November 2006

November 2006


Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter - Carol Bishop Hipps

Well, that's one way of looking at it I suppose. One of the best things about living in Corfu is the variety that is packed into a year. There is no question of one season blending seamlessly into the other - the arrival and the passing of each season is marked in various very distinctive ways. September and October tease us with their unpredictability, flirt with the weather and have us in fleece jackets one minute and stripped off and sunbathing the next.

Introduction, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The busy summer days are over and there is a very real sense of something coming to an end, of summer handing over the baton to autumn. Rain falls and is succeeded again by sun, temperatures plummet then rise again. Skies are astonishingly blue one day, black and ripped apart by lightning on the next. The countryside is green once more, starred with wild flowers, with purple heather bursting out where yellow broom brightened the land in spring. The local people call this the little summer. This is when, living in Corfu temporarily or permanently, or enjoying a late holiday, you appreciate the small pleasures - a quiet lunch by the sea, an ouzo at some village cafeneion or in the sophisticated surroundings of the Liston, a hilarious attempt at conversation with local people.

Introduction, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

People are putting away the summer toys - boats on or off trailers appear in the strangest places, as far from the actual sea as can be imagined; sun beds and umbrellas retire to storage, jetties and water sports platforms are dismantled before the storms come to splinter them into pieces.. Out come the winter 'toys' - fishing nets and shotguns. Trucks replace fancy cars, thick-soled boots and warm caps are the fashion item of the season. The signs of autumn are certainly there, and of winter too, a warning to make the most of the gifts of this season. Rose hips and blackberries are there for the gathering, to be turned into preserves familiar to northern Europeans. The dry, leafless stems of vines can be gathered before they are pruned and burnt, to twist into bases for decorative wreaths - add berries and nuts and dried flowers and some ribbon. Autumn is not at all depressing in Corfu - it is a prelude to the pleasures of winter.

Introduction, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Events of the Month

Events of the Month, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
Oxi Day (Ochi)

On 28th October 1940, at 04.00 am, after a party in the German Embassy in Athens, an ultimatum was presented to the Greek dictator, Ioannis Metaxas, by the Italian ambassador in Athens. The ultimatum came from Italian dictator Mussolini, and demanded that Greece allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy unspecified 'strategic locations' or face war. It was said to have been answered with the single word OXI, or 'No'. In response to Metaxas's refusal, Italian troops stationed in Albania, then an Italian protectorate, attacked the Greek border just an hour or so later, but were driven back into Albania. This incident marked the beginning of Greece's participation in World War II.

During the war, 28 October was commemorated yearly by Greek communities around the world, and after the end of the war it became a public holiday in Greece, commemorated with military and student parades. Most public buildings and many private ones are decorated with the Greek flag. It is a day of great pride and patriotism and pays tribute to the strength in adversity so often displayed by the Greek people.

Events of the Month, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
The Corfu Incident

Talking of 'incidents' reminds us that an event known as 'The Corfu Incident' took place sixty years ago, on 22nd October 1946, when two British destroyers HMS Saumarez and Volage struck mines in the Corfu Channel, with the loss of 44 lives. Another 42 British sailors were wounded. The dead were buried in the British Cemetery in Corfu Town, and a memorial set up. This year, as every year, the tragic event was commemorated by the visit of a British warship and church services.
On Sunday 22 October a Royal Navy frigate and a private cruiser Leander were in Avlaki Bay and a ceremony was held to commemorate the sad events of 60 years ago. This ceremony, and the scattering of wreaths on the sea that accompanies it, takes place once every ten years, in addition to the annual service held at the British Cemetery in the town of Corfu. The Corfu Channel, an international maritime highway, was heavily mined during World War II, and had been cleared after the end of the war by the British Navy. Following a dispute between Albania and Britain, the channel was again secretly mined by the Albanians, with tragic consequences. An interesting reference to this incident can be found, with photos, in the book 'Corfu's Sea Legends', by Rodney Agar. This most interesting book is on sale at various outlets in Corfu.

Flora and Fauna

The subject of flora at this time of year is dominated by one tiny, fragile flower - the Greek Cyclamen. It grows in clusters, showing a preference for sheltered spots between the gnarled roots of olive trees, or massed along the verges of the quiet country roads, but its habitats are surprisingly varied. There are twenty species of cyclamen, two of which flower in Corfu one in the spring, and the other in autumn. On our recent visit to Paxos we were struck by the profusion of cyclamen - in places like drifts of palest pink snow in the olive groves.

Trivia: A rather interesting website called Gourmed mentions a recipe for young spring cyclamen leaves stuffed with yellow split peas - not one we feel the urge to try!

