We have just had a visit from the local Cops who have bought our stay here on the beach at Analipsi to an end. To be fair we had a choice; stay and pay a fine of €300 or leave. We decided on the cheaper option and are now just about to leave. A real shame as we were in Homie Heaven.
Ancient Olympia 11/10/2015
Our first piece of Ancient Culture has been decided upon and the lucky recipient is the site of Ancient Olympia. The Olympics has a special place in our hearts as it where we spent a very happy time back in 2012 watching Jess Ennis winning Gold. And here she is.
We purchased the combined Archaeological Site and Museum ticket for €9 and marched briskly off in the direction of broken Columns and collapsed rooves. Like all these places you need to let your imagination go a bit to appreciate the might and splendour this site may once have been. It does cover a fair old acreage and like today’s sporting offerings most of the site is given over the pampering and housing of officials. One thing that has changed is the admission of women. When these original games were at their pomp it was strictly a man-only affair. If women did manage to sneak in for a quick shufti at the male Adonis and were caught they were punished by being thrown off a nearby cliff. I can see many a home-counties golf club captain applauding that attitude.
This site also used to be the home of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the statue of Zeus, head of the ‘Gods Family’ and patron of the games. Alas, time and earthquakes have put pay to any of it surviving. The arch to the stadium does survive and I suppose it is the highlight of the visit. In contrast, the spot where the Olympic Torch is lit every four years is a complete let-down. The spherical Helios used to light the torch is nowhere to be seen, just a piece of dirt where it sits once every four years.
I sit in the if-you-are-paying-money-then-it-should-be-entertainment-camp and I think the authorities are missing a trick here. It is commonly known despite the best efforts of sexy Alexis (aka Alexis Tsapris, Greek PM) that the Hellenic state is somewhat on its uppers and short of a few quid. So why not get the Helios out and charge punters like me a few Euro to light a pseudo-but-lifelike Olympic Torch and have a piccie taken. This adds to the Entertainment Quotient enormously and also adds a fair old wedge to the Greek coffers. Likewise I am very much in favour of scooping up the sad looking bits of masonry and putting them back together rather than leaving them scattered about on the floor. I know this attitude would place a lot of paper and cardboard modellers out of a job but I want reconstruction in my ancient monuments and not miniature reproductions.
Here are some Olympic photos:
Foolishly I misunderstood the contents of the Olympic Museum, I thought it was about the history of the Olympic Games. It was not. It was a collection of artefacts found around the site. Most of the stuff on display seems to be from around the time of the Roman occupation and not from ancient games. So in my book a bit of disappointment. There was a large collection of pots and Roman Soldiers mostly with their heads missing. The highlight was the statue of some chap with a full collection of plums on display but alas a missing todger.
The ancient site is now supported by a tree-lined avenue of cafes and tat-shops to secure the tourist dollar. After the rubbish strewn towns we had driven through it was a gift to the eye to see somewhere, anywhere, unremarkable and clean. It is also a real pity the economic downturn has forced the closure of the narrow-gauge railway line between Olympia and the coast. Come on Railway preservationist types, move on from the Bluebell and go European.
Here is modern Olympia:
We left just after lunch and headed inland towards our target of the Lousios Gorge and our overnight stop at the town of Lagkadia. The scenery on the way was stunning with limestone gorges dissecting the landscape as if been struck by a God waving an axe and thus providing the passes through these impenetrable mountains. On the way I met the head of the late, great Demis Roussos fan club. We shared a photo and some views together, both musically and scenically.
This is a quite wonderful mountain top town, it still managed to look good even when it was raining and the valley was mostly filled with mist. This was our first taste of the real Greece in many ways. Restaurants did not have pictures, in fact they didn’t have menus in English or any other foreign language. And I applaud them for not pandering to the tourist dollar. We in England do not translate anything, apart from social security hand-outs, into other languages, so why should these proud people do so. We parked up in the town car park which was set on the edge of gorge and had space for about 6 cars. We had to park parallel to the road therefore reducing the car park to us and a van. Never mind, it was Sunday night, it was raining and we were on the top of a mountain. What we didn’t realise was we had parked next to the bell tower and in true Greek tradition rang randomly throughout the day and night.
