|Steps to Fortress, Patra.
The ferry takes about an hour and a quarter to Killini, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the fresh sea air and cool wind. Ferries are old and sometimes untidy but they have all the facilities: restaurants and cafes, games, lounges and toilets. After unloading the ferry at Killini and finding the right bus, I got into the bus again and off we went. All this happened very quickly and flexibly, so in no time we were heading to Patra.
I had visited Patra for a practise during my first two weeks and met my friend Fotini to set a date for our meeting. I had now arrived at Patra for the second time and was supposed to meet Fotini in the afternoon. I had arrived early so this gave me time to explore the town on my own and do some shopping. Patra is a huge city and the traffic is something awful. Most of the times it goes smoothly but sometimes its jammed, totally. I walked up and down the streets, especially one of the main streets, Agios Nikolauos. The town plan is easy and its unlikely that you would get lost. But do stick to your map as it may save your day.
I climbed up to the hill of Patras castle. The number of stairs looked enormous but I climbed only to 192 steps before turning back as the time for me to meet Fotini approached. Even from this point the scenery was fantastic and well worth the climb. You could see the town from this point and all of the gulf of Patra. Had I gone further there would have been the Acropolis of Patra with some archaeological sites.
At 2pm I met Fotini at Statmos, a caf right next to the railway station. You could sit there and watch the trains coming and going while having your coffee. After catching up on the latest news we drove to her house for lunch. Fotinis mother had made us a spectacular lunch and her father had grilled beef, chicken, fish and pork. The table was so full of delights that I had trouble to get up from the table after dining. My first intention had been to continue my tour on the same day but when I had last met with Fotini, she had convinced me to stay at least for one night. I was happy to stay, because I had longed to see my friend and meet her lovely family. I also wanted to see the real Greek way of living. In the evening she drove me all around the town. Later on we met Fotinis boyfriend Dimitris. It had been 2 years since I last saw both Fotini and Dimitris together so we had plenty to talk about. I had first met this lovely couple in Kos in 1999 and Fotini and me have been friends since that time.
Next morning it was time for me to move on and I was to take a train to Diakopto. The train was late by 40 minutes or more but there were some kids at the station, probably from Albania or Turkey, and they played us drums and sang in loud voices. They knew only a few verses, which they sang over and over again but people waiting for the train seemed very amused and happy about the performance. Finally the train arrived and about half an hour later I was in Diakopto. The ticket to Diakopto in a local train cost me 600 drs.
Diakopto is a small resort on the coast just about 30 km from Patra. Its a little way off the Patra - Corinth road so you dont get to Diakopto by accident yet it is a perfect place for a holiday. It is a very peaceful village and its railway station is the centre for everything being surrounded by many pleasant cafes. The shops and hotels are close by and while there are not many hotels I had no problems finding one. I checked in to the Hotel Lemonies, which is a small but comfortable hotel not far from the railway station. Youll find this hotel by crossing the tracks and walking down the street in the direction of the harbour. There are a few good restaurants in the harbour area and a narrow pebble beach with umbrellas and sun beds.
I got a double room with an air conditioner and I paid only 8000 drs. I thought it was reasonable for high season rates. The room was spacious and clean, I didnt like the wall-to-wall carpet but the bathroom and a shower were okay. There was however a hole in the roof and you could see the sky through it! So luckily it didnt rain. After my excursion to Kalavrita and getting to know the village, it was time for dinner. I didnt find too many restaurants so it was easy to pick one. I had dinner at a restaurant called Kochali. The tables were set under the trees, so the atmosphere was very romantic, only the violin player was missing. I could have easily spent several hours sitting there under the stars sipping my Retsina.
My reason for making this stop at Diakopto was to take the train journey up into the mountains to Kalavrita. It is a funicular train and it pulls itself up but not all the way though. I had pictured a funicular train similar to the ones in the Alps but this was different. I thought that the train would actually climb up very steep slopes but it didnt. That was a little disappointment but the views took my mind of that. After one hour of spectacular views we arrived at Kalavrita.
