Agios Magikades, Corfu
The village sits beneath sheer, red cliffs overlooking a valley of olive groves towards the mountains. It nestles into the stark outcrop of rock like a pigeon between the branches of a lemon tree. When the wind blows, it is anchored, firm and safe. The sky rages, the boughs sway and the light changes from a luminous white to grey and then black. When the storm passes, overhead becomes a brilliant blue.
From high above, you look down on the golden terracotta roof tiles and a road which winds from one side of the village to the other.
At one end is the car park, which serves the village school and is used by mourners who leave their vehicles there before making the long walk up to the cemetery. There are six large rubbish skips on the corner, home to a multitude of cats that scatter with a clatter when anyone gets close. But one large tabby, a fat cat with one eye bigger than the other, holds his position, daring you to get any nearer, while it munches on a fish head.
Let me take you now to the village centre, past the restored yet empty home of a Greek prime minister from the turn of the 20th century. Now only a trio of barking dogs holds court behind the high gates.
In the road there are two dogs fighting. A yellow Labrador with a collar and a confident swagger sends a shaggy interloper with a mangy neck up and running towards the school. There is a yell of Max! from the teacher, a smart woman in a suit, as the victor is given his marching orders and runs off for a tussle with cats around the bins.
On the road, you have to walk carefully to avoid a surfeit of squashed lemons on the tarmac. A man selling fresh fish drives by in his van and announces his catch over a microphone. He is closely followed by two gypsies, with a truck load of scrap metal, cruising for donations.
The village square is quiet today, hungover from its Sunday lunch excesses, with roast pork studded with garlic and served with deliciously greasy oven potatoes, a rabbit stifado and rooster pastitsada.
At the kafenion, the men are playing cards and a young blonde woman gives you a cheery wave as she collects their coffee cups. Down narrow alleyways, past back doors and front doors, and penned-in dogs that bark.
On then, to the village’s other car park, with its tattered Communist party flag sitting on top of a ramshackle building. Down, down and down you go, past houses with yellow doors and shutters, imposing gates and fenced gardens with beds of standard roses, climbing bougainvillea and a jacaranda tree which will be beautiful come the summer.
And then a circuit through the olive groves before going home.
For more information about this part of Greece, take a look at The Ionian Magazine.