The tallest mountain on Corfu has an old monastery on top, with reported breathtaking views in every direction. I decided that was worth braving steep hairpin turns up & down mountains again.
From the southern end of the island to Kerkyra in the middle on the east, takes over an hour. There is one brief stretch of highway north of Perivoli that is flat, straight, wide & posted speed 70 kmh. Most of the time even on the major highways you’re lucky to go 50 kph. For the week I had my 5 speed rental car, I drove on the highway mostly 3rd speed, rarely in 4th, never all the way up to 5th gear. Through towns and around curves I was usually down to 2nd. And going up & down mountains and through tiny, one lane only villages, I was in 1st mostly, and felt like I was speeding when I could get into 2nd.
When I rented the car, I got basic insurance, not the expensive kind that covers everything. I was ignorant that Greece is the worst European country for accidents. But drivers pass without enough clearance, pull out onto the highway because they can’t see if it’s really clear – or sometimes because they’re impatient. Huge buses and trucks blast past, taking more than their share of narrow roads with no shoulder. I don’t know how many times I slammed on brakes to avoid an accident.
My greatest fears driving in villages & towns were meeting an oncoming car or bus where I’d have to be the one to back up, or getting stuck in a dead end alley with no decent place to turn around. Don’t let fears into your head…of course those came true & I had to deal with them.
Road signage in Corfu is not always the best, and though I’m a good map reader and have a great sense of direction, my planned travel always involved missing turns, backing up, turning around, stopping to consult the travel map, recognizing the name of a village & trying to figure out how I got there from my most recent known location.
There are incredible vistas to see from Corfu’s roads… and very rarely a guardrail or room for an oncoming vehicle to safely pass. Corfu drivers tend to indulge in excessive speed, and I started pulling off the road to let anyone behind me pass as soon as it was safe. I also assumed one of those flying idiots might be coming at me from every corner or curve in the road…that defensive driving paid off.
It’s not that I’m a bad driver – I’m actually pretty good. The travel blogs & tourist comments about driving in Greece also note the challenging driving conditions.
There are sweet little shrines along the roads in Corfu, many shaped like churches, with room for devotional candles & flowers. Like whie wooden crosses in the States, they mark the site of a road accident. But some of them are thanksgiving for surviving an accident. I should buy devotional candles for several shrines as gratitude!