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MORE FACTS AND TIPS ABOUT CORFU AND GREEK LIFE

Interesting aspects of Corfu (and Greece), questions that you might have and noone is there ask!

What's the use of black or green nets under the trees?

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There are estimated 3 million olive trees on Corfu! Do not forget, olives are backbreaking work, so when collecting them you will need a Donkey.

Olives  flower during May.  If you suffer from 'hay fever' then you may need to avoid the first couple of weeks of May - or find accommodation that is close to the sea. During the summer months, the olives slowly fatten. The olives start green and depending on the variety, (there are more than 300 hundred types), they will turn purple, then black. (And you thought that green olives were just unripe black ones!) Corfu mostly has the small black variety. During October and November the olive nets are prepared. Olive groves only give fruit every two years. Now this may come as a suprise to you and it is certainly a little problematic. Nets from groves not giving fruit need to be moved to those that are - not an easy task. Before setting the nets under the trees, the ground needs to be cleared of 'undergrowth'. With Corfu's warm climate weeds and brambles thrive making the task of clearing difficult - often a petrol 'strimmer' is employed or a hand scythe. The nets are 'laid' under the trees. Each net is about 10m by 30m, making them awkward to position under the trees. They are 'sewn' together with nails or large plastic pins. Usually the whole grove is covered with nets. Now, to a controversial point: Olive spraying which is needed to control the breeding of the olive fly -it lays its eggs in the developing olive. The resulting grub eats the olive while growing and destroys the fruit. Infestation of greater than 1% of olives in a grove render them unusable for table olives and if greater than 10% unusable for oil. During December till April, the olives slowly ripen and then drop. Every ten days or so during this period, a visit to each grove is need to collect the fallen olives. If they are left any longer, they start to shrivel and their oil becomes useless. The olives are collected using a short stick with a nail in the end. Starting from the top of the grove, the stick is pressed into the net, turned 90 degrees and then lifted. This action of raising the net makes the olives run downwards. Once the olives start rolling, coupled with a swift wrist action, the olives can be gathered into small piles. The whole grove needs to be worked in  this fashion. Each pile of olives has to be sifted of leaves and twigs. Then using a bucket they are scooped up and put in to sacks. Back to where the donkey is needed! The sacks need to be carried back to the road. Usually this is quiet some distance. The collected olives are either 'pressed' for their oil or preserved in brine for eating. Only the very best will be preserved though. Most get sent to the press. There is nothing finer than eating fresh bread and olive oil that you have just had pressed!

How can i get protected from sunburn?

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UV rays are the greatest during the late spring and early summer in Greece, especially as long as the day gets longer , till the 21 of June . But all the summer period from May to late September are considered for sun exposure in Greece high risk .The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  daylight savings time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time) are the most hazardous for UV exposure in Greece.  Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15+ and both UVA and UVB protection. Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out for more than two hours and after you swim or if you sweat. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is surely shorter as it is usually been exposed to high temperatures. Wear clothes when you are not on the Beach and sunscreen on your face too. Glasses are important gadget and also a hat. Keep in mind that most places in Corfu have Trees so look out for s shade even in the beach. If you get burned aloe vera cream from a local pharmacy will help you a lot.

 

How can i avoid mosquitoes?

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A stinging gnat or fly. In Greek it is pronounced Koo-noo-pee. As with all warm humid placesaround the Mediterranean, at certain times of the year mosquitoes can be a nuisance, and some people are more affected by them than others. Only female mosquitoes bite! 

So, lets not let them spoil your holiday. If you take all our advice on precautions then you can eliminate or minimize their nuisance valueWith a little forethought and planning they can be avoided, some methods are more effective than others - find the one that works for you.

Bring with you a good anti mosquito skin application, lotion, roll on, whatever. Autan, Jungle Juice, Johnsons  “off”,Tea Tree Oil and Citronella - all are effective. Tesco's produce a good after sun lotion with an insect repellant in it. Cover yourself all over with it as part of your post shower routine. Before going out in the evening apply your repellent to your skin- especially arms, legs and ankles. If you are a particular 'target' then liberally spray your clothing as well. 
To prevent them getting into your room at night, before leaving, first of all dont leave the lights open cause they are attracted to the light and ofcourse  use one of the little plug in things available from all the local supermarkets, you will need one for each bedroom.They either come with a jar of fluid which you leave plugged in 24 hours a day, which should last for the whole holiday, or a small unit which has a hot pad on it, where you put a new tablet each evening. For this one you buy a box of tablets separately. It seems to be personal preference as to which is best you might like more the fluid ones as people tend to forget replacing the little pads. At night when your lights are off, make sure you leave a window open (you can keep the shutters closed). DO NOT sleep with your windows closed. The mosquitoes do not like the aroma produced by the machines. This will let the mosquitoes escape. Contrary to popular belief, the plug in things repel them not kill them. You don't want an unhappy family of mosquitoes trapped in your room for the night!  (We cannot smell it though.)  We recommend sleeping with windows open but shutters closed.