I didnt have much time to explore the village because I had to catch the last train back to Diakopto. Tickets to Kalavrita cost 1400 drs and with the 1st class seats a total of 2700 drs. I wanted to pay extra for 1st class because these seats are in the front of the train and the view is so much better so I do recommend this. You can also hike your way to Kalavrita, there are paths which are well marked. The 2nd world war history regarding Kalavrita is tragic and to learn more about it and about Kalavrita itself see links on page to the left.
Its 6am Friday morning and I was awakened by a telephone alarm call. It was time for me to get up and be moving on. I was heading first to Corinth and then on to Nafplio. My train was due to leave at 7.53am and I had arranged to meet the hotel manager at 7am. I checked out and went to find some breakfast. This time the train was on time, well it should be, its a modern intercity train. The ride is something totally different from the ride in the local train yesterday. A bit more expensive, too. Ticket costs me 900 drs plus 700 drs for the seat, which is compulsory. Train is very tidy and comfortable. It takes only an hour to get to Corinth. Station is outside the town centre and while looking for a taxi I end up walking to the centre. My plan is to take a taxi and go visit the Corinth Canal.
In the busy centre of Corinth it is surprisingly easy to find a taxi. I find Giorgos with his taxi by the central square Antistasuias and he offers to take me to the Canal and back to the centre for only 1500 drs. I think its a good deal, so I agree. Previously I had seen only pictures of the Canal in books so when I get there Im amazed by its depth. Ive never seen anything like it and Im overwhelmed, also a little afraid on the narrow bridge.
Giorgos took me back to Corinth and to the bus station. There are several bus stations in Corinth, so you must know which one to go to. I went to the one called Argolis Station because my next stop would be Nafplio. The ticket cost 1250 drs travel by bus. There were also trains to Nafplio but they are so much slower.
By noon we had arrived in Nafplio and I started looking for a hotel.
I had read about Hotel Tiryns so I started with that one.
Unfortunately Tiryns was full and as it was Friday its hard to find a room, because there were a lot of people from Athens spending their weekend in Nafplio. The receptionist at Tiryns made a call for me to the nearby hotel Epidavros.
There was a room available there, so I went to check it out.
It was a double with private bathroom on the 3rd floor and it had a big double bed for 12000 drs a night, which is not bad, so I decided to take it.
The floor was a bit squeaky but I didn't mind that. What could you expect when everything in the room is made from wood; the floor, the walls and the ceiling.
My hotel was in the Old Town, on a small alley near the harbour and Syntagma Square.
I didnt even think about finding a hotel in the modern upper town. Everything worth seeing is in Old Town.
Its very idyllic with its old buildings and squares.
I started my volta by visiting the harbour. I walked to the lighthouse and took a seat. I love watching the sea and Bourtzi, a little island fortress right across the bay.
This tiny little island had been essential in the past for defending the town from anyone who attacked but also it used to be a jail. Now its a sort of a museum, which you can visit by taking a small boat.
I was sitting there admiring the view and minding my own business and hadnt even noticed that a young man had accompanied me. He started a polite conversation but after only a few minutes talking with him, his true intensions became apparent and although I had been enjoying the beautiful scenery, I thought it was wise to leave quickly. The young man was obviously one of a group known in Greece as Kamakia. It is the object of the Komakia to lure the unknowing female tourist by persuasion and to take advantage of her in the shortest time possible after meeting.
I continued my Volta by walking to Staikopolou and on to Syntagma Square. On Syntagma I couldnt help noticing the tiles on the ground. They are Marmora and it reminds me of a bathroom floor, the tiles being so worn and slippery. There are lovely alleys in the Old Town full of tavernas and cafes, shops and people. The town plan is clear and its impossible for you to get lost. You will find everything in walking distance.
I had a little problem choosing a restaurant as there are so many and they all look so nice. I decided to try one on the same alley as my hotel, the Taverna Old Mansion, Paleo Archontiko. They even had musicians playing Greek music. Later that night, around 1am, I could still hear music being played and people dancing. On one of the three nights I spent in Hotel Epidavros I could also hear people not just dancing but breaking the plates as well. Other good restaurants were the Old Tavern on Staikopolou, Ellas on Syntagma Square and Kakanapakis on one small alley.
