Day 70: May 21, 2018
We woke up and cleaned up the Airbnb. After breakfast we took an Uber taxi to the airport. It was 8 euros more than the metro, but way less sweaty and way less time. We arrived at the airport a bit late then weren’t sure where to pick up our rental car. The agency wasn’t one of the big ones so they didn’t have a booth inside. We found the instructions to meet at departures Gate 4, but no one was there. We called the company and she said that someone would meet us. He finally came over and said he was calling, but there was no answer. We had used our Croatian number to book the rental car and hadn’t updated it. Oops.
The car is an older Nissan Micra that smells of smoke and has cigarette burns, but it will do. We drove around the metropolis of Athens and over the Corinth Canal. The water was very blue and the canal was very steep and deep. It is 6.4 km long and only 21.4 m wide.
We drove on to Ancient Corinth which was built in the 6th century BC. Corinth had a population of approximately 90,000 in 400 BC. We saw the South Stoa which was built in the late 4th century BC.
There were some fountains and shops.
We walked around the area for quite awhile to see all the ruins. We didn’t hire a tour guide, but we listened in on a couple. There was some signage, but tours do tend to give more history. Our walk around the ruins ended with The Temple of Apollo.
We went down to where the amphitheatre would have been located. The ruins there were covered in grass and shrubs. We also saw the Erastus Stone which may be the Erastus mentioned in the New Testament.
Next was the climb to the Acrocorinth. We ate lunch at the parking lot then climbed up. We thought we’d be able to ascend the Northwestern (Frankish) Tower, but it was closed off. We did get a nice view of the site. The Acrocorinth was the acropolis of Ancient Corinth and was occupied from archaic times to the early 19th century.
We walked down and drove on to Mycenae to visit the citadel. The palace dates to the 13th century BC. There is evidence that the site began use in 3000-2000 BC. Mycenae was most important in the Late Bronze Age in Greece. We visited the museum then walked around the ruins. We were getting tired from all the walking and the heat.
We drove on to Nafplio and picked up groceries. We had some time before checking in to our Airbnb so we took a look at the public beach which was fairly small, but looked nice.
We drove to the Airbnb and the host’s father met us and showed us the place. It is nice and spacious. Caitlin made us delicious pasta for supper and I made brownies out of chocolate spread and eggs. We all ate too much.
Day 71: May 22, 2018
We slept in a bit then drove up to The Fortress of Palamidi, a complex with eight bastions. It was built between 1711 and 1715 at the end of the second Venetian rule. It was conquered by the Ottomans before completion.
From the fortress you could see down into the town of Nafplio and into the bay. We climbed around then headed back to the car very sweaty.
We drove up the road a bit to Karathona Beach. It was quite long and not too busy. We checked into the cost of sun chairs: 8 euros each. As we were debating, the man said three for 10 euros. We agreed. It is nicer to sit on the chairs than get sand everywhere.
We walked into the water and it was shallow very far out. The water was much warmer than in Corfu or Croatia. We threw the frisbee around a bit, read our books and swam. We ate our lunch there as well and just enjoyed a relaxing day at the beach.
In the afternoon it started to get a bit windy which made the swimming less enjoyable. The water would get up your nose and in your eyes. We left around 4:00 pm and went back to get ready for supper.
We walked around the old town of Nafplio. There were very aggressive boys trying to get money from tourists. I kept saying “Ne” which was no in Croatia. I soon learned that “Nai” is actually yes in Greek which was probably confusing to them. This seems very backwards to all the other languages I know “No” in.
We found a restaurant in the old town and I had lamb with spicier Greek potatoes and a fancy drink that came on a truck.
After supper we climbed to Acronauplia Castle within Nafplio. The original settlement there dates to the 4th century BC. We got a nice view of the city of Nafplio.
We walked back down and purchased some ice cream. The owner was quite chatty with Danny about basketball. I think Danny enjoyed the male conversation after being stuck with Caitlin and I the last couple of days.
We went out to the water to watch the sunset, but it was already behind the mountains. It was still a nice view. We went back home and went to bed after a long day.
