Friday, September 10, 2010

The road to Greece

Driving across Greece has been quite different than expected. I was expecting southern California scenery and found more similarities with southern BC than California, that is other than the heat. We have now driven to the north of Greece to Meteora, to see the monasteries high on the hoodoos with breathtaking views. The view turned out to be as great as described and we saw three different places that morning. Next we drove to Delphi, high over a flood plain delta that was covered with a sea of olive trees. The road in between was very winding with many mountain passes. Greeks don’t mind making switchbacks or cliff hanging turns. The view here was awe inspiring; we got this view from our hotel room too. In the morning we visited ancient Delphi, home to the Oracle. Ancient Greeks would come from across the land for a look into the future. This was the capitol of Greece in the ancient world. The Romans kept the tradition alive and built a great temple, amphitheatre and stadium. The stadium and amphitheatre are well preserved.

Next stop, same day, was Olympia, home to the original Olympic Games. The drive to Olympia was very scary, most of it along the mountain tops. The Greeks like to put mini churches at the side of the road if a loved one died there; there are many on this road. Several times during the journey you would question yourself as to your direction. There would be clues that you had turned the wrong way, such as : going through an operating rock quarry, the lines in the middle of the road disappearing for miles at a time, goats on the road, going through a one way road through a town with difficult turns, or the road suddenly turning to a dirt road. Surprisingly only the road suddenly turning to a dirt road was incorrect.

We heard that the Olympic Games games hosted 2500 years ago would attract crowds of up to 45,000. We tried to imagine 45,000 people jammed into Olympia. The city today is probably only 5,000 people at the most. We lined up on the starting line in the stadium for some photos. Holly was beat so the kids and I went out for a late dinner 9PM and then to bed.

Leaving Olympia was a bit like the song, Hotel California as we couldn’t leave town. When we entered town we came in on a one way street due to the bridge being collapsed (really). When leaving we had to try the other side of town and found that it went the opposite way of our destination. Back to the other side, up the hill and ask someone. We were correct in going the wrong way, seems you are supposed to go the wrong way and then double back on a slightly different road. The person that gave us directions said that there was a shortcut back across town just up ahead. This turned out to be a very steep grade down a one lane alley that elicited several calls of “cool” from Rhys. This journey to Nafplion was just getting started, as Rhys says, it was to be “epic”. The road was all of the above, up/down, tight turns, very rural and had no signs. As Holly navigated and I drove it became more and more clear we were going to die soon in one of the several ways immediately available to us. Plunge off a cliff (most likely), bridge failure, head on collision, rocks falling on us, getting lost, animal hitting us (had to stop for goats and cattle). Holly took many pictures along this road, ALL the pictures have many little Greek mini churches in them. Then the road became narrow and difficult. The only traffic coming the other way were delivery trucks, they would all hang back and time their arrival for the narrowest corners. All seemed lost when after driving for 45 minutes on this difficult stretch, a sign for the next town said 66 kilometers further. We started laughing. Later, as we drove on, we came around a corner and out popped a town scabbed onto the side of a 500 meter cliff. I can’t remember the name but it was disproportional to the size of the road and the access or traffic. It would seem the main industry is laying around all day drinking coffee and smoking. It was really picturesque the way it was perched. We would have stopped for lunch but we had no cash. Everyone only takes cash, no Visa cards. This is a problem in remote areas as you quickly run out of cash because of the daily limit from the ATM. As you may have guessed we didn’t die.

Nafplion was nice, we were tired and in no mood for extensive sight seeing, I guess we are done, and ready for the Greek islands. Good, we leave for Santorini in the morning, early in the morning, 5:30 AM. It is my first night driving in Greece, reading Greek is hard enough in daylight. Holly has lost her glasses, so Rhys is my navigator. After several unlikely turns we are on our way to Piraeus (one of many different spellings of the same place) it is incredible the path that they direct you through, it is literally a goat trail through an industrial site. We park the car, find Holly’s glasses and board the ferry.


Mynnette said...

Thank heavens you did not die on any of those roads. It would have been a scary place to erect a shrine to your remains...MSW

maryanncart said...

Love reading about the drive, the laughter, the peril! I have goose pimples thinking about it. I am going to forward this all to Catherine Malysheff as I'm sure she remembers much of what you have experienced. I hope Santorini assauages your perilous times...Love Rhys' comments...Is the Atavan holding out? Love Mom