On Saturday I decided to go to the beach in Tolo. Its a small resort about 11 km from Nafplio. It takes about 15 minutes by bus. Busses to the nearby villages and resorts leave from the bus station but not always in front of it, but also from the side street. Tickets for these local busses can be bought from the bus driver. To Tolo it cost 280 drs each way. The little village of Tolo is situated on a long beach. When you arrive at Tolo you find the beach is wide and there are a lot of people, but if you go forward, you can find a nice stretch of beach just for yourself. Here the beach is very narrow as the hotels are built almost on the waterfront. Further ahead is the Marina and Old Tolo. Tolo is a nice little place but not very Greek especially in the high season. Public transport is excellent and there are several busses to Nafplio.
Next day I had planned to climb up to the Palamidi of Nafplio. It is said that there is approx. 1000 step up to the fortress. The steps are okay but sometimes very slippery. It takes about 20 min to climb up but if you wish to take a look at the view over the Nafplios old town, take your time. I think it wiser to admire the view on your way up, rather than when coming down. You may stumble and break your neck if you forget to look at your feet on the steps. Up at the Palamidi is an archaeological site but on that morning it was closed due to a strike. After my early morning exercise I took the first bus to Karathona Beach. Karathona is only 5 km from Nafplio. You can get a bus there,for 260 drs. or you can walk if you like. There is a path by the water from Nafplio and it takes about an hour to walk. Karathona is very crowded during the afternoon hours but the waters are clear and the facilities are good.
During my stay in Nafplio there was an international Water Polo tournament. I had never seen it played but I thought that I might as well spend one of my evenings watching it. There were teams from Australia, Greece, Yugoslavia and USA. Even the opening ceremonies were grand since Greece will be the host for the Olympics in 2004 and Water Polo will be a sport at the Olympics for the first time. The game was very interesting for the beginner and easy to watch. Sometimes it looked very intense, all the splashes and throwing the ball. I had no idea about the rules but I think I got a pretty good picture of it. The game I saw was Greece vs. USA and Greece won it big time, 17-6.
It was Monday morning and time to move on with my journey. I had stayed for three days in Nafplio and didnt find it easy to pack my bags to leave this adorable little village. I had planned to take a bus from Nafplio to Kosta and a boat from there to the tiny little island of Spetses, one of the Argosaronic islands.
My bus left at 10.15am and I had imagined that it would go straight to Kosta but I was so very wrong. A glance at the map would give you the impression that it might take something like an hour to get to Kosta but the bus took another route. It headed first to Ligourio, which is in the opposite direction to Kosta! It appeared that this bus ride would be a nice joyride through the Greek countryside. I had no idea where it might go before arriving to Kosta or how many hours it might take. We arrived first to Paleo Epidavros and here there is a huge ancient amphitheatre, of which we got but a short glance as the bus visited only the parking lot. The journey continued to Kranidi where there was a short break here before the bus moved on toward Ermioni. I had thought the ticket I had bought for 1650 drs was to Kosta but it wasnt until this point when I took a closer look that I realised that it was to Kranidi only. I had to buy another ticket from Kranidi, via Porto Heli, to Kosta. The ticket was only 260 drs and I could buy it from the driver but no one at the Nafplio ticket office had mentioned this need to get a second ticket. I arrived at Kosta and there was not much time left till my boat, a small ferry, would leave. I followed the other people from my bus along by the seaside of Kosta and on to the pier. I saw very little of the resort because the boat was already waiting. It took only 20 mins. for the crossing to Spetses and the fare was just 180 drs!
As I disembarked from the ferryboat I had no idea of which direction to take. I had no map, just a few names of the hotels where I might try to find a room. I took the turn to the left and it happened to be the right way. A lucky guess, I thought. By now its late afternoon and there are no shops open. I had to ask for directions in one of the cafes by the docks to Villa Kristina, the first on my recommended list of hotels. I now easily found Villa Kristina, a hotel recommended by the Lonely Planet Guide. Unfortunately there was no room at the Villa Kristina, but the owner had another hotel and he offered me a room there. This was Studio Amores , it was next to Villa Kristina and looked very nice. The room looks also looked nice, it was a double with refrigerator and a private bathroom. The price was reasonable at 10,000 drs for one night, so I agreed to stay. There was no balcony but big window in my room faced the side street and this seemed very quiet during the day. There was a large terrace, though this was shared. When the evening came though I found that the street was not so very quiet after all. There is a slight gradient as you come to the hotel and small engine mopeds need a little bit more gas to climb and that makes for a lot of unnecessary noise.
