Corfu Island, the Grand Lady of the Ionian, is characterized by a series of mythical images: Nausica, the daughter of King Alkinoos, the man who saved Odysseus when he was shipwrecked in the Country of Phaeacians, which many have identified as the island of Corfu; Sissi, the sad Empress of Austria and the Achilleion palace she built; the majestic Mon Repos, the 19thcentury summer residence built for the British High Commissioner and the Kaiser’s Observatory, from where Wilhelm II looked out upon the iridescent Ionian.
Equally majestic are the iconic city mansions, the Liston Arcade and Spianada Square – the largest in the Balkans. Venetians, English, French, Russians, Greeks all lived and flourished here, and left their mark on the island’s numerous sights and attractions.They composed a diverse culture that you will discover in every musical note of Corfu’s marching bands, in each glass of kumquat liqueur, in the labyrinthine alleyways of Campiello, in every love affair that sparks up in the Canal d’Amour. Corfu – or Kerkyra as it is known in Greek – will certainly seduce you.
The Achilleion Palace was built by Empress of Austria Elisabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sisi. Elisabeth was a woman obsessed with beauty. She had a very powerful, but tragically vulnerable character since the loss of her only son, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in 1889.A year later in 1890, she built a summer palace in the region of Gastouri, now the municipality of Achilleion, about ten kilometres to the south of the city of Corfu Island. The central theme of the palace is the mythical hero Achilles.
Elisabeth spoke fluent Greek and expressed a desire to further immerse herself in the Greek culture. Like every other European royal, she had some Byzantine emperors among her distant ancestors. Elisabeth was given the property by Corfiot Petros Vrailas Armenis who was rewarded by Elisabeth with a large diamond-encrusted brooch to be passed down to the wife of the eldest son.The Imperial gardens on top of the hill provide a majestic view of the surrounding green hill crests and valleys with the Ionian sea gleaming in the background. Elisabeth used to visit the place often until 1898 when she was assassinated in Geneva by Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni.