People & Dinner

Visit the Country around Corfu – Observations of what I Saw –

Being tired of parading the dusty streets, I resolved to take a trip into the country. With this view I turned my steps towards the Southern gate, and after passing thro’ it, visited the fruit and vegetable market, which was this year as neat and plentiful as I described it to you to be last voyage. Leaving it, I struck directly into the country and paid all attention to what struck me as curious. Before however, being in sure, I had to pass thro’ a small village of the very worst description. In it I met in with several herds of goats, with one for a leader, having a small bell attached to her neck. This conductress was followed by all the rest – and it was curious to remark that they never preceded her. A little further on than this village several roads diverged in different directions and I chose that to which fancy led me. All these roads, I may observe, are excellent and the benefit of these alone is one of the most important which the Corfuates have received at the hands of the British – and at this present moment, there are several thousand soldiers daily employed in repairing old and opening up new ones. That part of the country, which I saw immediately around me, had very few trees and was chiefly occupied as vegetable gardens, in which was plenty of garlic. I suppose it is a proof of the honesty of the Greeks, that none of these gardens are enclosed, but are as much exposed as any part of the road. The country at a distance seemed beautiful and covered with olive trees, but my time would not permit me to wander so far. Both in going and returning I was much amused with the different groups, which I met. Many were bound for the Town, with horses laden with olive oil, as I conjectured, which they carried in a very ancient way, viz. in the skins of sheep and other animals, while others, having finished their business, were trudging merrily homeward, singing, laughing and talking. The animals of burden here are a very miserable race – they do not commonly draw carts or other vehicles but convey goods on either side of the saddle. The country saddle itself is a very rude piece of manufacture and worthy of a rude and barbarous people. It is so constructed as to give support both in front and back and also at one of the sides, having the back to the other. This fashion with their long loose petticoat trowsers deceives at a distance – and you are apt to mistake a band of strong stalwart men for a group of weak and inoffensive females. Most of these men we fell in with had large coarse pipes, either in their mouths, or if not used slung across their shoulders.

Handsome dress worn at Corfu – [Women]

Among the pedestrians we saw many men and women. Some of the former were dressed in a very handsome and tasteful manner, and which I much admired. First they had on a jacket of cloth, and beautifully figured with a sort of red lace, which fitted close to the upper part of the body, leaving only the neck bare. Immediately below this a graceful sash of various colours, was wound round the body, and from under it commenced a loose flowing garment of a white colour reaching to the knee, exactly resembling the kilt of our highlandmen. Beneath this kilt again they wore drawers also of white which came down to the calf of the leg, where they were met by the tops of a pair of very handsomely ornamented boots. I forgot to mention that a very small red cap, surmounted I may truly say, not covered the head. Altogether I have nowhere seen a costume so fanciful and so becoming, showing as it did the shape to such advantage.

The different countrywomen whom I met had nothing very peculiar in their dress except that they generally wore something like the Spanish Mantilla which enabled them to conceal their face, when they pleased. This mantilla was in general of a black colour – but I saw one or two with them of white, which added to their naturally pale and cadaverous complexion gave to them the appearance of [incuriated?] corpses.

Visit M.r Lowndes – Cannot fine M.r Crichton – Repair to and Italian casa

It being now near the time at which I had appointed to see M.r Geach, I returned to the Custom House, where at one oClock the Master landed, and we proceeded on our Travels together. Our first visit was to our old friend the Rev.d M.r Lowndes, whom together with his lady and family we found in perfect health. After some little stay there, we left, having just agreed to come back to meeting at their house at six oClock. Having learned that M.r Crichton, of the General Treasury had left his residence in the Citadel, and was now residing about a mile or two in the Country, we resolved to take a stroll in the direction which had been pointed out to us as leading to his house. All enquiries, however, either in English or in Italian ‘La Case del Signore Crichton,’ were unavailing – no one knew him – and we were at last compelled to return and endeavour to get some dinner. In answer to our questions on that subject, we were recommended to an Eating place kept by an Italian, to which we accordingly repaired. We were there introduced to a room, having a table set forth for about 20 persons, in a style at once plain and neat. A bill of fare, with the price of each dish was presented to us by the civil waiter but as it was written in Italian we were at first at a loss, what to order.

