I recently caught up with my two Danish roommates that I bunked with working at The Pink Palace in Corfu. It had been over 12 months since we had seen each other when we embraced at Obermenzing Campinglatz for Oktoberfest in Munich. Stumbling over the mattresses I was blowing up for Stoke Travel campers, I tripped to see their faces, literally. It’s always a little nerve wracking that it might be awkward after so long, but they were still their crazy little selves, and I was still pumped to see them.
I lived with these two PP alumni for two months. The Pink Palace was the first stop on my European adventures. It’s where I learnt a lot about myself. It’s where my tight shell loosened. It’s where I had an unforgettable summer. It’s where I gained an education.
I leave a “cold” Brisbane in early July 2013. After 30 hours of travelling, I wait and wait at the Corfu airport for my transfer to the hostel. Already I learn about Greek time. Taking a job at Europe’s biggest party hostel with over 500 beds, four bars (one nightclub, one beach bar, one giant dinner hall, and one open 24 hours), booze cruises, and non-stop parties from breakfast to “bedtime”, was a learning curve about as steep as the cliffs I would soon launch off. What did I add to my academic transcript that hasn’t been erased from my brain by cheap pink ouzo?
Party hostels are the way to go
Upon arrival at the Agios Gordios hostel that has been partying-hardying for over 40 years, we hear, “The bus is here!” This is a Pink Palace saying of many I am soon to vocabulise. We are greeted. We grab our passports which are promptly handed over for safekeeping and get ready for THE SPIEL. The spiel is the hype up, the housekeeping, the house rules, where to eat, sleep, and have a mental time.
There is a reason (or several even) The Pink Palace appears in every top party hostel list. Their toga parties, booze cruises, and various other activities are all rampant with nudity, sexually explicit content, bootleg alcohol, shots aplenty, potent cocktails, cheap beer, and tunes we all know. Like all good party hostels, these activities provide opportunities to really get to know your fellow traveller. Friends are quickly made over beer pong strategising, dirty story revealing, communal all-included dining, and yamas after yamas.
Greek food is worthy of the gods
When I had worked out I was going to spend three months in Greece, I was probably most excited about the amount of haloumi cheese I was about to consume. I was (initially) disappointed to find haloumi isn’t as popular in Corfu as it is in Australian brunch restaurants. What I went on to find was there is plenty to take its place in my heart. Sorry (not sorry) haloumi. Saganaki is also deep fried cheese. Saganaki is also TDF.
Have you ever tried pastitsio? It is the Greek’s version of lasagne and if you’re lucky enough to be served this at The Pink Palace’s nightly free dinner at the Palladium you’ll be asking the question to every future person you meet. But on the dinner terrace, every meal up there is as up there as the jaw dropping sunset. Embrace salt. Embrace olives, feta, soup, and general yumminess. And then, when you can discuss the phenomenon of gyros (and pronounce it properly) with future travellers, you’ve earned your stripes.
If you get sick of Greek cuisine (I had it three times a day for three months and still loved it), try Mexican in Agios Gordios. Yummy. Friendly. Chocolate tequila. Or head into Corfu town for local delicacies and gelato.
Athena isn’t the only beauty in Greece
A half hour picturesque drive from Corfu town and Agios Gordios is in sight. We slow down for the view from the top and ooh and ahh as the sight deserves. It is truly stunning. To find out this will be my backdrop every summer day is still smile-inducing. I remember getting ready in staff quarters one afternoon, glancing over my shoulder in the mirror, greeted by that view at sunset and the moment is not lost.
The background of pink complements the beauty of Agios Gordios and there are plenty of opportunities to explore.
The Kayak Safari tests your endurance, avoids hangovers and creates bonding through teamwork. Or you may never want to speak to your fellow paddler. All’s fair in love and oar.
Here you’ll tell random strangers your dirty secrets. Don’t worry they wont be strangers for long. Snorkel through the bluest of blue and clearest of clear waters. Show off your fearlessness and mad skills jumping off 10m cliffs. Or just sit back and relax, and have a few tinnies on Captain George’s pink booze cruise boat as it sits in wait for it’s next day of water hedonism on crack.
Bring out your inner Evel Knieval and join the Quad Safari. Hoon your way around the island, stopping for amazing lookouts, secret beaches, and of course shots. Try your darnedest not to fall off. It happens. A lot.
What happens in Corfu, stays in Corfu (except your friends and Herpes, they will pop up forever)
The travel gods smiled upon me when it came to my summer. The percentage of people I worked with and have met again is possibly Guinness World Record worthy. I have met up again with no less than 10 of my peeps. I’ve re-embraced In Dublin, Galway, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Zarautz, Montreal, and Munich.
