It’s time for another installment from my 1993 adventures through Greece. Click here for the story so far…
We’ve just left Olympia in the Peloponnese region of Greece and are heading south-east. Here’s a map to help you get oriented.
[Sunday 5 December, 1993] Being on holiday is the most amazing thing — I seem to be sleeping an awful lot, and what’s more dreaming almost every night! It must have something to do with unwinding and re-charging batteries.
But to resume the story… we caught the bus yesterday from Olympia via Tripoli to Gythion and arrived around half past four-ish.
Gythion is beautiful. It’s built on the side of a hill and sprawls down to the water front, where blue, clear water laps against the white path, and the boats of the fishermen are tied neatly. The water-front curves in a gentle double crescent with the pier extending from the centre peak.
We found “Tassos and Georgia Karlathis’s Ramshackle Quaint House” and got lucky. Georgia presented us with a cup of coffee and cake when we arrived — angel. She summed us up as gentle and refined so we got her daughters’ ex-bedroom which opens off the terrace. It’s very comfortable with a brand new bathroom and breakfast is served for 3000D. Deal!
We went for a walk in the evening — partly to hunt up a cheap meal and partly just to explore and fill in time. We had been dreaming of calamari all day, and the standard price seemed to be 900D (around $6), so we picked the taverna with all the people in it, and had a very nice meal of calamari, coleslaw, feta, bread. Delicious. We ate at a small table outside.
This morning we were presented with breakfast: bread and thickly spread jam, cake, and lots of little donut-type things. And coffee. We then caught the bus to the caves of Diros.
The caves were stunning. We were taken on a tour in a boat on the underground river, with the guide poling off the roof and reciting in Greek. H and I just sat there and enjoyed, having by far the best position at the front of the boat. The lighting was magical, with the electric wires under the water, and the lights simply floating on the surface. The reflections made the caves look huge. There is also a museum on site, which has all the artifacts found in the caves. There was all the remnants of a neolithic settlement within the caves.
Our first object on returning Gythion was food. Then we set ourselves the task of absorbing the culture of the town. Since Gythion is the mythological site of the consummation of the love between Paris and Helen, we went out to the island (connected by a causeway) where it all supposedly happened. Here we found a museum dedicated to the exploration of the Mani — the peninsular below Gythion which is full of forts and “towers”.
[Monday 6 December, 1993] I saw an eagle today — or what I suppose to be an eagle. An enormous bird gliding high up, flapping every so often. It was quite amazing and I hoped and prayed that it would stoop, but alas it did not. We were having lunch amidst the ruins of ancient Sparta — having over four hours to kill while waiting for the bus to Kalamata. We therefore trudged, like laden pack-horses, up to the “forlorn ruins amidst the olive groves”. They are forlorn, and seemed to be only partially excavated, but interesting all the same.
Random note about Greece: Ouzo mixed with water looks like aspirin.
[Tuesday 7 December, 1993] I feel as though I should write, although it’s just about the last thing I feel like doing. To put yesterday into a nutshell, we eventually arrived in Pylos for the night. I say “eventually” because we had a long wait for connections in Sparta and then another fairly long wait in Kalamata for a bus to Pylos. Aside from visiting the ruins in Sparta, we spent most of this vacant time sipping extremely bitter coffee in the bus shelters. H had an attack of the heeby-jeebies and kicked her pack a few times.
When we got to Pylos, it was to find cheap accommodation rather difficult to find. It was the tourist police who helped us find “House Philip” for 4000D double room — way up the top of the hill at the very beginning of Pylos. Way up the top of the hill. When we arrived, exhausted and sweating, the room turned out to be new and clean and neat and had its own little bathroom with STEAMING hot water. That shower was the most delicious thing, and worth every D!
This morning began well, but the day deteriorated into one of those you don’t keep in the front of your memories, except as something distressing. We rose early and visited the Palace of Nestor — rain threatened but never got serious. The Palace of Nestor is/was that of a man from the Trojan War and dates ~1100BC. The foundations were all that remained and were quite amazing.
We returned to Pylos by about 10:45 and went to visit the medieval fort on the top of the hill. Now, this was a really happening place, and was even free! We walked as far around the battlements as possible, which was quite a way. I’m really feeling far too lethargic to describe the place properly. Suffice to say that the overcast, windy weather gave the place lots of atmosphere, and this fort was so worth seeing that it made the whole trip down to Pylos worthwhile (that and the shower!)…
…For our plans for Pylos-Methoni-Coroni were dashed when we discovered the lack of buses from Methoni or Pylos to Coroni. By this time the rain was well and truly set in, all the shops were closed for their bloody siesta, and we’d just missed a bus to Kalamata. We changed plans, and thought Sparta would be a good aim for tonight because in the rain (and as tired and depressed as we were) travel was the best option. BUT Kalamata to Sparta was possible only twice a day, so here we are stuck in Kalamata.
Overall, I guess today was good. But for a while there — waiting (starving) for the next Kalamata bus and then again looking for accommodation — it was HELL!!
Ah, the trials and tribulations of backpacking. All that sitting around in bus or train stations. I’d love to hear of any similar horror stories…
NOTE: This is an extract from my 1993 travel journal. Aside from chopping stuff out, I’m not editing it much, although have removed a ridiculous number of exclamation marks (but not all of them as is evident). As usual, please excuse the poor quality photos-of-photos.