How not to fall in love with the beauty of this island? How not to fall in love with the nature, the views, the wilderness – all these different greens and smells and blossoms and birdsong? And, not least, this feeling of peaceful solitude?
It’s one of these perfect sunny winter days on Corfu and I am walking along a gravel path at the foot of Pantokrator mountain with my guide Spiros and his girlfriend Marcella. Not a single cloud is showing in the perfectly blue sky above us. We have the turquoise Ionian sea beneath us and the snow-covered Albanian mountain rise up on the other side of the bay. What a blast! And what a privilege to be the first to walk along this newly marked hiking route, the Durrell Trail. The trail passes through the Corfiot landscape of flora and fauna that nature lover and conservationist, Gerald Durrell adored when he was here in the 1930’s.
Spiros picked me up at The White House in Kalami – the famous former home of Lawrence Durrell, which was often visited by his family, including his nature-obsessed brother, Gerald. It was in Corfu that Gerald started to nurture his passion for the natural world while on rambles with is mentor, Theodore Stephanides.
The new trail is clearly marked with “DT” for “Durrell Trail” in Gerald’s honour. To help me discover and learn about the flora and fauna of Corfu, there couldn’t be a better guide than Spiros. He seems to know a story for every bush, flower and tree, their Greek names, their English names, their scientific names, the specifics of every species, what they are used for in the kitchen or for medical treatment or why they are important for the geology and biology of Corfu. I can see young Gerald Durrell walking in this landscape with his friend and mentor, Theodore – his eyes and ears wide open, soaking in all the fascinating information and stories his knowledgeable companion was regaling.
My own mentor, Spiros, has the same knowledge rooted deeply in Corfu’s natural history. And it’s just perfect that The White House owners managed to find Spiros, and guides like him, to lead their groups on the Durrell Trail. A walk, by the way, that’s suitable for everyone – from children to seniors, hiking beginners to mountain pros. This four to five hours hike is not too strenuous and is full of interest. Back at The White House, you can conclude the day with some meze from the kitchen and when the weather allows a cooling dip in the sea.
What else is there to say than again the words from the beginning: How not to fall in love with this unique experience?