Taki Taki

High Life | 26 July 2008

Days before burgers

Corfu

The Ionian islands are softer, greener and more feminine than those of the Aegean, and Corfu in particular was used by Homer as the setting of one of the most beautiful episodes of ‘The Odyssey’, the meeting of Odysseus with Nausicaa. For any of you with short memories of the classics, Odysseus was washed ashore, having escaped Calypso’s enchantments, and is welcomed with warmth and generosity by Nausicaa’s parents, King Alcinous and his wife Arete. Once the Ithacan king reveals his identity the Phaeacians take him back to his island, which he hasn’t seen in 20 long years.

In an earlier tradition, before the Trojan War, the Argonauts, having stolen the Golden Fleece from Colchis, and with King Aeetes on their heels, find refuge and a welcome in Alcinous’ and Arete’s palace. Nice people those two, but the not so nice modernists have installed a Big Mac near their palace. Once upon a time, the tired and pursued found refuge in Corfu, now the fat and greedy come for triple burgers and fries. Zeus must be awfully pissed off up at Olympus but there’s little he can do. The Corfiotes have for a very long time done their own thing. During the Persian Wars, Corfu, or Corcyra, was the second naval power after Athens, and on the eve of the battle of Salamis, 60 triremes were ready to fight the Persians. But they never made it because heavy seas prevented them from reaching their destination in time. Just as well. Themistocles wiped the floor with the Persians, although back then they were still civilised enough not to wear tablecloths on their heads.

The Venetians ruled from 1386 to 1797, when Napoleon ended the republic’s run, a golden period as far as I’m concerned — as it was for the Taki family in nearby Zante — because the Venetians repulsed the hated Turks five times, 1431, 1537, 1571, 1573, and 1716.

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