The Pink Palace keeps it international, as all good places should. The people who have the best time here are those that leave their reservations at the reception door, throw their fuck-giving away with the ouzo sliding down their throat, and have about as much judgement as people wear underwear at the toga party (nobody). Open yourself up to the people you are going to meet. You all have one thing in common. You’re here for a good time. You’re here to see if it lives up to its 40-year reputation. You’re here to do things on your Euro trip you won’t tell your grandmother about. You’re here to see the unparalleled beauty of Greece. So Yamas. Every. Damn. Day.
Aint no party like a booze cruise party
The Pink Palace booze cruise will spoil you for life. No other booze cruise you partake in after shall compare. The day begins with making sure everyone you know, or would like to get to know, is going on the booze cruise. Check. Pre-drinks at the beach bar. Check. Waterproof camera. Sunglasses (preferably polarised for perving purposes). Smallest item of clothing you own. Costume that you’ve been carrying in your backpack just for this moment. Check, check, check, and check. You are ready my friend.
Wade out into the shallow glassy waters and be pulled onboard to the pinkest, nudist, beer and cheap wine-fuelled day of your life. Ahoy! Now before we can continue drinking, let’s get out into “international waters” accompanied by booty shakin’, icebreaking tunes. Shotgun time! I enjoyed my first shotgun on my first PP booze cruise. I also experienced my first beer bong. Both nowhere near as bad as first anticipated. And great courage enhancers for the first pitstop. The cliff jump.
Come on in. The water’s fine. But wait. Listen to the man in the Captain’s hat and the monkey undies. He’ll tell you tales of water enemas and how to get yourself free drinks. Get as nudey rudey as the day you were born and the booze is on Captain George. Paddle with your thongs (flip flops for my dirty foreigners), clamber up the “jagged” rocks and remember once you’re up, you’re up. There’s no backing out.
Initially I wanted to do the 15m jump, but it was trickier to get across. So I stuck with the standard 13m drop. Nervous as hell was an understatement. I sought advice from the boys. I leapt. I pencil dropped. I stayed stiff. The advice was bad. My bottom heavy bottom strayed backwards and I hit the water in a perfect pike position. Bang. The sound could surely be heard back at The Pink Palace. I couldn’t feel my legs. My chest hurt. Jess dove in to save me. I fought back tears as she held me up in the water. Lucky for her I was bikini-clad, unlike some of the other girls she’s had to rescue. I stay in the water for as long as possible, until it’s time to go. We apply ice to the already visible welts.
No one else hurt themselves that day. The main advice. Loosen up. Throw your legs around until before you hit the water. Try to keep them together to avoid the enema. I was looking forward to the cliff jumping even before I left for Greece. And my first time I ended up with blood bruises from ankle to butt for two weeks. This didn’t stop me flipping off smaller cliffs in the future, and having great times on future booze cruises, sans giant cliffs. I stuck to photographing and drinking.
If you’re lucky you’ll visit the bat caves for more jumping, clear water splashing, and a trip into the spooky bat cave. I won’t ruin the surprise here.
Hopefully by now you’ve left all your inhibitions at the boat ladder. Perfect. It’s beach game time. Picture a secluded beach you’ve only seen in your daydreams and a game providing more fun and laughs that you can poke an ahem at. Win the beach game. Win bragging rights like no other. You will be the PP King and Queen for a day. Relax and lounge in the shallows in only the way royalty can.
All over red rover? Not for a pink minute. The trip back to land is where the magic happens. In every way MTV Cribs intends. There’s a reason there’s nearly as much whipped cream as beer packed onto the boat. The jams crank, the drinks continue to flow, and people find creative places, spaces, people and angles to bump and grind on the ships rocking decks. Crawl ashore from the boat to find others passed out in deck chairs, swimming with their new friends, or keeping it going at the beach bar.
Toga toga toga
Do not come to The Pink Palace without making sure you’re there for a Saturday (or Wednesday) night toga party. Not just because it’s a Greek tradition, or because there’s Greek dancing, or you drink ouzo, or because plates are smashed over your heads. Experience the experience.
I had my ass flashed to everyone on one of my first toga parties. At the time, I thought this was the worst thing in the world. Little did I realise, everyone was having far too good of the good times to give any kind of flying Fs.
So dance like nobody’s watching. Have more shots than humanly possible. Talk to that hottie in the corner. They’re in a pink toga. All bets are off.
I attended over 15 toga parties during my time. I learnt how to tie a toga this many different ways. It’s amazing how a new knot makes you a new person. What attracts people to The Pink Palace is that they can be a new person. They can be any person they want to. It brings out the fun in people. People like to do things that shock even themselves sometimes. That, and they can get a pretty sweet tan.