Day 72: May 23, 2018
Early wake up to drive to Mystras, a fortified city from the Byzantine era (1262-1460). There were lots of friendly kitties there, even a little kitten. There was also a small museum showing fragments of cloth they had discovered. From that they produced a re-creation of a woman’s dress and shoes.
We saw the Metropolis, a church built in the 13th century and some other churches as well. The look of the churches was different to other things we have seen.
We drove up further and climbed up to the citadel. You could see down to the churches and palace below. We climbed down towards the palace, but the path looked blocked. It started thundering as well so we decided to go back to the car.
We ate snacks for lunch on our drive to Diros Caves. We were ushered to a boat with four others and a man with a paddle. The temperature in the caves was 17 degrees Celsius and the water was 12 degrees Celsius. It was quite windy outside, but the temperature in the cave was very nice.
There was a stream that ran through the cave which we moved along. The ceiling was quite low and in places you had to duck. The stalactites and stalagmites were incredible.
The last 300 m we walked through the cave then back up to the entrance. The view inside the cave was well worth the 12 euros. We had read that the caves can get quite busy, but there were very few people when we were there. It could be that in the heat of summer and on weekends it is busy.
From there, we drove up to Kalamata. We arrived three hours ahead of schedule and the host’s friend wasn’t able to meet us until 6:00 pm. We parked and sat on a bench near the beach. I was tired and just wanted to rest.
We met the friend and she showed us the apartment. She was able to explain a lot without much English. We settled in and Danny made BBQ chicken pizzas for supper. We ate out on the deck. Danny phoned the visa company, but they haven’t received our documents yet. Danny started getting very worried, but I’m sure it will be all right.
Day 73: May 24, 2018
We slept in this morning as all of us were exhausted from all the driving yesterday. The heat also didn’t help. Danny called Hellenic Post to ask about the status of our shipment of our visa applications as the last update online was from May 18. They told us that it arrived in Canada on May 21, but they can’t track it passed that. We put the tracking number into Canada Post’s tracker and it showed that it was in customs with a timeline of 3-7 days. This calmed Danny a bit.
Caitlin made sausages, asparagus and scrambled eggs for breakfast. We left around 10:00 am and drove to Olympia.
The presence of man in the area of Olympia dates back to 4000 BC. The first monumental buildings were erected in the 7th-6th centuries BC and it reached its peak in the 5th-6th centuries BC. The Olympic Games were established in 776 BC.
We started our tour in the Archaeological Museum which had lots of different artifacts and statues.
We then moved to the actual site starting with the Thermae dating to the 2nd century BC. It was the place for agricultural activities. We also saw the gymnasium which was the training area for foot race, javelin and discus throwing.
Next was the Prythaneion from the 5th century BC. It was the seat of the dignitaries responsible for the sacrifices at the altars. Inside was the hearth of Hestia where the Olympic flame was lit. Sadly there wasn’t much left of it.
A round building up from the Prythaneion was the Philippeion which was built in celebration of Philip II of Macedon’s (Alexander the Great’s father) victory at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC.
We saw the Temple of Hera from the end of the 7th century BC.
Then a prehistoric building from 2150-2000 BC which contained many finds including vases.
Bases of Zanes (4th-1st century BC) were erected when an athlete cheated. Statues of Zeus sat on top with inscriptions of the athlete’s name and the nature of their enfringement. They were located along the path to the stadium as a warning to other athletes.
Next was the stadium built in the 5th century BC. The distance between the stone starting and finishing lines was 193 m. The capacity of the stadium was 45,000. The only stone seats were for the judges. Everyone else sat on the ground.
Danny ran along the track, but only went part way and we were super disappointed. When we were about to leave, he said, “I have to go back and run the full length”. We cheered him on a second time.
We saw the Echo Portico or “Heptaechos” where the sound would echo inside seven times. It dated to the 4th century BC. Next was the Council House Bouleyterion (6th-5th century BC) which was the building for meetings of the Olympic Council. It was also where the athletes and judges took the sacred oath before the games.
