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M. CorfuSights: Achilleion Palace

The Achilleion Palace can be found in the Village of Gastouri, 10 km’s south west of the town of Corfu. Following the national road Corfu – Achilleion and turning left at Ponti, the twisting road ascends through the olive groves to the village of Agios Deka (the 10 Saints), and finally arriving in the village of Gastouri, passing the traditional houses with their attractive flower fill gardens, bougainvillea festooned walls and pergolas awash with color, there is a hint of something special at the end of the road which unfolds itself at the imposing iron gates of the Achilleion Palace, which dominates a hilltop location.

The myth

There, where your imagination is free to run wild, the fairy tale becomes one with reality; good, evil and even the truth become one with the legend. A strange sense of awe overwhelms anyone that gazes over the imposing form of the Palace which dominates the area with its presence, residing between the cypress trees and other exotic plants and flowers which surround it.

The stunning appearance of this stately palace takes the visitor back in history to when the palace was inhabited by two great figures from European history whose only common bond was their adoration for Corfu, Greece and its culture, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (known as ‘Sissi’) and Kaiser William II of Germany.

Empress Elisabeth built the palace to escape the tragedies of her life, and William II purchased it after her untimely death. William II, however, never had a chance to enjoy the palace’s beauty because of a war that broke out, from his own doing.

During the First and Second World War the palace was abandoned and inevitably pillaged by the enemy. After years of rebuilding and restoration, the palace was finally restored to its former beauty.

Even before a visitor has entered the palace of Achilleion , they will feel the greatness endowed by looking at the even the first statues that inhabit the outer areas, all inspired by ancient Greek mythology.

As one enters the palace grounds, they can see the beautiful gardens, an invaluable piece of art, which rhapsodize Greek mythology with statues of Zeus and Hera, and other smaller statues and sculptures. Inside the palace to the right there is a portrait of Empress Elisabeth, while on the left one will gaze upon the marble fireplace and the small statues that decorate it. The roof is decorated with a large painting (fresco), piece of unspeakable art, that enraptures the four seasons of time. At the end of the stairs there is an enormous oil painting that portrays the triumph of Achilles at the battle with Hector.

Empress Elisabeth’s catholic chapel is referred as a piece of art, with impressive parts being the painting on the arch-shaped ceiling that represents the trial of Christ. At Elisabeth’s room there are many pieces of art that originally came from her sleeping chamber, just as a large painting that represents Odysseus (Ulysses) and Naussica on the Phaecian island. In Kaiser’s room there are many personal items of the Emperor of Germany William II on display, such as a portrait of himself and other painting portraying nautical themes.

The outer areas of the palace are decorated with incomparable pieces of art. The ‘Peristyle of the Muses’ of Achilleion (a garden surrounded by columns) is of the Ionic style and took its name from the statues of the nine muses which are on the top floor of the palace gardens. These statues are also accompanied by the statue of Hermes, and Apollo. Inside the arcade of the peristyle reside thirteen busts of ancient philosophers and poets not counting the tribute to Shakespeare. The most valuable statue of Achilleion is the ‘Dying Achilles’ that represents Achilles dying trying to remove the spear from his ankle, The statue of ‘Victorious Achilles’ is the largest statue of Achilles, with unbelievable dimensions, where Achilles is presented in the moment of victory.


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