We have been holed-up on Corfu Island, our first stop in Greece, for over a week now. You may remember a list of things that went wrong for us in Brindisi, Italy while we waited for the day the boat would sail to Greece. You may also remember that we had received a number of cautions about the erratic ferry schedules now that the summer season has ended. The repeated advice we got was to buy our boat tickets at the point of departure. This we did, from a travel agent in Brindisi. But, when we got to the ferry loading gate on the day the ticket said the boat would sail to Corfu, the ticket taker sadly shook his head and said that in fact the boat today does not sail to Corfu. We were sold a ticket that belongs to no boat! Add THAT to the list of Brindisi misfortunes. I was fuming mad….
But this journal entry isn’t about that fiasco. This entry picks up with John, who was getting sick in Brindisi. His fever continued to rise on the boat – up to 103.5 degrees! Kathy could treat it with pretty good results and thank goodness our 6-hour boat ride to SOMEPLACE in Greece was over calm seas.
When we finally showed up at a most beautiful small hostel on the west coast of Corfu things began looking up. The weather has continued to be beautiful, prices are lower, the dollar has gained significant strength against the Euro, and we got two clean, adjacent rooms with balconies overlooking the beach. Plus we receive, as part of our room rent, a good breakfast and great dinner – both home cooked Greek meals.
But John took a serious turn for the worse soon after we arrived. His fever got hard to control and he developed a painful sore throat and, most shocking, a large number of open sores on his gums and tongue. He became so lethargic that he didn’t leave his room for two days. So we went to the doctor. That was a surprisingly pleasant experience. The family that owns and runs the hostel drove us to the hospital. The check-in process was simple: “Our son here who looks dreadful, needs to see a doctor. John, open your mouth. See, this is why we’re here.”. The receptionist pointed us back outside to wait. Five minutes later an English speaking doctor came to get us and the appointment began. It was the doctor’s opinion that the throat and mouth problems were unrelated viruses. We got a number of prescriptions and some advice and said good-bye. “Who do we pay?”, Kathy asked. “You don’t pay for medical treatment here”, the doctor responded.
The medicine and more time worked for John. Just about the time he was feeling strong enough to leave his room though, Sharon began to get a sore throat…..we went back into town and got more medicine. Thankfully Sharon’s time sick wasn’t nearly like John’s.
Because our stay was so long at this hostel and because it is off-season so the guests are few, we grew close to the owners and staff. In fact, for most of our stay, there were more staff than guests there. That’s a very comfortable situation for the guests!
So Corfu - what a beautiful island! Now that the kids are improving, I can explore and enjoy the place. From the balcony outside our room I've had time to sit and watch the golden sunsets after which cute little bats fly under the full moon to eat the mosquitoes. I've learned to greatly appreciate those bats. From some of the photos you may notice the spots are our faces, especially John’s. It worked to our advantage when we took John to the pediatric clinic. The receptionist seemed to believe he had some type of contagious skin disorder or perhaps measles and hurried a doctor to him. Randy and I have a reinforced appreciation for how susceptible our kids may be to what we encounter on this trip which also renewed our resolve to make the trip safe and comfortable for them.
The family who own and run the Sunrock Hotel work 7 days a week and live their lives with gusto and warmth. Madalena, the 41-year old mom, is a real pistol; hot tempered, smart, sharp-tongued, caring, a total delight who manages the hotel with confidence and lusty humor. And wow, can she and her staff cook! They made us wonderful omelets, French toast or these donut like things they call Greek pancakes every morning (unfortunately, the coffee is Nescafe). For dinner she serves lamb, or moussaka, or fish, or lentil soup, and much more with always a salad and a bread basket, but never dessert. They make their own wine and olive oil from the fruit of their orchards.
Her husband, Spiros, is a great hulk of a man. His day starts at 5 am when he drives up steep hills (the Greeks build their roads up cliffs it seems) to meet the 6 a.m. ferry and find more guests. He then drives back with or without customers to take his family back into town for school (Mada doesn’t drive). Angelos is their sunny 9-year old boy, and Laertes, the 7-year old son, is autistic. To Mada’s deep chagrin the teacher won’t let Laertes in the school unless Mada sits with him, which she does most days of the school week.
