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Day 15-16 – Sparta to Olympia to Patra

Sunday, May 29th, 2005

Olympia Track.jpg

Day 15: We still had the southwest of the Peloponnesus to see, which is supposed to have some great beaches and the two old Venetian forts of Methoni and Koroni. We decided it would just be too miserable to have to see it all in the rain and leaving now would give us incentive to return on another trip. We began our retreat back to Patra. From Sparta we rode up valleys so green that if one was to see them out of context, they could never guess they were in Greece. The whole time we were riding under a hole in the sky. We had a charmed ride all the way to Olympia, home of the Olympic Games.

When we finally arrived at the campsite, it looked like whatever was holding back the rain was about to let go. We asked if they had a place undercover and they gave us a glass gazebo that was being used as a tool shed. Perfetto! It worked like a charm; we set up out of the rain and it didn’t rain. That night after dinner we called to reserve a spot on the midnight boat from Patra to Venice the next day.

Day 16: In the morning when we went to see the site of Olympia we were repulsed by the sight of masses of tourists. Incredible! And in the off-season! We discovered that you could see most of the sight from the road and we rode up and down taking pictures. When we got to the gate we found out you had to pay for the sight and the museum separately AND they were each more expensive than any other site we had been to. It was Luci who said we should bail and, as my Expert Archeological Advisor, I was inclined to oblige.

Instead we went to Kalyvrita, the sight of the beginning of the revolution. It began to rain just as we arrived in town and sat down to lunch. It seemed like our luck was bound to crack. The rain passed, the sun came out and we went on our way. I chose a road that, at a certain point, looked like it was going to slide off the mountainside. In places, you couldn’t see the valley bottom and the road was strewn with rocks fallen from above. Once again, we were happy to be on a bike and not in a car. When we got to Agio, about 50km outside of Patra, it began to rain on us. We stopped under an underpass to assess. The cars coming from the direction of Corinth had their wipers on and those coming from Patra didn’t. We hopped back on the moto for the last 50k to Patra. It rained lightly most of the way but had let up almost completely by the time we arrive at the ferry terminal. We picked up our tickets and parked the bike. We trudged up the 200 steps to the Kastro (Fort) overlooking the city to kill time before dinner. For dinner we found a TGI Fridays which is something I have never seen in Europe before. I feasted on the best burger I have ever eaten in Europe, too. At 10pm we boarded our boat for the uneventful and never ending trip back to Venice.

Day 12-14 – Sparta

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005


Day 12: A long driving day on challenging roads on the Mani Peninsula. The people of the Mani claim to be the descendants of the Spartans. This area was notorious for its vicious family feuds up until the 19th century. In the harsh landscape, you can see why people held onto any bit of arable land with their lives. Nice cycling, though tiring. Somehow I managed to drop the bike 3 times. There were several compounding factors that contributed to it. Each time we fell I was stopped perpendicular to a slope. Once was coming onto a paved road after being in the dirt; another was after coming to quick stop while trying to read a Greek road sign; and the last time was at a blind intersection with traffic coming in either direction. No damage to either the bike or us, though.

I needed a rest so we stopped and ate ice cream on the beach in Stoupa; the home of Zorba the Greek. Here, for once, the English outnumbered the Germans. At the campground I discovered that the bag on the side where I kept falling was heavier than the other one. I resigned to lighten our already overload bike. I got rid of some tools, a deck of cards, our rain ponchos, and some other junk I knew we wouldn’t need. The stuff I knew we wouldn’t need but couldn’t bring ourselves to get rid of, we planned to mail the next day.

Day 13: At the post office in Kardamili they told us we could only ship 2kg at a time and it would have to be at noon after he delivered the mail. Unfazed by this we continued to Kalamata where we sat in line to discover they didn’t have boxes for sale at that post office. I got a box from a hardware store, packed our stuff and got back in line. When we saw that it was going to cost us 40E (about $50) to mail the 5 kg (12 lb) box to Italy we balked. The stuff in the box wasn’t worth that much. The very kind woman at the window suggested we try an independent shipping company and gave us directions to where we might find one. When it was obvious that we wouldn’t find the place, I stopped at a dumpster and threw half the stuff away and repacked the rest on the bike.

