The Durrells in Corfu: The White House and The TV Series

Last updated on April 20th, 2022 at 01:01 am

The Durrells Memorable family real story

This is the real story of the Durrells in Corfu. An eccentric and a little crazy family lived in Corfu from 1936 to 1939 in Kontokali, Kalami, and Perama.

India in the first quarter of the 20th century (1858 – 1947) was ruled by the British Crown. It was known as British Raj, so there were many British military and government officials there.

Laurence Durrel was an army engineer born in India. He met with Louisa Florence Dixie, they got married and made four children. Laurence, Leslie, Margaret, known as Margo, and Gerald, known as Jerry.

Laurence Durrel, the father, died young at age 44 in 1928 due to ‎cerebral hemorrhage. After the unexpected loss of their father, the family had to move to England and to Bournemouth. There the mother, Louise, tried to organize their lives with her small pension.

There, the four-year-old Gerald was sent to school for his basic education. This was difficult for the unpalatable character of the little one. Who enjoyed the freedom and his engagement with animals and nature.

It was a very difficult time for young Jerry who could not adapt to the stifling environment of an English school. As he confessed several years later in his autobiography.

When the Durrells came to Corfu

In 1935, the older brother Lawrence marries and along with his wife Nancy moved to Corfu. They lived in a house in Kontokali, north of the town, in Villa Anemogianni.

Louisa Durrell, after six difficult years, decides to overcome. Gathers her three children (Leslie, Margaret, and Gerald) and in 1935 they arrive in Corfu.

How was inter-war Corfu

Inter-War Corfu was a poor island. Without electricity but at a very cheap cost of living compared to the cost in England. The Durrells in Corfu could live a little more primitively but more freely. And in direct connection with nature and the animals that little Jerry loved.

Louisa Florence with Gerald, Margo, and Lawrence Durrell
Louisa Florence with Gerald, Margo, and Lawrence Durrell

In Corfu, there were and still living a lot of English people. Louisa met one of them, Mr. Biller, who has undertaken to help her find a suitable home for the family.

But Corfu in 1935 was a little more primitive than Mrs. Durrel expected. This is obvious from the following funny event.

Mr. Biller prepared a list of about 10 houses and started with Mrs. Durrell to check them to find the best one.

But in every house they visited, Mrs. Durrell nodded her head, she could not find anything to please her.

They arrived at the last, and once again Mrs. Durrell was not satisfied. Mr. Billler sits down on the stairs and wipes the sweat with his handkerchief, asking Mrs. Durrell.

-And finally, Mrs. Durrell, can you tell me what exactly are you looking for and why did not you like any of what we saw?

– None of them had a normal bath, she replied, that’s the problem.

– And what do you need the bathroom for?, replied the surprised Mr. Biller, when you have the sea at your feet!

This was Corfu at that time, only the rich families had a toilet. While in most houses there was none. The people for their natural needs used to run to the fields and the sea. The little rubbish was buried in the fields and the yards to become fertilizer.

After some more effort, they finally found a hut belonging to a fishing family in Kalami. A small bay in the northeastern part of the island, far from the town of Corfu.

The cottage was repaired to become home, a house known to date with the name: the white house. It is located near the southern part of the bay overlooking the whole of Kalami.

The house was turned by young Jerry into a zoo, where he had gathered all wildlife of Corfu. Turtles, waterfalls, seagulls, lizards, dogs, cats, donkeys, and whatever animal exists in Corfu. He also collected insects in boxes, a chaotic house where birds were flying from room to room.

During the three years they lived on the island, the Durrells became friends with the locals. They left their mark in the memories of the older ones who met and are still alive today.

They loved the island and were loved by the locals. They wrote books about Corfu which was considered their paradise.

Much of what we know today about the Durrells in Corfu is based on the narratives of those old residents who are still alive. But mainly on the books written by the family members.

Gerald’s records of Corfu’s fauna are very important. He has recorded almost all the species of animals, birds, and insects on the island in his book “My Family and Other Animals”.