In the centre of the site was the Temple of Zeus constructed around 470 BC. The fallen pillars were surrounding and you could see how the notches in the stone were used to hold them together.
We saw the Leonidaion (4th century BC) which was for the accommodation of the officials. In Roman times, the central court of the Leonidaion was converted into a swimming pool.
The site of Olympia was very interesting to walk around. The area of Olympia had more trees and green so it must get more rain than other places we have been in Greece. It was also much less busy than the other sites we visited.
Next was the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games. They were held without a break from 776 BC to 393 AD every four years in August. In the beginning it was a one day event, but with added events more days were added.
Special officials would travel to all Greek cities to announce the beginning of the Sacred Truce and the date of the games. The Sacred Truce was a suspension of hostilities before, during and after the games for a brief period.
To be an athlete in the games, a man had to be Greek and born free of parents who were free citizens. Athletes traveled to Elis, the headquarters, one month prior to the games. Officials checked the origins and physical conditions of the athletes and excluded those not up to caliber. Women were disallowed from competing in the Olympic Games or from watching the events. The only woman allowed to watch was a priestess connected with the earth and farming.
We walked back to the car and tried to find the amphitheatre we had seen in pictures online when we searched Olympia. It seemed like it wasn’t actually at Olympia, but then we saw signs to Olympia Theatre. We followed them and ended up at a newer outdoor theatre. We drove right up and did a loop around then back out. I looked into it a bit more after and the pictures we had seen were from a different site.
We drove back to Kalamata and rested for a bit. Then we walked to a restaurant recommended by our host called Sef. It was a basic pita, gyros and souvlaki place, but it was really good and not very expensive. I had a chicken souvlaki pita and Greek salad. The Greek salads here come with a huge piece of feta. We even had legitimate Kalamata olives.
After we went to a frozen yogurt place and spent our savings from the meal. We walked along the beach and out on the break water with the sun going down.
We walked home and did some planning. Caitlin planned her trip to Santorini and we planned our stay in Athens. We did receive a confirmation from the visa company that they received our application. Yay!
Day 74: May 25, 2018
We woke up this morning to an email from the visa company saying our passports wouldn’t be back by May 28. We had realized that based on how long it took to get there. They also said there was an issue with the application. We decided we would call them later to figure out the issue.
We had a breakfast of leftovers which was really good. At supper they had given us too much bread so we wrapped it and put it in my purse for breakfast.
We left and drove three hours to Nafpaktos. I read my book to Danny as the radio wasn’t working well. On the drive, there was a two lane road with large shoulders. Everyone was driving on the shoulder and then people would pass in the middle. Traffic was much more fluid, but it was odd to see. It worked, but you could see how it could go wrong.
To get to Nafpaktos we had to cross the Rio-Antirrio Bridge which was finished right before the Olympics in 2004. Before there were only ferries to get from the Peloponnese peninsula to mainland Greece. The toll roads were quite expensive at 3.5 euros per toll and the bridge was 13 euros.
We drove up to the castle and paid the 2 euro entry fee. There was a guy there chatting with Danny and he offered a walking tour around the site for 20 euros. We said 15 euros was more reasonable so he agreed. He took us around the different levels of the castle, but told us very little about it. He studied theology and had a lot to say about that. He discussed how the Orthodox religion is not just about practicing religion on Sundays, but about living the lifestyle. We were all a bit sceptical that we were going to get pressured or lectured, but he just explained his views.
He knew very little about Nafpaktos Castle, but based on signs, the earliest fortifications were established in the 12th century BC by the Dorians. It was fortified in the early Byzantine period. The fortifications seen today are mostly from the first Venetian period (1407-1499).
Nafpaktos comes from the ancient word “nous” meaning ship and “pēgnym” meaning construct. Dorian tribes would have built rafts there to cross over to the Peloponnese peninsula. The castle had twenty-five towers. We visited the location of many water collection holes. About 100 people and soldiers would have lived within the walls.
