I love cheap knock-offs. Paying the 80,000% mark up for a pair of Ray Buns that somehow still only cost 45 cents or a Billabang towel that is made of tissue paper will always be far more rewarding to me than heading to JR Surf & Ski to get the real deal. I once saw a watch that was branded Hugo Bus. I found it really funny.
While knock-off consumer goods are a dime a dozen, knock-off Mediterranean islands are decidedly less abundant. Therefore you can only imagine my joy when I stumbled upon Corfu, a little fart of earth off the Northwest coast of mainland Greece, and one that had the magical combination of dirt cheap flights and dirt cheap accommodation that this little tight arse has always been hard pressed to pass up.
A Greek Island jaunt usually goes thus – fly into Athens, take a ferry to Mykonos, Santorini, and whatever other isles tickle your bits, and spend your time sucking down freshly plucked seafood and diving into crystal clear water. Having never been to any of these places before my only reference points were second-hand reports and the backgrounds of cologne ads where hot but annoyed looking models lounge uncomfortably in swimwear.
Sure, Corfu might’ve been off the opposite corner of the Greek mainland, and sure, the flights and accommodation might’ve been about a quarter the price of the more traditional options, but it’s still a Greek island in the Mediterranean. If I see a shaker of chicken salt in the half price bin at Woolies I still expect it to perform as a shaker of chicken salt should; i.e. make everything magically 10x fucking tastier.
Everything. Dust some on some ice cream and tell me I’m wrong.
Flying in over the island, which is 60km long, less than 25km wide and shaped like a mulleted sea horse, it looked exactly the Mediterranean dream those fragrance brands had told me it would. I hadn’t yet seen a jacked dude in a pair of linen white dick togs, but from 30,000 feet up I assumed that the surrounding coastline was chock-full of them.
But not long after I’d snatched the bags from the carousel, I began to suspect that this particular bargain bin find might not have been the fragranced full page ad that I’d envisaged.
Dolce & Gabbana Mediterranean Island Life vs Corfu
Here is a list of Mediterranean island things that perfume manufacturers leave out of their product shots:
- Roadside rubbish: A popular pastime in Corfu is to see how close to the roadside trash pile you can throw your bag of food waste without letting the speed of your car drop below 35km/h. The answer is not very.
- 70s hotels that look abandoned but for some reason always have at least one elderly man drifting through them: The windows are all broken, there’s graffiti on the walls and there seems to be a loose agreement between the locals that these joints have offered themselves up as multi-storey public urinals, but old caretaker George still thinks that the best is yet to come.
- So many cats: If you can eat a Greek salad while being stared at by 6 to 10 street cats who every now and again brush their anuses against your leg, you’re a braver man than I.
- Tourist shops filled with Billabang towels and Ray Buns: That was pretty good actually.
- Smells: After spending most of the first day either thinking that I’d accidentally farted or blaming others for doing it I realised that it was just the air.
But despite all that, and against my better judgement, over the course of a week Corfu wormed its way into my little heart. Sure, it’s not a Mykonos or Santorini. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges. And sure, the exposure to feral cats and human waste may well have resulted in a literal parasitic worm in my heart. But that’s sort of what I liked about it.
Expectations firmly set aside, I could enjoy the island for what it was – a diamond, albeit a rough one. The water was just as blue as I’d pictured, the people were gagging to show you a good time, and with official tourist season still 2 weeks away, we essentially had the joint to ourselves.
That said, the whole experience could’ve been made easier if I’d not been sold the Mediterranean lie by Big Fragrance. I know Versace isn’t going to toss a bikini-clad brunette in a mound of household and street cat waste while holding a bottle of Pour Homme, but it’d at least prep unsuspecting idiots such as I for the realities of the more cut-price parts of the region. The models wouldn’t even have to shift from their go-to facial expression.
Would I recommend Corfu to you, the reader? To answer that question I suppose I’d ask another:
How excited are you by a fantastically priced pair of Ray Buns?