A Trip to the Cave of Lakes and Experiencing the Greek Health Care System!

After my visit to the site of the massacre on Kappi Ridge earlier today, I was in a quandary about how to spend the rest of the day. As part of the Kalavryta City Pass I have a ticket for the Cave of Lakes in Kastria. I walk to the taxi rank which is just in front of the train station. The taxi drivers are chatting away with each other and one shouts to the driver who’s next in line. I ask him how much it would be to go to the Cave of Lakes and he tells me 50€ for a return journey. Now I didn’t set off on this holiday with any particular budget in mind. However, there are lots of bucket list items being ticked off on this trip and if there are additional opportunities to see or do something interesting – I’m going to go for it.

We set off out of Kalavryta, on the main road that goes past the site of the massacre. Alex tells me that soon we will get a good view of Mount Chelmos which can’t be viewed from the town. Sure enough, the snow-capped peaks and pine-clad slopes appear – though my photographs from a speeding taxi are never going to do it justice!

About twenty minutes later we arrive at the car park to the Cave of Lakes in Kastria – the distance is about 17 kilometres from Kalavryta. Alex tells me that if there is a tour about to start he will wait for me. If I have to wait for a tour, he will go and come back for me. He walks with me to the ticket office and as luck would have it a tour is about to start. I’m directed down a path to the entrance of the cave. There are two Greek couples waiting so the tour will commence with just five of us. Whilst we wait for the guide I fall into conversation with one lady who tells me that she is an English teacher in Athens. She has come away for a weekend break only to discover that some of her students are staying in the hotel room next to hers. There is no escaping them she tells me

Our guide arrives and introduces herself and tells me that first she will do the tour in Greek and then in English. After a little discussion in Greek she tells me that the other visitors are happy for the tour to be done only in English. What a way to show how woefully inadequate I am at learning other languages!

We are guided into the cave and are told that the cave was first explored in 1964 by the local residents of Kastria. A year later this was conducted more formally with the Greek Mountain Climbing Association and foreign specialists. During the explorations, human bones and also the remains of hippopotamus were found at the bottom of the cave. Say what! A hippopotamus! There are 13 terraced lakes in total of varying sizes that overflow from one into another. The levels will fluctuate throughout the year depending on the amount of rain or snow the season has had. This winter has been very mild with very little rain or snow so the lakes are currently very shallow. There walkway is very narrow and the height of the cave is very tall because it is set along a fault line. Adorning the walls of the cave are magnificent curtains of petrified waterfalls.

About halfway through we come to a very unique formation of basins known as ‘gours’. Imagine a miniature version of Pamukkale – though set in a cave. That’s the closest thing that comes to mind. There are some magnificent stalactites and stalagmites. At the end of the route there is even one of each that has joined together – a kind of conjoined stalactite/stalagmite. The guide tells us that what we see is only a tiny fraction of the whole cave. The part beyond the end of the route is several times larger than what visitors can see. There are large colonies of bats that live in the cave which come out on mass at night to feed and return early in the morning to rest.

The tour comes to an end and I rejoin Alex who had waited patiently for me. He drives me a different route back to Kalavryta where I catch some even better views of the snow-capped mountain which are absolutely mesmerising.

After dropping me off Alex tells me that whenever I need him just to give him a call. I swear that if you find a good taxi driver, hang onto them!

I had noticed that since walking up to the Kappi Ridge yesterday that my breathing was becoming a bit more laboured. I know that I’m unfit and overweight but I should be able to make this climb without such a struggle. When I look in the mirror I can see how this virus has affected me – I look horrific! Anyway, I call into a pharmacy and explain that I think I have a chest infection and I think that I need to see a doctor. He tells me that there is a clinic at the hospital where I will be assessed. It is only a five-minute walk away so off I go.

I enter the main reception area where a man dressed in white sitting sits behind a desk. I explain simply why I’m there and he points me to a lady sitting behind a counter. I explain to her again why I’m there. She points me back to the man and says something to him. He stands and points me through some double doors and to a large door on the left. A doctor sitting behind a desk and a nurse tell me to take a seat whilst they take a few particulars. I’m asked if I think I have Covid and I tell him that I don’t think so. He asks me if I smoke – which I don’t. He tells me to stand whilst he listens to my lungs. Shortly after another doctor enters the room and asks me to sit on the bed whilst he examines my chest also.

Back to the first doctor who tells me that he will do a Covid test, he will send me for a chest x-ray and will also take some blood for a test. I tell him that my veins are pretty pitiful and pump my hand as hard as I can to make something appear. The doctor and the nurse take turns at tapping my vein trying to find some sign of life. Eventually, they find a vein that they think will work. The doctor takes the blood and tells me that my veins are behaving themselves today! The Covid test is done and it’s negative. I’m very proud to say that I’ve never had Covid – not unless I was asymptomatic anyway.

The doctor tells me that the blood tests will take about 45 minutes to come through so once I’ve had the chest x-ray to wait in the waiting room.

The nurse shows me to the top of the staircase and I make my way down to the x-ray department. I’m not sure which of the rooms to go in but a passing nurse asks how she can help. She tells me that the x-ray doctor will be here shortly. In the meantime, two other nurses join us in the corridor and I’m introduced to them all as Chris, Chris and Dina. They ask me about my travels and also recommend some places for me to visit. However, Chris 1 tells me that walking is not recommended in Kalavryta. She says that the drivers are very bad and they don’t understand the use of the brake. They see so many car accidents at the hospital just through reckless driving. All taken on board. I have such fun talking to these three ladies. They tell me that they like to laugh down here because the job can be hard.

After about ten minutes a handsome young doctor comes to do my x-ray. I have to laugh at the sign outside his office. He tells me that he has more cat pictures and shows me his office wall adorned with cat memes.

He takes me into the x-ray room which does look like a hospital from the 1950’s but the experience so far has been excellent. X-ray complete, I’m handed the copy of it which I’m to give to the doctor when I go back in to see him.

The view from the entrance to the waiting room is of the snowcapped mountains – there are worst places to wait. Whilst waiting a man that is strapped up over the whole top half of his body enters, moaning and clearly in a lot of pain. He is ushered straight into the doctor. After about thirty minutes Chris 1 brings up my blood test results and takes them into the doctors room. Another nurse – a different one tells me to come in to see the doctor. The man that looked like he had been in a car accident is now sitting in a wheelchair on a drip – possibly pain relief. I’ve never experienced this communal treatment before!

The doctor tells me to sit. He looks at my x-ray and says that I have an infection in one of my lungs and that he will prescribe various medications for me – antibiotics, an inhaler to help me breathe more easily and something else that I’m not sure what it is. He tells me that I can keep my x-ray as a souvenir of my holiday! A prescription is written out for me and told to dispense it at the pharmacy. I ask if I need to pay for my treatment today, remembering that I have an EHIC card that is still valid. He tells me that I don’t because it was considered emergency treatment.

In all a very good experience! At the pharmacy I get my prescription dispensed. The pharmacist, a young man wearing a leather jacket tells me that he will show me how to use the inhaler and how to dispense each dose of the medicine. The cost of the medication comes to 53€ which taking into consideration the whole medical treatment is pretty good.

What an eventful day!

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    1. Thank you Sozzle! You’d absolutely love this part of the Peloponnese. Along the rack railway there is a stop from where you can climb up through the national park. Right up your street that!

  1. This post has really reassured me about the Greek healthcare service – very efficient and thorough !

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