One of the first images that come to mind when Corfu is mentioned is the much photographed Pontikonisi Island. There is however another island which is inextricably linked to Corfu and is one of the first attractions that a visitor sees on arrival at its port.
The little, green, uninhabited Vido island is located opposite the city of Corfu, very close to the old port and is a small, natural paradise. It is also a favourite and alternative recreation area of the locals, magically combining nature and the sea a short distance from the city.
Within a short space of time the visitor can tour the whole island, through its verdant and specially designed paths. On the Vido island there are facilities for visitors, without detracting from the natural beauty. They can enjoy a swim on one of its shores or a picnic at one of the specially made wooden benches, which are scattered around in the most picturesque parts of the island.
A special attraction of this small and unique island is the abundance of various animals that live freely on the island, which make it an ideal choice for families with young children.
Ducks, guinea fowl, pheasants, quails, rabbits and even goats can cross your path at any time!
Vido island has municipal camps and a training area for scouts and boy scouts. To get there you only have to go to the old port of the city from where boats depart daily that connect the city with the island. The boat usually departs almost every hour, the journey taking less than 10 minutes and the cost inexpensive.
In recent years, a remarkable effort has been made by the Municipality of Corfu who has contributed to the upgrade of Vidos, thereby promoting summer visits of Corfiots and foreigners to the Vido island, in order to enjoy the crystal clear waters and beautiful flora and fauna.
Corfu, the “island of salvation” of the Serbian people and the role of Vido island
The Vido island was not always a place of recreation. It was once a revered place of sacrifice for the Serbs, as on its shores and in the surrounding sea are the remains of about 10,000 soldiers who perished in 1916.
At the end of the first Balkan War, with the signing of Treaty of London in May 1913, the outstanding issues of the inter-Balkan states were still not permanently settled and Bulgaria started the second war, in the same year, during which Greeks, Serbs and Romanians clashed with her.
At the end of November 1915, an exodus began for the Serbs who had been forced to flee their homeland through the Albanian mountains, a painful procession in the heavy winter. From 18 January 1916 until 21 February, 43 large Allied transport ships evacuated the remnants of the Serbian army and the remains of a devastated nation; the civilian Serbian refugees, to Corfu. About 150,000 Serbs were concentrated in makeshift camps across the east side of the island.
Initially, there was insufficient time to make provisions for their adequate care. As a result, they were left exposed to the cold, without food or shelter, so consequently they died en masse from dysentery, typhoid fever and respiratory diseases.
Under the threat that the Serbian army could become a source of infection for the islanders, the allies also took drastic measures on the small island of Lazaretto, opposite the port. There, they set up a transit centre, where all those who arrived were disinfected. They also set up a hospital for infectious diseases. The French mission organized hospitals in other parts of Corfu. Three months later, in May, Russian aid arrived with 500 beds, while the seriously injured were transferred to hospitals and sanatoriums in Tunisia, Algeria and France.
The “Blue Cenotaph“, the sea around the island of Vido, became part of Serbian history. During the first days of the army’s stay in Vido island, about 100 people died every day. Initially, they were buried on rocky shores and in shallow graves. The dead multiplied dramatically and so, they were transported in the boats of a French medical ship and thrown into the sea, where they remain forever.
In 1939, the Yugoslav government erected a mausoleum in Vido, in memory of Serbian soldiers who went missing during World War I or were buried there.
Every September, the Serbs, respecting their history, honour their dead and lay wreaths at both the Mausoleum on the islet and the “wet grave”, as they call the sea. The song “Tamo daleko“, whose words speak of the nostalgia of the homeland, is heard every year on the same day on the island, “Where we’re sitting on a rock and gazing at the sea”, it was inspired by a Serb soldier exhausted by hardship, the 1916.
The unfortunate part of the Vido island’s role in the historical events continued later as in 1926 rural prisons were established and from 1948 to 1976 a juvenile reformatory operated there.
The location and the fortification
Today, the Vido island is mostly overgrown, but before 1940 it was bare and almost without a single tree. Then the agronomist Ioannis (Giagias) V. Sordinas (1882-1956), one of the first agronomists and father of the famous professor of prehistoric archeology, Augustos Sordinas, fought hard for its reforestation, finally giving it life with pines, olives, cypresses, almond trees, etc.
During the Venetian rule, Vido was full of olive trees, vineyards and gardens and presented the idyllic image of an orchard in the middle of the sea. The French Democrats destroyed the vegetation to build cannons and fortifications, while the Imperial French, a few years later (1807 – 1814) began its systematic fortification by building three small fortresses, Scholeburg, St. George and Fort Alexander which was located at the highest point of the Vido island.
The English demolished almost all the works of the French and in the same places created new ones according to the techniques of the time, the ruins of which are preserved to this day.
Originally, Vido island is mentioned by Thucydides by the name of Ptychía which means Degrees in Greek. The Byzantines and the Andigavos called it Agios Stefanos, because there was the ancient church of Agios Stefanos there. In the 15th century, during Venetian rule, the island was called Isola Malipiero by the Venetian family of the same name Malipiero. It was later named Guido Malipiero after a Malipiero, Guido, and then corrupted or changed to Vido by the Corfiots. During the rule of the French Democrats the name was changed to Peace Island and in 1916 Death Island, because thousands of isolated Serbian soldiers who had contracted infectious diseases died there.
BELGRADE-SERVIA (2013). “Οι Σέρβοι στην Ελλάδα και γιατί μας θεωρούν αδέρφια“, https://belgradeserbia.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/%CE%BF%CE%B9-%CF%83%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%B2%CE%BF%CE%B9-%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BD-%CE%B5%CE%BB%CE%BB%CE%B1%CE%B4%CE%B1-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B9-%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%B9-%CE%BC%CE%B1%CF%83-%CE%B8%CE%B5%CF%89/
ΣΟΥΡΤΖΙΝΟΣ, Γιώργος Χ. (2008). “Τοπωνύμια: γλωσσικές μαρτυρίες στην ιστορική διαδρομή της Κέρκυρας“, Ιστορική Λαογραφική Εταιρεία Κέρκυρας, σελ. 44 – 46