Should none of the above not work and  you do get bitten, have an antidote handyThey are available in the local mini-markets or pharmacies even in duty free shops.

Last but not least when sitting on your balcony during the early evening, do not leave the house open and lights on unless you enjoy extra company! Mosquitoes are attracted to the lights. Also purchase some of the 'Spira' burny things. These are lit and placed on top of an empty bottle. They will smoulder for about 8 hours and the smoke disperses mosquitoes and any other bugs.

What Corfiots do in winter?

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The Winter months here are spent relaxing, renovating and olive picking! With the roads now very peaceful of traffic.With plenty of days offing bright blue skies and sunshine – why go elsewhere to recuperate? On a warm day it is magical to sit at the Liston in Corfu Town with the sun warming your back, sipping coffee or ouzo and getting caught up in gossip with your friends – wiling away the hours until ‘meze’ time! Followed of course by a siesta – its compulsory, even in the winter!Or, taking a ‘Sunday afternoon drive'across to the other side of the island, enjoying a basic picnic of  bread, cheese, home made wine.

Christmas is celebrated in a similar fashion to the rest of the Christian world. Brightly decorated Christmas trees, coloured lights in the streets and around the houses and loads of food and prezzies! Christmas eve, sees the first of the carol singers. The familiar tunes - in Greek of course! Then off to the Church. Christmas in Greece focuses on religion, with most going to the regular masses. Christmas day is spent at home with the whole family. Mum prepared a feast. While people chat and drink dad's homemade wine of course.

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During Christmas dinner, the TV is on - constantly - as in all Greek homes. Also the phone does not stop ringing - relatives and friends wishing 'Xronia Polla' - which literally means 'Have Many Years'. The new-year is celebrated in the traditional fashion. The new year is here and its time to cut the 'Vasilopita" which mean the pie of Vasilis(meaning santa). The housekeeper is the one who cuts the pie and inside its hidden a coin named 'flouri'. The pie is divaded into pieces. The first piece is for 'Panagia' meaning holy Mairy second for the house then one for each person leaving in the house and then one for each guest. You might ask yourself why not a random order? Well inside the pie as we said its hidden the 'flouri' whoever wins it will have a good fortune for the year(some houses use a golden coin) so the order is essential so that noone feels that he could have won instead of someone else.

Too many Bakeries?

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A Greek family cannot sit down for a meal without bread and olive oil! Their daily supply of fresh bread is as important as their homemade wine!

The morning ritual of collecting the bread needs to be experienced. Just pop out for the bread in the morning. Each village has its own bakery-"fourno" (Greeks call it "fournos" which means oven) which often doubles as the local coffee shop - a Kafenion. The place is always full. After ordering the usual Greek coffee, join in on the conversation - usually a bright mix of local politics, weather and gossip! On Sunday's, the baker does not bake! (He makes a double lot on Saturday). Baker starts his day at 4am. He uses traditional methods for bread making, including an olive wood oven!

What is a kafeneio?

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A Kafenion is the local village gathering place and a traditional refuge of the Greek male - the nearest thing to a Greek 'pub'. Each village will have at least one or two. They are usually close to the village square and are easily identifiable as there will be a few old broken chairs outside and a couple of tables. Although a coffee shop, you will also find many drinking ouzo, brandy, beer and soft drinks and sometimes sell a few essential groceries.  Some Kafenions will offer a mezze with your drink - this at the very least will be, a few olives and a little feta cheese to a whole assortment of local dishes. The refreshments and mezzes, however are almost incidental to the proceedings, which can vary from gossip to political discussion and talk how they would put the world to right, from gentle musing to a game of tavli (backgammon).

During a visit to Corfu, you must take time to visit your nearest Kafenion and the locals!  - tourists are always made welcome. Pop in for a beer or an ouzo and you may even be given a small Mezzay of local cheese and olives.

Incidentally, have you ever seen a letterbox where you have stayed in Corfu? No! Well all the mail for the village is left at the Kafenion - not posted to each house. If you prefer though, the postman will leave it at the Petrol station. The postman brings the pension at the beginning of the month. The local elderly queue outside while he counts out the cash to each entitled person.

Greek Coffe?