We saw a church which our guide explained was a castle within a castle because religion protects you. He talked a lot about using a knife to cut bread instead of hurting a neighbour.
At the top we saw the rooms the soldiers would have bunked in. On our walk down our guide talked about how many people in Greece are struggling due to the economy and some resort to killing themselves. He talked about the need to ask for help and not be ashamed of it as everyone needs a hand up sometimes. He also talked about how the Greeks meet for afternoon coffee and that is their form of psychiatry. It is much more taboo in North America for people to talk about their issues. He had a lot to say and actually most of it I agreed with, but it wasn’t much about the city or the castle. When Danny and I were talking later we both agreed that five years ago we may have scoffed and ignored what he had to say.
After the tour we said we had to get going because our guide wanted to show us the town as well. We drove down by ourselves to the port. It was a horseshoe shape and mainly consisted of Venetian fortifications. It was the location of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 which was a very important event. It was a great clash between the Christian West and Islam. The West came together to halt the Ottoman Empire’s expansion to Italy, France and Spain.
We ate our salad lunch there then saw the statue of Yorgos Anemoyiannis, a mariner who died trying to blow up a Turkish flagship in the port during the Greek War of Independence in 1821.
We went out to the beach then back to the car to complete our drive to Ioannina. We arrived in Ioannina and stopped at a grocery store then on to our Airbnb. The host met us and was very pleasant. Caitlin had booked this Airbnb, but the host spoke mostly to Danny and handed him the key. I didn’t notice this until we were talking about the male treatment of women in Greece later on. There does still seem to be sexism in Greece.
Caitlin made taco salad for supper. I was feeling a bit shaky and nauseous. I’m not sure if this was from the heat, the water or blood sugar. Even after supper I wasn’t feeling great.
We called the visa company and he explained that the confirmation number on our applications wasn’t in the correct place which is frustrating because I had confirmed it with GAdventures. We had resolved that he should just send our passports back, but he went to talk to a colleague first who said it would be 3-4 days to mail them back to us. They suggested trying to submit the application today to see if the embassy would accept it. If not, they would just sent it back to us that day. So we will see what happens.
We watched an episode of 13 Reasons Why and Danny talked to his parents. Then we headed to bed.
Day 75: May 26, 2018
We received an email from the visa company saying the Russian Embassy had accepted our applications! Everything might just work out.
We headed to Meteora which was a two hour drive from Ioannina. We went to the Great Meteor monastery first. It was quite busy with cars and tour buses. We had to walk up the road a bit then up the stairs to the Greek Orthodox monastery. Access used to be only by rope ladder. The steps weren’t cut into the rock until the 20th century. The monastery was founded in the middle of the 14th century.
Inside Caitlin and I put on provided skirts and had our shoulders covered. Danny had worn pants. We paid the 2 euro entry and walked around. We visited the History and Folklore Museum then went outside for a view of the neighbouring monasteries. There was also an old traditional kitchen, a cellar with farming equipment and tolls and a carpenter’s shop.
As we were leaving a group came up to us and a lady spoke to us in Greek. We understood that there were no more skirts at the entrance and they wanted ours. I started to untie mine and she pulled it off of me. Then grabbed the one from Caitlin. Another lady was waiting for Caitlin’s and the two began arguing. We left as we couldn’t understand what was being said.
We decided the insides of the monasteries weren’t as exciting as the outsides. We drove down to the Monastery of Varlaam and took photos of the Great Meteor and St. Nicholas. Then we drove on to Monastery of Rousanou and stopped at a viewpoint for a picnic lunch. We had a nice spot down on a rock looking out at the monasteries.
We read a bit and learned that Meteora translates to “suspended in the air”. The rocks are over 400 m high. It is unclear exactly how they were formed. The belief is a river formed the rocks along with weathering by rain, wind and earthquakes. It is a bit mysterious as the place is not mentioned anywhere in Greek mythology. Twenty-four monasteries have been built on the rocks and only six remain. We took tons of pictures then drove on to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity and the Monastery of St. Stephen.
