Durrells Corfu : Meet their history
Durrells Corfu : Meet their history
Nostalgic images full of beauty, idyllic Greek landscapes from Corfu of another era and the focus of Durrell’s story – one of the most prominent British families who lived in Corfu from 1935 to 1939.
The series is mainly located in 1935 when English Louisa Durrell, whose life collapsed, decided to move from London to Corfu. Her husband had died years ago, and all the money he had, was over. She announces to her four children that they are moving to our island, and then follows a Homeric battle and their denial, let alone when they discover that Corfu does not even have electricity at that time! But it is cheap, a terrestrial paradise and the big step for the Durrell family is made.
The Durrells lived on the island from 1935-39, as immortalised by Gerald Durrell in “My Family and other Animals”, and in the more literary works of his elder brother Lawrence.
Gerald, at 10, was the youngest when the family arrived in Corfu. With brothers Leslie and Lawrence – or Larry, as Gerald called him – sister Margo and their widowed mother, the Durrells lived a comically adventurous life in what was then an unspoiled backwater.
The Durrells were rich by Corfu standards, and always generous. The peasant children who came to the house returned home laden with gifts of food and sweets. To the locals, the English family were “gold from Heaven”.
Gerald Durrell died in 1995, at the age of 70. Shortly before his death, he asked British writer Douglas Botting, whose life story of Gavin Maxwell (of “Ring of Bright Water” fame) he had so much admired, to write his official biography; and this will be published in September 1997.
Places to visit
The village of Bοua in Danilia, the old mansion Gerakari in Kontokali, Varypatades, Halikounas, the Asian Museum and Mon Repo are some places that no one should miss the chance to visit.
The Lake of Lilies
“The lake of lilies” where the Durrells often picnicked is Lake Antiniotissa. The lagoon Antinioti located in the northern part of the island is 35 km from Corfu town. Located between the beach of Agios Spyridon and the beach Gyaliskari where flows.
The rich wetlands of Lake Antinioti with diverse aquatic ecosystem, home to rare plants and provides shelter to many species of birds between these and the otter. In the lagoon operated farm and fish caught by traditional methods is mainly eels, mullet and bass.
The Villa Agazini
The first villa the Durrells rented was the Villa Agazini, just above the road from Perama to Benitza on the coast, about 4km south of Corfu Town. This is the house that Gerald named the Strawberry Pink Villa in My family and other animals (Lawrence nicknamed it the Villa Bumtrinket and the Villa Agabumtrinket.)
The Strawberry Pink Villa is still standing, but it has been renovated extensively and enlarged. It’s now available for rent as a holiday villa.
Despite bestowing upon it a silly name, Lawrence was by all accounts delighted by the villa’s beautiful surroundings. In a letter to his friend Alan Thomas, he makes a noticeably Gerald-like remark about the local wildlife: “Yesterday,” he wrote, “I caught a tortoise eavesdropping on us”.
It is in the Villa Agazini that Lawrence and Gerald first became acquainted with Dr Theodore Stephanides, who would become a lifelong friend and mentor. According to Stephanides, the villa was ‘somewhat cramped’, and in September 1935, the Durrells decamped to more spacious quarters 8 km further north. (In My Family, Gerald of course blames Lawrence for the move, noting that the family needed a larger residence to accommodate his many house guests.)
The Villa Anemmoyani
The Villa Anemmoyanni, or the Daffodil Yellow Villa as Gerald named it, still stands at Sotiriostissa near Gouvia bay, 4 km north of Corfu Town.
A large Venetian mansion set in its own grounds and overlooking the tiny island of Lazareto, the villa would be home to most of the Durrell family until September 1937.
The Durrells had their own private jetty at the villa, where they moored their boats, including Gerald’s Bootle Bumtrinket (it seems Lawrence really liked that word). In nearby Gouvia bay, Gerald recalls, Theodore enjoyed watching seaplanes landing.
According to a memoir by Theodore Stephanides, Lawrence and Nancy initially occupied a “bright and airy room with two large windows” in the villa, where Lawrence wrote and where Nancy presumably also painted. However, the couple did not live in the villa for long; sometime in early 1936 they moved to Kalami, 30km to the north, for a more peaceful place to work. (Stephanides mentions the move away from the rest of the family might have been also prompted by incidents involving scorpions and medicinal leeches).
The White House, Kalami
Lawrence and Nancy rented a fisherman’s cottage right on the bay at Kalami in northeastern Corfu, a tiny village that in 1936 consisted of about five small cottages. Spiro Amerikanos, the Durrell’s friend and chauffeur, found the house for them, to which they eventually added another floor. Lawrence describes life in the villa in his beautiful Prospero’s cells and in his poem The Unimportant Morning.
The villa is now a holiday home, is often rather fancifully described by local tour guides as the house that Gerald Durrell lived in and where he wrote my family.
The Villa Cressida
The last villa in which the Durrells resided on Corfu was the Villa Cressida (Gerald’s Snow White Villa) near Lake Halikiopoulou (and the Venetian salt-flat dubbed the ‘Chessboard Fields’ by Gerald). The villa is now private property.
The Durrell villas, by Durrelliana