Monthly Archives: May 2019

Ready, Steady, Go…….

Last month, John, our friend Dave and I. went to the stadium at Ancient Olympia in the Peloponnese and like many other people pretended to participate in a race on the very track that others achieved victory so many  years ago.

This was the second occasion that I had been there.  Forty-five years ago, I arrived in Greece for the first time, after travelling in France and Italy.  With friends, I firstly visited Corfu and then we went on to Olympia and Mycenae in the Peloponnese (some of it by train) and then flew back to Scotland from Athens.  I fell in love with Greece then and in particular with Olympia.

It was good to go back and I loved it as much this time as I did then.  A big forest fire in 2008 had damaged the area but according to Alexander, who welcomed us to our AirB&B accommodation in Ancient Pisa where we were staying, the local population have worked hard to bring Olympia back to its former glory and even to improve it.  There is a wonderful, new informative museum, where you can see a fantastic bronze and sculpture collection from the site.

The site itself was particularly beautiful because it was April and the flowers and the cherry blossom on the trees were in abundance.

We walked around the temples of Hera and Zeus, the Phlippeion, a circular building, dedicated to the Macedonian dynasty, the Bouleuterian, the administrative and organisational centre of the Olympic games as well as in the stadium itself.

 

Whilst there were many other people visiting as well as us,  there is a lot of space to enjoy moments of quiet reflection and peace in this stunning archaelogical site.

There is a street of tourist shops nearby in modern Olympia this does not really impact on the ancient site itself. To me this was pleasing, as it seemed fitting that our modern world had not gone completely overboard in terms of its own contribution to Olympia and so, after my return visit,  I left feeling very good.

The trip to the Peloponnese started a number of days before when John and I drove to Heraklion airport with our son, Graham. He had stayed with us for nearly a week.  He was on holiday from his demanding job and so we all had a pretty relaxing time. Whilst much of the time was spent quietly at the house,

with Graham playing, what is really his piano,

we did attend an INCO lecture in Ag Nik on the subject of the Cretan resistance in the Second World War. We also joined others to pick up a lot of plastic which the rather strange weather had blown into the beach at Tholos.

It was a very visual and worrying reminder of how much plastic is used in our society today. The biggest surprise that morning was that Graham disappeared after all the rubbish was removed and was to be seen swimming off towards the island of Pseira at a great rate!

After leaving Graham at the airport, we carried onto the port, from where we and our car travelled overnight on the ferry to Pireaus.

The next morning after a good nights sleep,  John drove to Athens airport, using the satnav in our new Suzuki Ignis for the first time. There we met  our friend, Dave, who flew there from Upsala, Sweden. And so we started our exploration of parts of the Peloponnese that we missed the previous year.

We stayed in Sparta where on the first night, we experienced extraordinary rain.  Unusual extremes of weather were to be a theme of our trip. The next day the sun shone and we travelled to Monemvasia. This day was nearly as wonderful as the day in Olympia!  Monemvasia is a big rock, joined to the mainland by a causeway and it is magical.

We drank coffee in the square and visited the Byzantine church where we learned about about a stolen icon which had been returned to the church.  John and I walked to the upper Byzantine village and then I continued to the top of the hill where I had this wonderful view.

There were flowers everywhere and hardly any people.

I stayed for as long as I could! On the way down, I had great views of the settlement.

While John and  I had been to the Sparta acropolis last year, it was a pleasure to show it to Dave on this trip, the next day.

 

We also went to Mistras again and this time I did reach the castle at the top

and marvelled again at the buildings

and the frescoes.

We drove on through the wonderful mountains to reach Kalamata and then on towards our destination, Methoni, on the third prong of the Peloponnese. We stopped at a small village, where we ate a late, light lunch. Then the rain started and we waited for it to stop.

It didn’t and so we got back into the car and I started to drive. The rain became heavier with thunder and lightning, which turned to hailstones, then sleet and then snow! The date was 18th April!  As if the weather wasn’t enough to deal with, warning lights came up on the information screen in the car, indicating that the pressure on two of the tyres was very low. This is an example of when information that is supposed to be useful is, in some circumstances, an added stress!!!!  By the time, we arrived in Methoni, the sky was blue. For good reasons, I have no pictures of the snow but I have two witnesses who can back up my story!

Vasilliki’s apartment in Methoni was very nice and we sat outside on the balcony in the sunshine.

The next day, the sun shone and we decided to visit Methoni castle and then to have a beach afternoon. Methoni Castle is fabulous.

The huge site has a perfect location right beside the sea

and the ground was covered in wild flowers of all colours.

I just loved it. Afterwards John and I enjoyed a perfect afternoon on the beach. Hard to think that it had been snowing the day before!

The sea was cold but it was inviting enough for a dip! In the evening we went to a traditional taverna recommended by Vassiliki, It served only grilled meat and salad and chips. It was delicious and the bill for three came to 30 euros. When we left at 9.30 the taverna was completely full. I am a big fan of this type of taverna!!!

So then onto Olympia, after a visit to Pylos and Navarino Bay, where the British, French and Russian fleets beat the Turkish, Egyptian and Tunisian fleet in 1827. We paid our respects to Admiral Codrington, the  British Admiral in charge of the British fleet

and drove on up the lovely coastline towards Olympia.

Two days later, we were in Ancient Corinth  and we  marvelled at the wonderful site there, once again covered in beautiful wild flowers.

The temple of Apollo was the most prominent building,

but there were also two theatres,  a fountain and much more to see. And whilst Acrocorinth, situated on a hill above the old town, was closed, we could see clearly the impressive ruins of the fortification and I found there something suspiciously like Scottish thistles.

The AirB&B owner, Georgia had left us some wonderful, huge oranges which were the sweetest I have ever tasted. The apartment was next to a huge field of oranges. Paradise!

Next day, we were at Athens airport after a quick visit to the Corinth canal. There was no boat going through but it is an impressive site.

After leaving Dave at the airport, we drove to Glyfada on the way to the port. We stopped for lunch and the only place we found, the Ark,  turned out to be one of the top 36 restaurants in Greece!

We were were very under dressed for this experience but we did enjoy some wonderful, expensive food there!!!!  John had prepared well so that we were in good time and at the right place to get onto the ferry. Our cabin seemed to have been upgraded so it was a very pleasant journey home.

Whilst, John and I have seen most of the sites we wanted to see in the Peloponnese, I would not rule another visit sometime. We saw fascinating buildings, wonderful flowers and spectacular landscapes and met very friendly people along the way. But we have still a lot to see in Greece so maybe it won’t be a priority for a while. But it was so good to go back to Olympia and reflect on where the last forty-five years had gone!

 

Sheila