Richard reciting Shakespeare at the Delphi theatre
0700 sunny, white clouds, 23C. Out of bed early for an 0830 departure. I had spaghetti and meatballs for breakfast. The ordinary people ate cereal and toast. 0830 I am driving. Up the shortcut, then toward Nafplio but took the right exit out of the traffic circle, a new road for us. Nice, wide, low traffic and only a few cops. It allowed us to bypass all of the traffic at Nafplio and Argos. It took us right up past Mycenae. Hooked up to the main road north then exited to go west on the south shore of the Gulf of Corinth. Only one confusing small town – old Korinthus I think. Then a great highway with intermittent construction zones but no problems getting through. A steady 100 – 110 kph. Left the highway at Egoa (?) to look for the ferry to the other side. We found it at 1100 and the ferry had left at 1030. Next one would be 1330, too long to wait. So after some confusing instructions from a young lady at a cafe, we found our way back to the highway, the same way we came into town. Within 1/2 hr. we came to the Rio – Antirrio bridge to the north shore. Very impressive. 5 suspension sections hung on 4 towers.
Sunny but clouds got a bit darker later in the day. From the other side, right (east) towards Delphi. Still a good road but not as good as the one on the south shore. Hairpin turns climbing up the mountain, quite high est. 1500 ft. Delphi town itself includes the now famous typical narrow streets, then out the other side towards the archeological site. The site is so poorly marked that I drove right past it. Had to turn around and go back, found parking right away near the museum. It must be a zoo at the peak of the tourist season.
9E ea. for the 3 sites and museum. Museum first. Quite good but a young fellow told Richard that Kathy couldn’t pose for a picture in front of a sphinx statue. Later when I took a picture of Deb and Kathy sitting on a bench in the middle of a room for a rest, I was also admonished not to do so by a young lady. So I spent the rest of my time in the museum taking surreptitious pictures of the gang. Then out and up into the archeological site (no picture taking restrictions out here!). We walked and climbed all the way up to the threatre at the top, well, really just the middle of the hillside but the rest of the walkway heading higher was roped off. Then we descended back to the main road and from there we walked east to the next 2 sites, the gymnasium and the temple of Athena. From an overlook, we continued down into these lower sites while Richard headed back up the road to pick up the car. We walked down into the 2 sites – getting pretty tired and hungry now. Back out, we were all ruined out by now. We found Richard drinking a beer at the restaurant at trail head.
1700 a bit cooler with altitude, some dark clouds, 23 C. Doubled back into Delphi to find a restaurant. Checked out 3 and went with the cheapest – the others had inflated tourist prices. But the restaurant had its grill turned off until 2000 evening so some menu choices were limited. Well, I guess they didn’t have the stove on either. Kathy and my supper was luke warm. Debbie’s rice stuffed green peppers were cold and Richard’s moussaka might have been still frozen in the middle. They served Richard a Pepsi instead of a Coke although he had been quite specific when he asked. Debbie didn’t like and couldn’t finish her meal so she ordered a milkshake – another joke, only half full plastic cup and it hadn’t been in a blender. Hand shaken only, I think.
1830 Departed Delphi at dusk. Richard is driving. A couple of small narrow mountain towns and then we started dropping down. The traffic is light, the road is relatively good. But getting harder to see the road and the map. 1st problem – the road junction where we are supposed to turn left according to the map, doesn’t show up! Some time later Debbie or Kathy asks if we are on the right road and I have to tell them that I don’t know. I don’t mention that I have been watching the moon and because it rises in the east then travels south, I believe that we are still heading in the right direction. That’s right, navigating by moonlight on some unknown road in Greece! Lol.
I tell Richard to turn right because of an Athens sign, then had to ask him to immediately swing back left onto the original road after a quick map check shows it was the wrong turn. Then the turn at the freeway entrance is terribly marked and we almost missed it. Finally making good time on the freeway north and west of Athens by about 2000. Traffic is generally light but lots of speed demons charging our back end then passing at very high speeds. Coming into Athens we finally see an airport sign which is just as well as the map we have has no detail about interchanges in and around Athens.
