Monday 24 July 2023

Another Greek Epic - The Historical Village of Doukades

Kalispera! I'm sure you're aware of the terrible wildfires currently raging in Rhodes, Athens and Corfu. We've heard from our dear friend George in Rhodes, the fires are really close to his home in Stegna but thankfully he, his family & friends are safe. 

George is currently volunteering with the island's fire service & battling the flames and the photos he sent us over the weekend are truly horrific. I do hope that my travelogues inspire one or two readers to travel to Greece, this beautiful country relies on tourism and from what I've seen on the news and read on social media, unlike the big travel companies, the Greeks are going out of their way to assist travellers caught up in the tragedy offering lifts to the airport, refreshments and room in their homes.

Anyway, on to the last of my Corfu posts. This is Doukades, a traditional mountain village a five kilometre walk from Paleokastritsa. The settlement probably originated during a period of devastating pirate raids on Corfu’s coastal communities when people retreated to the more remote interior. The earliest written reference to Doukades is from 1616. 

The Theotoki Mansion, said to be the most impressive house in the village was home to Georgios Theotokis, Prime Minister of Greece from 1899 - 1909. 

Lady Jane Digby (1807 - 1881) - William Charles Ross

Another resident of the Theokoti Mansion was Lady Jane Digby, a notorious aristocratic beauty who was born in Dorset in 1807. At 17, Lady Jane married Lord Ellenborough, the governor-general of India later scandalising English society by divorcing him and moving to Germany. After an affair with Ludwig I of Bavaria she married Baron Karl von Venningen of Munich before embarking on an affair with the Greek Count, Spyridon Theotokis. After a duel between her love rivals she divorced the baron, converted to the Greek Orthodox faith and married Spyridon. The couple moved to his family home in Doukades but divorced after their son Leonidas died after falling from a balcony. Lady Jane then went on to have an affair with Greece's King Otto before meeting General Christodoulos Hatziperos, hero of the Greek War for Independence, where she acted as his queen, living in caves, riding horses and hunting. Lady Jane then travelled to the Middle East and fell in love with Sheik Medjuel el Mezrab, who was twenty years her junior. The couple married under Muslim law and stayed together until her death 28 years later. Lady Jane adopted native dress, lived a nomadic lifestyle in tents in the desert and learned Arabic in addition to the eight languages in which she was already fluent. 

Keen to know more? You can buy a secondhand copy of her biography, A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby by Mary S Lovell HERE.

Lady Jane Digby by Joseph Karl Steiler (1831)

Jane, herself a born gardener and a garden lover, celebrated her arrival at Doukades by planting a cypress tree in the grounds, It is still there, tall as a tower now, a dignified and delighted memorial to her - her only memorial in Greece. E. M. Oddie (1935)

On the approach to the village we passed a sign marking The Battle of Kratsalo (1403) where the local militia, aided by the Venetians, fought a bloody battle against Genoese invaders. Eventually the Genoese retreated, shouting This is another state! in broken Greek (Kratos + allo) which is said to be how Corfu's adjacent mountain range, Pantokrator, got its name. 

With such an interesting history you'd imagine Doukades to be bustling with tourists but, at 9am on a Monday morning, other than a dog walker and an elderly man out buying bread, we were the only people about. After astonishingly cheap frappes in the cafe-cum-minimarket we wandered the narrow lanes, chatting to cats and playing which house should we buy?  Right in the heart of the village THIS was a contender.

There's three tavernas in the village square with Elizabeth's, established in 1960, being the highest rated. In more normal conditions (ie., below 45°) we'd have ventured out later and had lunch there but, keen to escape the hottest part of the day, our trip didn't coincide with opening hours. The perfect reason to go back!  

Our guidebook recommended a viewing point at Saint Symeon so after leaving Doukades we wandered through some olive groves, passed a small monastery, marvelled at the rocks and were eventually rewarded with a vista to die for.

And that was it for exploring! We spent the rest of our trip basking like lizards in the glorious sunshine. Back at home the weather's been dismal and with the forecast for more of the same, it took all of 48 hours to book our next escape.

But that's ages away. It's back to the day job - festival trading - we're off to Womad in the morning! The wellies are packed and there's plenty of booze to help drown our sorrows if the weather really does turn out to be as miserable as expected plus Femi Kuti is amazing. Check him out HERE

If you're going, look out for us in the main arena and come and say hello, it'd be lovely to meet you. 

See you soon!


  1. Hi Vix. I can fully see why you love Corfu. It's on the hitlist and will definitely be booking for next year based on your blog. Have just been looking at holidays. Stunningly beautiful. he turquoise waters, the crumbly shuttered buildings, the cypress trees, beautiful food and the cats!! Right up my street! Have just been watching the news about the fires. A Greek chap was saying his hotel could be rebuilt but was worrying about the wildlife. It made me cry. Very devastating. Yes, shocking weather here and sounds like no sign of the rain stopping for a while. Louise (Midlands) XX

    1. Hello Louise! It breaks your heart watching the news and how every business owner says how property can be rebuilt and that lives are so much more important. I can't imagine how frightening to must be to live under that constant threat of fires breaking out.
      Corfu is stunning, it's hard to think that it's so close to home. For over 20 years I only ever travelled long haul, there's so much to see on our doorstep. xxx

  2. Evening Vix, Hubby and I are going to WOMAD, so will come and say 'hello' - best wishes, Jill from Dorset x

    1. Hello Jill! That's exciting, I'll be lovely to meet you both. xxx

  3. Ah, what a soothing and lovely wrap-up to your trip - that town in the mountains is a hidden treasure. I enjoyed reading about Lady Jane Digby - what a woman! I'll look for the bio, thank you!

