Thursday, 22 January 2009

Mon Repos, The Royal Estate on the island of Corfu, Greece. The birthplace of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and several other Greek Royals.

Mon Repos, Corfu, Greece: where Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was born

The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (Philippos of Greece and Denmark) was born at the Villa Mon Repos on the island of Corfu, Greece on 10 June 1921, the first son and fifth and final child of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Baptised at St. George's Church at the Palaio Frourio (Old Fortress) in Haddokkos a few days after his birth, the Prince's godparents were his paternal line grandmother (Queen Olga of Greece) and the Corfu community, represented by Alexander Kokotos, Mayor of Corfu, and Stylianos Maniarizis, Chairman of the Corfu City Council.

Built in 1831 the Mon-Repos Palace is located located just above Corfu Town, on the hill of Analipsis and adjacent the ruins of the Palaiopolis of Kerkyra (the acropolis of ancient Kerkyra),atop a hill within a 250 acre park in the middle of Corfu's archeological centre. According to historians, the ancient city of Corfu island had originally been there. It was built by Commissioner Adams for his wife, although she soon vacated the palace when her husband was sent to serve in India and it became a rarely used summer house for all the governors. During the British occupation a school for clergymen was located there. After the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece, King Georgios I took pocession of the area and named it Mon-Repos. During the Italian occupation it was residence for the Italian politician Parini who governed the Ionian Islands. It was recently magnificently restored and is now a fabulous museum housing many of the Islands treasures.

The gates of Mon Repos Estate are always open — at least during visiting hours from 8:30–15:00, Tuesday through Sunday. Like most nature-oriented activities on the island of Corfu, daytime admission into the estate is free. Just past the gates is an information area and large, mounted map clearly labeled with different paths and sites to visit. The most prominent feature of the estate, of course, is Mon Repos Palace.

Mon Repos Palace is the birthplace of Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, Mon Repos Palace is an impressive structure — tiered and pillared with pink highlights and traditional Corfiot green shutters. Inside is a museum with Byzantine remains, furniture and dresses from the period of the British rule, paintings and other Corfu artifacts. What seems more interesting than the exhibit, at least from this writer's perspective, is the first sight of the palace as the pathway straightens from its curvy, tree-lined ascent. It sits rather kingly on top of a hill and offers an expansive view of the clear turquoise blue waters below.

Yachts and ferries going to and from Corfu Town look like tiny toy boats from such a high vantage point. You could almost lean over the railing, whistle, and watch them blow away with your breath.

If anything that's what the Mon Repos Estate offers its visitors - a touch of whimsy set in a garden steeped in history. From the palace the circular network of pathways all seem to lead from one antiquity to the next - an ancient Christian chapel with peeling blue frescoes to the ruins of a Doric temple. The farther one retreats upon the pathways into the gardens, the more one seems to remember the still, refreshing hush of nature - so much so that it seems somewhat shocking when, suddenly, another human rounds the bend and becomes visible.

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