These fun facts about Corfu include how the island got its name, who wrote the Greek National Anthem, and the eccentric Englishman, the Earl of Guilford.
It seems unbelievable but no-one knows for sure where the English name Corfu, or the Greek name for the island, Kerkyra, actually comes from.
‘Corfu’ probably derives from a Greek word, korifai, which means ‘peaks’ and refers to the two rocky hills on which the Old Fortress was built in the 6th century.
Kerkyra is a complete mystery, though. The Greek word kerkos means ‘handle’, and may refer to the shape of the island. Legend also has it that a nymph named either Kerkyra or Korkyra was brought to the island by the sea god Poseidon, and her name was given to the island.
The renowned Greek poet Dionysios Solomos (1798-1857) lived in Corfu Town for much of his life and the house in which he died has been turned into a museum in his honour. Part of his poem, Hymn to Freedom, was set to music as the Greek National Anthem. It was first translated into English by the British author Rudyard Kipling in 1918.
When raising a toast on Corfu, like everywhere else in Greece, avoid clinking the bottom of your glass against the other person’s. This is seen as an attempt to put a curse on them! By the way, the Greek version of 'cheers' is 'yammas'.
As well as being called both Corfu and Kerkyra, the island has also been referred to as Scheria. This is the island Odysseus is washed onto when returning home from Troy to Ithaca, south of Corfu, in Homer’s epic tale, The Odyssey.
Near the entrance to the Old Fortress in Corfu Town is a small park that leads round to the Palace of St Michael and St George. Here you will see the statue of a seated man, the 5th Earl of Guilford (1766-1827), an Englishman who lived on Corfu in the early 19th century.
Guilford was an eccentric character who converted to the Greek Orthodox faith, dressed in purple robes, and wore golden laurel wreaths in his hair. He also re-opened the Ionian Academy in Corfu Town, which went on to become modern Greece’s first university. Guilford Street, which runs due south from the Town Hall Square, is named after him.