A Travellerspoint blog

Greece

Italy

One of the last places we visited in Greece was the site of Ancient Olympia. We were in a bit of a hurry as we had to make a ferry to Italy but we did manage to see the site.P1040260

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It is spread over a fairly large area and typical of these sites it must have been amazing when it was new :) just joking! P1040236

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To be in a place where it all began was pretty special so we marked the occasion with a bit of Aussie flair and decided to have a plugger race in the Ancient stadium. True to form, the result wasn't without controversy. P1040242

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The favourite looked sharp and cocky on the line while the old hand decided that an early jump was probably the best way to win due to the fact that there was no instant replay in ancient Greece and the inexperienced rookie was there to make up the numbers. The starter gave the order and the old hand raced to a very early lead but was quickly gathered in by youth and inexperience due to hamstring tightness and dodgy ankles. The cocky upstart suffered equipment failure and blew a plugger leaving the rookie to finish the race in classic "Steve Bradbury" style streaking through the competition and claiming the gold. P1040243

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The worst part is he wanted to be chaired from the stadium. P1040257

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We hit Italy and for a few days stuck to the coast and then headed for Naples. Herculaneum was the draw card. Herculaneum was buried by volcanic ash in the same eruption of Mt Vesuvious that destroyed Pompeii however is a smaller site but better preserved and not as well known as Pompeii. It's known for the preserved frescos and the carbonised timber that still exists around the windows and doors of many of the buildings. We spent a day there and found it pretty interesting although after Greece i think the boys are over ruins. We stayed at a camp on the Amalfi coast and what promised to be jaw dropping beautiful was a bit of a disappointment. We are probably spoilt by our own beaches at home and after Croatia and Greece and the fact that nearly any beach on the Amalfi you have to pay to get on was a real head shaker. The scenery is nice but mass tourism has spoilt what was once a beautiful spot. Naples has the highest unemployment in Italy and the highest crime rate to match, couple that with a crime syndicate that is responsible for clearing the cities rubbish but doesn't do it all adds up to a dirty city with rubbish piled everywhere on the streets and a lot of men gathered on street corners with hands in their pockets. We were happy to move north.

Posted by mike1967 00:35 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Greece

sunny 26 °C

Our time in Greece is nearly at an end with one more drive up the coast of the Peloponnese Peninsula. We have spent fifteen days in this country and sadly just as it seems you start to understand a lifestyle, you have to move on. We are already in the habit of buying our bread early and eating it in one day, no preservatives in Greek bread. We take an hour to eat lunch instead of ten minutes and although we can afford to do this with no time constraints it appears that everyone in Greece has a similar idea. What will be, will be and no amount of hurrying will change that. The food has been delicious with one or two exceptions. We had a Mac attack in Athens and a dodgy highway burger somewhere along the way with both leaving us feeling a little ill. Greece has been great for us by forcing us to slow down and look after ourselves a little better. Camping in mostly beach locations has been comfortable as we seem to find we are suited to the water.P1040127

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The sounds of the waves on the beach is familiar and the pace of life has slowed and allowed us to catch up with some sleep and improve our diet again. We have met some great people and had some lovely times. Many Europeans come to Greece year after year and stay in the one place for months at a time bringing everything with them including boats. For them Greece represents an older time when things weren't so hectic and regulations are guides to be followed not absolute law. You can still have a smoke and let your dog walk without a leash, you can bring your dog on a bus or sit in a cafe. This freedom lets old people bring their companion for a walk and allows them to socialise over a coffee early in the morning whilst getting their bread.P1040035

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Enough cannot be said for that kind of interaction where an oldie' will meet with friends everyday for half an hour to check in, laugh, share news or play a game of Tuvley. The government brought in the no smoking law in Greece but it was promptly ignored as i would imagine any other law that effects their lifestyle would be.
The highlights for me in Greece have been Delphi and the Peloponnese. Delphi for it's history and the story of the Oracle, its location in the mountains and the museum make it worthy of being given the "navel of the world" status. P1040101

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The Peloponnese Peninsula for the beautiful drive through mountains, everlasting olive groves and small beachside camping spots with crystal clear water. The people have been very friendly. Greek salad, Calamari and the all time favourite Gyros. It has been a relaxing time and hopefully will not be the last time we are in Greece. I seem to think that about everywhere we go. Andiamo P1040020

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Posted by mike1967 23:56 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Athens