2100 dry, clear, full moon, Jupiter? Arrive Athens airport. We come in on departure level then try to backtrack to find a gas station to top up the rental car. Richard asks for help picking up on turns and direction signs. I tell him to take a right exit which is actually a taxi only exit that takes us right into a taxi parking compound. We get out, drive through the airport arrivals level and back towards Athens. We see the Shell gas sign near an exit and head out and up for gas.
On the way back I put Richard into the wrong lane and we missed the lane for returning rental cars – went back through the arrivals level again and some quick lane changes followed by a non-intuitive right turn and there we were. But no Avis rep. out at the lot, so we backed down an exit ramp, turned around, drove past the police in the wrong lane and turned into the rental car parking lot. We returned the car keys inside the airport, not out at the lot. Then up to Arrivals and said goodbye to Richard and Kathy at 2130. They are waiting at the airport until their flight departs at 0600 the following morning.
Debbie and I caught the 2205 metro back into Athen’s Monastiraki station. We walked 3 blocks to the Plaka Hotel and checked in. The street restaurants were stuffed with people at 2300! We have a terrific view of the Acropolis from our room, and soft beds. Debbie is happy. Drinks on the rooftop patio then downstairs. Internet is busy so back to our room for TV, wine, clean up and goodnight.
Posted in Greece, travel
Tagged Acropolis, archaeological museum, Argos, Athens, Delphi, Egoa ferry, Irae Beach Resort, Monastiraki, Mycenae, Nafplio, Peloponnese, Plaka Hotel, Rio Antirrio bridge
Road to monastery
0830 mixed blue sky and clouds, 18 C. Up and at ’em, downstairs to TV room for the news, protests continue in France, protests have commenced or perhaps are just now being reported in England. 0900 Richard made breakfast – soft boiled eggs, toast, cereal, salami, cheese – it sure tastes good. 1030 Left Irae Mare for the monastery recommended by Mary at the front desk. Richard is driving.
We mistakenly went past the turn for Karnezeika and up the shortcut road at Kantia, then turned right. Got to Lygourion and realized we were on the wrong road entirely, the road to Askliipio – Epidaurus. Went past Askliipio and took the right turn to Irae. Guess what – it’s a road not marked on our map (again). It rejoined the shortcut road and we elected to turn right thinking we were east of Karnezeika. Saw a road heading to a church and checked to see if it might be the monastery, but it wasn’t. As it turned out, we were more than 16 km. away as the crow flies – talk about being entirely turned around and lost! To be fair, Kathy thought she recognized a plastic bag lodged on a fence or a tree and thought we were on the Kantia shortcut road but we didn’t believe her (until much later…). Sorry Kathy!
Sunny with clouds, 23 C. Back down the road and arrived at Kantia which we recognized . Left out of town, went past Irae, found Karnezeika. Now, Mary’s guide book suggested that the turn off for the monastery would be 10 km. east of Karnezeika, but we found a road sign for the monastery only 2 km east of Karnezeika and only 1 km east of Karnazaiika (now you know why we are easily confused) so we turned off. We took the paved piece of road but were stopped by a chain across the entrance into a marble and slate quarry industrial site. So we backtracked and turned down the other gravel / rock road, 1 lane with lots of signs of the recent torrential rain including cross road run off channels, bank and drop off edge erosion and large rock tumbled onto the road. We carried on. We may have turned off the main road too early even though it clearly had a sign for the monastery, so we ended up with 11 km of gravel road to get to the monastery – about 7 km. down a valley then 4 km up a very steep side hill.
Highway to hell. A fascinating road trip. Something that makes memories. The picture on this page shows the road in pink located on a Google Earth map. Notice that in the last section climbing up the mountain side to the plateau, that parts of the road are not marked. They couldn’t be seen on the Google Earth images, and looking at the steepness of that hill side you might not think there is a road at all unless you have driven it.