He explored the island and made his observations with the help of a friend of the family. The local doctor, naturalist, and philosopher Theodoros Stefanidis.

Stephanidis is the one who cultivated Jerry’s inborn talent and love for the animals. And helped him later develop into a great naturalist and reformer of zoos.

The whole family was skillful writers. In their writings, we read all the incidents and personal experiences they had during their stay on the island. This became also a source of inspiration for the TV series.

The main inspiration source was Gerald`s autobiography book “The Trilogy of Corfu”. Consisting of 3 books: “My Family and Other Animals”, “Birds, Animals and Relatives” and the last “The Garden of the Gods”. Another source was Margaret’s book: “What Happened to Margo?”

Lawrence Durrell
Lawrence Durrell

Also noteworthy is the “Prospero’s Cell” written by the older brother Lawrence.

Gerald Durrell
Gerald Durrell

This eccentric family loved Corfu and wrote about this island. Margarita later revealed that she always considered Corfu as her real home.

There are, of course, many unknown aspects of Darrel’s life on the island. For example, it is not widely known that the family stayed in other parts of the island too, and not only in Kontokali.

In fact, they stayed for a long period in a house in Perama near the Agia Kyriaki area. From there they had easy access to the Halikiopoulos lagoon which at that time was a rich wetland. Since the airport didn’t exist yet.

But the war is always overturning plans and changing everything.

The outbreak of World War II, forced Louisa, Leslie, Gerald, and their young Corfiot maid Maria Kontos to leave Corfu. Mainly for safety reasons, and return to Bournemouth, England.

However, the big brother Lawrence remained in Corfu along with his wife Nancy until the occupation of Greece by the Axis forces. Then they managed to escape to Egypt.

Margo remained in Corfu and she stayed in the house of some friends. She met an RAF pilot who was stationed here, his name was Jack Breeze who later became her husband.

The Durrells later life

Louisa Florence Durrell, born Louisa Florence Dixie(1886-1964), the mother, after the adventure in Corfu she settles at Bournemouth until the end of her life in 1964. She lived with her daughter Margo.

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), The older brother was a smart man with a restless character. He became a diplomat and a great writer, his books had tremendous success. He traveled all over the world and stayed in many places, he also married 4 times. He died in Sommières, France in 1990.

Leslie Durrell (1918-1983), the second oldest brother and the least known member of the family. During his later life, he had a great interest in weapons, hunting, and sailing, as well as painting. He did several business efforts, one of which was to organize a farm in Kenya. But all attempts were unsuccessful. He had a son with his family`s Corfiot maid Maria Kontos who followed him to England.

Margaret Durrell (1920-2007), Known as Margo.

She met an RAF pilot in Corfu just before the arrival of axis occupying forces. They both fled to South Africa and got married, they stay there until the end of the war. Then they moved to Bournemouth where they had two children and then divorced.

After the divorce, Margo spent the rest of her life in Bournemouth, where she rises alone with her two children, until her death in 2007. She was also a writer and in 1950 she wrote the book “What Happened to Margo?”. With memories from her experience in Corfu. The book was published 40 years later, in 1995.

Margaret or Margo was very dear, kind, and she was very interested in fashion and design. A very independent and dynamic character.

Gerald Durrell (1925-1995), The younger brother became very successful. He was a popular naturalist, economist, TV presenter, and writer, and his work redefined the role and pattern of the modern zoo.

He also had a good sense of humor. When once someone asked him which animal he liked the most he said: “Do you mean except my wife?”

Finally, he founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey. Now directed by his last wife, Lee McGeorge Durrell.

The white house today

Durrells during their time in Corfu used three houses. Today these houses are private, but the house they lived in Kalami is open to visitors as today it is apartments. Underneath the house, there is a restaurant called the white house is well.

 

The Durrells in Corfu, Comedy-drama TV series

The Durrells in Corfu - TV series
The Durrells in Corfu – TV series

The Durrells is a very successful British comedy-drama TV series written by Simon Nye and based on The Trilogy of Corfu. An autobiographical book by Gerald Durrell.

