Yet More Cheap Flights to Corfu!
Budget airline Ryanair have announced a number of new starting points for flights to Corfu. These include Stansted, Manchester, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Billund (Denmark), Brussels, Milan (Bergamo), Oslo (Rygge), Frankfurt and Dusseldorf; while rivals Easyjet now fly from Gatwick, Luton, Bristol, Manchester, Berlin, Paris, Milan and Rome. In addition there are new services this summer from Russia, Ukraine and Ireland. This of course is all good news for independent travellers looking for an alternative to package holidays.
Pelekas Café under New Ownership
Pelekas Café is situated in the main square next to the church. For 15 years it was run by members of the same family - the late Nassos Arvanitis, then nephew Diomides Papadatos and his father Dimitris. It has now been bought by brothers Stamatis and Gerasimos Avlonitis. The emphasis is on high quality products (organic, sustainably produced coffee for instance), Greek traditions like serving small plates of appetisers with drinks such as ouzo and tsipouro, and top class entertainment - great music and regular live events. Pelekas Café is open virtually 24 hours a day, offers free Wi-Fi and has a breathtaking panoramic view from its balconies.
An interesting result of the economic hardship being felt in Greece is that people's drinking habits are changing. No longer are imported whiskies and vodkas the tipple of choice, rather a clear Greek drink called tsipouro. This strong distilled spirit contains around 45 percent alcohol by volume and is produced from pomace - the residue left over after grapes have been pressed for wine. (It is similar to the Italian grappa which is made in the same way.) Tsipouro is mainly produced in Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia, the Mani Peninsula and the island of Crete. It is usually drunk in shot glasses and accompanied by a small plate of mezes. Try it the next time you are here.
Burning the Carnival King
Andreas Doukakis 1921-2012
It is with sadness that we report the death of Andreas Doukakis last November. Andreas (seen here with his one of his grandsons) will be remembered by many as the owner of the Levant Hotel.
Having left school at an early age in order to support his fatherless family, Andreas eventually saved enough to buy a horse and wagon which he used to bring supplies from Corfu Town to the shops in Pelekas. In time this was traded in for a small truck which can still be seen just off the road beside the cemetery.
By the 1970s he had built the now disused olive oil factory (opposite Pension Martini). The Levant Hotel was later built on land at the Kaisers Throne where Andreas had a small hut from which for many years he had sold coffees and cold drinks to the Corfiots and tourists who would come to watch the sunset. They included many notable names including actors, musicians, politicians and even on one occasion Aristotle Onassis. (It's not known if he left a generous tip!)
The Pelekas "Torpedo" Restored to its Former Glory
One of the major talking points in the village over the last twelve months has been the story of the Pelekas "Torpedo". (Of course it's a mine, not a torpedo, but the locals use the word torpili to describe it which translates as torpedo.) It was washed up on Pelekas Beach after World War II and it is assumed that it is German. It was brought up to Pelekas Square sometime in the 1950s where it has stood ever since.
For a series of complicated reasons which we won't bore you with, it was decided last year to repaint it in its original colour. This proved to be a highly controversial decision, especially as no-one had been consulted in advance by the village councillors. After a few weeks it was attacked with paint stripper ( above left) and remained in a sorry condition until last month, when it mysteriously reappeared with its original blue and white stripes (above right). Hopefully this iconic Pelekas landmark will now be left in peace.
Photovoltaic Farm in the Ropa Valley
In the Ropa Valley, not far from Pelekas, a south facing hillside has been transformed by hundreds of solar panels. Interest in renewable energy sources and particularly in solar/photovoltaic (PV) projects has been booming in Greece over the last couple of years. This development has been spearheaded by Greek legislation which provides for generous state subsidies for the construction of PV units and then buys the power produced at an attractive rate (despite recent cuts in these rates as part of the national austerity package).
Clean, renewable energy is of course a good thing. However, the downside is that what stood on this hillside before it was cleared were olive trees. Admittedly olive trees that were unwanted, unproductive and not making any money for their owners, but nevertheless, part of Corfu's beautiful landscape that continues to attract and enchant its visitors. This is just one example of some of the difficult decisions that are going to have to be made over the next few years as Greece tries to deals with its economic crisis.
