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GREECE  29/5-12/6 1998  DIARY  3

Map  Plan

                     Diary 1 2 3



 From Diary 2 I now get to the southern part of the country.
Day 9. Taxi to the airport, flying to Athens, where I have to wait for 2 hours on the train to the Pennelope Peninsula. Time spend with trying pants in the pants quarter. Train on time. My sideman is an Albanian officer, who sits with his translater and uses me as a sample cloth. No I'm not married, yes it's hot today, now you're in a good mood. That's what I'm thinking of, because of Monty Python's sketch on the same subject.

Athens' industrial district extends far along the railroad, but eventually fields takeover between the heavily polluting factories. We pass several major refineries and other heavy industry such as shipyards. Finally we get to plantations, small towns, meadows and pretty barren small mountains.

I share the wagon with a bunch of back-packers, the first group I've seen, and they are from the US. Suddenly we cross the long-awaited Corinthian Canal. It's really BIG. There are more and more citrus plantations , the temperature is rising slightly and many living fences are of cactus or agave. The hillsides along the road are fairly barren, but there are many pillar-pines, between the white limestone.

I had taken it for granted, that the Americans were leaving at the same small station as me. Here is one of the peninsula's sights namely: Diakofto track. I'm over before I discover it, and no more trains are guaranteed today, and even if there were, the last Diakofto train will be run. Instant planning, and I can see the track on the way back.

Drive for free to Patras, the 3rd largest city in Greece. There are 2 hours for the next train, so I'll hit the town. The mandatory castle on top. The most exciting thing is a Wall-gecko. Huge church with frescoes everywhere. Ruined by Odeion and Galan o 'Polo's rich villas.

The town is pretty Saturday closed so the 2 hours were appropriate. However, the train is delayed after a short drive; some accident. In the fields, wine and corn are dominant.
My itinerary is transferred to small Post-It patches. It makes it incredibly flexible. Full days can be torn out or moved. The landscape changes character; very flat with corn and olive groves and very unspoiled nature.

Pyrgos, I walk across town to the bus station. Why lie train and bus station next to each other when there is a small unimaginable back alley, well hidden by the road where there is no space. In the 1½ hour that passes to the bus, I get to see all of Pyrgos closed business district, the huge splendid square, 2 weddings, the elderly residents' promenade in black clothes and the young's tight colourful clothes.

Arrive at Olympia city tourist trap long after dark, but find a humble hotel and dinner. Sitting and watching the passing locals and tourists from my balcony, ½ meter above street level, and straight out as I write a diary.
If you had been two, and a bottle of Ouzo 12, it could have been quite nice. Now it's almost boring, and I go to bed.

Day 10. Old Olympia is just outside the modern city. Earthquakes, fires, demolitions and the ravages of time have taken a toll on the otherwise amazing buildings. Of several of them, only the ground floor remains. Others have been partially restored but not much. The 2-meter-thick pillars of Zeus Temple are still impressive, even though they are like a stack of toppled giant biscuits.

The entrance to the original Olympic Stadium is well preserved, but inside is only a start and finish line for the 120 meter race, the judge's seat and some grassy slopes that have been stands.
There are two busloads of tourists, but they do not fill much. The area is partially populated with large trees and loads of lizards. I drop the museum and go back to town along a small undisturbed river. Here are plenty of frogs, birds and insects.

Inside the city, there are no tourists and only one other back-packer. He has totally ignored me since we arrived last night. Last night, when I arrived, the tourist office was closed, and today Sunday, it still remain closed. Outside sits a blackboard with information on the busses. I will continue to Tripolis, and according to the board, there will be buses 8;40, 12;40 and 17;40. If I had known that Olympia was so easy to see, I probably would have bet on the morning bus. Now I slept for a long time, see Olympia (both old and new tourist hell), and it was only 10. Arms with patience, I can't be lucky every time.

It turn 12;40 and then 13;40. So the noon bus does not run on Sundays. Strolling out into nature, through olive groves, over sheep fields and through small forests. It is very hot, the sun is shining from a cloudless sky, the insects are buzzing, the turtles are in the shade. I have walked a long way, am tired, and at a weak moment I am actually considering going into the air-conditioned museum. I resist and take a cup of coffee in the main street. Re-planning my travel plans. The patch of Diros caves and Viatha down on the Mani Peninsula are dropped. I also drop the Amphitheater in Epidaurus, not so much by time, as by lack of desire. Sure, Athens brooches will be enough.

The city is not really that pleasant to be in. There are only tourist shops (but no tourists, other than me). In addition, they are putting electricity lines in the ground, so large machines work and ooze everywhere, even on a Sunday.
Finally, a bus pops up among the construction machinery and that's the right one. We drive 5 minutes before the scheduled time, but I'm the last one to complain. There's only me, the driver and the ticket guy, they speak perfectly good English, and we'll have a chat.