The book includes Gerald’s memories of the 4 years the family lived on the island of Corfu shortly before World War II broke out.

Where is the Durrells series filmed?

The series was mainly filmed in Corfu and the studio scenes in London, at Ealing Studios and Twickenham Studios.

The Durrells series was also filmed in spots of Corfu old town, In the Palace of Saints Michael and George, at the entrance of the Museum of Asian Art.

Some scenes were filmed in Mon Repos palace, in the Kanoni area, next to the ruins of the ancient city of Corfu.

At the Danilia Village.

In the rich biodiversity of Lake Antinioti on the northern tip of Corfu.

In many other places around the island, some of them being the picturesque port of Agios Stefano’s northeast of the island, and Dassia.

The house they used in the series is an old seaside villa in Kommeno area and not the original property in Kalami where they lived in reality 90 years ago.

Today the house in Kalami is private property and is not open for public visits, but being a small hotel with a taverna operating on its ground floor, you can visit it in another way.

Cast and Directors

Played on ITV from 2016 to 2019, there were 4 series including 6 episodes each. Only the third series played in 2018 had 8 episodes.

The series was directed by 4 different directors.

Episodes 1, 2, 3 of the first series – 1, 2, 3 of the second series and 4, 5, 6 of the fourth series were directed by Steve Barron

Episodes 4, 5, 6 of the first series – 1, 2, 3, 4 of the third series and 1, 2, 3 of the fourth series were directed by Roger Goldby

Episodes 4, 5, 6 of the second series were directed by Edward Hall

And episodes 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the third series were directed by Niall MacCormick

A couple of dozens of actors participated in the series, many as guests or minor roles.

The main characters though were 8 and played by

Keeley Hawes in the role of Louisa Durrell, the family’s mother

Milo Parker in the role of Gerry Durrell, the naturalist

Josh O’Connor as Larry Durrell, the writer

Daisy Waterstone as Margo Durrell

Callum Woodhouse as Leslie Durrell, the least known brother

Alexis Georgoulis as Spiros Halikiopoulos, the taxi driver

Anna Savva as Lugaretzia

Yorgos Karamihos as Theo Stefanidis, a Greek poet, author, doctor, and naturalist, the friend and mentor of Gerald Durrell

About the “Village” in Danilia where the Durrells TV series was filmed

The “Village” is next to Danilia village, close to Kontokali, and behind today`s Corfu hospital. It is not the revival of an existing village as some people believe.

It was a successful attempt by two businessmen. The Bouas brothers decided in 1980 to create from scratch something that will look like an old typical Corfiot village. To use it as a tourist attraction for their businesses in the 80s.

And, indeed, during the 80s all tour operators organized daily excursions to this medieval and Venetian style village. With thousands of tourists visiting the place.

Among the other sight-seen, there was an open outside restaurant with live music. Many shops sell souvenirs to visitors. Some museums with objects of folk art and a large building housed the winter restaurant.

On the walls of this building, you could see the escutcheons of all the old noble families of Corfu. Of course, any common sense human could understand immediately that a village like this could never really exist in Corfu.

In this village also you can see that the main street is a replica of a part of Nikiforos Theotokis street in Corfu town. And some other copies of other characteristic shops or scenes used to give a Venetian color and atmosphere.

So, it is a replica of an alleged village as it would be in 1930, the Village at Danilia never existed in the past, it`s just business!

Today this Village is owned by Grecotel Hotels & Resorts. A large hotelier group, and is used for weddings that happened among Grecotel Hotels & Resorts customers.

Also, it was used as the filming place for many scenes of the Durrells TV series. This series has been going on for three years and includes 6-8 episodes per year.

The TV series has been judged to be very successful in England and will continue for another year. The Next (and last) episodes are already filmed and will be shown on TV during 2019. The last scenes were filmed in Corfu! In the Village, in the white house in Kalami, in Villa Gerakari in Gerekos island, and other places on the island.

