Thursday, June 21, 2012

Journal Excerpt: Corfu

Twenty years ago on 19 June 1992, the ship I was stationed aboard, the USS Orion, made a port visit to the Greek island of Corfu, which is off the northwestern coast of Greece and close to Albania (the poorest and most isolated country in Europe). The island also has ferry service to Bari and Brindisi, Italy, on the Adriatic Coast. Corfu is my only experience with Greece. I never made it to Athens, as I had hoped. As Greece makes front page news now, regarding their debt crisis and potential defaulting, it was interesting to read what I wrote in my journal (Volume XXIX: The Age of Discovery in Autonomy).

The picture above (lifted from a Google image search) is of a famous church in Corfu and seen on many postcards. I did not actually see the real thing. I have no clue where it was located. I only saw a small portion of Corfu. Mainly, the main city of Corfu (Kerkira) and the resort town directly north: Ypsos.

After the picture of the main city of Corfu below is my journal excerpt from 1992. Enjoy!

1992 June 19 * Friday

The Orion pulled into cove of Corfu. I was excited...not so much to see Corfu as I was to get a glimpse of Albania -- Europe's most backward nation. All I saw were black hills -- thick with trees.

I wasn't planning to go on liberty tonight. However, I missed supper and didn't want to starve -- so I kind of had to go on liberty. The liberty boats were nice than the ones in Spain. They were similar to the ones in Naples. When the trash barge was brought alongside, I was amazed at some Greeks digging through the trash we chuck alongside. One man found himself an old looking ballcap! The ship ballcaps seem to be a popular item. Everyone seems to want one. I can't believe that they would dig through garbage to get one.

Out in town at fleet landing, one guy who is working as the CO's Pantry Mess crank said that the town of Ypsos is where "everyone" was heading. So we split a cab and went over. The town of Ypsos is one long strip much like Panama City Beach -- one restaurant, souvenir store, and hotel after another. Tourist city.

We went to a restaurant to eat first. We picked an Italian restaurant. I also ordered a bottle of Greek wine. After the meal, we kind of split. I went shopping for some cool Greek souvenirs.

[Petty Officer] Page was staying at a hotel. He wanted some of my wine -- which was fine with me because I didn't drink it all and felt like a wino carrying it around. We talked for a little bit before I left to check out the clubs.i

There were a lot of British and Irish girls all over the place. In fact, Chief Harper gave me a pack of 3 condoms which he wanted me to use by the time we leave Corfu. Mighty incourageable [SIC] of him!

At one clothing store called CALCUTTA CLOTHING, I was impressed with the style of clothing -- very international, inspired by styles from Asia. I bought a purple and magenta striped drawstring pants, a purple pullover, and a black vest. The owner of the store was nice and friendly. He spoke English well. He said that he designed and made the clothes himself. He travels to India and other countries for inspiration. He asked where I was from and when I said "Atlanta", he immediately mentioned the 1996 Olympics. He laughed about it, though. I expect some Greeks would be sore over the loss. It was nice to carry on a conversation with a friendly store owner after experiencing the coldness of those in Madrid.

While boarding the liberty boat to return to the Orion, one drunk guy missed his step between the pier and the boat and fell into the water! That scared a lot of people because it was dark out and we couldn't see him. The guy turned out alright -- just got the scare of his life, that's all.

1992 June 20 * Saturday

Blair and I went to Ypsos to get a hotel for the night. We were hoping to meet some British babes and wanted to stay out late. Things didn't work out that way, however. We spent most of the afternoon at the beach in Ypsos. The beach is a narrow strip between the road and the water. Its a pebble beach -- not sand. A majority of the women were topless - so we got an eye full. There were a lot of women at the beach.

Walking around, I kept thinking of Hawaii, for some reason. While shopping, Coleman saw me and said that I got a package from the French girl. I was surprised actually. I wasn't expecting one. Coleman then said, "Don't cum on me!" in such a vulgar way that pissed me off. I left without saying anything. He's been an ass on the whole underway.

All of the bars seem to have English employees and advertise karaoke. I had a drink at one and they were playing a new song by Wet Wet Wet. It was a relaxing vacation, to be in Ypsos. However, I ran into Orion sailors all over. I even saw Stephen Russell riding a moped -- which the Orion [CO] forbid! He's a lawbreaker -- but he wasn't the only one. There were several people from the Orion on mopeds.

In the evening, we went to the MWR special dinner, which was out in the boonies. I thought it was going to be more like at a special restaurant for a relaxing meal -- but just like in Ibiza last year, I was in for a rude awakening. This was a touristy Greek dinner and entertainment. We all got our photos taken on the way in -- with a man and woman in traditional Greek costume.

In a great big open room, everyone sat at very long tables. Blair and I sat near the XO, Commander Golden (bleah!) and his wife (who is a riot! She knows how to party!). There was a group of dependent wives who came to be with their hubbies. Corfu has a ferry service to and from Brindisi and Bari, Italy.

Anyhow, the food was pretty good. We were served all at once. I drank a bit too much of the Greek wine. It was a cheap house wine that you had to get refills of yourself for the table. Blair got the refill for our section of the table -- out back from a big barrel with a faucet on the end. The highlight of the evening was the Greek dancing -- performed by the restaurant employees (in traditional wear) -- and the thing that I've always wanted to see...the breaking of dishes! The plates they used were chipped, of course. Why waste good china? They broke a lot of plates while one dancer continued dancing--trying not to fall, a challenge, nevertheless.

When we left, I was drunk. I bought a copy of my photograph. I threw up on the bus ride back to fleet landing. Fortunately, I got all of it into the plastic bag that Blair happened to have. The bus was nearly empty--so that was good. At fleet landing in Corfu, I was tired and decided to lie down. Some people said that I was lying in the middle of the road, but I didn't believe them. Shore patrol wanted to bring me back to the ship because I was drunk. I insisted that I wasn't drunk and that we were waiting for the bus to Ypsos since we had a hotel. They wanted me to return to the ship, but Blair somehow talked them into letting me go to the hotel. They gave us a ride there. At the hotel room, I decided to rest a bit before going out to meet some babes.

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