14th-16th April 2018 Ancient Corinth
We moved on from Kalamata and headed towards Corinth and Athens. We were on our way to a small campsite at old Corinth that we had great reports of. We were not disappointed. The site was great. There was everything we needed. On top of the showers, toilets and emptying facilities they had their own wine and olive oil for sale at cheap prices. We didn’t feel mean when we only bought one bottle when we arrived. It wasn’t long before we found out why this campsite gets such rave reviews. Spiros (the owner of the campsite) and his daughter came to see us, shortly after we arrived. He offered to take us out for the day in his car to see all the local sites. He quoted a price and we readily agreed. The next day we would meet him at his car.
Within a quarter of a mile of the camp entrance is the site of Ancient Corinth. This city was razed by the Romans in 146 BC. A century later it was rebuilt to hold a population of 750,000 people. The village around the ancient monument site now probably houses no more than 750 people. However, before we got to the site itself we passed lots of eating places and shops selling souvenirs. As senior citizens from an EEC country we get, everywhere, reduced entry prices.
The most dominating structure is the Temple of Apollo. Later we went to the terrace of one of the bar / restaurants and from here we got a panoramic view of the whole site which constitutes the largest Roman township in Greece.
At 10 am we met Spiros and first he took us to see one end of the canal that links the eastern Mediterranean with the with the Adriatic. Use of this canal saves shipping a round trip of 131 nautical miles and is an expensive crossing for the ships that use it.
The canal took 12 years to build and was opened in 1893. In its building, a new mountain was built along the canal’s 6,343 length and the water is 8 meters deep along the whole length. At this end there is an ingenious road bridge that drops down to allow shipping to pass over it.
Spiros said that sometimes, when it is raised again to allow traffic to flow over it, large fish are seen flapping away on the roadway. He then took us half way along the canal, so we could walk across one of the bridges. It was a great place to take photos.
Next. he took us up to a monastery (Spiros said it was for women). The drive up to the monastery of St Potapois took us way up a mountain on a very narrow road. Obviously, Spiros drives up here quite regularly as he drove very quickly. I know Elaine and Wendy closed their eyes and refused to look as we went around some of the bends in the road. The view from the top was only spoilt by the haze caused by the sand coming off the Sahara. Elaine and Wendy had to cover their legs with a long blue skirt before they could enter but Brian and I were okay showing our legs despite both wearing shorts.
The main church is built into the rock and there was a noticeable aura of peace as soon as we entered the grounds of the monastery despite the number of visitors.
Spiros then drove us back down the mountain and he showed us the spa baths before taking us into New Corinth where we had coffee at a very nice café right on the sea front. On the way back, he took us past the new motorway just below the campsite and he showed more ancient ruins right below the motorway itself.
Spiros had to work the next day, so it was arranged that his father would take us up to the castle on the mountain opposite.
He spoke Greek and French, so it was my job to chat with him and to pass on any information he had for us. He is obviously not a lover of the Turkish nation. With great delight he told us that this is the largest castle in Europe and it has (had) three rings of fortification. It was held by the Turks, but the Greeks took the castle by siege. He drove even faster than Spiros up to the entrance and waited while we climbed up to the main entrance and then around a lot of the well, preserved area.
Although we were there to see the castle we all loved the lovely wild flowers that grow over the whole grounds. Amazingly, there was no entrance fee and the words health and safety cannot hold any place in the Greek language. Even though it was perfectly dry the slippery foot-ways all over were potentially lethal and high up on the ramparts, there were no safety fences where large chunks of the wall were missing.
Wendy slipped at one stage and we all held our breaths. Luckily it was only her pride that was hurt. The Dad drove us fast back down the mountain and then suddenly stopped on a bend. He had spotted a wild flower he wanted and good old Brian volunteered to jump down in the ditch so he could dig up the roots of the plant.
17th-19th April 2018 Athens
We had an easy drive to Athens and got slotted in to a protected car park right by the Cruise Ship Docks in Piraeus, a suburb of Greece’s capital. We knew already knew that Maria, the owner of the park, is a goldmine of information about all things Athens. Just around the corner is the station where we would take the train for the twenty-minute journey to the centre. However, first we had to make preparations for the short journey. We have had lots of warnings, and Maria made it very clear. Organised gangs work the trains, pick-pocketing is the way they get their money. All say it is not the Greeks doing the crime. The countless immigrants get the blame. Brian and I have small bags to hang around our necks for our money and our ID and nothing is carried in our pockets.
To emphasise this, just before leaving for the station, the Belgian who was parked next to us said that he had been robbed the day before. The “bum” bag he wore in front of him around his waist was opened and stuff taken without him knowing. Luckily, he had a chain attached to his wallet because he looked down to see it hanging around his knees.
We took two days exploring Athens and really the only way I can do justice to this fabulous city is to do it with some of the pictures I took.
Everywhere we went in Athens we saw more and more old relics
The weather was great and we all loved this thriving, bustling city. We climbed up to the Acropolis where lots of reconstruction is going on: after all, it was built in the middle of the 5th century BC. At one stage we went through a park trying to find the entrance to the Ancient Agora, the old political heart of Athens, built around 600 BC. Now we witnessed the other side of Greece. Here we saw the homeless, the dropouts and probably some of the many immigrants. It did not feel like an area of safety and I certainly didn’t take any pictures in this park.
The parliament building is guarded by evzones dressed in their kilts and their pom-pom boots. They perform their version of the “Ministry of Silly Walks” in front of a large stone bed which is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
We are all thoroughly enjoying Greek food and Maria (from the car park) recommended a great restaurant close to where we had parked our motor homes. The food was superb and we had a great evening.
Here I must insert a correction from a previous blog. Whilst we were at Ancient Olympia there was a statue of the Roman Emperor Adrian and said that he kept his head whilst everyone else were losing theirs (his was one of the few statues that had a head). In Athens we saw what must have been a later statue of the same Emperor. He didn’t!