Kathy started crying and I stopped talking as navigation was no longer necessary with only one way to go and no places wide enough to turn around after we left the valley bottom. We finally made it to the plateau of the monastery, with windmill power generators not far away. We found a cliffside house, knocked first, then opened the door. We saw signs that it was inhabited although no one was there at the time, so I took a picture but did not enter. The actual monastery was a short ways away along the cliff, built on the cliff side. I am still not sure what was holding it up. It is uninhabited now.
There were holes in the floor in one end of the hallway on the 2nd floor. I walked up to the 3rd floor and found an interior chapel full of icons, byzantine like pictures and 2 chandeliers. Debbie stayed at ground level while I went up to the roof. Although I was at least 2 m away from any edge at any time, I still felt vertigo all the time I was on the roof. It encouraged me to get back down and out.
Back to the car, a few more pics and then we started the descent/ascent. At one point the road was so steep upwards that we were concerned that if we had to stop as we might not be able to resume going forward and would have to back downwards until we could get to a place for another try. We passed a VW bus on the way out, fortunately at one of the few wide points on the road. We also hit a rock in the middle of the road with the right rear whell but no obvious harm done.
Sunny, white clouds, 23 C. We stopped at the taverna in Irae town – we were all still pretty shaken by the drive in and out. 2 beer and 2 Baileys. Checked the restaurant for possible dinner later. The market is closed. Back to the hotel.
I took the car and went solo to the market in Kandia beach to get a bottle of red wine. When I returned, I met Richard and Kathy at the beach. Too windy, too many waves to go swimming there. Picked up Debbie in the hotel room and we all went to the pool. Red wine poolside and a refreshing dip. Back to the room for a shower and journalling. 1830
1900 Into Irae to the restaurant in the town square. This was a true family restaurant. Order taken by the daughter, food cooked by uncle and momma, served by another brother. I had xorta pronounced horta which was identified on the menu as roadside weed salad! At least this salad was green (see fish roe salad, Olympia). Stayed and talked until 2100 including Tim and MaryLou from New York who are also staying at our resort. Back by 2130 and finished journal at 2210. Good night!
Tues.Oct.26. I have found the monastery on Google Earth, at an elevation of 300 m., at 37°30.178′ N, 23°7.133’E. It is 160 m above the valley bottom. It appears that there is no better way into it from the valley, but perhaps a much better road from Pelei via the windmill farm but that was not referred to in the travel guide we had consulted.
the view from Agamemnon’s palace
0800 blue sky, white clouds, 19 C. Got up and went downstairs to the TV room in order not to disturb the others until 9. Richard made breakfast. Great food! 1000 Washed another shirt. 1030 Left for Nafplio. Went through the Kantia shortcut – the road is good today but lots of signs of dirt/rocks on the road from the storm the other night. I am driving. 1100 Into Nafplio, seaside cafe table for Greek coffees (Kathy and I) and hot chocolate (Richard and Debbie). Then down to the internet cafe. No messages from Chrystal and Lindsay so they must be doing alright. Sent them a note and one to Anne and Frank S.
1200 The sky is threatening. We head to Mycenae anyways. 1230 Hard to believe this was Agamemnon’s capital city in 1500 BC and it has been occupied since 3000 BC. Richard thinks that the land has risen since then (glacial rebound) so the harbour may have been much closer than now. Very impressive site, but also many steep climbs and descents. After that, the site’s archeological museum. It includes a replica of Agamemnon’s golden mask which was reportedly found by Schliemann in a grave shaft here.
Mixed blue sky and dark clouds, 23 C. There must have been a shower while we were in the museum because the car windshield is spotted. Down the hill to the “Treasury” which is a beehive burial tomb. But the burial site must have been down a darkened tunnel – rock filled room behind the do not enter wash out warning tape. Saw some of it with the help of a camera flash. While we were touring the top of the hill, a restaurant had left a flyer on the car, very good prices, less than the menu as it turns out. So back into the town of Mycenae and a parking stall of our own under the grape arbor. I had the special spanakopita which came with french fries. Deb had a variation of spaghetti with meat but no tomato sauce. Richard & Kathy had a moussaka and shared a Greek salad.
