Corfu – Achilleion

In the Ionian sea and off the Greek coast lies the Greek island of Corfu. An island that the Empress of Austria and the queen of Hungary Elisabeth fell in love with so much that between 1889 and 1891 she had built a holiday palace about a mile south of Corfu town. Elisabeth was fascinated by Greek mythology, especially Achelleion, and in his honor the palace was named after him. The palace was built on a forest hill with magnificent views and Elisabeth let adorn it with all kinds of luxury. Elisabeth visited the palace as often as she could, but unfortunately she was not allowed to enjoy the palace more than about seven years because she fell victim to a murderer in 1898. The palace remained empty until 1907, when Elizabeth’s heirs sold the palace to German emperor Wilhem II.

The emperor visited the palace regularly and it became a diplomatic stronghold until 1914 when the first world war broke out. Wilhelm also built a pier and a bridge (Emperor Bridge) on the shore where guests could arrive by boat. Via the bridge (which crossed a road) the guests were then able to walk up to the palace. The bridge was ironically destroyed by the Germans in 1944 because it was too low and therefore made it impossible to transport troops to the south of the island.

During the first world war, the palace was used as a military hospital for French and Serbian soldiers. After the war, the palace became the Greek state. During the interwar period, the palace and adjoining buildings were used for various purposes and institutions. Between 1941 and 1944, the palace was used as military headquarters by Italy, and then by Germany, after Italy withdrew from the war in September 1943. After the war it was returned to the Greek state and between 1962 and 1983 it was rented out to a company that set up a casino on the top floor.

Current status: Preserved with museum (2018).

Location: 39°33'44.93"N 19°54'14.91"E

Get there: Car.

My comment:

The palace is 2018 Corfu’s most visited museum and the focus is on Elisabeth and Wilhelm II. Its main attraction is an 8-meter-high statue of Achilles that Emperor Wilhelm II teaches to erect. That it was used as a military headquarters is mentioned only as a parenthesis. The palace was also used to shoot scenes for the James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only, (1981).

Follow up in books: Smith, Peter C: War in the Aegean: The Campaign for the Eastern Mediterranean in World War II (2008).