We drove back to Ioannina and chilled for a bit. We walked down to the lake front and around the castle to a restaurant called No Ties. Danny and I had pizza and Caitlin had ravioli. We walked back through the castle where apartments were located within the walls. How cool would it be to say, “I live in a castle”.
The streets in Ioannina reminded me more of Nepal than Western Europe as everything is a bit more run down. We watched some Netflix then got ready for bed.
Day 76: May 27, 2018
We woke up early for a long driving day back to Athens. It seemed much more lush around Ioannina than Athens. There were larger trees and more shrubs.
We drove to Delphi with a stop in Nafpaktos for the washroom. One thing we discussed was the Canadian use of washroom or bathroom over toilet. For anyone to understand what you are talking about in Europe, you must use the word toilet. To us, it feels rude.
We parked at Delphi and it was very busy. We went to the museum first. There were so many people inside, mostly tour groups. It was also a Sunday and it is fairly close to Athens which may have added to the busyness. I basically flew through the museum because there were just too many people around.
We went out and found the archaeological site. The whole thing was set on a hill. We started in the Roman Agora which only has the stoa preserved. It was where meetings and commerce would have taken place in the 4th century AD. It was one of three stoas in the agora.
We saw some buildings that were treasuries. They were small, temple shaped buildings dedicated by Greek city-states as sanctuaries. The Treasury of the Athenians was one of the best preserved. It commemorated the establishment of democracy in Athens after the collapse of the Pisistratus tyranny (510 BC) or the Athenian victory against the Persians (490 BC). It acted as a treasury for the Athenian offerings to Apollo.
We saw the tripod of the Plataeans which was a votive for the Greek victory over the Persians in 479 BC. A gold tripod sat atop a 7.5 m tall bronze column in the shape of a three-bodied serpent.
The Temple of Apollo was in the prominent position in Delphi. Apollo was the god of music, harmony and light. The temple was dated to the 4th century BC and is the third temple built in the same place. The foundations of the first temple in the 7th century BC were said to be laid by Apollo himself.
We walked up passed the theatre to the stadium. It hosted the athletic contest of the Pythian religious festival. Initially in the 5th century BC, a racing track existed with spectators on the ground. In the 2nd century AD, Roman emperor, Hadrian, created the stadium where 17 or 18 runners would compete in a foot race. The distance was one Pythian stage (178.35 m). The Pan-Hellenic Pythian Games were second only to the Olympic Games.
We stopped there to eat our wraps for lunch then made our way back down to the theatre. It hosted the musical and dramatic contests of the Pythian Games and other religious festivals. Its present form is from the 1st century AD and would have had a capacity of 5,000.
We walked back down and headed towards Athens. We stopped for a view back at an interesting looking town (maybe Arachova).
We arrived at Athens Airport a bit early and waited for the rental car representative to show up. We left the car and went to a pick-up location for Uber Taxi. We said good-bye to Caitlin who was going to spend the night in the airport for an early morning flight to Santorini.
We arrived at our Airbnb and our host showed us the place. We unpacked and I even hung up my clothes! We took out the things we want to send home with Caitlin. She will be meeting us back in Athens before she goes home.
We ordered some sushi and Ramen as we hadn’t gone grocery shopping. The delivery guy called because he couldn’t find us. I had no idea how to direct him so I just kept saying the address and even texted it to him. The main office called and asked for a nearby street then said he had figured it out. He showed up not too much later and explained his internet wasn’t working. The meal was very yummy and a nice change from our typical meals. We started watching 7 Years in Tibet and I called my parents. I started getting too sleepy so we went to bed.
Mainland Greece was much less busy than we were expecting especially the roads. The driving was not as scary as we thought. Greek drivers do have a different way, but once you accept it you make it work as well. Danny very much enjoyed the driving because you could throw the rule book out the window. The further from Athens, the more relaxed and less touristy it felt.
We booked a week stay in Voula, a suburb of Athens, while we wait for our passports to return to us. We are looking forward to staying in one place and getting in some beach time.