Overlooking the Ionian Sea in Corfu
In the summer of 2001 I arranged a job, with my Czech girlfriend, Katka, to work in Corfu, Greece, at Club Barbati.
Katka and I worked with a Czech liaison in Praha (Prague) in getting our jobs. I would be teaching water sports, including water skiing, jet skiing and boating, and Katka would be working in the kitchen.
We had a contract to work there for five months. It was a dream job – beach, Greek sun and travel. We were to be paid 500 Deutschmarks (about $200 back then) each a month and given free room, board and food. Club Barbati was run by Italians since many of its clientele came across the Ionian Sea from Italy. To recap: I was hired by a Czech woman to work at an Italian resort in Greece.
I traveled down to Corfu from Prague by myself, since Katka had to finish her college semester. Prague to Corfu is 24 hours by bus, then 8 hours by ferry. Up to that time, I had logged about 75 hours on buses in Europe (Italy), so I knew what I was getting into.
I rode through the Czech Republic into Austria. The last time I’d ridden through the Alps, it was the middle of the night, but this time it was afternoon. The astounding Austrian and Italian Alps are still etched into my memory for their beauty.
Traveling down the entire coast of Italy on a bus gave me an idea of the topography of the country – starting with the Alps in the north with high-elevation towns dotting the mountainsides, later forming into rolling hills. The middle of Italy is pretty flat and agricultural, while the south is arid and more desolate. This is where I took an 8-hour ferry to Corfu from Brindisi.
Upon arriving in Kerkyra (Corfu Town), I was greeted by Fabio, Club Barbati’s director of operations. He took me to the club in the town of Barbati. I met the international staff, mainly Czechs and Italians, and I was shown my accommodations –on top of a high hill with a terrace overlooking the Ionian Sea that flows between Albania and Greece. It was stunningly beautiful.
On my first day of work, Fabio took me down to the water and showed me the water sports area. It was a complete mess! There were masts, boards, floats, boats and rafts in a chaotic jumble, which I spent organizing all afternoon. I was confused why they asked me to come down so soon, since the club didn’t officially open for another two weeks.
I organized the water sports equipment and realized why they wanted me there early. They wanted me to work in the restaurant – which was open nightly – to serve people. I didn’t sign up for this!! I was contracted to teach water sports!
I worked the next day, all day, in the kitchen and restaurant. I didn’t know Italian at all and the other Italian servers would tell me to do something and I would do it and then they would get mad at me for doing it! It was ridiculous. The manager then told me I wouldn’t have any days off!
I demanded to speak to the main person in charge. They kept telling me, “Oh you will have to talk to Rino, he’s in Italy. Wait for him to call.” What?! Wait for him to call? Why can’t we just call him now?
I waited for Rino for about a week. Each day that week I was disrespected and treated like a slave, doing work I wasn’t contracted to do.
Rino called, finally, and I told him about the contract that Katka and I signed in Prague with Tereza. He told me that I needed to work in the restaurant until the club opened and that I needed to teach windsurfing and sailing along with the aforementioned water sports. I don’t know how to teach windsurfing and sailing! I thought I could figure out the windsurfing, but the sailing was a bit more difficult. I didn’t want to get anyone hurt. Rino also told me that they didn’t need Katka!
I was furious. I was yelling at all the staff demanding to be sent back to Prague. I’d been there for a total of two weeks, and I demanded to be paid the month’s pay of 500 Deutschmarks. They refused. I flipped the fuck out! I told them if they didn’t pay me the full 500 DM and give me a ride back to Prague, I would go online and tell the world how Club Barbati really was. (Ironically, here I am ten years later telling everyone.) I ended up getting paid the full amount, and I had to wait three days until I could get the next bus back to Prague.
In those three days I explored Corfu a little. I went back to Kerkyra and meandered through the multicultural city. The city’s influences come from the French, the Normans, British, Romans, and of course, the Greeks. It has many high walls and castles to guard its geographical advantage as a trading site for countries throughout the Mediterranean.
I heard about an amazing club/hostel on the other side of the island called the Pink Palace, but I didn’t have enough time to get there. I probably would have never have gotten off the island if I had gone!
After eight days on Corfu, I packed up all my things (which was a lot since I was supposed to be there for five months!) and got on a bus for yet another 24-hour-plus bus ride.
However, the upside to this bus ride was that I was the only passenger on the bus. There were two Czech bus drivers and one of them had his girlfriend on the trip. It was actually pretty fun! They gave me a bunch of beers on the trip (which the bus drivers were drinking too), and I got to lounge out on the seats while watching the Italian landscape go by. Even better, I got to see the Alps again.
The experience taught me to never work for Italians again. I was lied to and treated like an indentured servant. Little did I know that the next summer I was going to work in Italy! But that’s another story…