It will be an unforgettable trip through some wild mountains. Narrow canyons suddenly open to valleys, where you can see 100 kilometres. A new turn and you drive in the middle of a vertical hillside, several hundred meters down to the rushing river, while the mountain protrudes over the bus. We snail around the turns, which are built for smaller vehicles.

From time to time we come to small terrace-cultivated fields that warn a small mountain town. One of them is called Dafni. Watching harlequin quails, a hare and a lot of birds. A valley is completely dominated by up to 1000 bee hives. In between, locals get into the bus, which simply drives to one of the next small towns. One has a cassette tape with which we hear at the bus facility. Like all other music: Musakka, but in a very modern design.

After 3½ hours of incredibly exciting driving, we end up in Tripolis. I simply have to shake the driver's hand, and thank him for the coolest ride I've ever had. I've seen mountains that are 3 times as high, mountains that have been completely covered by impenetrable primeval forest, mountains that have been far more wild, but never had a more beautiful and exciting ride.

Arrive at one of Tripoli's bus terminals 20;47, and by taxi, I reach the last bus to Sparta 20;50. Here I arrive at my hotel so I can see Jan Magnussen driving in destination number 6 in the Le Mans.
Washes clothes, eats and cuddles around the bland city before bed.

Day 11. Head out to an amphitheatre and an Acropolis just outside the city. These are some rather pitiful remains, but the scenery is beautiful. I make a loop around town through olive and citrus groves. Learning: There are no blind roads, only roads that become difficult to walk.

Inside the city again, I find the bus stop to Mystras. Here are 4 Dutch gray-haired ladies. They have seen a great deal of the world, and have a view of life that seems familiar.
Mystras is pretty new. It was founded on the old classic Sparta in 1249 by the Turks. The Byzantines built the pasture and the Venetians continued. At one point, 40,000 people wwere lived here. Impressively large area with almost intact castles, palaces and commercial streets. The churches are completely intact and still working. The steep paved streets, slates, arches, wells, and the wood-legged boulder walls are mood-saturated, but after working my way up to the top, and down again in 1½ hours, I have had enough of the pieces.

Get a lift down to the village with a motorbike. Have a cup of coffee and see the city's 15 houses, while I wait for 1 hour on the bus. Sometimes I feel that I spend more time waiting for buses, than watching the sights I race around. I have no doubt that I spend more time on buses, but I see a lot from the buses.

The bus driver is nice, and drives me all the way down to the other bus station. Talk to 2 Italians in the 10 minutes I wait for the bus. Driving to Tripoli, and had been planning to take a taxi to the other station. It turns out this bus continues. I am so surprised that I forget to buy a ticket.

On the way to Corinth we pass the castle ruins of Nemia and Corinth, each on its own summit. So if anyone asks, then I've seen them...

We get to Corinth, and are I jump off right by the canal. Taking a taxi to the train station, where I have to wait 7 minutes for the last train of the day, which even goes by express to Diakofto. This time, I'm watching closely, so I'll get to the right place.

In Diakofto they have been good at waiting for my delayed train, so the last departure of the day is a ½ hour delayed. There is just no one but me, and then an elderly couple, who have been waiting a long time to come along.
Good room in the train. 2 wagons with a separate diesel engine in the middle. Beneath the engine are some horizontal gears that pull us over the worst climbs.

We mainly run in a 50 meter wide and 300 meter deep gorge. Many tunnels, half tunnels on vertical hillsides, the river at the bottom showers over large boulders. Small flimsy iron bridges cross over and over. There is a small station halfway, and a few more passengers arrive. The trip is fantastic, but after yesterday's bus trip, I'm hard to impress.

Driving back to Diakofto, where I try to buy a ticket for today's last train to Egio. The station can't give back my 5000 drachma banknote ($ 120), nor does the grocery store, so I have to go into the bar to exchange. I think I just misses the train, but it was fortunately ½ hour delayed.

Talk to 2 German girls, who are on their way home from Israel. Gives them a few tips on what's exciting in the area and borrows their guidebook. There is also no line about Egio. The reason I want to Egio is; there is a dotted line to the mainland which I believe is a ferry line. If that's true, I can save the trip over Athens to get to Delphi (4-500 km). So I gamble, and drive away from Athens. Interrupt the pleasant talk with the Germans, and jump off at what I think is the right station.

That it is, and the port is easy to find. The darkness is closing in, and I dare not hope more ferries go. It does, because it waits for a truck that sails every night. Sitting on the sun deck in the last rays of sun, with a gingerbread and a cup of coffee. Standing on the bridge looking out over the strait as a small flock of dolphins suddenly appear along the ferry.

