Achillion Palace is another Corfu sight worth visiting. Located about 10 km from Corfu Town in the village of Gastouri, this luxurious villa was built for the Empress of Austria, Elisabeth von Wiltelsbach (more familiarly known as Princes Sissy), by the Italian architect Raffaele Carito in 1892. It was used as her summer retreat. Later the Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany bought the Palace. Directly below, on the coast, is the unusual Kaiser's bridge, the stone built jetty where the Kaiser set out on his yacht for swimming trips. This beautiful Palace, in picturesque gardens overlooks the sea and Corfu town, is considered on of Corfu's top attractions. Be sure to allow time to explore Gastouri, as it is a quaint village with lots of character. ACHILLEIO After loosing her family members, she decided to buy the place, where today the palace is built, and reside in Greece. Sissi, fascinated by the mythology of Ancient Greece, named her Palace in honour of the hero Achilles and adorned the halls and gardens with statues depicting gods and heroes. Greek mythology is present everywhere: In the grounds, the statue of Hermes stands on a rock. Sappho, Apollo, Aphrodite and Artemis appear on the parapet of the garden staircase. Gastouri itself is a picturesque village which preserves its heritage both in its architecture and in the lifestyle of its people. Here the first philharmonic orchestra outside Corfu Town was established in 1898, an institution which, in the 110 years since its inception has contributed greatly to the cultural and musical life of the locality. If you visit the village, do not fail to buy some bread baked in the wood-fired oven at Hector's Bakery, which you'll find in a picturesque corner of the village. From this spot a ravine lined with pine trees leaing you to the neighbouring hamlet of Pachalatika, where Sissi's Spring is situated. They say that Sissi used to drink from this spring. ACHILLION Achillio, the palace of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria (Princess Sissy), is nearby the beautiful village of Gastouri. It was built between the years 1890-1892 by the Empress after one of her visits in Corfu. The large building, in neoclassical style, has a ground floor and two more storeys decorated with many statues and paintings. The vast gardens surrounding the building, having a wonderful view to a large part of the island, are going down to the coastal road. They are decorated with many statues the most famous of which are the two bronze runners, the dying Achilles and the statue of Achilles Triumphant. After the assassination of Empress Elizabeth in 1898 in Geneva, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany purchased the palace in 1907 and used it as a place for relaxation. Inside the building, to the right of the main entrance is a chapel with beautiful iconography, to the left is the dining room in Renaissance style, a smoking room in Pompeyean style and the Kaiser's room. In the large reception hall the visitor can see some interesting works of various artists, the most impressive of which are the four recesses by the Italian painter Galopi and a large painting by the Austrian painter Franz Matt showing Achilles dragging the dead Hector behind his chariot before the walls of Troy. On this floor there is a beautiful balcony with an Ionic peristyle decorated with the busts of philosophers and statues of the nine Muses. On the middle floor are Elizabeth's rooms and on the upper floor are the rooms of the Emperor Franz Joseph and Duchess Maria Valeria. All of the rooms contain personal items of the former owners and the original furniture. Elisabeth died in 1898 in Geneva when an Italian rebel stabbed her as she was coming out of her hotel. Sissy’s life was turned into a movie in 1955 starring the famous actress of the time Romy Schneider. The façade of the building is full of sculptures and reliefs inspired by the Greek mythology. The building on the right side of the façade there is another building that housed the stables and their personnel. Later it was used as a garrison and even as a school for some time. The columns that support the first floor balcony are in Doric style. On the balcony of the first floor there are 2 imposing marble centaurs while on e the second floor balcony there are 4 Muses with 4 holding 4 torches. On the left side of this balcony you will also be able to see a bronze winged Hermes holding a proclamation. In the reception area your attention is taken by the impressive staircase with the bronze railings that leads to the upper floors. Right before ascending the staircase you will encounter the statues of Zeus to the right and Hera to the left. Right of the main entrance there is an engraved portrait of Elisabeth at the age of 21, a copy done by Luis Jacobi of the original done by the German painter Winterhalter found in the Hofburg Palace. On the ceiling of the reception area you will see a marvellous fresco called “The four Seasons” where Fall. Winter, Spring and Summer are symbolized by the women with the grapes, the women by the fire, the children with the flowers and the angels with the shells respectively. The women dancing on the top of the painting are the Hours, the daughters of Zeus. Elisabeth created to the right of the entrance a catholic chapel that contains important works of ecclesiastical art. In the cupola there is a wall painting depicting the Judgement of Jesus Christ and below the portrait of Virgin Mary by Franz Matsch which Elisabeth used to call “The Star of The Sea” in reference to the tempest in which she herself was in danger in one of her voyages. In the second room containing personal articles of Elisabeth you will find photographs of her and her family, an album of the Hapsburg family, paintings and photographs of the Achilleio back in that period as well as documents related to her death in Geneva. In the third room where the personal items of emperor Wilhelm II are on display you will have the opportunity to see photographs and paintings, a saddle he used, a small model of his yacht and the flag of his ship. The rooms of the furniture are the last rooms of the Achilleio Museum hosting furniture and personal items from both Elisabeth and Wilhelm. In the first area the desk and other furniture of the Austrian Queen, a bookcase and photographs of the German Kaiser and other officials. There is also a royal crown on display, various pieces of jewellery and copies of statues found in the Vatican Museum and in Naples. The second area hosts furniture from the Queen’s bedroom, 2 wardrobes and mirrors, a desk and other items. Pay extra attention to the lovely painting by Ludwig Thiersch called “Odysseus and Nausica”. The oil painting called “The Triumph of Achilles” by Franz Matsch at the top of the staircase leading to the reception area depicts the dragging of the dead Hector around the walls of Troy by the triumphant Achilles. The body of Hector despite having been pierced by the spears of the Greeks remained untouched because Apollo had been protecting him. In the background, on the gates of Troy, in the lintel, you will see a swastika. The swastika is an ancient symbol with origins somewhere in the East and was amongst others also a symbol of Troy. Finally, while the whole painting seems to be in full motion the wheel of Achilles chariot appears to be motionless. Some say that this was made on purpose. In the gardens of the Achilleio now, you enter passing through 4 marble statues: Aphrodite and Artemis and Hermes and Apollo on the top of the stairs. The gardens of Achilleio are full of marble and bronze statues most of which are copies of ancient works, but there are some original creations as well. Apart from the Muses surrounding the palace the 2 most important statues in the gardens are the statues of “The Wounded Achilles” and “Achilles Triumphant”. Treasured by Elisabeth, the Wounded Achilles was created by the German sculptor Gustav Herter in 1884 and it depicts Achilles right after he was stroke at his heel by Paris’ bow. We see Achilles right at this very moment trying to pull the arrow from the wound… This statue while treasured by Elisabeth was not treasured at all by Wilhelm who ordered the German sculptor Johann Gotz another statue of Achilles in order to set it up in the place where “wounded Achilles” was originally found. The bronze statue still stays at this place today. From an artistic point of view the statue is not considered a masterpiece but it certainly expresses the predominant spirit of Germany of that time. At the base of the statue today only stands the inscription “Achilles” in Greek as the original inscription ordered by Wilhelm was removed by the French during World War I. The inscription said in ancient Greek: “This statue of Achilles, son of Peleas, was erected here by Wilhelm of the powerful Germans so that he will be remembered by those who are to come”.
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