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Published: September 28th 2015
Thursday, August 10 - It's time to leave Skopelos; we've been on the island for eight days and have done all we need to do. It's 3.30pm and time for the ferry back to Volos, where we are scheduled to spend the night, then pickup a rental car and drive to Mt Olympus. Of course, in Greece, all is not as easy as it seems. A ferry with a different name appears at the scheduled time, so we ask a female purser, who replies “ you catch next ferry”. Not feeling comfortable with this answer Caroline asks a harbor policeman, and he replies “this is the last ferry for the day”. Oops! I haven't seen Caroline move so fast in a long time, she runs over to the travel agent to get new tickets issued. Yes, we catch the ferry, but are the last passengers up the gangplank. Then we try to pick up our car; again it's a little third world-y, the address is for a car rental company, but no one knows of our booking, a phone call is made to a third party and the car arrives. I think this guy just rents out his personal car, but
we have one and we will drop it in Athens at a specific time on Sept 25.
Friday - On to Mt Olympus, around 2 hours from Volos and as we ascend the mountain to see a traditional Greek Village, I spy a tortoise attempting to cross the road. This looks like a potential crushed reptile to me, so we stop the car in a safe place and run back and take the creature to safety. This act must get me points with the Gods. The traditional village is picturesque, and as we continue on up the mountain wen are drawn by signs of “old style hotel”. Yes, it was a traditional hotel and we had thoughts of a “Greek Shining” as we entered. Coffee was good and thick and when we leave we notice numerous rabbits in cages, presumably to be served on the menu at some future date. Mt Olympus has nine peaks and we have driven a road up one of them, there is still time to explore some more as it is only 2.30pm. The second road leads to the Monastery of Agios Dionysis and to the National Park.
The monastery is in a state of disrepair and is slowly being rebuilt. It seems that it had been destroyed by the Germans in World War II. These monks didn't get any of the missing EU money. We spend the night in beach hotel around 30km from Mt Olympus. An interesting factoid, this area, Olympus Beach, is a lot cheaper than the islands and seems to be the vacation destination of Eastern Europeans, I try to ask a travel agent a question and I am asked whether I speak Romanian or Polski!
Saturday – Before leaving the area we visit the Archaeological park of Dion. When we arrive there are no tourists and we wander through the ruins on our own. The city housed around 10,000 and dated back to the 5th
century BC. Then, a 3 ½ hour drive to Meteora and as Caroline navigates me through a small town with narrow streets I almost take the wing mirror off a police car. The policeman is less than happy and gives me an ear bashing in Greek, I'm just glad I didn't understand a word he was saying. Finally, we arrive in
Meteora and it's breathtaking, a forest of rock with monasteries perched precariously on the top. Our hotel is comfortable, especially after we are talked into upgrading to a suite. We visit one of the Monasteries, in fact it is really a nunnery, St Stephens was used in the Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only. This is the only easily accessible where instead of steps you cross a small bridge to enter. I'm sure Caroline has her eyes closed as we walk over the small bridge into the Monastery.
Sunday- Leave the hotel around 8.45 with the intention of visiting Mega Meteora, but when we arrive the hordes of tourists are swarming like cockroaches from the waiting coaches and there is no place to park. Decision made, I visit 2, the least touristy (while Caroline hangs out below), Varlaam and Agios Nikolaos ( this second one holds 16 century Frescoes done by the pre-eminent artist at the time) and I climb lots and lots of steps...... In the afternoon, a visit to Theopetra Cave where ancient man survived 23,000 years ago. Unfortunately, no cave paintings.
Sept. - It's back on the road and heading for the west coast of Greece and the Ionian Sea. We are due to spend a week on Kefalonia with old friends Jane and Mike Alexander, but first it's a five hour drive to Vasiliki, overnight in Vasiliki, and then a ferry crossing the following day. Along the way we find out where some of the EU money went. A large complex of tunnels running through the mountains to link the center of Greece, Larisa with the east coast. Some of the tunnels are over 8km in length and to my mind outshine the tunnels linking France and Italy. Amazing, and as always the posted signs are totally ignored by Greek drivers, if it's posted at 80km, they are not happy unless they can double the speed.
Our hotel in Vasiliki is very nice, but we could hear every little sound in the hotel. Not good for bickering!
