Anthony Quinn, how Greek can you get?

Mexican actor Anthony Quinn (left) playing ‘tavli’ with a villager in Corfu’s Pelekas, during a break while shooting The Greek Tycoon in 1977

In 1964 the movie Zorba the Greek (and the soundtrack!) stormed and conquered the hearts of film fans around the world. ‘Zorba’ – based on a novel by Greece’s Nobel Prize winner for Literature Nikos Kazantzakis – won three Oscars. While much appraised leading actor Anthony Quinn had to satisfy himself with a nomination. Although surely his role as Alexis Zorba added enormously to his popularity.

Mexican born Antonio Rudolfo Quinn Oaxaca had played Greek characters before, like in Ulisse (1954) and in the hit The guns of Navarone (1961). Now by his acting and dancing (sirtaki!) in ‘Zorba’ he convinced many cinema visitors that he was at least partly Greek. More Greek in looks and behaviour than some Greeks anyway.

The Greek Tycoon
Still we would have to wait until 1978 to see multitalented Quinn (also film director, painter and sculptor) in his next Greek role. In The Greek Tycoon he is Theo Tomasis, a character based on Aristoteles Onassis. British actress Jacqueline Bisset plays Liz Cassidy, the beautiful widow of the assassinated president of the United States. So we are looking at a romanced account of the courtship and marriage of Onassis and Jacqueline (Bouvier) Kennedy. A relation that begun even before John F. Kennedy became president and lasted for almost two decades.

Negative reviews
The Greek Tycoon (budget 6,5 million dollars, running time: 107 minutes) was met with a lot of critical reception: “As witless as it is gutless” (The New York Times); “You have watched the headlines, now you can read the movie” (Variety). TV Guide rated the movie one star and had only one favourable comment: “If scenery, greenery and lavish living are what you like to see, you may enjoy The Greek Tycoon.” An positive exception is made for the final scene, in which Anthony Quinn’s once more shows his great sense for dance.

The scenery of Corfu
“The scenery” and “the greenery” was shot on location in Corfu and Mykonos. The Corfu landscape gets a fair and lavish share. And is anyone familiar with the the background of the photo above? It shows Anthony Quinn in a corner of the village square of Pelekas, entertaining himself during a break in the filming. In The Greek Tycoon you might recognize this setting when Tomasis gets out of a car and slowly walks towards the door of a café on the other side of the square. This café was no more than fifteen meters from Anthony’s playing table. In 1980, some three years after this scene was shot, the café was turned into a bar, known as the ‘Zanzibar’.

Today the Zanzibar is a bar with a both local and international clientele. It’s cocktail menu today proudly shows the photograph above. If even a footnote in the life and times of Anthony Quinn (1915-2001), an icon in the film industry, who twice won the Oscar for supporting actor but never for best actor. And who for a wide audience was more Greek than some Greeks. See for yourself in the final scene from The Greek Tycoon.

Angelos Giallinas: Corfu’s spirit in watercolours

While Corfu born Angelos Giallinas died before World War II his fame as a painter seems to be spreading still. Having been a very productive artist his watercolours and lithographs can be purchased at Greek and international auctions for prices ranging from € 1.000 to € 6.000. His main subject were the land- and seascapes and architecture of his beloved island, and very few painters – perhaps apart from Edward Lear and Joseph Cartwright – seem to have captured the spirit of the place like he did.

But Giallinas liked his travelling too. After taking painting lessons during 1872-1875 at the Corfu Art School and privately from Charalambos Pachis he studied painting in Venice, Naples and Rome. In Italy he discovered his skills and passion for watercolouring. Returning to Corfu in 1878 he devoted himself almost entirely to this art – next to some lithography – and soon became immensely popular.

National Gallery
Giallinas painted scenes in cities like Athens and Istanbul and soon his work was part of exhibitions, both in Greece and abroad. After his long life his reputation kept growing and in 1974 the National Art Gallery in Athens posthumously honoured him with a grand Retrospective.

Corfu Postcards
The fact he managed to reach a truly international public much wider than that of connoisseurs of art is also linked to a brilliant move: from 1910 on he had his gorgeous watercolours of village scenes reproduced on postcards. They served a few goals indeed. The enchanting reputation of Corfu went all over Europe, long before the days of mass tourism. Giallinas received a good income from it and his reputation? Well, that’s not hard to guess.

