The Peloponnese - Nafplio and Olympia
On what must've been... Friday, I left Athens for Nafplio, "one of Greece's prettiest towns," according to Lonely Planet. It is a small, heavily Venetian-influenced town on the Mitroon Sea. I hadn't exactly set out intending to go there, but having arrived at Terminal A in Athens just before 7am, I couldn't bear the thought of waiting 'til 9:30 for the bus to Olympia.
While I waited for my 8am departure, I had my first Greek coffee. I'm not going to use that particular coffee as my benchmark for what appears to be a hugely popular Greek drink. I am, however, beginning to understand why the espresso-type coffee is also served with a glass of water.
After being directed by the tourist office and numerous locals to the Hotel Economou, I dumped my 17kg appendage and went for a walk... and that's pretty much all I did for the rest of the day. I walked past the start of the 1000-step climb to the Fortress of Palamidi (built by the Venetians between 1711 and 1714), but to be honest, after my two full-on days in Athens, was a little historied-out. Instead, I walked around the headland, enjoying the view. The beaches are very pretty - but so rocky!
[the Bases of Zanes]
Another highlight was, of course, seeing Hera's Altar - where the Olympic flame is lit every four years.
To make up for the morning's failed attempt (and what better place?) I went for a jog before dinner. I met George the Jogger - a jewellery seller who'd run with the flame four times. He gave me a postcard to prove it and everything. Too funny...
That night, I packed my bags as best I could because - once again - I was intending to be up before dawn to continue my tour of Greece.
What a long day! I got up at 5:30 and snuck out of the hostel (having checked the night before that I would be able to get out!), and sat at the "bus stop" (the statue on the corner that I'd been told to wait at - Greek buses are weird), enjoying my breakfast as the sun crept over the horizon. The bus was supposed to be there at 6:30. It wasn't.
[dawn at the "bus stop" in Olympia]
Luckily, after walking the length of the main drag, I just so happened to be passing the train station as the train pulled in. Six-and-a-half hours, and foru train changes later (should've been three, but I jumped ship one stop early) and I was in Pireas. I bought my ticket for the 3 o'clock ferry, grabbed a spinach and fetta pie thing (calories be damned), and boarded the boat. It was such a relief to be on that darn boat! I met a nice Chinese girl named Chris, and an Aussie couple, and we bonded over our dislike of the way smoking inside is acceptable in Greece. It isn't until you can't escape cigarette smoke that you realise how lucky you are to live in a country like Australia!
I pulled out my sleeping bag and used it as a pillow, and used my very useful thus far sleeping sheet - and after popping in my earplugs, managed to actually sleep pretty soundly until 6am!
[my great rock climbing adventure]
I headed back into town and called home - my 5 euro phone card is like the Enegiser Bunny! I was feeling a little down - lonely, I guess - but then a donkey clip-clopped past, and I couldn't help but laugh.
I spent the afternoon figuring out ferry schedules (I've decided just to go to Mykonos and not Naxos - it's just too expensive), and eating a delicious salad sandwich (fresh veggies - hooray!). At around 3pm I took the bus to Perissa beach and sat on a dodgy banana loung for a while, reading and enjoying the view (that is, when my chair wasn't collapsing under me). I walked along the black pebbled beach and then headed to the bus stop.
The bus was, of course, running late, but I got chatting to a nice woman from Athens named Maria. The bus eventually turned up and I headed back to the camp ground for an early night. As the sun goes down at around 8:30 and I don't have a torch, this was my bed time. I woke at 10:45, thinking it was dawn! I didn't sleep as well as on the boat, but the more money I save now, the more fun I can have in Paris. I've decided to try and spend as little as possible in the next few days, and try not to withdraw any more money until Sunday when I head to France. We shall see how this goes...
My second morning in Santorini was much nicer than the first. I got up at 7am and headed for Oia - and this time was successful! I don't know where I took the right turn, but all of a sudden I was north of the peak I'd climbed the day before... and it turned out to be far less impressive a climb than I'd thought - I'd only gone up the top eight of it, if that!
[ha - not such an impressive climb after all]
But the walk to Oia was lovely, and I had three dogs follow me (and lead me at times), so I had a great time.
[my guide dogs, nicknamed Buddy, Other Guy and Blondie (not in picture)]
After looking around Oia for a little while (pretty, bug again more cafes and souvenir shops), and then waited for over an hour for the bus back to Fira. by the time I was back at the campground I was freezing cold, so took a long, hot shower. On my way back into town, I popped into the camp office and met "the boss." I asked whether, if it rained (which it looked like it might), there might be an alternate form of accommodation. He laughed, said it wouldn't rain, but showeed me their dorm room (which I hadn't known existed) and said that if it did rain, I could stay there. I then paid the recetionist - who I think was Italian because he said "ciao" and spoke only in English to his boss - for my two nights. He tried to charge me 5 euros per night just for hirin gthe tent! When I balked he said it would be 2.50. So much for his "it is only a tent - it will not be much" from the day before.
So, in a less than happy mood I set off to find a supermarket to buy my next few days' meals. I got a little lost, and the spitting rain turned to showers, so when I returned to the camp ground, soaking wet, I chucked a rather impressive tanty at "the boss" and the receptionist, and they let me stay in one of their proper rooms (somehow the dorm was forgotten) for free. I was so cold and wet, I just hopped into bed and read for the rest of the evening, listening to the rain and wind and thanking my lucky stars I was inside.
We were back to check out by noon, and then began the mammoth ten- and twelve-and-a-half hour waits for our ferries. With backpacks, it's a little difficult to really go anywhere!
We waited until the sun had set, then caught a taxi to the seemingly very new (and therefore makeshift) "New Port." I said goodbye to Kat, and boarded my boat. I met a lovely guy from Terrigal, and we both tried to sleep - with a football match blaring on the TV til 1:30am.
[Mykonos's famous windmills... with no sails...?]
Back in Athens
I checked into the good old Victor Hugo, showered (ah, luxury), and set off into town to post some things home that I've been intending to post for ages. Three hours later, and I am trying to remind myself that I really do like Athens - a beautiful city that should not be judged by those working at the local post office!