On our way, a few kg lighter and feeling better, we began the climb up the pass over the Taygetos Mountains. At the pass we had lunch at a restaurant which served homemade sausages with dill seed and orange peel in it. Tasty! On our descent into Sparta we passed the cliff where the Spartans threw babies to weak to survive the rigors of Spartan life. Once in Sparta, we set about doing some laundry and making plans for the next day. Luci wanted to go to Mystras, the ruins of a medieval town, and I, being overloaded with archaeological sites, bought a map of the Taygetos Mountains with the intention of climbing the highest peak which is, subsequently, the highest point in the Peloponnesus.

Day 14: Thunderstorms in the night and light rain in the morning was not conducive to hiking so, in a break in the weather, we went to Mystras together. More tourists than we expected for such a crappy day in the off-season. The ruins are on a steep hill with the fortress at the top. We hiked up to the fortress and saw most of the upper city before the rain began again. Everyone went ducking for cover and we ended up under an arched roof with a German family and a German couple. Walking around amongst crumbling walls and surprisingly well preserved frescoes, we found a pit full of human femur bones. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were taking cover in a crypt so we move shelter to an old chapel. We hung around looking at the frescoes until we found ourselves trying to read the old Greek script and knew it was time to make a dash. We were only about 10kms from the campsite, what could go wrong? When we started out it was drizzling lightly; halfway into the ride it was pouring. At the campsite our tent was in the open and dripping. It is a tough tent though and was dry inside. We moved our camp under cover and put stuff out to dry. Of course, we chose the worse part of the day to make our dash and it got better to the point that everything got dry.

We went into town to recover our day and go see the ruins of Sparta. They are miniscule and deserted and we saw most of it from the seat of the motorcycle. We checked on the long term forecast and it was grim. Ten days of rain they were calling for. That night Milan played Liverpool in the Champions League Finals. Milan scored in the first minute and was leading 3-0 at the end of the first half. Luci called her father to celebrate their almost certain victory. To our envy, they said it was sunny and warm in Milan. Then, by some miracle, Liverpool came back with three goals in twenty minutes and won in overtime.

Day 9-11 – Kithira

Monday, May 23rd, 2005
Kithira West Coast.jpg Day 9: This was to be one of the longest days of the trip. We were planning on taking the ferry from Neapoli to the farthest flung of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Day 8 – Astros to Monemvasia

Thursday, May 19th, 2005
Monemvasia Alta.jpg This was one of the best days on the bike. The road winds down the coast of the Gulf of Argolis and then turns inland and narrows. I found myself ... [Continue reading this entry]

Day 7 – Corinth to Astros

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005
Korinthos.jpg Free Day! I have become preoccupied with the possibility of getting a flat. If we are inland on some dirt road and get a flat it would be very difficult to deal with especially ... [Continue reading this entry]

Day 6 – Tiryns to Corinth

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005
Tiryns.jpg From Mycenae we skipped down to Tiryns; an older contemporary of Mycenae. Its massive fortifications are indicative of the state of politics at the time. From there, we drove down to Nafplio, a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Day 5 – Mt. Helmos

Monday, May 16th, 2005
Mt Helmos.jpg We started the day not too sure of our plans. After studying the map, we realized we could make it to Mycenae (a World Heritage site) that afternoon if we went a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Day 4 – First Day in Greece

Sunday, May 15th, 2005
Camp Akratas.jpg Our first day of really touring Greece on the moto. After spending a good part of the morning getting out of the City limits, we decided to turn around when it began ... [Continue reading this entry]

Day 1-3 Ferry Trip

Saturday, May 14th, 2005
Adriatic Sunset.jpg Here begins a day by day account of our trip to Greece: Day 1: Luke’s 30th birthday! We spent my first day of “being old” (as Luci kindly puts it) riding from Milan ... [Continue reading this entry]