Corinth to Delphi Avoiding the Toll Roads


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Europe » Greece » Central Greece » Delphi
May 30th 2013
Published: June 2nd 2013
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The hotel owners probably wondered what we were up to when we didn't appear downstairs for breakfast like all their other guests for the night.However,our overnight rate didn't include breakfast so we fed ourselves from our supplies although we didn't bring the microwave in so there was no scrambled egg.

The breakfast room didn't compare to having breakfast on our airy balcony under the wide awning protecting us from the already warming sun and of course we had a toaster and they didn't downstairs.

Although we had seen the passage of a small ship through the Corinth Canal yesterday which was more than we could have expected we didn't get to the bridge that crosses the 21 metre gap on the main road between Loutraki(where we stayed) and Corinth.

The idea of a canal for the just over 6km distance that separates the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf that would save the 700km distance around the Peloponnese from Athens to the Adriatic and onto Italy etc had been considered as far back as the 6th century BC and several rulers of the years including the Romans got close to getting started what eventually was engineered as the canal that is there today.

The canal was started in 1882 but because of engineering problems in constructing in a seismic zone and also the inevitable money problems(Greece has been this way for years!)it was not completed until 1893.The canal may have been wide enough for ships of those days but nowadays only small vessels can use it because of its narrowness and difficulties with strong tides(each end of the canal has a vastly different high tide time)and high winds that can occur.

Despite all that, it is quite an engineering marvel when you stand on the bridge and look up and down the 6km distance and take in the fact that the near vertical walls had to be dug to a depth of around 100 metres which includes the seaway passage of about 8 metres in a time when the builders would not have had equipment like todays diggers etc to complete the job.

While we were on the bridge taking in the sights we heard a Kiwi voice amongst others that had come off several tour buses stopped to give their passengers a look at the canal and as you do when you haven't spoken to anyone from home for a while in the flesh, we got to talking about where they had been and what they were up to on the bus tour.The couple were from Hawkes Bay and were on a bus tour that took in Turkey and Greece.

With the visit to the canal and the bridge completed Gretchen plotted a course that avoided where the tolls were charged on the E94 around Corinth and after a short journey through some small seaside towns we were soon able to join the E94 toll free and our pace quickened to make use of the 130kph we could do until we had to turn off and onto the E962 taking us in a northwesterly direction towards Delphi,our next stop.

The manager at the hotel in Loutraki had suggested that we take a longer route that would have seen us go back to Patra and cross that real expensive but snazzy bridge and then head north to Delphi.He said the road we were intending to take was slow and windy and he of course turned out to be quite correct.Our progress was quite to slow as we got stuck behind a couple of real slow trucks and with little in the way of overtaking lanes we had no option but to crawl,in some instances,behind the trucks until they wre able to pull over on a crest of a hill to let the queue of cars pass.

Coming out of the hills the land ahead was a huge plain, stretching far into the distance with fields that looked like a patchwork quilt, not dissimilar to the way the Canterbury Plains look like from the air.

Looking for a supermarket, we diverted from the road that would have taken us around the outside of Thiva,only to find that we didn’t pass what we were looking for before the road became very congested and the GPS suggested the way ahead through the sizeable town was going to take some time if we carried on. So we did a quick turn in a place that fortunately gave us room to do so at the right time and went back to the ring road and carried on our way.

Outside of the car it was 30C and although we were keen to stop for lunch, the position of the sun overhead and the lack of any shady trees close to the road meant that there was nowhere to stop out of the heat unless we tried somewhere off the main road. This same situation has come up on most days when we have been travelling between overnight stops and more so over the last 10days when the weather had been fine and sunny day after day (not that we are complaining about the sun and heat!)

Our route then took us off the E962 and onto the R48 and a Metro Cash and Carry Supermarket out in the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed.Anyway,we were just glad we had found somewhere to buy in dinner for tonight and top up the grocery box. It was a huge Pak n Save like supermarket with prices that weren’t too bad. Unusual was that you did not go through the fruit and veges first as you do in almost all supermarkets. We needed a lettuce for tonight and we were thinking we weren’t going to be able to buy one but then noticed a separate cool room at the end of the large store and there was what we were looking for. The assistant seemed to be a put out by the small amounts of tomatoes etc we purchased and we think that people usually buy in bulk as most items were packaged in that way.

With dinner taken care of we were back in the car with only a relatively short distance to travel so we put off trying to find some shade for lunch thinking that we would wait until we got to Delphi.

We hadn’t really done a lot of research as to where the town of Delphi and the archaeology site was located but it didn’t take long after we got back on the road to realise that we were going to be up at a reasonable height above sea level as the road started to steadily climb.

Just before the town of Arachova we came across businesses set up for the ski tourists although despite a small amount of snow at the highest altitude they would not have had any takers in the current 30C heat

The views from Arachova at 968 metres above sea level were fantastic with mountains all around and steep, almost vertical sides below the winding road.

Ahead of us but at a lower altitude was Delphi and it took us only another few minutes to arrive in the town. We passed the ancient Delphi archaeology site on the way into the town and noted how it was set basically on a terrace of the mountainside just as the modern day town was.

After negotiating the one way street system, which was the only way you could get traffic to flow through the narrow streets which were confined by the small amount of terraced land available for the town to be set up, we arrived at the hotel and got ourselves to our first floor room for a late lunch.

After lunch we headed off to walk the short distance to the ancient site only to find that the place closed at 3pm and it was now 3.15pm.Too bad, we will have to do the site tomorrow morning.

The modern town is very compact and with superb views from the little balcony out from our hotel room we were encouraged to explore a path that led down the mountainside towards the township of Kirra which according to a notice at the start of the path was 15km away! Not that we intended to walk at this late time of the early evening to Kirra but we were interested to see where the path actually went as it appeared to disappear over a cliff side.However, when we got walking down the hill we found that the path followed short ridges and after a short distance we decided our curiosity had been satisfied as we realised that we had to climb back up to where we had started.

Salad with ham and a glass or two of the very drinkable rose we had purchased in Loutraki made a pleasant dinner although by the time we got to eat, it was starting to get dark and the mountain air was chilling down now that the sun had set.

With breakfast provided tomorrow as part of the rate for the room we will be up early and off to the ancient Delphi site before the tourist buses from wherever arrive.

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