view from a certain taverna at Agni is not to be sneezed at!

Memorable experiences in May, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Farewell to May, then - for this year at least.

Agni Travel

Agni Travel, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The Independent Corfu Holiday Specialists by Taverna Agni, with over 50 selected properties along the NE Coast.

If you are looking for independent Corfu accommodation, then we can help. Agni Travel is run by Taverna Agni and we are proud to be able to offer over 50 properties along the Corfu coast, with many close to Agni Bay.

Agni Travel, June 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
Still haven't booked for this summer?

If not, then Stella and Sofri are on hand in the Corfu Agni Travel office. Their experience and local knowledge will help you to choose the perfect last minute holiday. Choose an exclusive villa with pool, a traditional Greek house or a beachside apartment. Contact :
office@agni-travel.com

2007 Reservations

Already we are taking reservations for May 2007 on a non commitment basis. Why not take a fresh look at our properties and plan ahead for next year? www.agni-travel.com

Paxos

Anyone for Paxos? Agni Travel plans to offer villas on the nearby island of Paxos, with the option of a Corfu/Paxos twin center holiday. Connections between the island can be aranged via seaplane or hydrofoil.

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