I met the owners wife as I arrived, I signed in and she invited me to go for a chat after I had settled in. We had a nice chat on their terrace and she told me so much about the island and the town itself. I dont know if she was born on the island but her information was as valuable as gold to me. No guidebook could ever be as useful as she turned out to be. With my notes I then headed to town to explore on my own. I noticed that there were very few tourists, a fact which made me very happy. This was exactly what I was looking and the fact that there were no cars made me feel so very easy. I was very delighted too when I saw the carriages being drawn by horses on these narrow streets.
There are a lot of nice beaches on Spetses and there is one even in the centre of town; Agia Mamas. There are bigger beaches spread all around the island. You can take a bus to Agia Anargyri or Ligoneri, or a boat to Agia Paraskevi or any other of the dozens of beaches. I took a bus to Agia Anargyri on my first day. There are at least 4 buses daily to the beach and 3 buses back to town. The bus leaves from in front of Ag. Mamas every hour, the fare is 450 drs one way and it takes about 40 min. I also took a boat to Agia Paraskevi on one day. There are several boats and one leaves the harbour every half an hour and takes about one hour to reach Ag.Anargyri or one and a half hours to Ag. Paraskevi. The boat trip costs 2000 drs and you get to see the whole island from the sea as it goes around. It is the perfect way to see Spetses. Both Ag. Anargyri and Ag. Paraskevi have pebble beaches and all the facilities: umbrellas, sunbeds and a restaurant. Both beaches are fine but I preferred Ag. Paraskevi as it was more private. Ag. Anargyri wasnt too crowded but I found it more difficult there to get into the water. Ag. Paraskevi is of more interest if you snorkel.
On my second day I rented a bike, not a motorbike but a bicycle. It was a 7-gear mountain bike and the rent was only 2000 drs per day. It was easy to handle even though Im not used to a bike without leg-brakes. On Spetses it is relatively easy to cycle as the island is mostly flat and the roads are in good condition. There are no cars on the island, just a few lorries, so you can cycle without any disturbance and you can get around the whole island with a bike. The road signs are good and while cycling you can enjoy the view, the sounds and smells of this pine-covered island. I found my bike very handy too for another reason. Since Spetses town is quite big and covers a vast area it would have taken me a week to explore the town, but with a bike I could move faster and cover a wider area. On one evening I even took a Volta on my bike. I had my camera with me and since the evening light makes the best photos and is so very limited I had to make the most of it. I was lucky enough to get some pretty good photos on that evening. Sunsets are so very beautiful all over Greece, but especially in Spetses for some reason.
I was glad that I had my bike as one day I rode to a magnificent beach called Ligoneri. The beach is about 6 or 7 km from town and it took me about 30 min of peaceful cycling. It was a beautiful spot and during that day there were only like 10 people! You could really enjoy your privacy. There is also a bus to Ligoneri which leaves from the lot in front of the Hotel Poseidon. These buses from Agia Mamas to Agia Anargyri and from Hotel Poseidon to Ligoneri and Zokeria are the only bus routes on the island. Due to the absence of cars there are an enormous number of mopeds and motorbikes. Sadly the noise created is incredible and unfortunately I had to experience this during the nights in my hotel room. There are no taxis on the island but some big and fancy hotels pick up their guests from the harbour as the boats arrive from Pireus. Everything on Spetses is within walking distance but if you dont feel like walking you can take a horse-carriage, or rent a bike.
I am not usually very keen on visiting ancient sites or museums but here on Spetses I had to make an exception. I just had to visit the home of a Greek heroine Laskarina Bouboulina, the first female Admiral and one of the head figures of the Greek Independence War. You get more information on www.bouboulinamuseum-spetses.gr (see links page)or by visiting my page on Spetses and clicking on the link Spetses-island. I was, I must admit, very impressed by her. At the museum I got a private tour being the only non-Greek visitor at that time. The guidance was very good and I do recommend it. The people of Spetses have done enormous work on renovating the Bouboulinas house.