After an hour, we land in a small port city where my luck eventually runs out. There are no more buses today. I finally finding a place to sleep: 2 bedroom apartment with kitchen and all. 130 kroner for one night! Have dinner at a nearby snack, where they think the first bus of the morning is at 7 o'clock, the next at 10 o'clock

Day 12. Sleeps badly, but I had set an alarm clock. Get up at 6am and walk slowly down to the bus station. Arrive at the same time as the bus, which apparently goes 6;40, not 7;00. We drive to the next small spot where everyone changes bus. Moving on to a slightly bigger village, and the same show repeats itself.

Finally in Delphi, which is dominated by the Acropolis Rally. It is part of the World Cup Rally, and is considered the hardest. The cars are there, the helicopters are there, the the lines are there, the whole circus is in place. I see a little race, and then take the bus out to the old Delphi.

We get set off in the tourist town of Old Delphi, and then with the help of a single sign, find the ruins. I'm accompanied by a British lady, who is exceptionally great. We get out the wrong way, but see a lot of flowers and the largest Greek land turtle, I have ever seen. She tells me that the Lord and her sail 9 months a year, and are only at home (OK - the castle) in the middle of summer. Incidentally, it is only when she refers to the man as the Lord that she admits that she is really a lady. She is light-heartedly intelligent, has a great ability to watch and a bubbly humour.

We finally find the ruins, she buys a photo-filled book about the area, and we explore it together. What I find most exciting is Sybil's Stone. A large limestone boulder that is overgrown with ivy. It is, according to the legend of this stone, that the first divination was uttered, 1600 years BC.

There are shrines, treasuries, temples, the Senate, paved streets, great walls and the amphitheatre. Then there are lizards, large zebra striped butterflies, chickadees, a small kneel mantra and a greenish toad.
We return to the tourist trap, after seeing this neat and clear collection of ruins. From a terrace there is a magnificent view of the large valley. It looks like an ocean. These are olive trees that cover the entire bottom of the valley but stop abruptly at the foot of the mountains.

We say goodbye and I hop on a bus to Arkova. Here I wait 15 minutes while a thunderstorm comes rolling between the mountains. Heading towards Athens, where first large wildernesses is dominated by flowering broom, then sunflower fields and little plantations, then industry along the road. When I think about it now, there are astonishingly few cows and pigs I have seen in Greece.

In Athens I find a city bus with a German. We drive into the city centre, and I find the hotel Tempi. Here I get a room right upstairs under the ceiling on the 5th floor. Here is quiet, bright, fresh air and great views of the Acropolis hill.
I make a small loop past Athens' bazaar and trade area, and suddenly feel that 2 days might be too little?
My relaxed pants fall a bit outside of Athens so I shop for clothes. Black Greek military pants, sweat shirt, T-shirt and other little things.
In the evening everything but tourist cafes and restaurants die out. Strolling around a bit, but it's really fun when you're alone.

Day 13. Being awakened by the neighbour; the bells of a church ring the bell at 7;30, and it's a good time to start the day. In the church courtyard, there is a beautiful flower market. The scents are overwhelming, the colours incredible. I walk down to Athens big meat- and fish market. Far from as exciting as those along the equator. On the way away from the covered square, I encounter large areas of seafood, pets, vegetables, fruits, sausages, nuts. Then the shops start with pots and pans, followed by plastic for the household. It is becoming more and more special; 3-4 streets deal with door and drawer handles and nothing else! Of course, it is smart if you find the right neighbourhood.

Sticking my nose into a couple of churches, including the cathedral, but I thought they looked alike. Going through tools and plain clothes, on my way up to the Acropolis mound. Here I see the partially restored ruins of the Acropolis and Parthenon temples. There are also a nice views down 2 amphitheatres, but not much longer. The smog is so dense, even so early in the day, that horizons are completely gone.

I step down from the mound, and find a statue that bears the oldest Corinthian script (334 BC). I just can't find any letters, so I move on through narrow white painted alleys. There are an awful lot of cats in Athens and they are being fed with fish residues here and there.

Coming to the botanical garden, which is more of an inappropriate park of unpowered large trees. A small zoo and an even smaller botanical museum. Returns to the famous flea market, which finally opens. Flea market is so much said, it is rather a street with more or less discount shops.

There is, however, a small square where furniture remnants work, and a small stretch of the street where there are some great antique shops. Then there are a few bikes with all kinds of used metal products. Otherwise it is mainly new clothes, gold / silver, music and souvenirs.

Make a big loop around the centre, but without finding anything new. Even the two back-packers I come across, I have talked with before. These are the Italians and they give me a welcome, that I would have reserved for my rich heirloom.