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The coffee is a think muddy mixture served in a small cup (an espresso sized one.) Contrary to what many visitors expect, it is is not exceptionally strong and tastes rather good most. Most of the times it is server with a cookie at the side or a 'gluko tou koutaliou' like in the picture which means sweet of the spoon and it is most of the time fruits or fruit peels with sugar suryp. Since in Corfu grow trees of kumquat (brought to Corfu by British) Lemontrees and orange trees the most common are these versions of gluko tou koutaliou in Corfu.In the stores all over Corfu you can find gluko tou koutaliou kumquat to take as a souvenir or gift to your friends. Do not do the typical tourist thing and try to drink the whole lot! - leave the mud at the bottom in the cup - not stuck to your teeth! When ordering the coffee, you need to stipulate how much sugar you require:

  • A 'med-rio' (a normal or medium one) - has one sugar.

  • A 'glyko' (sweet) - has two or more sugars.

  • A 'sketo' (without) - no sugar.

(Many people confuse this with the strength of the coffee and incorrectly order a medium strength coffee with no sugar.)

To order a medium Greek coffee you would say:

'Ena Elini-ko med-rio parakalo'

How To Make a Greek Coffee

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  1. First take a Greek Coffee saucepan - this is a small stainless or copper utensil with a long handle (to stop you burning your fingers). Place on a small electric ring or preferably a 'camping gas' type burner.
  2. Fill a Greek coffee cup with water - 3/4 full and poor into coffee saucepan. Then add one heaped teaspoon of Greek coffee powder. If sugar is required then add the appropriate amount.
  3. On a low heat, stir. Once all the powder has dissolved - stop stirring - but leave on the heat.
  4. After a short while, the coffee will start to froth - as it boils. Just as the froth reaches the top, remove from the heat.
  5. Slowly pour into the cup - the light frothy part of the coffee should float on the top.

What is paniyiris?

There are many local festivals or 'paniyiris' during the summer in Greece. Check WHEN SHOULD I VISIT CORFU?

Spiros or Spiro?

If during your next Corfu holiday you enter the nearest bar and screech at the top of your voice: "Spiros, get me a beer" -  you will look like a complete tourist! So to help prevent you from making the above mistake we are here to help with a short grammar lesson!

So, you have met a Greek waiter who has told you that his name is 'Spiro' - yet you have overheard others who have called him something else. Lets tell you why:

Firstly, during your meal you could correctly call him over saying 'Spiro, could we have another bottle of wine please?'

But - if you are talking about Spiro (not to him) then you need to add an 's' to the end of his name. For example 'Shall we ask Spiros to bring over another bottle of wine?'

This is true of all male Greek names: When you are talking to them - no 's' on the end. When you are talking about them add an 's'. With this in mind, if you were speaking to the Taverna owner, you would correctly say: "Costa, we think your waiter Spiros is great fun". Of course you could ask your waiter: "Spiro, do you like your boss Costas?"

Girls names stay the same!

Note: Spiros is often shortened further to 'pp' (pronounced 'pea pea'). Try to remember this one as using this expression with local Greeks will usually  gain a smile.

Wedding in Greece?

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For those of you who have never experienced on-looking a ‘Greek Wedding’ its an experience that you have to live for sure!

Up to, as recently as 20 years ago the parents of the bride and groom arranged most marriages in Greece and to some extent this still happens in the more remote areas. Today most couples meet, fall in love and get married, and even though the dowry has legally been abolished since the PASOK government Family Law reforms in 1983. This tradition is still maintained in the majority of Greek weddings although not with the traditional ‘Dowry Contract’ as used in the past. The week preceding the wedding is full of traditional preparations. One of the most certainly lucrative but also adhered to is the ‘krevati’ or making of the bed! This usually happens two days before the wedding and is a big gathering of the two families, relatives and friends. Lots of eating and drinking is of course also customary, and followed by two young unmarried girls to make up the double bed (similar to our tradition of throwing the bride’s bouquet, it is believed that the first one to get a pillowcase on will get married soon) and then all the people present throw money on the bed including gold coins to make the marriage prosperous. After the bed has been showered with money a young male child (or female!) is thrown on the bed in hope that the first child from the union of the couple will also be a boy (girl). Shooting with rifles is common, live ammunitionand a real rifle is used to shoot into the air. This is to symbolise the happiness of the couple and to let all the other villagers know it will soon be their wedding day,

The eve before the Wedding is when the couple have their separate ‘hen’ & ‘stag’ parties. This has only been introduced to Greece in the last 10 years, it is not a Corfiot tradition and so not every couple partakes in this event.

All Greek Weddings take place in the late afternoon, and never the morning, this giving everyone plenty of time to get to the hairdressers etc. But, the majority of brides have a hairdresser and beautician come to the family home to apply the finishing touches’ to her beauty, some brides also have a video made of their last few hours as a single woman in the house with her family, and getting ready to meet her ‘husband to be’ at the church doors.