Spiros stays in town to attend to business or drives to their farm for a morning of planting and animal husbandry. After picking up his family at 1 (and any guests who caught a lift in that morning, as we did several times), he drives everyone home for 2 p.m. lunch together on the sunny deck of the hotel. Then Spiros winds down with wine and Retsina to aid his afternoon nap while Mada helps the kids with their homework. Spiros rises later to address maintenance at the hotel and help with dinner, especially the amazing spit roasted birds on “Chicken Sunday.” Dinner is always at 8 pm followed by a late night of watching TV, chatting with guests, shelling and eating pistachios, and then they start over again every day of the week.
Our new friend, Larry, an adventurous and articulate retired librarian/teacher, has worked since May as a guide/helper at the Sunrock Hotel. We were lucky to be the only two to join him on his last hike before he left to live and work in a co-op in Madison, Wisconsin. We hiked with him over rocky seaside hills and through olive groves to the picturesque village of Sinarades. It is filled with tile roofed Venetian style houses (the Venetians ruled Corfu for several hundred years) that are surrounded by sunny gardens and orange or pomegranate trees.
Larry regaled us with stories as we scaled the steep and crooked little streets, made that way to slow the pirates who often attacked the town and kidnapped their citizens. As we sipped Greek coffee (watch out for the sludge at the bottom) we watched Greek widows, dressed all in black and wearing black head scarves, carry their shopping bags home.
The hillside vegetation is lush and reminds Randy of Hawaii. There is this little pink flower, I think Cyclamen, that is sold in pots at our Metropolitan Market, but grows wild over here; plus rosemary, sage, oregano, eucalyptus, bay leaves, cactus, palm trees. Olive groves cover the island, with trees brought by the Venetians who long ago offered Corfu farmers funds to convert their lands to growing olives. The trees are not small and carefully pruned as in Italy, though. They are allowed to grow very large and so can only be harvested every 2 years. Black nets are spread under the trees to catch the olives that fall when ripe during breezy weather.
Heather and Taylor are two boisterous Australian girls from Tasmania who’ve spent the last month working at the hotel and on the farm. Their goal is to “milk something” and Taylor says with a grin in that broad Aussie accent I love so much that they handle the hard work with “sheer determi-nigh-tion.” They also drink copious amounts of wine and beer each night which I think is included in their room and board. They took John under their wings and made his farm experience top-notch as you can read next. Sharon had a rather different, yet meaningful perspective…
We went to the farm today. In the folowing santsis I will explain the farm, how it went, what I did, and what I thout about it. I hope you njoy.
To me the farm was ok. I was really lucky they let me work in the farm. That was fun. Let me list the things I did. I shoveled the crap out of the pig’s den, fed the cows, checked the chickens, lifted hay, fed the pigs, made sure the pigs didn’t jump up, pict fruit, brang in new food, slit the new food, fed the cows again, and see if ther were any eggs.
It was very fun and hope the other people there had as much fun as I did.
I had a awesome time at the farm. If you go to Corfu you should visit Sunroke and go to there farm. In the futcher I hope we at home get some chickens.
farms = stink
not even kidding
it smells so bad
After a 45 – 50 minute walk up hill to the farm my dad and I were greeted by an over-friendly dog: Duke. He might have just been my favorite part. We walked in past the maybe twenty goats, past the thirty-ish chickens, past about five turkeys, and around squealing pigs to get to the bigger pigs. We saw two mommy pigs with their newly born piglets. Next we saw all the other pigs. There were about 30 total. Now as you can all imagine it smells horrible, but it was nothing compared to where we went next. The cow box. Yes, I am sorry to say but it isn’t a barn or a big, grassy field. It is more like a box. You have to feel bad for the cows being tied to a post with a rope no longer than a foot and a half. With nowhere to exercise, with nowhere to go to the bathroom other than where they stand everyday of their lives.
Anyway, enough about how (horribly) they live, and on to the unbearable, absolutely awful stink. It was so bad that I took a few steps in (with my huge boots on), turned around, and walked straight back out. It is so bad words can’t describe it. Some people didn’t mind and walked right in and stayed. I don’t know how they did it. After everyone was done working, we all - my dad, Taylor, Sunny, and I - walked home. Once we got back my dad and I told everything to my mom and brother. They wanted to go and decided they would go to the farm before we left Corfu. That night I had my mom wash my clothes very well to get that horrible farm smell out of them.