Outside the tourist centre, the city seems pretty homogeneous. The stores close early, and I have seen most of them. When I see Thomas Cook's travel agent, I go in and book an excursion to Cape Sounion tomorrow. The good Lord Byron has written so astonishingly positive about the sunset there, so I must see it.
To make time go, I try the trolley buses. It turns out to be significantly faster to walk, here in the evening traffic chaos. "Runs" for 15 minutes, and walk back in 5! It's almost a sea of ​​cars; a very quiet sea.

Going back to the tourist centre, which is apparently the only place that is just a little action. A girl is trying to give me a card for a nightclub. We talk, she offers dinner, and we sit out in a square as her boss arrives. No guests have come with her card for 2½ hours. She works on, I zig-zag home and crash.

Day 14. Starts the day watching Agora. It is the old marketplace, with surrounding buildings. Here Socrates went 600 BC. and Sct. Poul (one of Jesus' disciples) rounded and recruited members in the year 49.
The place has been ruined sometimes. The first time it was ravaged was by the Persians in 480 BC. The Scandinavian tribe of the Herulians were "a little" tough at the site in 267 AD. The Turks built their version, but it was toren down the archaeologists in 1967.

There are simply ruins everywhere. Pots, marble scraps, mosaics and lead-glazed glass float everywhere. A few turtles also emerge as the sun's rays become more powerful.
Temple of Hephaestus from 449 BC is fairly intact, but it has also been used for church until recently.
Another tourist shows up in the very large area, so I prefer to go to the museum. Here are finds from some tombs and from some deep wells as well as an impressive collection of marble statues.

On my way through the city, I encounter many excavations of Ancient Athens. Check the airport bus stop and time as well as flight time. Get to know, I have to be there 2 hours before departure. Or not; so exciting is their airport not.

Walking around new areas without seeing new things. After all, 2 days turns out to be plenty to see Athens. Must be picked up for the Sounion ride in front of a large hotel. Here is a Maserati with the alarm running. 120dB, so I pull a little down the street. Ask a trader ask how long the alarm has run? Since this morning, and now is 15 o'clock.

Talk to the hotel manager. We lock ourselves in the car, I open the engine compartment and while I stuff a T-shirt into the horn, a somewhat excited Italian comes rushing. He allows himself to be swindled by me and the director.

I've waited an hour, and haven't seen a tourist bus in the street yet, so I walk up to Thomas Cook and ask if the ride is cancelled. She calls, and I am told they have been waiting for me for 10 minutes. The wait, the alarm, the Italian and now this makes my mood turn into controlled anger. I get the phone and explain to the guy at the other end, that I've been waiting close to the entrance to the hotel and there have been no buses other than city buses. He says; no of course, I came walking. Then I would guide you over to the square where the bus stops. Why the hell couldn't I meet him there? He switches to Greek. I speak very loud English, or speak American, those words are not heard in English movies!

The company policy is that you can't get money back, so I feel like a little victory, as I walk from there with mine. Walk to the bus stop for the public bus to Sounion. Wait for 50 minutes and then drive for a few hours. The first in Athens, the second on a beautiful coastal road. We get to Cape Sounion, which has been inhabited for the past 12,000 years.

I take a stroll around the totally deserted peninsula. The sea 50 meters below me is bright blue, the emerald lizard strolling around the wind-shaped small bushes. A couple of falcons patrol, the swallows chirp, and despite the sea breeze and the low sun, are wonderful here. On my way back to the ruins, I pass the site's only new building; a restaurant. Here I get the most expensive coffee of the holiday; 25 kroner, and then without water!

The sun descents between the pillars of the temple and everything breathes idly. Tonight's last bus pushes down the turning ground and I roll back to Athens. Here I finally find a restaurant that serves tzatziki. It's in the middle of the tourist street, but the bill surprises me anyway. Bread, tzatziki and cutlery. 3 sums, each of which could have bought me a 3 course menu. And then, by the way, it didn't taste like anything.

It does not matter; I am heading home tomorrow : I have had enough of Greece and Greeks. I spent a total of about 55 hours on busses, been out in all corners of the Greek mainland, sailed, flown, trotted and drive various vehicles.
Greece is exciting when you consider it lies in Europe. The time of year was perfect; good weather, beautiful flowers and no tourists.

The food cost 1500, bus / train / taxi 1600, hotel 1700, entrance 170, domestic flight 430, flight 1600 = 7000 kroner total.
Maybe I should have spent a little more on food; I lost weight from 67 to 58 kilos!

On me: Clock / Compass, Photo + leash, Trousers, Sailing shoes, T-shirt, Socks, Underpants, + Backpack:
toilet room
Deo, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Barber, Pen
Things: Writing paper, Sunscreen, Phone list, Passport, Ticket, Visa card, Washing powder, Swiss knife, Extra film, [H / M pills, Nail clips, Earplugs, Needle / thread, Dry cord],
Clothing: Underpants, T-shirt, Shorts. About 970 grams in total.

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