Original Giallinas postcards, printed in Corfu by the Aspiotis-ELKA printworks, today are collector’s items. That’s why it is good news for all admirers of Giallinas and Corfu’s unspoilt scenery that thirteen reprints of his postcards can now be obtained for only € 8,- (including postage and packaging).

The Giallinas Mansion
Born to a noble family Angelos Giallinas lived and worked in a Venetian mansion, that is to be found near the Esplanade in Corfu Town, indicated by a commemorative plaque in blue and red on the façade. This plaque and various others in and around town was put up by the Corfu Heritage Foundation.

In March 2018 a project was approved to renovate and reuse the protected Giallinas Mansion with a budget of over € 5 million. The ground floor of the gallery will be used for educational and commercial activities, the first floor will house an exhibition of works by Angelos Giallinas and the second floor will be a multipurpose area. The Corfu Municipality is responsible for the work and the Giallinas Foundation will be responsible for its operation when completed. More news.

Angelos Giallinas in 1893, print in the magazine Estía.

Strongyli hosts olive tree planted in 928 A.D.

Olive Tree in Corfu, planted around 928 AD. Source: Athens-Macedonian News Agency AMNA

A field near Strongyli in Central Corfu is home to one of the oldest and largest living trees in Europe. The age of the olive tree, to the locals known as ‘Evdokía’ (Grace), has been estimated by German scientists from the Dresden University of Technology to 1200 years, with a margin of error of ten percent. Researchers professors Andreas Roloff and Stern Gillner believe the tree was planted around  928 A.D., even before the island’s successive occupations by Saracens, Normans and Venetians.

Dendrochronologists from the TU Dresden’s Institute of Forest Botany and Forest Zoology began their examination process in Corfu in 2014, with the aid of biologist Eleni Louka, a resident of Strongyli. The result of the German study was presented only last June on Corfu at an event organised by Louka and Eleni Konofaou, founder of the Hellenic Union of Heptanesians (HUH).

Evdokía is one of three especially enormous olive trees on Corfu. The HUH aims at promoting all three areas where these trees are located as alternative tourist destinations.

Source: Athens-Macedonian News Agency AMNA

Archaeological Museum of Corfu up and running

The west pediment of the archaic Temple of Artemis, depicting Gorgo, ca. 590-570 BC, has a central place in the museum

It was a running gag for me and my wife on every visit to the island. We would walk the long way to the Archaeological Museum of Corfu again and again to find the entrance gate shut. We would stare at the board advertising the opening date, after years of renovation. A date that slipped further and further into the past… Last spring we were unexpectedly rewarded for our stubbornness: the museum had reopened on March 23rd 2019. And what a great job has been done! Now the recently launched museum’s website is bound to add to its reputation.

Τhe antiquities on display originate from the ancient city Corcyra as well as various other sites on the island, such as Kassiopi, Acharavi, Almiros, Afionas, Roda and the palaeolithic caves of Grava Gardiki.

The layout of the exhibition – aided by modern audiovisual device – follows a narrative that invites visitors to experience aspects of the of the daily life of the inhabitants of ancient Corcyra. One is introduced to their relation to death, their cult beliefs and their artisanal and economic activities. Much attention goes to the city-state, the institution that structured and deeply influenced public and private life.

Ground floor
On the ground floor the wonderful prehistoric collection of the museum is displayed, and in an adjacent room are finds from the era of the foundation and colonization of ancient Corcyra and the city’s relations with other powerful Greek city-states.

Upper floor
The four rooms of the upper floor take the visitor on a tour through Corcyra from the Archaic to the late Roman period, by presenting six thematic units. These are: Topography and Civic Organisation, Private Life, Burial Customs, Cults, Worship of Artemis, Public life, Economy.

Temple of Artemis
The magnificent centrepiece on the upper floor is the complete west pediment of the Temple of Artemis, 17 meters long and over 3 meters high. With the winged Medusa Gorgo in the heart of the presentation, flanked by her two children and two mythological lion-panthers the sculptured porous limestone is probably the oldest surviving artwork of its kind in Greece.

Very much worth the visit, not to mention the other highlights on the upper floor such as the Pediments of Dionysos, the Lion of Menecrates, the Stele (gravestone) of Arniadas and the Capital of Xembares.