Tuesday 15 Sept thru 22 Sept - I had concern about taking my rental car on the ferry, research on Google seemed to infer that taking rental cars on
ferries in Greece wasn't allowed. So when I picked the car up in Volos, I mentioned we were going to Kefalonia 3 times. The guy renting the car didn't flinch, so the last hurdle was actually getting on the ferry, and apart from having to back the car on, no problem. We disembarked in Fiscarado and immediately left town looking for our villa in Agia Effimia. Having located the villa, 4kms from Agia Effimia, we picked our bedroom and settled in for a glorious week. Jane and Mike arrived the following day and from then on it was eating, drinking and laughing. Most days included a swim in the clear,warm waters of the Mediterranean, and one day we even hired a power boat with a 30hp motor to explore the bays only accessible by boat, good fun. Every night a different taverna and finally before leaving the island we visited Captain Correli's beach. Yes, a totally relaxing week with good friends.
Sept. - Back on a ferry to the mainland followed by a five hour drive to Delphi, spiritual world of the Ancient Greeks. On the side of a mountain, terraces
Posing with the Twins
I got told off for posing, it seems this is absolutely forbidden!
hold the remains of a large temple complex to the Ancient Gods. We visited in the late afternoon with few tourists and this was exceptional, great light and lots of photos. I'm always amazed that the remains of buildings from 2500 years ago still exist. In the evening, I picked the worst restaurant we have had the misfortune to have a meal at. Ugh!
Wednesday, another wild ride, but this time we were in the car for only 4 hours. And along the way we managed to glimpse the old harbor of Lepanto off which there was a great sea battle in 1571 where the Catholic forces decisively won a victory over the Ottoman Empire. Our final destination was three hours further on through the mountains of the Peloponnese, Ancient Olympia. This is the birthplace of the Olympic Games and the site where the Olympic torch is still lit! This is quite a complex, built on the flat, for the athletes, dignitaries, spectators and officials. And in the center of all this was a temple about 13 meters high housing a 6 meter statue of the God Zeus.
Thursday, Sept. 24 - Back in the car and three hours on treacherous mountain roads to Argos and Mycenae. An afternoon visit to the port city of Nafplia, which is overlooked by a 15 century Venetian castle. The Venetians had a stranglehold on Greece from the 14th to 18th
Century. It is a common sight to see Venetian Castles overlooking the sea on the islands and mainland Greece.
Friday, Sept 25 – Up early to walk through the ruins of ancient Mycenae, a city built on a hill and dating from round 1600BC through to 1100BC. A biggie being the Lion Gate, yes took the picture and walked around the site. It's amazing to think how progressive these people were in their building and art work. A quick glimpse of the Corinth canal on the way back to Athens. And finally the moment I had been dreading, the delivery of the car into central Athens. However, having Caroline on the GPS navigating me down narrow streets actually managed to get me to the drop off address without loosing my cool! Motorbikes, scooters, cars and people appear from everywhere and as signage
Monastery Agios Dionysios
On Mt Olympus and destroyed by the Germans in WWII, this is slowly being rebuilt.
isn't always the best, you sometimes don't know who has the right of way. Defensive driving is name of the game in Greece, full stop!
Saturday 26 Sept thru 29 Sept. - Our first view of the island is high cliffs with white on top and white dribbling down the sides. Santorini, what can I say, amazingly beautiful, expensive, and the in-place for Chinese and Japanese weddings. Last but not least, hordes of tourists come in every day. We are staying in Angel Cave Houses in Oia, and it's worth the effort and money to find somewhere on the side of the cliff overlooking the caldera. This island is a photographers dream - blue doors, blue domes and white dwellings. And to keep Caroline happy there is an archaeological site, Akrotiri, dating back to 1700BC before the eruption that destroyed Knossos. Supposedly, this is the biggest eruption that mankind has ever seen and maybe even the force that wiped out “Atlantis”.
Tuesday, 29 Sept. - Back to Athens for two nights and then home to New Zealand
Greek Drivers, don't obey signage whether it's stop or speed
Motorcylists with helmets hanging off their arm. The law says you must wear a helmet, but doesn't specify that it should be on your head.
Greasy food, there's a reason it's called Greece!
Steep mountain roads where cars in opposite directions have centimeters to spare as they pass.
Driving in Athens.
Ouzo, I drank too much one night.
Zorba's Dance, it's a bit like El Condor Pasa in Peru, played everywhere.
The price of beer and wine
The history, it oozes from every rock, cliff
The warm clear Mediterranean
The friendliness of the Greeks, except when behind the wheel
The Tunnel Systems
And even though they are economically in the poo they approach each day positively.
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