Mouse Island (Pontikonisi) – The Top Scenery of Corfu

Last updated on February 16th, 2022 at 11:13 pm

Mouse Island (Pontikonisi)

Everybody knows the picturesque Mouse island or Pontikonisi as the locals call it, at the entrance of Gulf of Halikiopoulos, front of the airport runway, along with the neighboring Vlacherna.

It is the most characteristic landscape of Corfu.

Mouse island is the first thing that every new visitor sees when approaching Corfu airport, it sits literally in the geographical center of the island, very close to the town, between Kanoni peninsula, Perama, and Benitses

On the top of this tiny rocky islet, there is the 11th century Byzantine Church of Pantokrator surrounded by dense vegetation, It takes some effort to climb the many steps needed to reach the monastery.

Due to the fact that Pantokrator church was actually a monastery with monks, visits to the monastery are restricted except only on the 6th of August, when the Church is celebrating.

But in reality, the church remains open to the public all year round. The rest of the island can be visited too at any time via some small boats that sail regularly from the beach below Kanoni and the Vlacherna island.

Today, there are no monks living there, but the gentle staff of a small cafe bar that is on the island. These can be considered as the only residents of Pontikonisi.

This tiny island is a peaceful place, full of greenery and an ideal spot to relax for a couple of hours. Τhe ticket for the boat to take you there cost no more than 2€

Name`s origin

The name probably came from the size and especially the shape of the island as it looks from above, although in our opinion the island even with a large dose of imagination does not look at all like a mouse.

Another theory says that in the 11th century in the monastery there were many monks from the Pontos area, so in the beginning, the name was Pontonisi that transformed to Pontikonisi, sounds more convincing about the origin of the name.

The island also resembles a boat, so the following mythological approach suits nicely.

Homer tells in Odyssey, that Phaecians (The ancient Corfiots) helped Odysseus (Ulysses) to return home to Ithaca transferring him there with one of their boats, the gods became displeased by this and transformed the returning ship into stone when it entered the port and before the sailors could disembark.

This petrified boat according to Greek mythology is the Mouse Island.

However mythology is not reality, Pontikonisi along with the next to it Vlacherna which is a flat tiny islet connected with the land via a small bridge, is extremely picturesque and together with the surroundings is the most known scene that since many decades identifies Corfu worldwide.

Vlacherna islet

It is a small islet opposite Pontikonisi and it is connected with Kanoni via a 300 meters small walk-path.

On Vlacherna islet there is a Church with a nice high bell tower, devoted to Virgin Mary, constructed in the 17th century as a replica and named after Panagia Vlacherna in Constantinople.

The Church has an impressive woodcut temple and beautiful frescoes inside.

Vlacherna islet is small, only about half the size of Mouse island but it looks about the same because most photos are taken from Kanoni with which is closer.

Photos from Mouse island and Vlacherna

Corfu Dialect: Interesting Typical Words

Last updated on February 17th, 2022 at 12:21 am

The Language in Medieval Corfu

The historical route of Corfu has influenced the way of life and the culture of the island’s inhabitants.

The language could not, therefore, be an exception. The linguistic idiom that was influenced and shaped during Venetian domination is what we now call the Corfiot dialect.

Corfiot dialect
Corfiot dialect

Corfiot Dialect

Until about 1500 CE, the population of the island was mixed. We had the Greek descendants of the ancient Corinthians which constituted about 60% of the population. On the other side, the Venetian nobles lived mainly in the city of Corfu.

Because of these conditions on the island, a mixed language called Veneto was spoked. It was a mix of Greek and Italian as the Venetians spoke. Slightly different from the Italian in southern Italy.

Later and shortly after 1500 CE, a large wave of immigration began with Greek refugees. From the Peloponnese, Crete, and Cyprus, who still spoke a language close to ancient Greek.

The immigration took place at the time when these areas fell into the hands of the Ottomans. Corfu was under Venetian domination.

This resulted in a dramatic change in the constitution of the population in favor of the Greek element. This caused the reduction of the Latin that was limited to certain parts of the city.

