I’m gearing up for more travel in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime here’s the next installment of my Travelling the 90s series. What follows is a lightly edited extract from my original travel journal…
We’ve just explored Gythion and Pylos in the southern Peloponnese region, and are now meandering back to Athens. Next stop Corinth!
[Wednesday 8 December, 1993] Whatever happened to cafes and restaurants that sell food? Oh, there are cafes all right (the social clubs for men with smoking problems), but these seem to be cake, coffee, and ouzo places only. Whole streets of cake, coffee and ouzo cafes! This appears to be what the men do all day! As for food (of the savoury kind, as in lunch), well I do wonder what the Greeks eat to absorb their ouzo. Perhaps the women are all at home cooking for the men?
Anyway, we finally found somewhere to eat “cheese pie and toast”. The cheese pie was quite nice, but we had to get some “fried potatoes” alias french fries or hot chips to supplement our appetites.
We’re now on the bus to Mystras. Unfortunately, since our bus from Kalamata to Sparta took too long, we missed the 11:00 connection and have had to settle for the 12:30 connection, leaving us just over two hours to spend at Mystras. C’est la vie.
(several hours later…) Mystras was certainly a wet experience. It’s a pity, because it would have been something really special on a beautiful day, or even on a non-rainy, non-misty day. To begin with, two hours was not enough. By the time we’d climbed all the way to the top to look at the fort, not stopping too much on the way, we had a little time to admire the ‘view’ (billowy white clouds swirling in the valley), then we had to descend again.
We just didn’t have time to see everything. Most of the structures were ruins — walls and arches only — but a few of the churches had been restored, complete with frescos. It really was a fabulous place, but we could not do it justice. Oh well, what we saw (I guess about 70%, but not at our leisure) was fantastic.
Accustomed by now to jumping on buses and paying later, we did the same for the bus to Corinth, until everyone else produced tickets. I was off the bus in a flash buying tickets about 1 min before the bus was scheduled to leave. It was rather scary! Up until then the motto had been wait until you’re on the bus before you risk paying. The bus was a nice one and travelled fast to Corinth. For some odd reason the bus driver dumped us at the channel (where there was some sort of bus station and taxi rank) and then sped away.
We had to catch a taxi the 8km into Corinth, where we found the hotel we’d planned to stay in actually open. It’s fairly clean, except for the bathroom, which wasn’t too good. However, H attacked it a bit and it’s now bearable. At least we’ve our own bathroom. The hotel (Belle View) is central and on the water front so no huge complaints. However, we’re not sure how exactly we’re going to get back to the main bus station tomorrow to get to Epidauros.
[Thursday 9 December, 1993] The story of our life seems to be waiting for transport, only today it was trains and not buses. Our wanderings this morning took us to the train station, where we were told the only way to get to Epidauros was to catch the bus from Napflion. So we caught the train back to Napflion (including a 20 min wait as we changed trains in Argos) and then the bus to Epidauros (3 hours total). We should have stopped at Napflion the previous night…
Epidauros was great. The ancient theatre is very large and in excellent condition. I faithfully recited my spiel from Hamlet to test out the acoustics, which were very impressive. We also saw the ruins of the Sanctuary of Asklepios — some god to do with healing — which were in various stages of restoration. The ruins were quite large in area, and for the most part had an untouched air about them.
However, I think Delphi and Olympia have spoilt me for most ruins. Everyone we meet I send off to both those places. It’s amazing the number of tourists who consider them out of the way — not in the general tourist loop. We have been for the last week out of the main tourist areas, and it has been quite refreshing.
[Friday 10 December, 1993] Today was good. We went on the bus to ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth. A couple of Americans — extremely nice and friendly — were on the same bus and the rest of our day was entwined with theirs, culminating in a shared taxi fare to the top of the 7km hill of Acrocorinth.
The city of ancient Corinth was interesting, although apparently mostly Roman ruins. The temple of Apollo (Greek) was quite striking though, and dominated the site.
Acrocorinth gave a spectacular view of the surrounding region and the Gulf of Corinth and was free, so well worth the taxi fare, and the subsequent climb to the top. We had a picnic lunch (bread, cheese, orange) at the top — magnificent day to go with the view, the warmest we’ve had so far. The Americans caught the bus back with us, and after a day spent with them (more or less) we’ll probably never see them again. Strange isn’t it?
Hanging out with people one never sees or hears from (or even thinks about) again is one of the weird and wonderful things about travelling.
And that’s it for now. My next travel post will be the real thing! Can’t wait.