On the day of the wedding the groom awaits the bride outside the church with his family and ‘koumbaros’ (equivalent of best man/matron of honour), the bride arrives (it is customary to be at least 30 minutes late!) either in a car decorated beautifully with flowers, or (if not far) walks to the church behind local Corfiot musicians playing a selection of the well known old village songs, with her family behind her.

As the couple enters the church the rifles begin firing again from close relatives. Once inside the church, there are no pews or chairs, everyone just gathers around and stands next to who ever they want to hold a conversation with during the service! The bride is given away by her father, and all the family members stand at the front of the church, the bride’s side on the left, and the groom’s side on the right. A table flanked by two large ‘lambades’ (very large decorated candles) already awaits in front of the iconostasis. On it are the rings and the crowns (not dissimilar to a halo) laying on a bed of sugar coated almonds, the New Testament and a glass of red wine. The first part of the wedding involves the betrothal, the rings are blessed and the ‘koumbaros’ exchange them between the bride and groom three times. The second part, the sacrament, culminates in the ceremony of the coronation when the priest crowns the couple; these are also exchanged three times by the ‘koumbaros’.

The three exchanges of rings and crowns signify the special grace the couple receive from the Holy Trinity. Afterwards the couple drink three sips of wine from a common glass, which symbolises the Marriage of Canaa and the beginning of their shared life. The next little bit of the ceremony involves the ‘stamping on toes’, this is where the priest asks ‘who is going to be the head of the family?’ (the stronger of the two) and this is the woman’s opportunity to stamp on her new husbands toes before he does it to her! After the congregation calmed down, it is now time to undo your little bag of rice (that was given to you during the first part of the ceremony) and get ready to throw it at the Bride and Groom as they are led by the priest and followed by the ‘koumbaros’ around the marriage table three times, this is known as the ‘choros tou Isaia’ (dance of Isaiah), also sugared almonds are used to throw at the couple, the rice signifying happiness and prosperity the almonds fertility and the sugar the sweet memory of the occasion. The floor of the church scattered with rice! After the ceremony a receiving line is formed either inside or outside the church where wishes are extended to the newlyweds and their family by all present. The wishes are usually ‘na zisete’ (may you have a long life), ‘na sas zisoun’ to the parents and relatives (may they have a long life) and  'panda axios' (always worthy) to the koumbaros’. Upon leaving the church all the guests are given a little pouch made with tulle and filled with sugared almonds as a token of thanks (sometimes these are given as you are leaving the evening reception instead of at the church). Lots of Wedding photos are now taken inside the church with both sides of the families and friends. Wedding presents are usually taken to the house before the wedding; however, Greeks seldom make wedding lists so it can be tricky knowing what to buy the newlyweds, in this case an envelope containing money is given to them at the receiving line after the ceremony. This is what the majority of the Greeks give, it is easier than having to shop and purchase a present!

After the ceremony has finished we all get back into their cars and drive to the reception, following the Bride and Groom’s car. Lots of honking of horns is necessary when ever you pass through a village on the way to the reception. It is letting the villagers know that you are a Wedding party in convoy! An average Greek Wedding invites 200-300 people.

As the couple are having more photos taken, the rest find their tables inside. We sit any where; no seating plan is required as with in England. Drinks are already on the table, from ouzo, wine, water, soft drinks and beers you help yourself all night long. Just put up your hand to a passing waiter and wave your empty bottle at him, he will refill immediately. Once the couple enter the room, the live band starts up, and everyone cheers very loudly, tapping their knife against their wine glass – this is to symbolise the guests want the newlyweds to ‘kiss’. This tradition will happen all night long at various different intervals, when ever someone from the Wedding party starts to tap their glass – everyone else joins in with them, making a loud shrill noise echoing around the room, only stopping once the Bride and Groom have stood up and ‘kissed’ one another.

A meze of starters is handed out to every one, as well as fresh bread, tatziki and taromasalata. The band plays throughout the evening, and the Bride and Groom of course have the first dance, followed by the close family, and then its anyone’s turn, you just have to put your knife and fork down and get on that dance floor! I love the dancing, and only go back to my seat once I am out of breath. The rest of the food is served sigar sigar (slowly, slowly) throughout the evening, with the cutting of the many cakes round about 11pm! The cakes are wheeled onto the dance floor, and the Bride and Groom make a cut on each cake, and a champagne toast to each other, and then are joined by their two koumbaros. They now take the first pieces of the cut cake (cream cake not fruit) and serve it to each other. The cake and champagne is served out to everyone and the dancing begins again. The evening closes around 2am the next morning and on your departure, as you are thanking the couple and saying your good byes, the Bride gives you each a ‘bon bon’ as a souvenir from their special day (pouch filled with sugared almonds).

If you consider to visit Corfu for your vacations you should not lose the opportunity to book a room at  Kadith Corfu Sea view rooms that will relax you and revitalize you. Book the vacations of your dreams now...

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