Restaurants are many and various and I even had difficulties choosing. In general I liked the ones that I tried. Stelios and O Roussos are traditional Greek cuisine and Quarter was more of an international cuisine. Despite the location on a roof garden and the view over the narrow stretch of sea to the mainland opposite the Restaurant Lyrakia was a disappointment. While there is wide choice of restaurants, there is much choice too for cafes and bars.
Nightlife wasnt my priority, so I dont have personal experience of clubs and discos, but there were many nice bars at which to drink should you get thirsty while on Volta around the town.
On Friday morning I took a boat, a Flying Dolphin as they call the catamarans, to Poros. The route goes via another little island in the Argosaronic group called Hydra. The fare to Poros was 2500 drs one way, which I considered to be expensive but since the boat trip was to take only 70 min, much quicker than a ferry boat, I was prepared to pay the price. Im not a very good mariner and get seasick quite easily. Why should I prolong my suffering by using a ferryboat? Always I am a little afraid to get on board since even the smallest waves make me sick and after I had found my seat in the first row at the front I became even more afraid. That morning though the sea was calm and the trip went just fine. I got a quick glance of Hydra town as we passed by and it looked very nice. I might have even stayed there had my plan not been to go to Poros. I will however be back for Hydra some other time for sure.
The boat was crowded as it was the high season and the start of the weekend. If you suffer from claustrophobia, I dont recommend you getting on board these boats. The aisles are very narrow and the seats right next to each another with the roof so very low. There are though a few places where you can get some fresh air but also your face wet with the splashes from the sea spray. The toilets on board are just awful so it was lucky I had some Savetts (wet towels) with me, they made my trip
As the boat approached Poros I began to wonder where I might find a room. I had made some inquiries while at Spetses but I wasnt lucky enough to find one. During the weekends the Athenians like to come to these nearby islands to spend a nice weekend away from town and in fresh, clean air. Nevs, the smog, is bad in Athens during the hot summer months and the Argosaronic Islands are close enough for them to escape this.
I was prepared for a long search in order to find a room. At the harbour though I was lucky to find a man offering rooms to the peoples as they left the boat. His name was Stasios and I thought I might as well go and see the room before starting to find one on my own. He had his car waiting and so we drove off. His hotel, the Islands Inn was situated on the bigger of the two islands. It is not the main island but still is within walking distance, about 1,5-2 km from the centre. The hotel was brand new but the surroundings were still under construction. The rooms were beautiful and tastefully decorated. I had seen many hotel rooms on my journey but this was the most attractive one with lovely details on walls and ceiling. There was though just one fault; there was no private bathroom. There were two bathrooms to be shared with six rooms. It was a small detail and I thought I could manage two nights without one. I had to ask for my own personal towels but they didnt charge me extra for them.
My first priority now when I had settled in, was to find a laundry. I had my backpack full of dirty clothes to get washed. The laundry was easy to find next to the OTE on a small side alley. I left the clothes there and was told to pick them up in a few hours. In the meanwhile I had time to get to know the town of Poros and the village of Galatas opposite it on the mainland. There were water taxis continuously to and from Galatas and while I were there I checked the bus timetables for my return to Nafplio.
I was sad to see that the Poros landmark, the bell tower Roloi, was under renovation. Still the view down to the harbour and the mountains over on the mainland was fantastic. I could so easily have spent the whole evening among these narrow alleys. Poros is a small place but very lively. There are many more cafs, bars and restaurants than you could possibly imagine yet as the evening comes, they are all soon full. On my first night I climbed a little higher and found a restaurant called Garden. I got a carnation at the door and a table up on a roof garden. Another good restaurant I found was Karavolos behind the movie theatre. This was such a nice little family run restaurant and was highly recommended also by the locals that I met.
On my way back to my hotel I stopped in a bar called Passagio to celebrate my name day. In Greece the name day is much more celebrated than birthdays. I was lucky to have been able to celebrate both my birthday and my name day while I was touring around. I ordered a huge ice cream and a cocktail. Even the waiter wanted to celebrate my day by offering me Golden Tequila with a slice of orange. I had never tried that before but it was delicious. As the evening turned toward night I had made friends with the waiter and he invited me to spend the rest of the evening with him and his friends. I accepted his invitation of course as I have always wanted to see the Greek way of spending an evening and this was to be my chance.
