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Getting There The Achillion is around 10km out of town in the village of Gastouri. There are two routes one from the coastal road to Benitses the other through the centre of town to Gastouri. Being a popular destination there are numerous tours, taxi and bus services. If you are driving follow the map below.
The Achilleion Palace was built by Empress of Austria Elisabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sisi. Elisabeth was a woman obsessed with beauty. She had a very powerful, but tragically vulnerable character since the loss of her only son, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in 1889. A year later in 1890, she built a summer palace in the region of Gastouri, now the municipality of Achilleion, about ten kilometres to the south of the city of Corfu. The central theme of the palace is the mythical hero Achilles. Elisabeth spoke fluent Greek and expressed a desire to further immerse herself in the Greek culture. Like every other European royal, she had some Byzantine emperors among her distant ancestors. Elisabeth was given the property by Corfiot Petros Vrailas Armenis who was rewarded by Elisabeth with a large diamond-encrusted brooch to be passed down to the wife of the eldest son.
The palace was designed by Italian architect Raffaele Caritto. Ernst Herter, a famous German sculptor, was commissioned to create works inspired from Greek mythology. His famous sculpture Dying Achilles, created in Berlin in 1884 as inscribed in the statue, forms the centrepiece of the Achilleion Gardens. The palace surrounded with classic Greek statues is a monument to platonic romanticism as well as escapism and was, naturally, named after Achilles: Achilleion. The place abounds with paintings and statues of Achilles, both in the main hall and in the lavish gardens depicting the heroic and tragic scenes of the Trojan war. The architectural style is Pompeian and has many parallels to that of the Russian imperial residence in Crimea. The Imperial gardens on top of the hill provide a majestic view of the surrounding green hill crests and valleys with the Ionian sea gleaming in the background. Elisabeth used to visit the place often until 1898 when she was assassinated in Geneva by Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni. After Elisabeth's death, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II purchased Achilleion in 1907 from her heirs and used it as a summer residence. During his visits a lot of diplomatic activity used to take place in Achilleion having it turned into a hub of European diplomacy. Wilhelm, expanding on the main theme of the grounds, commissioned his own Achilles statue from the sculptor Johannes Götz who created an imposing bronze sculpture that stands tall as a guardian of the Gardens facing north toward the city. Kaiser's statue represents Achilles in full hoplite uniform with intricate detailing such as a relief of a gorgon's head at the shield, apparently to petrify any enemies, as well as lion heads as knee protectors. This tall statue is surrounded by palm trees that complement its graceful outline. Kaiser Wilhelm visited the place until 1914 when World War I was declared. During World War I, the Achilleion was used as a military hospital by French and Serbian troops. After World War I, it became the property of the Greek state according to the treaty of Versailles and the war reparations that followed in 1919. In the years between World War I and World War II the Achilleion property was used to house various government services and at the same time a number of artefacts were auctioned off. During World War II, the axis powers used the Achilleion as military headquarters. After World War II, the Achilleion came under the management umbrella of the Hellenic Tourist Organisation (HTO). Briefly reclaiming the status of centre for European diplomacy that it possessed during the Kaiser years, the Achilleion has been used in recent times for the European summit meeting in 1994 and in 2003 it hosted the meeting of the European ministers for Agriculture. Lately it has been used as a museum.
History In Corfu - The Achillion Palace
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