This section gives you the opportunity to re-create some of your favourite Corfiot recipes at home. This time, Sofrito - slices of beef cooked in a garlic and parsley sauce and one of the classic Corfu dishes.
1.5 kg of round steak, thinly sliced. 4 cloves of garlic, chopped. 1 shot glass of vinegar. 1 shot glass of dry white wine. 1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped (leaves and tender stems). 1 teaspoon of salt. 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Olive oil for frying. Flour for dredging.
In a frying pan large enough to hold the strips of meat lengthwise, add a little oil and bring it to a high heat. Put the flour on a large plate, dredge the strips of meat, and brown on both sides. Place in a large pot and set aside. In a clean frying pan, add two tablespoons of oil and bring to a medium heat. Saute the garlic and parsley. When the garlic starts to change color and the parsley wilts, add the pepper, salt, wine, and vinegar. Stir well and pour over the meat. Add enough water to the pot to barely cover the meat. Holding the handles, shake the pot gently to mix the ingredients without stirring. Cover and cook over a medium-low heat for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Could 2013 be the year that people look back to as the time when climate change became a recognisable part of our everyday lives rather than simply a scientific forecast?
Here in Pelekas there have been some noticeable changes over the last 25 years. Heat wave summers have become more frequent. Extremely strong, damaging winds have become a regular occurrence from November to May. (Winds are drawn between cold and warm air. Corfu is directly between the mountainous Balkans and the deserts of north Africa. A few degrees colder and warmer and the winds start moving faster.) Then we just have had the wettest spring in living memory with three months of almost continuous rain since the beginning of the year. (380 millimetres fell in February alone!)
What climate change will really mean is not olives growing in northern Europe but much more variable and extreme weather conditions. And after recent freezing winters and soaking summers, and prolonged droughts immediately followed by flooding of biblical proportions,, Britain has just broken all records with the coldest March ever. As a result it is expected that the number of visitors escaping to the sun will see a sharp rise this year. (It is forecast that this could be by as much as 15 to 20%.)
Last year saw tourist arrivals in Corfu fall during the early summer - partly due to uncertainty over the Euro and the political situation in Greece. It is expected that the recent relative stability, plus the relaxation of tourist visas for visitors from countries such as Russia, will mean a much improved year for tourism and a welcome boost to the local economy.
2013 Pelekas Calendar
This year's calendar produced by the Pelekas Cultural Society features Pelekas Spring Flowers. You can order it online for just 7 euros, with all proceeds going to help the Society which again this summer will be staging a summer programme of cultural events for both locals and visitors. These include music, dance, theatre, puppet shows and other forms of entertainment.
Corfu Villages E-book
Regular Pelekas visitor Steve Ford has produced a book about some of Corfu's villages. The first edition focuses on Central Corfu. Later editions will cover the rest of the island. Steve's work is available as a pdf download and as an Amazon Kindle ebook and he plans to donate the proceeds to local charitable causes, including the recently set up Pelekas Food Bank.
As we have been regularly reporting over the last couple of years, work continues apace on the construction of the Pelekas amphitheatre. One result of this work is that it has opened up a new vista on one side. The tiny church of Agioi Anargyroi (Greek: Άγιοι Ανάργυροι, meaning "Holy Unmercenaries", saints who received no payment for their medical services) is now clearly visible from the road for the first time.
Fishing for Food
An interesting statistic resulting from the economic crisis is that the number of Greeks who have obtained fishing permits almost doubled last year and there is a growing amount of people fishing without licenses. Although there are no statistics confirming what has prompted the spike in the number of people applying for licenses, it is believed that the rising unemployment rate has contributed, as has people’s need to find other ways of feeding themselves. A coast guard officer recently spoke on condition of anonymity. “In some cases, they do not have permits but we recognize the impact of the crisis and we choose to turn a blind eye.”
Current Pelekas Weather
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