Sunday, September 7, 2014

The rest of the Peloponnese

Sorry to write so much! We have already done so much that I got carried away. More pictures and less words on Instagram! @cottingh1234 and @stephenlynnw. Our profiles are public but I think you do have to set up an account to view them.

We left Delphi behind and drove to Ancient Olympia on Thursday. Day one of driving hadn't been so bad because it was first on modern toll freeways and then on slow, windy roads which are pretty much the same everywhere. Day 2 in the car introduced me to a new style of driving: highways Greek style. There are 1.5 lanes each direction--in the US that is a 2 lane road with wide shoulders. Here, the shoulder is the "slow traffic" lane with slow defined as anything less than 2x the speed limit. Passing happens constantly and without regard for whether or not passing is allowed in that section. It was a bit troubling at first but by the time we turned in the car today, I too was passing trucks on blind curves and taking the posted limits as a mere suggestion.

The bridge across the gulf of Corinth is SPECTACULAR, by the way. There was nowhere to pull over and take pictures (though Steve got a few as we were crossing), so go and google it now!

We stayed above Ancient Olympia in Ancient Pissa at an adorable pension. Everyplace in Greece is ancient. We were hot from the drive and so we put on our swimsuits and attempted to make use of the pool, only to have clouds roll in, so we went upstairs. The rain stopped quickly, but as the clouds rolled out, 3 families of Italians rolled in and took over the pool. Italians take over every place they go. And they do it stylishly, even if their guts hang over their speedos.

We drank some wine and hung out until dinner. Our pension was known for having a great tavern, so we looked forward to dinner. It was good. But not great. My lamb was amazing. Steve's pork was a little overcooked. But overall, tasty. Wine comes by the liter here and the pitchers of house wine are better than you would think. Then again, I am on vacation, which impairs objectivity on such matters.

Ancient Olympia was fascinating. Every Greek site has layers of history spanning just about 4 centuries and multiple distinct civilizations have left traces. This site was in continuous use for a thousand years of Olympic games. And before and after for other uses. The modern Olympics is not even 150 years old yet.

After we finished with the site and museum it was still early, so we decided to see if we could find a winery the cute girl at the wine bar in Athens gave us information about. A 40 minute drive through the country and tiny villages and we found Mercouri Estates. The woman there was exhausted from long harvest days but poured through their collection for us and I was impressed. All the bottles were about $10 or less. After we finished tasting she pointed us down to a beach. I knew we weren't far from the coast but didn't know it was so close. We hiked down to a lovely secluded little beach. I stuck my feet in the water--Mediterranean? Adriatic perhaps? And then we hiked back up and took pictures of the grapes, an old Citroen parked out back and a lazy Dog du Bordeaux that was their winery dog. We bought 2 bottles of wine and headed back.

We decided to get dinner across town at the best rated place on TripAdvisor. It was a highlight. Although I will say, the pork (the specialty) was still a little overcooked. I'm sensing a theme. Time to move on to chicken. The veggies were all delicious. And key to Greek cooking is to cover everything in an thick layer of fresh olive oil. Don't bother trying this back home. I don't think they export this olive oil. Or it does not taste as good after it crosses the ocean.

We spent a second night in Olympia and then left the next morning for sight seeing enroute to Nafplion. We had a bit of an issue with the GPS that seemed to keep routing us up back roads through little towns only to spill back out onto the same highway we had gotten off of (at the GPS's command of course). We wondered how much time we had lost. The good thing about driving in Greece, though, is that all the road seem to connect. If you take a wrong turn the road will take you to the next town and at worst you travel in a circle (much worse things can happen to you if you get lost in CA). And it's hard to know when you are in fact taking the fast way because sometimes the crappy 2 lane road badly in need of repaving is the only road.

But we made it to ancient Mycenae which I have been dying to visit since college. The lion gate was really impressive. Most of the booty that Schlieman thought was Trojan War era is back in Athens but we had stopped to see that before we left Athens. The intact tomb structure "tomb of Agamemnon" was also very impressive.

Next we went to Epidaurus which has the best preserved ancient Greek theater. Wildly impressive! I'm sure it's not comfortable, but they still have live performances here and the acoustics are amazing. How cool would it be to watch Oedipus Rex in a 2300 year old Greek theater?

Next it was on to Nafplion. By this point we had taken to talking back to the GPS. "No, I'm not turning around. The sign points that way!" (That is when we were being nice.) We pulled into one of the most adorable towns ever. I'm sure Italy is lousy with towns like this. Here is where I really regretted getting the larger car as we attempted to navigate down alleys that could scarcely accommodate 4 full grown adults abreast. So I dropped Steve as far up the road as I felt I could drive with out hitting anything and then I parked the car elsewhere. (By the way, parking is free and more or less legal anywhere you can fit your car in Greece for as long as you care to leave it.) When I returned I found that while our hotel was on that street, reception was at the top about 10 flights of stairs up. Poor Steve dragged our bags all the way up only to then learn that our room was back down on the lowest level.

Nafplion is a cute seaside town full of tourists from abroad and all over Greece. 3 Venetian fortresses surround it and hills, of course. We had a another wonderful dinner of octopus, Greek salad, saganaki (fried cheese) flambé, meatballs, and of course wine. Just .5 liters of wine because we had already consumed one of the bottles we scored at Mercouri. We walked around, window shopped, found the gelato place, and called it a night. Sunday morning we took a morning stroll. It was already getting hot. Time to head back towards Athens to catch our flight to Crete.

We had some time to kill so we asked one of the Zotos brothers (proprietors of our hotel) what we should do on our way to the airport. He recommended stopping in Nemea. I had seen Nemea on the map and secretly really wanted to stop there because that is also the name of our awesome local Greek spot in downtown SJ. So we headed over (wary of the GPS) and explored ancient Nemea. This was the site of yet another of the Pan Hellenic games (there were several). More importantly there are lots of wineries just off the main drag. We found one that looked particularly lively and we totally scored because not only did we get to do a tasting, but they had a barbeque going on and we were hungry. The area is also just simply gorgeous. It's kind of like Paso Robles with ancient ruins and a red roofed/white stuccoed village.

On our way out of town we hit the last stadium (our 4th ancient stadium) for some gorgeous views of the area and headed back to the airport. Driving in Greece is easy once you get used to it, but expensive. We covered about 600 miles and paid about €20 in freeway tolls, a whopping €13.20 bridge toll, and €125 for gas. Not to mention the €200+ rental cost. Having your own wheels in a foreign country: priceless 😁

No comments:

Post a Comment