Also because of this event, the Orthodox Christian faith was permanently overwhelmed. That helped the ending of the efforts to convert to Catholicism been attempted from time to time by many conquerors. Especially by the Andegavs when they had the island under their sovereignty, around 1300 CE

The Catholics of course existed and still exist in significant numbers in Corfu. They constitute the second doctrine of the population. But the Corfiot linguistic idiom evolved following the Greek grammar and syntactic. While incorporating too many Italian words. Since of course the Greeks first added Greek endings to these words!

This process created the Corfiot dialect. A Greek language with Italian-Greek words that follow Greek grammar and syntax.

Let’s not forget also the special accent of the Corfiot dialect. A much more singing like that is the result of its comradeship with the Italian.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, the use of Italian words was so extensive. The locals could talk with each other without being understood by the rest of the Greeks.

This has changed over the years.
Now the Italian words used at that time, after the death of the older are almost forgotten. They are not used anymore but constitute a museum part of the linguistic evolution on the island.

Before been forgotten, however, many managed to pass through the rest of Greece and integrate into our language. This is obvious by studying these words and their origin.
This is a phenomenon that happens in all living languages ​​of the world. As the English language has 30% of the words having Greek roots. Also in the Greek language, we have words with Italian, Slavic, and Turkish origin.

Of course, the Corfiot linguistic idiom is part of our historical culture and a sign of the Corfiot identity. Efforts should be made not to be forgotten by recording and keeping these words. In books that we would call them museums of language or using them in various events that happen on the island.

And this is what happens in the well-known Petegoletsa. They are theatrical performances of the road and played during the Halloween. The Petegoletsa contains dialogs full of these words.

These performances help maintain the tradition. The inhabitants of Corfu, of course, do not use these words anymore. Although they know them very well. Most of these words now sound very funny and make people laugh, we invoke them when we want to laugh at something.

So, if you ever find yourself in Corfu and get to watch either the Petegoletsa or some other theatrical show. Do not even think that this is the language spoken in Corfu today!.

Below we will try to present a large list of these words and expressions along with their meaning.

We want to record the words used by our ancestors for historical reasons. Also due to our respect in tradition. We can not deny that we have fun while listening to them. They are really beautiful and original words. Remnants of a medieval Greek-Italian lingual salad.

The list includes just a few characteristic Corfiot words with Italian origin and root from the about 5.000 words of this kind in total, but for an English speaking person, it makes no sense to add them here…

However, if you wish to get an idea have a look at the Greek page here.

Corfu Recipe for a Delicious Bianco

Last updated on February 16th, 2022 at 11:45 pm

Bianco fish recipe

Bianco (Italian Bianco = white) is a delicious fish dish that resembles a fish soup but has nothing to do with it.

One of the most famous dishes of Corfiot cuisine made with fish of almost any species even with codfish, here we offer you the traditional recipe for 4 people.

Bianco fish
Bianco fish

A very simple and easy-to-use recipe that does not require over 40-45 minutes to make. This is the same recipe made by Nikos Belos in its restaurant Klimataria in Benitses Corfu.

Ingredients

  1. 4 or whatever you want medium-sized fish, suppose in the recipe we use fresh cod.
  2. 4 cloves Garlic, whole.
  3. 100 grams or nearly half a glass of fresh lemon juice
  4. 3 potatoes sliced ​​
  5. Black Pepper
  6. 100 grams of virgin olive oil

How to make it

  1. Put the oil in the pan together with 2 glasses of water, garlic, and half a teaspoon of sweet pepper.
  2. Almost put together the fish and potatoes so that they are evenly covered by the water if we do not fill in a little. Add some salt if the fish were not salted.
  3. They boil it all on a regular fire until they shed some water without water.
  4. Try the flavor, add some salt and add the lemon juice.
  5. Leave it only half a minute and take it out of the fire immediately.
  6. Cover it and in 2 minutes it’s ready to serve.

As you can see, it’s a simple and fast dish that is very tasty.

Anchovies and generally that sort of fish are suitable for Bianco, but sardines do not because they are very fat.