Description of our dinner at Corfu

At one time we determined to pick out several of the long jaw breaking names – and at another the short – and had we done so, what an incongruous mess we would have had before us – enough to have made the poor Venetian stare with wonder at our perverted taste, and conclude that we were mad. Fortunately indeed – for his opinion of our sanity, we caught the name of a well known dish, tho’ strangely transmogrified – and we immediately and with the joyful air of persons suddenly relieved from a perplexing dilemma, ordered an ample dish of ‘Boeuf-streekes con potato.’ – with two bottles of ‘Vino blanco,’ and a few ‘Dolci’ or sweetmeats by way of desert. The waiter after having supplied us with beautifully clean towels and every other requisite disappeared and in a short time returned with a nice juicy smoking hot plate of Beef steaks and potatoes and out two bottles of white wine, to wash all down. We had no faults to find with the cookery – but the meat at Corfu is abominable and requires the stomach of a horse to be able to digest it, so coarse & poor is it. The wine was light and good, and drunk very well from tumblers – and the little pates which closed our repast were delicious. Now I think I hear you saying ‘what extravagance what wastry – 2 bottles of wine and a desert for two persons! Prodigious! as Dominie Sampson hath it. When you are informed of the charge for all this, you will perhaps think that we ordered too little. The Sum total for all this was only 50 oboli. But here you are as much in the dark as ever – for, any thing you know an Oboli may be equal to one shilling, or one pound. Well then an Oboli is only equal to one “bawbe” so that for the large sum of 25 pence we had all which I have mentioned to you.

Masquerade at Corfu – Carnival at Corfu

Being extremely well satisfied with our fare and charges, we left the place. It was now a little past four and we agreed to spend the intermediate time till we should go to M.r Lowndes in perambulating the streets, and seeing as the Welchman said, what was to be seen. And truly there was more to be seen than it had been entered into our heads to conceive. The place to which we repaired was the vacant space of ground, used for parades, in front of the Governors palace. We found it crowded with people, who were all apparently highly amused by something which was going on there. We were  not long left ignorant of the cause, for there were innumerable Masques parading up and down, men women and boys. It would be impossible to enumerate to you all the various antic characters which we witnessed. First of all we observed half a dozen Jack Tars, with masques on their faces, drunk as Lords, and eager for a spree – or as they would term it, engaged in ‘sky-larking.’ Then we fell in with other motley groups of every description – but I must say that I saw few who endeavoured to keep up the character they represented. I was told that as the weather was so unfavourable but a very few compared with what would otherwise be the case, made their appearance – but that was to be at night, a masqued ball, which would be crowded with the first people rigged out in all sorts of masquerade dresses. I could hardly believe my own eyes, when I first got a sight of the masqueraders – and it had never seriously entered into my simple comprehension that such doings would be tolerated in any Christian country on a Sunday night. But so it is and the clergy themselves encourage rather than repress the practice – on the ground I suppose that, as during such festivities additional sin and immorality will be accumulated, so additional sums of money will accrue to them as an expiation of all offences. This season, at which we have come to Corfu, is Carnival time, and generally lasts for 20 days – during which all give [love?] to mirth and jollity – to fun & nonsense and to the indulgence of those passions, which being pent up and restrained at other periods, effervesce with greater energy & violence, than if they had always been allowed a moderate scope.

Attend M.r Lowndes

At 6 oClock we hastened to a very different scene at the house of M.r Lowndes. There in a large room, we met an assemblage of about 50 people, men and women – and of the former the greater population were soldiers. In a short time M.r Lowndes himself appeared and went thro’ the religious exercises of the evening in truly solemn manner. I was never more interested since I left ‘Auld Reekie,’ for the form of worship was exactly the same as followed by us – and is from its very simplicity and the absence of all parade powerfully affecting. After service was concluded several of the soldiers came up to the clergyman – and I was much pleased with the confiding manner in which they spoke and looked up to him, as to one who had their interests sincerely at heart – and with the air of paternal regard, which he extended to them all, as to his children in Christ. As soon as all the others had departed, M.r Geach and I drank tea with M.r Lowndes and family – and at half past nine left these worthy people to return on board.

Read on … A Strange Character