Events of the Month, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Not strictly 'flora', but certainly a feature of the Corfiot countryside that re-appears at the end of each summer - I refer of course to the olive nets. Once upon a time, not so very long ago, the olives were gathered by hand, by teams made up of family and hired labourers. In Corfu the trees were not mechanically harvested, nor shaken, local belief being that the best olive oil came from olives allowed to drop in their own good time. Nor were trees pruned unless absolutely necessary. Needless to say, people in other parts of Greece declared that these habits came from the legendary idleness of the Corfiots, rather than being the result of any specialised knowledge. Today, families are either unwilling or unable to pick their own crop, and the widespread use of nets has been the result.

Events of the Month, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Visiting an olive press:
Sofri from 'Agni Travel' visited the Sinies olive press. Armed with his digital camera, he left no wheel unturned and has written this fascinating report on how olives are pressed for their valuable olive oil. Olive Press Visit

Recipe of the Month

Recipe of the Month, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

At this time of year our Corfiot friends bring us gifts that would grace any harvest table - newly-made wine, honey from the Corfu hillsides, and bags of nuts. The almond trees of northern Corfu are wonderful to see in the early months of the year, their pale blossom often echoed by drifts of the snow that, to the surprise of many non-Corfiots is a regular visitor. Stately walnut trees are a feature of many a garden, and the fruit of these too make a welcome gift.

Greeks love sweet things, and cakes are almost always embellished with a syrup that not only makes them lethally sweet, but renders them quite irresistible. Greek Walnut Cake is an example, and there is nothing quite like the homemade version.

This is just one of many recipes :

Karythopitta (Greek Walnut Cake)

170g unsalted butter, melted
45g dry breadcrumbs
170g finely ground walnuts
1 pinch Salt
150g caster sugar
2 tsp Baking powder
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 pinch ground cloves
The finely grated zest of 1 lemon
5 eggs
30g coarsely chopped walnuts, for topping

For the syrup
2 Lemons, juice
150ml water
280g caster sugar
2 tbsp Brandy


1. Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5. Line the base of a 24 cm loose-bottomed cake tin with non-stick baking parchment, and grease the sides.
2. First, make the syrup so that it is completely cool by the time the cake is done. Put the lemon juice, water, sugar and brandy into a saucepan and stir over a moderate heat. Bring up to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Leave to cool.

3. To make the cake, melt the butter and cool until lukewarm. Mix the breadcrumbs with the finely ground walnuts, salt, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and lemon zest in a mixing bowl.

4. Make a well in the centre. Pour the lukewarm butter into the centre of the dry ingredients and break in the eggs. Beat until thoroughly mixed and pour into the prepared tin.

5. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the cake feels firm to the touch. Test by plunging a skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

6. When the cake comes out of the oven, pierce all over with a skewer. Pour the cold syrup, little by little, over the hot cake, spooning any syrup that oozes out the centre of the cake every now and then, until it has all been absorbed. Don't worry about the dark brown colour the syrup takes on after oozing through the cake.

7. When the cake is cool, unmould it and sprinkle the coarsely crushed walnuts evenly over the surface.

8. Serve with Greek yoghurt and with a cup of thick, dark, black coffee.

Winter is Here!

Winter is Here!, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

We did say at the start of this Newsletter that October could be just a little unpredictable, with splendidly warm days alternating with tempestuous ones. As we enter November, Greece is enfolded in an unexpectedly early cold wave. Heating fuel is in great demand and in places like Corfu, dependent on supplies from the mainland, in short supply. The mainland mountains, so clearly visible across the Corfu Channel, are not yet covered in snow, but any day now any day!

Snow has fallen in parts of Greece already and temperatures at night are in the minus range. Yet Corfu still, up to the time of writing this, basks in sunshine, albeit slightly chilly sunshine. If you are thinking of settling in Corfu, we can only repeat the advice - try a winter here before you make up your mind! And don't forget to bring your boots.

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Last Of The Summer Wine

Last Of The Summer Wine, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Driving around the island in September and October, you can hardly miss the trucks that are parked at strategic points, selling crates of grapes. They come from all the grape-growing areas of Greece - Crete, the northeast, the Peloponnese. One or two of the trucks even come up to town and the north from Lefkimmi, well known for the quality of its grapes.

These grapes will be turned into wine by the local people, not to be sold, but to be pressed and processed at home and used for home consumption. Several bottles will find their way to friends of course. A by-product of the winemaking process is 'musto' which is used in the making of a delicious grape jelly flavoured with cinnamon and sprinkled with chopped walnuts. Where would Greek cuisine be without cinnamon and walnuts! This sweet is called 'mustalevria'. Musto also goes into the making of delicious cookies called 'moustokouloura', which have a flavour almost like that of gingerbread and go very well with the morning coffee - all bakers and supermarkets sell them.
More about the wines of Corfu another time.

Celebrity of the Month

Celebrity of the Month, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

It's about time we mentioned Corfu's Celebrity Family, perhaps - the Durrells, especially as, following a campaign initiated by local doctor, Spiros Giourgas, the Municipality has finally recognised the contribution made to the island's popularity by the two Durrell brothers - Gerald and Lawrence.