1645 Left Mycenae and took a back road to Nafplio which was better than the main road, with no traffic and bypassed the detour through Argos. We stopped in Nafplio and went for ice cream and Deb’s milkshake. East to the shortcut and south to Irae Mare by 1815. Shower, journal writing, clothes washing. No beer in the hotel tonight at all as last night’s students finished it off.
Tuesday evening discussion is on the topic of things that need further investigation:
- Schliemann the erratic archeologist or ?
- the Iliad, Homer
- sea levels at the time of Agamemnon, glacial rebound or expanding estuary filled in?
- Ilioupersis written by Homer
- revisit Greek mythology including heroes like Hercules
- Trojan swastika
- Agamemnon, Troy – what date? earthquake, fire at Mycenae at 1300 BC
Big joke on us! We saw direction signs to Athina last night when we had to turn off the new highway in the construction zone, but Rick and I didn’t recognize it – in the dark and the rain, we said to ourselves Athina, where the hell is that ? We thought it was a little town that we couldn’t find on the map in the dark and so we turned the other direction following the road sign to Tripoli. It was the sign for ATHENS, hah! Lol! It probably would have put us back onto the new highway going north. It turns out that the girls knew it meant Athens, but they thought we had the route all figured out so they didn’t mention it.
0830 light rain, muggy indoors. Slept in this morning. Journalled until 0930 in the TV room downstairs, writing down yesterday’s adventure. Back to the room to see if everyone else is shuffling around by now. 1130 Breakfast, shower etc. is over, back down to TV room again. No news channels except Greek and they have a different format – almost all talk TV, short video clips just playing over and over while commentators continue to talk to each other. 1230 Euronews finally came in – English, but it’s all bad news, not very encouraging. No internet connection here, have to borrow Richard’s blackberry or go into Nafplio to an internet cafe to check on Chrystal and Lindsay.
1330 Headed into Deprano, Richard driving. We missed the town centre on the first try, it’s so small that we didn’t think we were there yet and drove right through. Parked the car, went looking for a restaurant but mostly found bars. Sat down for 2 pizzas, 2 cokes and I had a Greek coffee. Slightly less rain for a couple of hours. Today was Richard’s “bird dog” day. While driving, he missed the dog running down the middle of the road but got the bird that waited too long to fly away. After some great pizza we went to a market for supplies – we’re cooking spaghetti in the hotel room tonight. Also stopped at a bakery for dinner bread and sweets for dessert. Rain picked up some more so we headed back to Irae Beach resort. It’s just about deserted today – rumoured to be 35 or 40 people here this morning but we only saw another 3. Maybe some buses arriving tonight. Journaling complete at the poolside bar. It must be late in the season – not even any staff around to serve in the bar. Finally Mary from the front desk found us and some beer. The famous leaning glass of Irae is a beer glass sitting on a bit of ice. 1630
1810 The spaghetti sauce is simmering. I am on the balcony watching the rain, watching the sun almost break through the clouds. Has it given up now? Listening to the chorus of birds and enjoying Greece. Drinking some cheap local wine that is also good enough for cooking. This is good. 1900 It’s dark out and the rain has stopped. Spaghetti, meat balls, dolmades, French bread, red and white wine, flashlight for a candle, 2 types of dessert – it was all kind of special. After supper and clean up we all went downstairs. Debbie caught up writing in her journal while the rest of us played gin. The busloads arrived – seemed to be mostly late teens/young twenties Italians. Who knew how loud young Italian girls could be just by talking! Many came into the TV room to watch a movie. Richard sat behind the counter at the reception desk until a guy came up to ask a question, then he fetched Mary who was also watching the movie. Upstairs at 1000, quick clean up and into bed. Good night at 1014.
2300 Dear diary, we made it… I am writing this at midnight as we get ready for bed. It’s been the most memorable day of the trip for me so far. Now, back to the beginning…
0800 sunny, some scattered clouds, ~20 C. Morning clean up then we made our own breakfast; cereal, milk, banana, yogurt and honey. Toasted the bread in a frying pan. Coffee pot that we got from Mary last night works. Ate on the balcony with a view of the Aegean Sea. Hand washed laundry until 1000. We are at 41 deg.N here at Irae. Crete was between 34 and 35 deg.N. So in Irae we are about 480 miles south of home in Nanaimo, and Crete is another 400 miles further south.
