We are no longer young, and neither, for that matter, is Corfu. Age is a relative thing. Corfu’s Old Town, where we stayed, has both an Old Fortress and a New Fortress.
The origins of the Old Fortress date back to the 6th century while the construction of the New Fortress started in the 16th century.
When “new” is 500 years old, then “old” is a hard concept to define. In the U.S., objects are considered antiques when they are older than 100 years. No wonder we’re confused.
This building looked classic – and old – to us. The Governor’s Palace, also called the Palace of St. Michael and St. George, was constructed in 1824. It houses the excellent Asian Art Museum.
Nearby was the Church of Virgin Mary Mandrakina, built in the 18th century.
The large Orthodox Cathedral of Corfu Town, Panagia Spiliotissa (Madonna of the Cave), looks out to the harbor. The church was built in 1577 and now houses the remains of the (headless) empress St. Theodora.
The oldest Christian Church in Corfu, the Church of Sts. Jason and Sosipater, was built in the 11th century. It’s considered the most important Byzantine monument.
We suppose that these buildings were all considered on the “new” side of construction. Now we wanted to see the “old” ruins of Corfu, so we headed just south of Corfu Town where there existed an ancient city in the area of Mon Repos. The archaeological site was termed Paleopolis (meaning “old city”).
The place we were most excited to explore was the Kardaki Temple, which dated back to 510 BCE. It was a Doric Temple dedicated to Apollo, 26 meters long (11 columns) by 12 meters wide (6 columns).
Little remains to visualize how it looked 2,500 years ago.
We noticed a very narrow path into the woods at the edge of the temple. We made our way slowly down the path and came to a low, stone wall.
That’s when we saw the ramp and steps leading down to (we assumed) a beach.
As we walked down the steps we heard splashing water, which we thought was waves on the shore. As it turned out, it was the Kardaki Springs we had read about!
The Kardaki Springs’ water used to flow from a carved lion’s head.
That’s when the story came back to us how the Kardaki Temple had been discovered. In 1822 water no longer flowed from the Kardaki Spring to the nearby town. When the springs were inspected, it was discovered that an unknown ancient temple ruins had collapsed and caused a landslide which resulted in the blockage. It was then that the Temple dedicated to Apollo was discovered and became known as the Kardaki Temple.
In the evening, we researched nearby archaeological sites on our computer and then headed off on our daily walks to pay a visit to these old ruins – watching birds and photographing wildflowers along the way.
One of the last sites we walked to, near the Corfu airport, demonstrated “new” construction incorporating an old foundation. The 11th century church of Panayia Neradziha was built into the 5th century BCE city wall.
In our month-long visit to Corfu, we never quite made it to all the “old” and “new” sites on our list. Still, we left satisfied. We’d seen much more than we ever thought possible.