After a brief stop for a photo shoot, with Dimitris volunteering as our photographer, we continued our journey westwards. The scenery was breath-taking and there was a surprise around every corner. At some point, on the side of the winding road, I noticed this pretty – what shall I call it? – ‘construction? – chapel? – elf’s house? … I expected our driver to stop the car to explain what it was and give us the time to shoot a photo.
However, he continued, not even looking at it. I managed to get the above shot through the side window of the car. It’s not a good photo. It’s blurry and the sun is in the wrong place, but for some reason our driver continued without even paying attention to our interest in the ‘object’.
A few seconds later he must have realized that he owed us an explanation. After hearing the story I felt slightly embarrassed for taking the photo. But I’m posting it anyway, because it’s part of Corfu’s tradition and I want to share it with you. Btw, we would never have seen or known this if we had taken one of the regular tourist bus tours. Here’s the story:
When you live in France or elsewhere in Europe, you’ll often see black wooden silhouettes by the side of the road or small crosses with plastic flowers attached to them. They indicate the spots were people have been killed in road accidents. Well these little ‘chapels’ are the Corfu equivalent. But there is more to it. Some of these ‘chapels’ are very elaborate, like the one in the photo. Most of them are very simple though, consisting of a plain wooden box sitting on a stone base. We saw many more of those throughout the day.
They may be different from the outside, but on the inside they all contain the same items: a small icon of the deceased’s patron or favourite saint and a recipient filled with olive oil in which a candle wick is placed and lit. Every time, before the oil runs out, someone comes and refills the recipient to keep the flame alive. In the night people driving past these places, see the light and know that this a dangerous place, where something bad has happened (these are Dimitris’ exact words). It incites them to drive carefully. Dimitris was very emotional when he told us the story, so I guess that he – a third generation taxi driver – must have lost a relative or a good friend, maybe a fellow taxi driver, in a car accident.
We continued our journey in silence, until we reached this beautiful spot: a small orthodox church, with its typical flat bell tower amidst a small vineyard. Although I drank some excellent local white wine during my stay, this is the only vineyard I saw on Corfu. I guess the majority of the vineyards is located in south part of the island. (Note to myself: need to find out the next time I go back!). I didn’t drink any Retsina, the most famous Greek wine, because it isn’t a Corfu product and I wanted to stick to the local produce as much as possible.
The white wine at the hotel was very good. I wasn’t too fond of the red though. I would have liked buying a bottle of two of the white, but I was travelling light, meaning my suitcase was too small to take too many extra items. Moreover, I had read somewhere that the local wines, although very good when consumed ‘sur place’, don’t travel very well …
(more to come)