12/03/2018 Still at Stobrec, Split, Croatia
Went into Split today, by bus. We have seen this city before so spent a lot of time down at the waterfront and around the market which is right by the very well preserved Roman buildings. Even though I have lots of pictures from our previous time spent here, I just couldn’t resist taking a few more.
We left the friendly camp site at three in the afternoon to drive down to the ferry port. We didn’t start boarding until seven in the evening so got a great sunset picture over the city.
Our two ferry crossings were as smooth as anything. This first journey, from Split in Croatia to Ancona, was on, relatively, quite a small ferry. Our en-suite cabin felt not much bigger than our wardrobe at home. It is the first time, since I was a child, that I had to sleep on a top bunk. I tried to persuade Elaine that I should sleep on the lower bunk as me climbing ladders is not such a good idea after my accident some years ago. That idea went down like a lead balloon. I offered to arm wrestle for the prime position, but Elaine refused the challenge. She just sat on the lower bed and refused to budge until I had conceded.
In the morning, we went down to vehicle deck once the ferry had berthed, to find the vehicles packed so close together that it was a real squeeze to get to our van passed all the lorries parked around it. Fingers crossed that the next ferry taking us down to Greece will be a little bigger. We were in Ancona very early and we had to drive about a mile to go to the ticket office to get our boarding pass and other paperwork. We were almost the first vehicle in the queue and our ferry for Greece was not due to leave until 2 pm. We just chilled and a little later I walked out of the port and crossed the road to go and have a look around the city.
Despite reports that there was nothing much to see, I was quite impressed, and enjoyed looking around the shops and the indoor and street market.
Finally, we got to see the size of the ferry that would take us down to Patras as it backed towards us, to tie up. This was more like it.
This was easily twice the size of the previous ship. The ticket office had given us a sign to put in our windscreen saying we were staying on the ferry all the way to Patras instead of the getting off at the first stop on the mainland of Greece. They put us on a higher deck which meant driving up quite a steep slope and was glad I didn’t have to stop half way up. One inside we finally got to see the cabin and we were both very pleased. This cabin was much more modern, and I could have swung a cat around quite easily.
I will say that, to me, ferry crossings are a means to an end. To get us from A to B. The fact that the sea was being so kind was a great help. We passed the time reading our kindles and playing Rummikub and Qwirkle, our new game. There was a coach load of older kids who, in the evening, got very loud. The more mature looking male specimens spent their time chasing the girls around the ship whilst others sat around the table next to ours playing an Italian version of snap. The noise and distractions were my excuse as to why Elaine was so successful in each of our games we played.
16/03/2018 Between Aigio and Diakofto
During the night all we had to contend with was a very slight, constant vibration and then at 02.30 we were both woken by two youths excitedly trying to wake the girls in the cabin opposite ours. Lucky for them it was me and not Elaine who told them to keep it quiet. Finally 2 pm arrived and we were called down to our vehicles.
With the help from a lot of EU funding, the Greek transport structure is undergoing a lot of major reconstruction. New railway lines and motorways are causing our recently updated sat-nav to have lots of wobbly moments. We came out of Patra in the Athens direction for about 55 km. We were off to a little 10 euro a night camper stop using the old National road and we could already see why all the improvements are necessary.
It is a delightful little site right by the sea and we spent the evening in the company of Yannis and Melina the owners, and learnt lots about Greece and the local area. Yannis kindly offered to book for the next day the Rack Railway trip up to the mountain to the town of Kalavryta.
When we got back to the van we found a message from our Australians friends Brian and Wendy. They were not due to arrive in Greece until the 22nd but when they heard what we were doing rushed to Ancona changed their tickets and they arrive in Patras this Sunday
We drove to Diakfto and found the little station. Yannis told us that people come from all over Greece to ride this famous little, narrow gauge railway. It has a special system so that when the slope exceeds 10% it moves on the rack rails to haul it up or slow it down when descending.
It crosses beautiful scenery, the Vouraikos Gorge with its many waterfalls and fast flowing water up to a town with a tragic history and the journey is 22 km and takes an hour. In places the rails run through the mountain and in other places there are massive drops down to the raging river that runs much of the length of the railway. All the way up all I could think was how-on-earth was this built and then I read that it was built in 1895. Amazing!
It truly is the most dramatic ride. The scenery is spectacular and the mountains towered above us on the way up to the top. Kalavryta the town at the top of the track is a fascinating place. In a local monastery in 1821 the Greek Revolution was started. A truly tragic, historical event happened in the evening of the 13th of December 1943 the Germans rounded all the town folk in retaliation for the capture of some German soldiers who were held in the school. All males in the town over the age of 13 were taken to a ridge and killed. The women and the younger children were herded into the church which was then set alight. Some managed to escape the conflagration. The Germans then set the school alight which was totally destroyed. We went to the museum which is dedicated to this holocaust.
The town is also a ski centre. There are lots of shops selling local products and was very busy with tourists despite it being very early in the season.
We were very lucky, on the way back down to have been allocated seats right behind the driver which gave us a view as to just how the train was operated. Later in the afternoon, we returned to Yannis and Melina’s campsite after having had an excellent start to our Greek holiday.