Running gag
On leaving after our enjoyable visit I enquire with one of the staff members why the renovation was so long overdue. Ah well, I had got it all wrong. The renovation had maybe taken a little longer, which was to be considered normal in unique and complex projects like this one. But the real problem was the hiring of the staff. I was very surprised: who would not want a job like this? Ah well, but that was exactly the problem. ‘Everybody wanted an easy government job at the museum’. So it took ages to sort out which candidate was more entitled to it than so many others.

The museum is closed on Wednesday. General admission fee: € 6,-; reduced fee: € 3,-. Free for minors up to 18. For opening hours etc. check the website.



 

Positive steps for solving Corfu’s waste problem

The waste facilities near Kozani (West Macedonia) will accept Corfu’s waste in 2020 (photo: Enimerosi)

An enduring solution for Corfu’s waste problems is getting nearer and nearer. According to the well informed Corfu newspaper Enimerosi the board of the West Macedonia Waste Management (DIADYMA) unanimously voted on Friday November 15th in favour of accepting Corfu waste in 2020. This means a green light for the processing of 24,000 tons at the Kozani Waste Management Facility.

Meanwhile the three mayors of North, Central and South Corfu are joining forces with two former colleagues in a task force on the board of the newly established Solid Waste Management Organisation (FoDSA). This organisation is to play a major part in solving the chronic waste problem, as there will be a high level of funding required by the local authorities.

Today: 15 November – 1937 –

A copy of Prospero’s Cell, acquired in 1983 in Pelekas, wearing the marks of travelling time and again to the places of the book’s origin.

On this day in 1937 Lawrence Durrel wrote:

‘You wake one morning in the late autumn and notice that the tone of everything has changed; the sky shines more deeply pearl, and the sun rises like a ball of blood – for the peaks of the Albanian hills are touched with snow. The sea has become leaden or sluggish and the olives a deep platinum grey. Fires smoke in the villages, and the breath of Maria as she passes with her sheep to the headland, is faintly white upon the air.’

Lawrence Durrell, Prospero’s Cell. A guide to the landscape and manners of the island of Corcyra, Faber And Faber, London 1978

Fewer air travellers to Corfu in 2019 by 2,7%

A landing airplane, caught between the Vlacherna Monastery (left) and Pontikonisi (Mouse Island)

In October 2019 the Corfu’s Ioannis Kapodistrias Airport saw -2% fewer domestic passengers compared to the same month in 2018 (from 28.538 to 27.956). Over the first ten months of 2019 there is a +1% increase of domestic passengers though (from 294.910 to 297.882).

October 2019 saw -1,1% fewer international passengers (from 227.723 to 225.290). The decrease over 2019 till November 1st was even bigger by -3.1% (from 3.020.823 to 2.928.680).

Domestic and international passengers combined lead to a -1.2% decrease for October 2019 (from 256.261 to 253.246. The combined figures for the first ten months of this year show a -2,7% decrease (from 3.315.733 to 3.226.562).

With the exception of January, February and April all months show a decrease in the combined numbers of domestic and international passengers.

Number of flights
The numbers of flights to and from Corfu show more or less the same pattern. In October 2019 there were -2,1% fewer domestic flights (374 to 366 in 2018). Over the first ten months the decrease was -6,8% (from 4.289 to 3.996). The international flights in October 2019 came to a total of 20.564, a decrease by -3,2% (21.236 flights in 2018). The combination of domestic and international flight totalled 2.057 in October 2019, a decrease by -2,8% (2.116 in 2018). Over the first ten months domestic and international flights together mounted to 24.560, ad decrease by -3,8% (25.525 in 2018).

These figures are produced by Fraport Greece.
FG Traffic Data Management (preliminary data)
October 2019 traffic statistics are provisional and subject to change.

The Dylan Project in Corfu

Stills of the singer, songwriter and artist Bob Dylan, about 1965

An attentive reader from France commented the other day on the front page of The Corfiot Magazine, that I used as an illustration for my post about its on line archive. Did he read a headline saying “The Dylan Project in Corfu” and would I elaborate on that?

