We left Larissa heading for a campsite at Kato Gatzea on the west side of the Pelion peninsular. We needed a washing machine and a quiet day both of which we found at Camping Hellas (N39.309707 E23.107924) Lunch in the beachside restaurant was, basically, fish. Gavros (small fried fish like whitebait but a bit bigger) followed by grilled Dorado. The Greek salad was the only concession to a vegetable. All delicious though.
The following day we drove further south toward the tip of the peninsular stopping a couple of times to see if we wanted to stop the night. Nowhere was too appealing so we thought we’d set off over the Pelion mountains to Cherefto, a tiny village next to a sandy beach on the east of the peninsular The Pelion` mountains aren’t that high, the road over peaks at about 1000m but the roads are twisting and narrow and unsurfaced in parts so by the time we arrived at Cherefto (N39.454620 E23.120860) we’d had enough driving for the day. Of course the next day we had to drive back over again via a different road to get to Volos, a busy coastal port and the only outlet to the sea from Thessaly, which is Greece’s largest agricultural region. The views of the city as you drop down from the mountains are spectacular. We found a parking space on the edge of town next to a small beach (N39.350741 E22.962230).
Further south on Wednesday with a stop at Thermopylae on the way to pay our respects to Leonidas. In 480 BC Leonidas set off from Sparta with a force of 300 Spartan soldiers and 900 Helots who were the dominant population of Sparta but enjoyed low status to say the least and would best be described as conscripted men. By the time Thermopylae was reached Leonidas’ army had swelled to somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 men. Unfortunately they faced an invading Persian army led by Xerxes numbering 300,000 soldiers. Leonidas and his men repulsed the Persian army and held the pass for 6 days until a Greek traitor, Ephialtes, led the Persians via a mountain track to the rear of the Greeks. Leonidas was killed in the ensuing battle but rather than leave his body to the Persians the remaining Spartans drove back Xerxes men four times and retrieved his body. There’s an immense statue of the man and an interesting visitor centre there now which is well worth a visit. We stopped the night further east at Livanates (N38.708534 E23.062540), a quiet unremarkable coastal village which looked like it would be busy in the summer.
Now, although we’ve been to Greece three times before in the motorhome we’ve never visited Athens, mainly because we couldn’t find anywhere secure to park the van. This time we did a little more research and discovered a secure car park facility in Piraeus, a five minute walk to the Metro which took 20 minutes to take us into the Centre of Athens, perfect. We arrived and were met by Marie and her husband Vangellis who showed us where to park, gave us a twenty minute lecture on Greek history, a map on which she marked the places we should visit and her phone number in case we had any problems. All for €13 a night (N37.947559 E23.645707). We took the metro and visited most of the main tourist sites - the changing of the guard outside the parliament building, the Roman Agora, the Ancient Agora, the National Gardens and the cluster of white painted cottages in the Anafiotika quarter which nestle in the hillside beneath the Acropolis. The Temple of Olympian Zeus (the largest Temple ever built), Hadrian’s Arch and the Monastiraki flea market. We walked for hours and finally took the Metro back to Piraeus. Marie told us the best time to visit the Acropolis was early morning or late evening so the following day we made an early start and arrived at the Acropolis by 9.30am. By the time we left a couple of hours later it was packed.
We have over the last few years visited Delphi, Ancient Dion, Epidavros and a few smaller archeological sites but nothing prepared us for the Acropolis. The sheer scale of the buildings takes your breath away and the 360 degree views over the city are amazing. The main buildings, the Parthenon and the temple of Poseidon are undergoing massive renovation programmes which will take many years to complete. We walked back down to the Acropolis museum which houses many of the statues and artefacts recovered from the site and spent another couple of hours there. It was Phil’s birthday, not many folk visit the Acropolis on their birthday eh?
When we had arrived at the car park in Piraeus we were parked next to a French motorhome but had seen no sign of life; it seemed abandoned but late in the evening when we returned from the Acropolis a taxi arrived and a young French couple with two small daughters emerged. We spoke to them and they told us they had been at the hospital for 5 days whilst their youngest daughter, aged about 18 months, had been treated for a serious urinary infection. They had stayed at the hospital all the time and were exhausted. Marie had looked after their van for them, had visited them at the hospital and later that evening took them all home with her and gave them an evening meal. Another example of the generosity of the Greek people.
After two days walking in Athens we thought we deserved a few days of doing not very much so headed off for the Blue Dolphin campsite on the coast about 5 miles west of Corinth, (N37.935527 E22.865461). We’ve stopped here a few times before and although the site is a little tired and could do with a lick of paint at the very least we are always given a warm welcome by Peter and his family. We arrived last Sunday and we’re still here. The plan is to stay another day and then visit ancient Mycenae on Friday and then head further south into the Peloponnese.
Last evening as the sun set I saw some fish splashing out in the bay so picked up the rod, scrambled over the rocks and had a few casts. Took me a minute or two to realise that the mosquitos were feasting on my legs so I gave up on the fishing and smeared some anti histamine cream on. My Mum used to say she could see a purpose for all God’s creatures except flies. I’m not so sure about that but I started to Google mosquitos to see what benefit they were, or might be, to humans and what part they play in the food chain. Interesting reading but this is the bit I wanted to see - “In summary, the mosquito species that spread disease are not essential parts of any food web or chain and are humanity's worst foe. Kill them with impunity.”