As we couldn’t read the menu and our hosts couldn’t speak English we pointed at the cheapest things on the menu. To my absolute delight I ended up with a brace of Donner kebabs. And these babies were not out of the healthy kebab envelope, these enterprising mountain folk had replaced the Salad option with a portion of chips all wrapped up in a spongy crumpet-like bread substance.
Here are some pictures of Lagkadia:
After leaving Lagkadia we headed up to join the road to take us through the Lousios Gorge. This winding tarmac serpent twists one way then the other as it snakes it way southwards towards Megalopoli. The dramatic limestone scenery is broken at regular intervals by delightful medieval villages sporting some striking stone houses and Byzantine churches. The road narrows considerably when passing through the villages of Stemnitsa and Dimitsana and care must be taken not to clip an overhanging balcony. As ever there are always some friendly locals ready to help with traffic control to ease you through. Just outside Dimitsana we managed to replenish our water from one of the many roadside drinking fountains before our beloved Sat-Nav went random and took us on series of back roads for about 20Km.
But before it did we managed to get some photos of the gorge.
During the journey the sun managed to put his hat on and thereby forcing us to head for the coast. We stocked up in the town of Messini before continuing westwards towards Voidokilia Beach. This is reputed to be Homer’s ‘sandy Pylos’ and when I know what that means I will let you know. Today turned out to be the day the Tom-Tom decided to have a total meltdown and instead of taking us along the tarmac it thought it would be better to take us off-piste.
Here is a movie celebrating this marvellous piece of Dutch navigation. Journey to the beach
Not being in the best of moods we had a look around and decided it was a top tourist spot for holidaying mosquitos and left. We headed just along the coast to the town of Pylos.
This is one of the most picturesque towns in the Peloponnese with a delightful tree shaded square, a brace of castles, pine-covered hills and a huge natural harbour encircled by the Sfaktiria Islet. We parked up on the quayside for the night and after the trauma of the Tom-Tom affair we eat out under the Plane trees in the central square. The restaurant we chose did not support a menu but instead we were marched in to the kitchen to meet he chef and choose our dish of choice from what seemed like lunch leftovers. Mine was OK but the absent-minded culinary genius forgot to re-heat Tracys.
We finished off with a walk around the village and gazed forlornly at the statue of Admiral Codrington in the main square. Rumour has it he was supposed to shoo the Turkish navy away from the area during the Greek war of independence. After an exchange of pleasantries things got a bit heated and the Codmeister sunk the entire Turkish Fleet. Well done Coddy.
Pictures of Pylos
That event was mild to what we had to put up with. We chose to stay the night the same time as the ABTA conference on the end of the pier. I probably need not dwell but it does not take much imagination to picture 500 drunk British travel agents dancing and singing along to disco beats ranging from Zorba the Greek to Another Brick in the Wall. There is always something reassuring to see people of a certain age drunk and singing and dancing along to the Village People with a fag in one hand and a large inflatable chicken balloon in the other.
Analipsi 13/10 – 17/10/2015
Waking up in a far better state than most of the people in Pylos judging by the number of deflated chickens that decorated the streets of Pylos we decided to hit the road in search of a beach. First we tried Finikounda at the end of the Messinia Peninsula. This is a pleasant enough place and there is parking available at the end of the prom for an overnight. We were looking for something a bit more isolated where we could get the Barbie out and so we moved on.
Heading back around the Petalidi Bay we came across the village of Analipsi and on passing through the village centre we hit Homie Heaven.
A beach-side, dead-end tarmac street with adjoining pavement and stand-pipes dispensing fresh clean drinking water every 50m. Plenty of room for the Barbie, table and chairs, three tavernas within walking distance, a fruit and veg store that gave produce away with a smile. Just bloody perfect. So we spent the next few days just relaxing on the beach, swimming in the sea, having barbies on the beach, sundowners in the tavernas, cycling into Messini to re-stock.
Here is a little video of us frolicking in the sea. Sea Frolicks
We had planned to stay here for a few more days but the place had got too busy for the locals. We were the only van when we pulled-up but by now there were about 15 vans stacked-up doing the same as us and I suppose they thought we were turning this into another Kos and so we got moved on. No complaints. We will be back. And here are some pictures why:
Love to all