overcast 20 °C

The number one attraction in Athens has to be the Acropolis. It literally dominates the skyline and its what most tourist come to see. The Acropolis is a massive rock outcrop in the centre of the city which itself is dominated by the most photographed of Greek temples.. The Parthenon. The newly constructed museum was first on the cards and typically is filled with antiquities from the original site. The architects constructed the museum over a dig site so you can see students at work. They also re-constructed the frieze that lines the Parthenon within the museum so you can see all of the scenes that are up there or should be up there. They generally depict good over evil and that battles that ensue. A large collection of the frieze panels are in the British museum after Lord Elgin removed them for "safe keeping" and later sold them to the British Government. These are known as the Elgin Marbles and are subject to hot debate as to who are the rightful owners. I believe the Greeks are well capable of looking after their own antiquities just like the Australians demanded the return of bones from the British museum and Egyptians demand the return of their national heritage. The Parthenon has been given a few restorations over the times but more recently the efforts seem to be more about preserving and not replacing or repairing. There are some places where they have replaced a small section to give an idea of what it would look like completed but that is minimal. The work seems painstaking but of an extremely high standard. This was the first real experience that we've had of mass tourism and a hint of the European crowds to come. It was a little uncomfortable with so many tour groups and trying to get a photo without a crowd scene is impossible but well worth seeing anyway. Pat had her birthday in Athens so dinner in the old city and a quick visit to Pandora. It was nice sitting in a cafe' on the street people watching and listening to the music. The food was sensational and way too much leaving us all with that feeling of eating way more than our share. The Plaka region of Athens is the old section and one where most of the tourist sites are. It's typical of most of these old cities with narrow streets loaded with souvenir shops, antique shops and restaurants. Nice place to wander and surprisingly the shopkeepers are very friendly and polite. We have moved on down the coast to see the temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion . We managed to catch the sunset over the water and I think I enjoyed it better than the Parthenon. There were no crowds and although it is much smaller than the Parthenon I think its just as impressive. The Greeks came to this site to farewell their sailors and welcome them home, to listen for news and pray for family for safe journeys. Perched sixty meters above the ocean the views are spectacular. Brenton managed to get a stone into the water for luck but the rest of us weaklings failed miserably.

Posted by mike1967 23:53 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Lefkada Island to Delphi to Athens

overcast 20 °C

After the shell shock of Albania we definitely needed someplace a little more beautiful to re-invigorate the senses. Lefkada Island is off the west coast of northern Greece and seemed to offer a few days of tranquility. Again we were a little early for the season so the place seemed like it was mostly ours but the landscape was very nice. The beach camping sites offer the usual crystal clear water and although the water was cold it didn't stop us from diving in. The small township of Lefkada is a bustling centre of restaurants and tourist shops but not bad for an afternoon. The best thing I found was the Greek favourite, Gyros. A Gyros is a flat bread filled with meat, sauce, a small bit of salad and chips. Couple that with a Heineken and you have the perfect meal for under six Euro. Best way to describe it... a posh kebab. We spent a couple of days on the island and then headed for the ancient centre of the universe... Delphi.
Delphi was once considered the centre of the universe where the Gods ascended into the heavens and anyone wishing to speak to Apollo or seeking councel did so at Delphi through the Oracle. The Oracle was a woman who would appear to be in a delirious state and would answer questions from any number of kings and rulers such as Alexander the great and the Spartans. This advice was taken very seriously. The Oracle would be chosen from any number of priestess' and provided she was up to the task, was given the role. Once chosen the oracle she would sit over a crack in the ground in the temple of Apollo and listen to the questions and speak through a trance like state like a medium. It has been suggested that methane gas would escape from the crack over the ground and the oracle was effectively stoned when giving advice to the world leaders. Probably not too far removed from today's leadership advice. The oracle would change from time to time especially since some of them would run off with the world leaders or their advice just wasn't up to scratch anymore. The chants were often cryptic so people would interpret them as they sought. Probably like a modern day fortune teller asking you if you are friendly and artistic.. of course you are ..amazing. Just hear what you want to hear. The site itself is worthy of being classed a wonder of the world. Perched high on the mountains you would definitely feel close to the Gods. In the distance is the harbour town of Itea where the boat loads of worshippers would begin their pilgrimage to Delphi. It must have taken days which would have added to the excitement. Delphi would have been a thriving town complete with it's own Gym and stadium, treasury building and numerous temples and houses. Clearly a place for the elite. The marble statues that must have adorned the place would have nearly outnumbered the residents. One thing about the statues.. none of them have their willy's on. Some one somewhere must have a whole box of them stored, there really should be something done about it. A restoration project perhaps. We spent a few days mixing with the Gods until moving on to Athens.

Posted by mike1967 23:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Montenegro-Albania-Greece

semi-overcast 19 °C

Some of the nicest things about travelling like this are the surprises you find on the way. This also works in the reverse of course and one of the disapointments was we never made it to Turkey for Anzac day. Unfortunately the roads are just not conducive to long distance travel over a short time. A three hour journey according to TomTom (lying bugger) can easily take eight hours so the decision had to be made to give Gallipolli a miss. We may make it yet, but flying instead of driving.
After a pretty lazy week or so in Dubrovnik we had to move on otherwise it would have been 2 months there. A beautiful spot called Mlini was the camp but Greece was calling so the run through Montenegro and Albania was next. We chose to forget about sightseeing and to do the drive over an easy 2 days by following the main motorway through both countries. Montenegro’s roads steadily got worse as we motored south, however the coast line similar to Croatia in parts without any of the tourism. Most of the real hard work came when we entered Albania. Albania is a very poor country and although there is construction everywhere there seems to be a lot of people out of work. The re-building of this country will be a long one. An odd site is the thousands of concrete bunkers that litter the countryside like little igloos. Apparently the previous regime instructed the people to build these to protect them from the ugly hordes coming over the hills to get them. The country is covered with them. The main highway through the country is not more than a winding, twisting dangerous goat track that can see anything from a fifty wheeled truck to a donkey pulling a cart. We split the drive over two days and we just about needed most of the hours to cover the six hundred odd kilometres. It was very difficult driving and very hard on the poor old van. We’d all just about had enough when we finally made a campsite. Quick dinner and into bed. The Albanian countryside can be spectacular at times especially in the southern parts but unfortunately you don’t get a chance to really see it trying to hold the van from falling off the road. We are now in Greece for the next few weeks.
Andiamo
Mike

Posted by mike1967 09:34 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

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