We will be saying goodbye to Greece today. We arrived at Camping Drepano in Igoumenitsa, having completed a 2600 mile circular tour, exactly four months after arriving at the same spot in Greece last November. The cancellation of our ferry back to Italy from Patras two weeks ago was a blessing in disguise as we have missed ‘the beast from the east’ in Northern Europe and we’ve returned to where we started out on our Greek adventure. A nice little tying up of loose ends we think.
We left the Peloponnese heading back to mainland Greece ten days ago via the eye wateringly expensive Rio-Antirrio bridge. €13.30 for a 1.8 mile journey. Streuth!
Wikipedia informs me that the bridge is considered to be an engineering masterpiece. Seismic activity, probable tsunamis and the expansion of the Gulf of Corinth due to plate tectonics contributed to the difficulty of the build.
It seems the hefty price puts off many truckers though as we had a very enjoyable hour or so watching them squeeze backwards onto the ferries that ply the strip of water below the bridge. Depending on the number of axles, lorries are charged between €20 to €41.50 on the bridge as opposed to €11 to €21 for the ferry.
Over the bridge back onto mainland Greece we were but a stone’s throw away from Ancient Delphi which, according to legend, is the centre of the earth. In Greek mythology Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the world and Delphi was the point at which they crossed after encircling the globe, thereby establishing it as the centre of the world. So, there you go.
We could also visit on the first Sunday of the month for free. Big bonus. All the state owned historic sites are free on the first Sunday of the month in the winter. It was the first time we’d timed it just right to be near a site for a free visit. We made sure we arrived early as we expected it would be busy.
From the end of the 8th Century BC individuals from all over the ancient world visited Delphi to consult the God Apollo, via a priestess, on which course of action to take in both private and public life.
Delphi was also home to the panhellenic Pythian Games. These were, after the Olympic Games, the most important sporting event in the Greek calendar.
It has to be said that the site itself is set within spectacular scenery at the foothills of Mount Parnassos. Even though it was a bit hazy the views through the valley were superb.
We had a very enjoyable couple of hours roaming around the site, basking in brilliant sunshine, with very few other people about. By 11.00am though it was heaving and we only managed a quick lap around the museum as it was engulfed with people so just not enjoyable for us. We’re not anti-people we just like our own space!
We spent the afternoon walking one of the footpaths from the village which climbs up above the site and gives far reaching views down to the sea at Itea where we had stayed the previous night.
All in all a top day which we were glad we’d made the detour to do.
Back along the coast we stopped for the night at the very pretty little fishing port of Galaxídi where we made the most of the evening sunshine people watching from one of the numerous cafes.
The town was home to some of the most important shipping families back in the 18th Century. The neoclassical housing and mansions nod to its former wealth. It had such a lovely atmosphere with many Greek families out enjoying a meal together.
Continuing up the west coast of mainland Greece we stopped in at Mesolóngi which is famous for its salt pans, eels and pressed cod roe. Also Lord Byron died here in 1824 after joining the resistance during the War of Independence. Much of the town is run down and reminded us of parts of Ioánnina we’d seen last year. It is a fascinating place though and we stumbled across an old Ouzo shop which didn’t look like it had changed since the day they started trading in 1907.
Such a lovely couple running it too who were very proud to tell us that the marble fireplace had come from the Acropolis in Athens. Mmm, not so sure about that.
Another little gem was a tiny bakery which still had the working wood fired bread oven along with a wizened old lady just behind the counter who did a remarkable job of upselling us some spinach pie along with our bread.
Then there were the boxes of eels outside the fish shops. I watched in morbid fascination as a chap stood perusing a box full of the sorry looking creatures before reaching in to choose his victim to take into the shop to be weighed. I wouldn’t have the stomach to deal with an eel especially as some of them were still alive.
Driving out of Mesolóngi the following day we spotted flamingos, some avocets and a handful of pelicans which was a real treat as the only place we’d seen pelicans before is in Green Park in London.
Our last stop before completing our circular tour of Greece was the island of Lefkas connected to the mainland by a causeway. Here we saw the most beautiful turquoise sea and probably the best beaches we have seen in Greece. If I’d said ‘just look at the colour of that sea’ once I said it a thousand times. What can I say I don’t get out much and I was bowled over by it!
Poor Tim had to endure hours of me going on and on about it. He always puts a brave face on it. After all, he’s used to it now after thirty years.
Lefkada town is a really vibrant place too with a huge marina where a good number of people see the winter out moored up on their boats. We spoke to a German lady who, along with her husband, spend their winters at Lefkada on their boat and the summer touring the rest of Europe in their motorhome.
The old town is a wonderful warren of tiny narrow alleyways, independent shops, restaurants, cafes and brightly coloured corrugated iron clad houses.
So that brings us full circle back to Igoumenitsa. We’ve spent the last couple of days on the campsite getting all the washing done, cleaning the van inside and out and watching the comings and goings of all the ferries from our front row beach side pitch. It sounds idyllic but it looks more like a building site than a campsite. Even though the campsite is open they are doing some major renovations so the shower and toilet blocks are closed, the wifi is flaky and the electricity goes off randomly.
Tim had set himself up to watch the Six Nations Rugby on Saturday night but had a mild tantrum when the wifi suddenly disappeared ten minutes before the first match. He went off to see what was going on to be told it would be switched off for an hour or so along with the electricity as some trees needed to be felled. Oh dear. I could have balanced a dinner plate on his bottom lip when he returned to the van. Ah well, this is Greece! I’d been able to get three loads of washing done so at least I was happy.
Onwards then to the manic roads that are Italy.