Sofrito from Corfu: A Very Easy to Do Recipe

Last updated on February 16th, 2022 at 11:45 pm

Sofrito Corfiot Recipe

Sofrito is another Venetian recipe that has been incorporated into Corfu’s cuisine.

It is a traditional beef-based dish served with fries or spaghetti or rice or with puree according to different tastes.

Sofrito
Sofrito

Ingredients

  1. 4 thin slices of veal
  2. 150 grams of olive oil
  3. 50 grams of vinegar white or red
  4. 1 bunch of parsley finely chopped
  5. Flour enough to cover the meat
  6. 4-5 cloves of garlic chopped
  7. Salt and black pepper

The Sofrito’s main ingredient and the secret for its success is the garlic!

How to do it

  1. Put some oil in a pan
  2. Flour slices of meat on both sides
  3. Put the meat in the pan where the oil has already been hot and turn it on the other side when it rises.
  4. Remove the slices of meat and put them in a saucepan
  5. Put a little olive oil together with a bunch of finely chopped parsley and finely chopped garlic in a clean pan, sauté for 1 minute.
  6. Put the sautéed parsley and garlic in the saucepan with the beef and put the pot in the fire.
  7. Once it starts to boil, put some vinegar and hot water immediately to cover the meat well and let it boil
  8. Pour salt and pepper and let it boil well.
  9. In the end, lower the fire a bit when the sauce has become thick, which means that the food is ready.

The food can be served with anything, from fried potatoes, or potatoes poure, or rice, even with pasta spaggeti

Bourdeto: A Spicy Fish Recipe from Corfu

Last updated on February 16th, 2022 at 11:46 pm

Bourdeto with Scorpion fish

Bourdeto is another Corfiot fish dish that also comes from Venice.

It is made with fish from the deep, mainly scorpions with two or three perches together for better taste, but also with rhubarb or octopus.

Bourdeto
Bourdeto

We are lovers of Bourdeto with skate-fish or octopus but here we will present you the authentic recipe made with scorpions which is delicious.

The recipe is for 4 people and it’s the one made by Nikos Belos in its Klimataria restaurant in Benitses Corfu. This is how our ancestors used to make it in Benitses.

Simplicity, freshness, and tradition, the secret of Nikos.

Ingredients

  1. 10 to 12 scorpions cleaned of scales and offal only, leave them with their heads.
  2. 2-3 small perches for a stronger taste, both cleaned and with their heads.
  3. 1 big Onion chopped into small pieces with a knife
  4. A large soup spoon of sweet red pepper
  5. A pinch of hot red pepper
  6. 100 gr of Olive oil
  7. 100 grams of fresh lemon juice, from fresh-cut lemons!

In some villages in Corfu, they also use tomato sauce in Bourdeto, but in the old traditional fishing village of Benitses the original recipe is made without any tomato and the red color is due to red pepper only.

If you like tomato sauce, use it, but this is no going to be Bourdeto.

How to do it

  1. Put the finely chopped onion in the saucepan with some oil and let it boil.
  2. Add the large spoonful of red sweet pepper, a pungent hot red pepper, and the rest of the olive oil.
  3. Continue cooking it.
  4. Put a large glass of water
  5. When it boils and is near to stick, we add the fishes and two more glasses of water until the fishes are completely covered.
  6. Allow boiling on a normal fire until it is almost dry from the water.
  7. Put the lemon juice inside.
  8. Wait for another minute and remove it from the fire cause it’s ready.

Note: Scorpion fishes have small bones like nails, therefore are dangerous and you need to be very careful as you eat them.
As you noticed, the real traditional recipe is made with the fishes intact with all their bones because it is more tasteful.

In case you are worried about the dangerous bones you can clean the fishes from their bones prior to cook, but the sauce won’t be such delicious, it all depends on you.

Also, using another kind of fish can solve the small bones problem, a highly recommended fish is dogfish or chestnut.

This same recipe applies to codfish and octopus, in these cases, you can add potatoes too.

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