So quoting from Paul McGovern’s article in The Corfiot’s September 2009 issue I will gladly fill in the gaps in our memory. The Dylan Project was a band formed around the millennium by Steve Gibbons and Dave Pegg, who knew each other from the Birmingham band The Uglys. The Dylan Project was the headline of Agiotfest 09, the premiere of a music festival taking place on the village square of Agios Ioannis from September 7-12 2009. The line up for their live performance was: vocalist Steve Gibbons and lead guitarist PJ Wright (both from the Steve Gibbons Band); bass guitarist Dave Pegg (Fairport Convention, formerly with Jethro Tull); keyboardist Phil Bond (a Dylan regular and Greek music fan); drummer Brendan Day (late replacement for Gerry Conway).

Review
On the website of Agiotfest there is a review of all the performances on that Saturday night September 12th. A wonderful evening it seems, when it rained everywhere on Corfu, apart from Agios Ioannis. The Dylan Project, together with the bands East of Memphis (two folksingers from Edinburgh), Omega 5 (an experienced British band from Corfu) and The Good Old Boys was to entertain the all seated audience in the Central Corfu village for five hours. Spyros Hytiris remembers the ‘wonderful evening at the family-friendly plateia of Agios Ioannis, where you had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see quite a few legendary figures from mainly seventies folk-rock and blues bands.’

I quote from Hytiris’ review: “The Dylan Project are delayed by previous sets, but finally they are away. I’d never seen them live before, so was hopeful but slightly apprehensive for them, following such a strong supporting cast. I needn’t have worried. Consummate professionals, they had the audience in their palms and people up and dancing on the improvised dancefloor below the stage. What performers, what a tight sound. Yes they played Dylan, but not exclusively.* Numbers tumbled out effortlessly, some of which were probably unfamiliar to the appreciative listeners.”

“The Dylans come back for their final set. They are obviously enjoying themselves, as they go way past closing time and then beyond one o’ clock, before wrapping up with ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, during which they invite all artists up onto stage for a grand finale. ‘More, more’ is being shrieked at the end.
It is over, like a dream. The crowd disperses, all smiles.”

*From The Corfiot Magazine we learn the repertoire of The Dylan Project – apart from Bob Dylan numbers – comprised (no surprise) renditions of Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention, as well as own new compositions.

Agiotfest 2020?
Agiotfest did very well since the start in 2009. On August 30th and 31st 2019 the 11th edition rolled by, this time near a camping site just outside Agios Ioannis. The dates for the 2020 edition have not yet been revealed. ‘So keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again’: https://agiotfest.com

Poster of the first Agiotfest, once pinned to an olive tree and taken home by yours truly

The Corfiot Magazine: archive on line!

The September 2009 issue of The Corfiot Magazine.

Good news for the fans of The Corfiot Magazine! Corfu’s English Language Monthly (also known as The Corfiot), established in 1990 and for many years available in print for the equivalent of 2 euro’s, has put a part of its archive on line. For free! The 35 last issues – published from August 2007 thru October 2010 (nrs. 200 -235) – can be downloaded as pdf on http://www.thecorfiotmagazine.com

The on line release creates a second life for hundreds of well written and well researched articles on a wide variety of subjects. Thanks to a few dozen writers, columnists and contributors.

One name stands out in the history of the magazine: editor Hilary Whitton Paipeti, also well-known as the author of books like The Complete Book of Corfu Walks, The Second Book of Corfu Walks, In the footsteps of Lawrence Durrell and Gerald Durrel in Corfu (1935-1939), Pictures from the Past, Corfu 4 Kids and Corfu Trail – The Companion Guide to Corfu’s Long-Distance Foot Path, the 222 kilometre trail she created around the island. (For more information about the trail: http://www.corfutrail.gr).

The closure of The Corfiot
Hilary Whitton Paipeti was not happy when she had to pull the plug for The Corfiot Magazine but the economic crisis (reluctant advertisers, print fees going up etc.) in the fall of 2010 left her no choice. Plus the fact more and more readers were turning to free information and articles on line.

The Agiot
And that is what Hilary did herself. She started writing for the monthly on-line free newsletter The Agiot: “The fact it is free and only on line has been quite liberating for me as I don’t have a paying readership to satisfy!”
The Agiot covers many subjects – not solely about Corfu – by many contributors, and there seems to be something there for every type of reader. The website www.theagiot.com also features a photo gallery and an archive going back to the first edition in August 2007!

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