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Published: December 2nd 2014
I'm still in the process of ascertaining why ancient Delphi was known as the "Navel of the Earth." I just wanted that to be the title because I doubt there will be another chance to use the word "navel" in any of my blogs. The lightning quick trip thru Greece before Crete was fantastic. My last time on mainland Greece in 2000 was primarily to hike to the summit of Mount Olympos, recuperate on the nearby beach in Katerini, and a brief stop in Athens before the islands. I thought I would expose myself to a little more culture this time around but still combined with the outdoors at the monasteries of Meteora and Delphi ruins.
Good place to start travels in Greece as it was easy to get there on a non-stop flight from Berlin and I was doing a one way shot straight down to Athens then Crete. However, it was not nearly as easy to leave the island as the transport links, with the exception of Athens and Thessaloniki, aren't that convenient in off-season. Corfu town is really cool around the harbor and Old (€4 entry) and New (free entry 9:00-15:00) Venetian Forts both affording
great views. Lots of places to stay too and it would have been a very good idea to spend my last night there to make departing the island a whole lot easier. Accommodation and food
Spent 3 nights at the Pink Palace located in Agios Gordios on the opposite side of the island from Corfu town (airport and ferry location) but free airport pickup was included. They had an off-season deal of €19 for a 5 person dorm with half board but there were only a handful of guests in the massive hotel so I had a 3 person ensuite room to myself. The nearby beach is nice, the weather was perfect, and there are a plenty of places to grab lunch or a snack. I imagine the palace is party central in high season, not so much in October. Transport
There was a local KTEL bus running a few times a day between Ag. Gordios and Corfu town for €2.20 (buy tix at the minimart by the bus stop), taking 40-45 minutes but minimal service on Saturdays and none on Sundays, probably more frequent in high season. Leaving Corfu there was an 8:15 bus (Tuesdays only, 13:15
Fridays only) that would have dropped me in Trikala (for Meteora) 5-6 hours later but getting to Corfu town's KTEL bus station would have been very tight with the first bus from Ag. Gordios or ~€20 by taxi. So I opted to do the trip in stages by first taking the 9:15 bus to Corfu town then a ferry departing at 12:30 (€5, 50% disc. bought day before) which gave me plenty of time to walk around the new fort. When I bought the ferry ticket I was assured that the boat would arrive in Igoumenitsa with plenty of time to spare to catch the 14:45 bus to Ioannina. Except that it didn't and I had a very difficult time finding the small, hidden bus station as the sign pointing to it had been knocked down. So I missed the 14:45 bus and had to settle for the 17:30 departure leaving me far too much time to kick around the boring port town. The 1½ hour bus ride was €9.80 and arrived on time so I could have taken the 20:00 departure to Trikala but it had already been a long day so trudged into town to look for a
place to crash for the night.
Only served as a brief stopover between Corfu and Meteora. The late bus to Trikala would have arrived ~23:00. Accommodation and food
Took a while to find Hotel Hermis in the center not far from the bus station. A small single with hot water shower, bathroom, cable TV, and overpowering cigarette residue was €20 which was actually a bargain for Ioannina. WiFi was accessible in the lobby. Down the street was Love Pizza which had a great deal - fair sized margarita pizza, caesar salad, and a cold tinnie for €6. Coffee shop below the hotel serves strong espresso. Transport
Buses to Trikala leave only 4 times a day for €14.80 taking 2¾ hours. Many more services to Athens and Thessaloniki.
Amazing place and not just because it was featured in the cheesy 80s James Bond flick "For Your Eyes Only." There is a rotating closure schedule so not every monastery is open every day. Entry fee for each was €3 but I only went inside the Grand Monastery. Accommodation and food
Stayed in Trikala, not far from the monasteries, at Hostel Meteora in a
5 person ensuite AC dorm, with a small kitchen, free tea and REAL filter coffee, good WiFi, use of PCs, and a lounge for €12.50/night. Dimitri also provides a good map with local transport info for making your way around the monasteries. Don't remember much about the dining scene as there was a good supermarket in town and I self catered back at the hostel or grabbed a chicken gyros
for a couple of euros. Transport
I was fortunate that someone at the hostel had rented a car and offered to take a few of us around the monasteries. Without a car, there are frequent local buses from Trikala to Kalambaka then buses from there to the monasteries at 9:00, 11:00, and 13:00. Leaving Trikala for Delphi was a bit tedious as I first had to take an early morning city bus (€0.60, buy ticket from kiosk at bus stop) at 8:05 to the KTEL bus station by the highway for the 9:00 departure to Lamia (€11.80, ~1½ hours). It was then a long wait in Lamia's smoky terminal for the 12:45 to Delphi (€9.80) arriving at 15:00 after an instantaneous change in Amfissa. It was a long day
Old Fortress, Corfu
Church of Agios Georgios (St. George)
made even longer by waking up very early to watch the New England Patriots squeak by the pesky New York Jets on Thursday Night Football. The first 2 KTEL buses I took may not run on Sundays but there is another set of afternoon buses ultimately arriving in Delphi ~21:15. There is also a convenient shuttle service between these popular destinations; price is €260 with a max load of 7 passengers which is not a bad deal for a group and only 3 hours one way, a huge time saver.
Beautifully situated in a green, steep sided valley at the base of Mount Parnassos and close to the Corinthian Gulf which can be seen from the ruins and much of the town. Entry to the ruins and museum is €6 each or €9 for a combo ticket. I only did the ruins which were amazing. Accommodation and food
Spent a couple of nights at Athina Hotel Delphi on the main drag (hard to miss in 2 street Delphi town) in a twin room with balcony, share bathroom, cable TV, WiFi, and breakfast for €20/night booked on the spot but was also the same price on hostels.com
so best to book this place in advance in high season. Down the street is Dionysus Restaurant serving a €9 set meal; same deal across the street but with more food. Plenty of places to chug a cold Alfa beer (€2) overlooking the valley down to the gulf. Transport
Several daily departures to Athens for €15.10 (buy ticket from restaurant by the bus stop). I left ~11:20 (quite a bit later than scheduled) and got to Athens ~13:45 but it's better to get off at the second to last stop as it's closer to a metro station (easy access to Omonia and many hostels). The last bus to Athens is ~18:00 so it's possible to see the ruins and museum in the morning/afternoon and leave the same day. Also be possible in the reverse direction heading to Meteora but it would be a long trip with several transfers.
Back to the future for my second visit to Athens. First trip in 2000 it seemed the entire city, including the Parthenon, was under construction and little has changed in that regard. All I remember from the first visit was the insane July heat and lack of air conditioning
in the hostel. October was a much nicer time to visit and there are many more hostels now opening up competition with plenty of air conditioned options. The free walking tour offered by the hostel is a good way to get the lay of the land upon arrival in Athens. Meet up time was just before 10:00 and our tour, led by the awesome Aussie born Jimmy, lasted ~3 hours finishing at Syntagma Square. No need to reserve, just be prepared to walk a lot. Accommodation and food
Spent my only night in Athens at Hostel Cosmopolit steps from Omonia metro station. Booked on hostels.com for €14.65 in a 4 person air conditioned ensuite dorm room. The whole place is super clean and modern, there's WiFi, and a great breakfast. It would have been an excellent stay except for the innumerable chain smokers who have taken up residence in the hostel and simply taken the place over with zero consideration for other guests. Nearby is Centro Café with €6 gyros
plates while Giristroila between Monastiraki and the Acropolis has €5 plates to go. Transport
Athens metro runs all over the city, including Piraeus port, for €1.20 but much
more to the airport, maybe €8. Also cheaper buses to the airport leaving from Syntagma Square.
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