1030 Off to Olympia, Richard driving. Irae to Nafplio then around the bay, bypassing Argos, then across the mountains to Tripoli. Lot’s of hairpin turns on the climb up the mountain, major stress for Kathy. From Tripoli we took the wrong road out of town but it proved very pleasant. We saw that the leaves on the trees are changing to fall colours. We rejoined the main highway at Butivo, heading west for Olympia. The weather has deteriorated to cloudy, threatening skies, 20 C. The map calls this a main highway no. 74 and for a while it looks like it. It is a red route on the map which means a major road, while those that are shown in white are supposedly smaller roads. When hwy 74 hits the mountains and mountain towns, it turns into a one way road with 2 way traffic in the towns and for some bridges. I was surprised in one town that we got through with side view mirrors and all 4 corners of the vehicle intact. See the video. Don’t know how you can call it a highway.
After we came down to lower levels and promised Kathy that we wouldn’t take her back on that road – she was quite serious about that – we thought we were in the clear until the rain hit. Just before Olympia it became torrential – zero visibility except when we drove through tunnels. This also made sign reading difficult, and that’s not easy under the best of conditions. We arrived in the town of Olympia and found a gas station and washroom just in time. Then we found a restaurant. It was still pouring so we decided to eat lunch and see if the rain would slow down. I had taramosalata – fish roe salad, and soutzoukakia spiced meat balls. Deb had chicken in orange sauce. I had my first Greek coffee, it was very good. By the time we finished our meal at 1530 the rain had stopped. We drove up to the Olympia archeological site, 6E, no reduced rate for a rain day and late entry. In we go. Rain drips falling off the trees. The site is quite large. Deb and I missed the Olympia flame – hah! but we saw all of the rest of it including the original Olympic stadium. We looked around for about 2 hours then back to the car.
We had talked to the gas station attendant – an older man, the younger waiter in the restaurant and the old guy in the ticket booth near the archeological site, getting advice on a different route to go back to Irae Mare. 1800 the rain returns. They young guy said to go by way of Lala north of Olympia (white road through the mountains on the map which isn’t very promising) up to highway 33, a red route which he said was much straighter than the one we had followed to get to Olympia. The old guys said that highway 33 was similar to hwy 74 and that the southern return route was much better. Also I was concerned for the first 42 km. which is Lala north to the highway, and also concerned about even finding the right road to Lala. We decided to head south. My turn to drive. Out of the town of Olympia we took a 13 km white road shortcut to the coastal highway. Even that proved confusing as there were no signs identifying the village which was our marker for the turn we had to take to get to the coastal highway. We never found that village. I stopped and asked directions at a florist’s shop.
1845 By now it was dusk and the rain had returned in earnest. But the coastal road was very good. At times we were able to drive at 110 kph!. Then at Kalo Nero (also not signed) we made our turn east into the mountains. 1930 hard rain, 13C in the mountains. The 33 km. stretch east was also a good road. But it was raining hard and there was occasional lightning. At one point I stopped the car on the side of the road as it was too difficult to see until the cloudburst moved on. All in all, the leg east was good road, only with visibility problems. Then a short somewhat confusing set of turns and we entered onto the south end of E65 to head north – this is the new highway. What a great, well lit highway for as long as it lasted! 1200 m tunnel! Yes, it is still under construction, so we finally came to a point where we had to turn off. More confusion in the dark and the rain and off ramp construction zone. We saw a sign and found a road heading to Tripoli, likely old hwy 7. It was in fairly good shape but we were behind traffic that was just crawling along. One last piece of confusion was some construction just before Tripoli that redirected us and brought us into town on a minor street, narrow and we had to turn off before long as we were facing a one way street with traffic against us. 2130, rain has lightened up somewhat. So we were detoured into the backside of Tripoli and promptly became lost. We finally stopped and asked directions of one of the sidewalk stall operators – what he was doing still open at this time on a Sunday night is beyond me. He said to go east to the school, make a left, 3 stop signs then right. Easy, right? So, what does a school look like in the dark? We missed the sign in the intersection that pointed to Agora. Kathy got out, walked back, checked it, soaked her feet and got us going in the right direction. The 3 stop signs actually referred to 3 traffic lights. Finally found the turn and recognized the road from the morning, and turned east.