The Durrells were descendants of a colonial family that had lived in India for three generations. The death of their father, who built railways in India, caused a financial crisis that resulted in the family moving to Bournemouth. They had never before visited Europe. A civil service pension, however, and a small inheritance, enabled them to live comfortably in Corfu, which Lawrence, already a young adult, had already discovered. At his urging, the family joined him. Gerald was then a ten year old boy, and his years in Corfu were later turned into several books, of which 'My Family and Other Animals' is the best-known and loved: it has sold over 5 million copies and has twice been adapted by the BBC - once as a TV series, and once as a Christmas Special film. Mrs Durrell and her family lived in various properties, none of them very far from the town of Corfu, from 1935 until the outbreak of World War II forced them to leave. Lawrence, on the other hand, the oldest of the children, lived in the White House at Kalami with his new wife, Nancy. His years in Corfu are beautifully and lyrically described in his book 'Prospero's Cell'.

Celebrity of the Month, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

(Filming of the latest BBC Durrell Story.)
There is now a Durrell School in Corfu, and a Durrell Library, but the re-naming of the Boschetto Gardens, on the Old Fortress side of Corfu's elegant Main Square, on Sunday 24th September as the Durrell Boschetto Gardens, represents the Corfiots' own long-awaited recognition of two remarkable, and utterly different, writers.

Latest Properties from Agni Travel

We are very excited about our new properties for 2007 on Corfu and Paxos and by way of an appetizer, here are three to tempt you!

Latest Properties from Agni Travel, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
Spiros Jetty House

Spiro's Jetty House really is a house on a jetty - which gives it a unique character. With views of the colourful and very pretty harbour from one side of the house and open sea views across to the Greek mainland from the other it is rather like living on a boat!

Latest Properties from Agni Travel, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Layout: Double bedroom on mezzanine floor, large living/dining room with kitchen, sofa-bed sleeping two children, bathroom with shower cubicle. Air conditioning.

Latest Properties from Agni Travel, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Location: Loggos, Paxos
Loggos is one of the most beautiful little harbours in the Ionian.
Three mini-markets, a bakery with wonderful fresh bread every day, and supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables brought over regularly from the mainland, make self-catering a simple matter - but who could resist the conviviality and choice of excellent food at the waterfront tavernas? Freshly-caught fish tops the menu every night and there is an attractively cosmopolitan 'buzz'.

Latest Properties from Agni Travel, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The location of Dina could hardly be bettered - as long as you enjoy having the beach almost on your doorstep, a friendly taverna next door, and the company of like-minded people. Kaminaki is for people who appreciate the intimate atmosphere of a tiny seaside hamlet, and Dina, with its beautiful sun terrace and very pretty interior, completely renovated this winter, is quite delightful. Perfect for two, or a couple with a child, Dina is ideal for a really relaxing holiday - everything you want close by, with boat trips to the town of Corfu for a change of scenery and sophisticated shopping.

Latest Properties from Agni Travel, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Layout: Bedroom (double), dining/living room with sofabed, kitchen, shower, shaded dining terrace, large sun terrace with sunbeds.

Latest Properties from Agni Travel, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The Beach: The beach at Kaminaki is one of the prettiest on the island with white pebbles and a sparkling blue sea which stays warm enough for swimming right into November! For those who enjoy snorkelling, there are rocks on either side of the beach - home to small fish and octopus. Sunbeds and umbrellas are available for hire on the beach and there is a boat hire centre also offering various water amusements, including waterskiing.

Latest Properties from Agni Travel, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel
Villa Eos

A villa with outstanding seaviews and a breathtakingly beautiful pool. In an elevated position facing south, this very stylish house looks right down to Agni Bay, where you can even see who is moored to the jetty at Taverna Agni! This is the perfect villa for a quiet, relaxing holiday, with little to distract you from the serious business of acquiring a tan or finishing a holiday bestseller.

Latest Properties from Agni Travel, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

Layout: The villa has the advantage of being built on one level, and there are just a few steps up to it from the parking area. The entrance leads into an open plan lounge/kitchen/dining room which opens directly on to the front and pool terraces.There is one double bedroom (with en suite bathroom), and one twin bedroom (with en suite shower room). The large covered balcony is ideal for shaded relaxation and for outdoor meals. The private swimming pool is flanked by very extensive terraces equipped with patio furniture and sunbeds/umbrella.

Latest Properties from Agni Travel, November 2006, Newsletters, Agni Travel

The living area has a fireplace with comfortable seating around it and an 'entertainment corner' with TV/DVD and Cd player. Large patio windows lead on to the front balcony whilst French doors open to the pool terrace.Needless to say, the views are superb.

Why not contact Stella or Rachel from the Agni Travel office and let them help you to plan your next holiday to Greece.


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