We had a very Greek night first at the club in town and later in a nightclub called Sirocco. There was lots of Greek music, whiskey, roses and singing. We had so much fun and it was already the small hours of the morning when I finally returned to my hotel. I have always heard that Finns are keen on drinking and getting drunk when abroad but Greeks know how to do that, too.
Next morning was the morning after the night before. Due perhaps to the whiskey it was not to be one of my best days but still I headed for the beaches of Poros. I walked down to Megalo Neorio. All the beaches are on the bigger island and the best ones are quite close. The beaches on this side are narrow and the water is shallow They have the facilities and possibilities for all kinds of water sports. There are also beaches on the other side, for instance Askeli beach, but my visit to Poros was so short that I missed Askeli. If you dont feel like walking to the beach, you can take a taxi or a taxi boat from the harbour.
On my second night at Poros there was an extensive electric power cut. All the lights on the island and in Galatas plus the surrounding areas were down. Nights in Greece are very dark when compared to Finland (the midnight sun in summer time), so you can imagine how difficult it was to try finding your way back to the hotel in total darkness. Exiting, yes, but not fun to say the least.
On Sunday afternoon it was time for me to say goodbyes to Poros and to get on with my journey. There was not much time left now and that made me kind of sad. I had but a few days left before I was to return to Finland but first I had to find my way back to Zakynthos. I took a bus from Galatas to Nafplio where I stayed for one last night before returning to Zakynthos. The ticket for the bus was 1750 drs and I was taken by way of the now familiar scenery of Paleo Epidavros and Ligourio. I arrived to Nafplio in the evening and I was thankful that I had booked a hotel room during my first visit. The room was in the Hotel Byron and it was luxurious compared to some rooms I had been in. It had a refrigerator, mini bar and satellite TV. I thought it a little posh for just one night but felt that I deserved a little luxury. 15000 drs was a lot for a room but it was well worth it.
In the evening I had my last Volta in the old town and couldnt help but feel very familiar with the town. It was like visiting my own hometown. I had dinner at Kakanapakis and stopped by at the Old Mansion restaurant to listen to the musicians. They were still playing there just as they had been on my previous visit. It seemed as though I had been there all the time and yet I had been away for a week.
I returned to my hotel well before midnight because I had to wake up really early next morning. My phone gave me the alarm at 4 am. as my bus to Corinth would leave at 5.10 am.
I bought my ticket to Isthmus and asked for timetables from Isthmus to Patra but they didnt have any. I had no idea about the timetables from Corinth onwards. I had a feeling that there would be several buses in the morning and I had to go with that and hope for the best.I arrived to Corinth/Isthmus at 6.45 am and all I could do then was wait. I had missed my breakfast but didnt feel able to go to a caf in case the bus came while I was away. As it happened I didnt have to wait long, about 20min until the Athens-Patra bus came. The ticket was outrageously expensive: 2650 drs! And after about two hours I arrived at Patra. I thought I might had missed my 8.30 bus to Zakynthos so I ran those 800m from one bus station to the other. How lucky I was! The 8.30 bus was late and had not yet arrived. I bought my ticket for1580 drs just as the bus came in.
As the bus arrived at Killini I knew that the last part of my journey was about to begin. I had only the ferry ride left and I would be back to Zakynthos. It was but two weeks ago that I had left Zakynthos and yet now it felt like a month. It still felt though that it was too soon. My morning had been so busy that day that Id had little time to think of the past two weeks but now as I sat on the ferry dock my mind started to wander back over the events of the previous weeks. I had two more days to spend in Zakynthos relaxing and getting ready for a trip back to Finland. I had booked a hotel in the centre and I made the last few excursions to the nearby beaches and to Kalamaki.
Id had such a great journey. I had seen and experienced so much during that time. I had thought that I might never actually do this tour but now I had done it, it felt so good and I was so very, very happy. Happy that I had done it and that everything had gone so smoothly just as I had planned it. Succeeding made my self-confidence rise and it made me feel so very good. I was so happy, so proud and yes a little relieved.
Now Im planning for the summer of 2002. I will tour in Northern Greece in Epirus and in Western Crete. I have great expectations from this tour too and plans are already starting to look good. This time I will stay for five weeks and I already know that its not enough.