The rain had lightened up and the drive back over the mountains was uneventful although the hairpin turns are interesting at night. I drove down to the coast as far as the T intersection turn towards Nafplio, then asked Richard to take over as my eyes were shot. 2145 As we entered Nafplio, the rain returned. We turned onto the Epidaurus road, discussed the options of the Deprano Rd. vs the shortcut from the Epidaurus road, and chose the latter. 2200 The rain had returned with a vengeance. A truck going in the opposite direction threw up a huge bow wave of water that erased all visibility for several seconds. The 5 min. drive from the traffic circle to the turn off took at least 10 min. We found the turn off and headed south. Within 2 km. we were driving through puddles that stretched across the entire road. Then we got to a point where red orange mud was coming in from both sides of the road. Rick saw 2 in. rocks rolling along in the run off.
We were no where near the lowest part of the road estimated to be another 8 km. further, and that’s a point where the road dips to allow stormwater to cross over the top of it. We were already in 2 in. of flowing mud. Richard decided to turn back and we heartily agreed. So back up to the Epidaurus road and turned west to get back to the traffic circle. Still torrential rain and a long time to get back. From the circle to the Deprano turn off, many large pools of water that threatened to soak the engine. Passed through Deprano, Vivaro and Kantia without incident although the pools of standing water remained a concern. Turn off to Irae beach, then thankful to finally see the entrance to our hotel. 2300.
A great relief. Unloaded the car at the front door and Richard went to park it. Torrential rain continues. Dumped our gear in the room and then down to the bar for beers for the guys and Baileys for the gals. Back to the room at midnight, turned in at 0045. Your not so basic 12.5 hr. journey! Epic – this was our Odyssey.
We spent a lot of time decompressing in the hotel bar after our return. We shared our impressions, talked about highlights, and talked about the shortcut road in the rain.
Impressions: KE water going down, driving in the rain, the high vista we saw in the morning; RE pissing down rain, no side lines, no centre line, no visibility just before the tunnels near Olympia; DM when we couldn’t see and JM stopped the car; KE wasn’t sure she was going to make it to the bathroom in Olympia; RE when the truck went by on the Epidaurus road and the wave wipe out our visibility;
Highlights: JM when I turned over the car to Richard at the Nafplio turn off coming back; RE things taste better if you’re not sure you’re getting back, seeing the Olympia flame is lit before it goes off to other places; KE the Olympic site was anticlimactic after the drive and concern for the return drive. The 2 drives, there was no comparison, they were both awful, backseat driving was really tough. KE when we stopped on the mountain road in the morning and we saw Nafplio – the fortress on the island across the water. RE when we saw the big castle as we drove back into Nafplio (illuminated at night, before the rain really got going again). DM/KE Olympia is a massive site and there is more to be uncovered. JM the Irae Mare beach resort when we finally got back was a personal highlight. KE the windmills were impressive, both daytime and nightime. RE when JM opened the sun roof and the water started raining on his head. KE getting lost in Tripoli at night wasn’t nice. RE not nice at all, a “low light”. KE the washroom at the gas station had a push up flush system. KE lightning on the road coming back. RE/DM/KE lunch was good, reasonable price, wine was 1E.
About the shortcut road in the rain: KE I couldn’t believe it. RE I wasn’t going to jeopardize, carrying precious cargo (us), there were 2 in. rocks getting washed down the road. JM orange brown mud right across the road, the road was serving as a drainage channel, we were in 2 in. water throwing up fantails on each side and we were nowhere near the low point on the road. If we went further, we might have flooded the car. RE if you get down there you might not be able to back out.