    Sorry to hear the gorgeous weather didn't follow you home, Vix. We've had our first rain in months today, and the earth is just sucking up the moisture. BC (my province) is covered in out of control wildfires right now - we are in drought conditions.

    1. Thanks, Sheila! I'm amazed that I'd never heard of Lady Jane, she'd have given Lord Byron a run for his money! v
      The weather's been very disappointing, it's almost like we've come home to Autumn, the central heating keeps turning itself on and there's not a day gone by when it hasn't rained for an hour or two. I hope those BC wildfires burn themselves out soon. Stay safe! xxx

  4. Fabulous as ever. You guys should run a tour group - we'd all live to come and join you!!

  5. Love Corfu. Now to get there one day. Thanks. I hope the weather is decent and you do well as well as have fun at Womad. Hugs and love.

  6. Oh gosh, I couldn't stand the normal heat there, never mind all this excessive heat. The fires are so sad aren't they, a beautiful country suffering so much.

    I hope you have a wonderful trading and fun time at WOMAD. xx

  7. Blimey! Lady Jane didn't let the grass grow under her feet!
    Love the photo of the cat peering over the wall - those eyes!!
    What a staggeringly beautiful island! It's grim here, but I'll take it compared to what the Greeks are going through. xxx

  8. I did wonder if parts of Corfu you had been to had been affected. The fires are just heartbreaking.

  9. I'll be on the lookout for Lady Jane Digby's biography. She must have been considered even more scandalous than Idina Sackville!
    I vicariously enjoyed your walk to Doukades - there's no way I would have even ventured outside in those temperaturs, but how glorious is that deep blue sky!
    Have fun and a roaring trade at Womad! xxx

  10. I LOVE AFROBEATS! We went to see a Chilean Afrobeats band called Newen Afrobeats last year and I LOVED their music so much (Opposite People is my absolute favourite!)- Femi Kuti came and performed with them! They were so excited!
    I do feel so much for the Greek people. It's just horrendous! My sister is booked to go to a Greek island in the next fortnight.
    I would love to return and embrace my Greek heritage more! Loved your post so much! I'm reading a great book at the moment called 'A Thousand ships' by Natalie Haynes which is the stories of the Trojan wars told from the perspective of the women. I am reading Hecate's story at the moment!x

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  13. Lady Jane Digby sounds wonderful - and all of the cats so beautiful x

  14. Lady Jane Digby is rather beautiful, and also very interesting. What a beautiful holiday, and I'm so glad you weren't affected by any wildfires while you were there. One of my friends and her family had to be evacuated last week (I think it was Corfu) and she commented on Facebook about how friendly and helpful local people were, putting them up safely while they waited for evacuation and stuff. Have a great time at Womad. xxx

  15. So confused are my thoughts that I had complete forgotten that it was Womad this weekend . Lots of memories of going there with the kids when younger .
    I hope the weather is less brutal than forecast - I am in Bristol and it feels like it hasn’t stopped raining for years
    Siobhan x

  16. Hello Vix, hoping the weather for the festival wasn't as bad as you expected.
    I did think of you and Jon as I watched those awful fires in the Greek islands.
    Thoroughly enjoyed all of your posts on beautiful Corfu , it is on my travel wish list . If only it wasn't so far away and expensive to get to from over here. xx

  17. So sorry to hear about the fires. It has been so hot all across the globe.
    Love all your street pics.

  18. So sorry about those fires, it's so sad and I'm afraid we're not doing enough, as we're responsible for this situation!. Really sad.
    But your delightful pictures make me feel better and love the mediterranean lifestyle (my kind of lifestyle!) and went to explore and walk (even if the weather was so damn hot!). Love some of those houses too, and I'm sorry that you can't move there due to that pesky Brexit. Hope it can change in the future!
    Love that massive bouganvillea!

  19. Hello Vix, Doukades looks beautiful. Love the lounging cat and lemons tumbling down the steps.Terrible news about the devastating wildfires. Wow, Lady Digby lead a high drama life didn't she. Makes me feel faint just reading about it! I hope you've had a good weekend at Womad. I'm on a bloggy catchup so onto the last post.... Lulu xXx

  20. Hello everyone! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I'm so sorry that I haven't responded to you individually. Much love to you all. xxx

  21. Lady Jane seems like such a fascinating beauty! I might look her up when I find the time.
    I love your photos from Greece.
    Fires in the summer can be frightening in Mediterranean countries. Hot climate has its downsides too.


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Lots of love, Vix