Last night there had been more snowfall. Not that I could see it on the streets of Kalavryta town but the evidence was on a number of cars in the street. They must have overnighted higher up in the mountains.
I have a couple of hours to kill after breakfast and checking out, so I find myself walking to the train station. I wanted to reflect on my journey here. The rack railway, a bucket list item completed set against the tragic history of Kalavryta and then further compounded by the catastrophic train crash in Tempi near Larissa. You can palpably feel the pain and the anguish and the anger from all corners of Greece. The Kalavryta train station that’s usually bustling with visitors, lays dormant as the country pays their respects and mourns the loss of so many young lives.
Back at the hotel, I wait by the reception area for Alex to pick me up. The hotel manager and I have a chat. “Do you know what we have here in this town?” He asks me. I automatically think that he is asking if I know about the history of the town. He continues “Yes, we had Boris Johnson here a few weeks ago”. This I had heard before coming here but tried to push the thought out of my mind. I asked where he stayed, because of course curiosity always gets the better of me. I’m told that he had stayed in a lodge up in the mountains along with his security detail. No mention of Carrie Antoinette mind. Apparently, he had loved the place so much he was thinking of buying a place here. Way to get my blood boiling! This man who dragged us through a disastrous Brexit as a way to satisfy his own political endeavours will just buy a house on a whim or a click of a finger. Many hopes and dreams of retiring to Greece have been destroyed by this man’s vanity project. And this is only a small example of the repercussions of the UK leaving the EU. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why would we want to separate ourselves from our closest neighbours? I’d better stop here before this turns into a political rant. My thoughts on Brexit are no secret. I am European!
The hotel manager (I’m embarrassed that I didn’t ask him his name) also told me that they get many visitors from the UK in June. They come specifically to see the blue butterflies which can only be found in the Kalavrytan mountains. That’s really interesting, I must find out more.
Alex arrives at 11am on the dot. I thank the hotel manager for their wonderful hospitality and off we go to Isthmos. I must say that the drive is absolutely spectacular. I’d arrived by rack railway along the bottom of the gorge and now we are now travelling on the road high above it. Alex tells me that we will pass the Monastery of Mega Spileo, the one that the train station halfway along the rack railway is named after. He asks me if I’d like him to take me up there to take a couple of photographs. Fantastic! I appreciate that time is money for Alex so jump out of the car and quickly take a few snaps of the monastery and one from the top of the gorge. The bottom of the gorge is much lower down and can’t be seen in this photograph.
We descend slowly along a winding road with a couple of hairpin bends and the landscape begins to change dramatically. As the Bay of Corinth comes into view, so do acres of orange groves. The altitude and the temperate climate up in the mountains isn’t suitable for the growth of citrus fruit. I ask Alex what fruit is grown locally in Kalavryta and it is very similar to what we’d grow in the UK. Apples, cherries, cabbages, potatoes. Everything for the good hearty meals that mountain life requires.
A couple of blurry photo’s taken through the window of a speeding car do not do this scenery justice. It’s pretty spectacular though!
Once we are at sea level, we are on a fast highway with a couple of toll booths. Before long we have arrived at the bus station of Isthmos. That journey was so enchanting it didn’t feel like the 115 kilometres that it was. I say goodbye to Alex and thank him for his help and kindness. If you are ever in Kalavryta and in need of taxi – Alex is your man. A kind, quiet and respectful man who will go out of his way to help you.
Alex 00 30 69441 48282
The bus station looks a little different to when I was here last. Gone are the digital display boards with the bus schedules. I queue at the counter and purchase my ticket to Nafplio. 6.50€ for a single ticket. There are several buses a day and the next one departs at 13.25. I have just over an hour to wait. I ask the lady if I can leave my luggage somewhere whilst I go look at the canal. She points to a corner near her desk and off I go.
The Corinth Canal is really fascinating. After a major landslide, the canal was shut for some time. It opened last summer for the seasonal traffic but has closed over winter again. I loved going to watch the submersible bridge. You’d need to get a taxi from the bus station down to the bridge but if you have a couple of hours to kill it’s a good place to be. When it’s open that is. The submersible bridge is quite unique. When a ship wants to pass it submerges under the water to let it through. When it rises up out of the water to give cars and pedestrians access across it, it often brings up a haul of fish that flip and jump in a desperate attempt to return to the water. One time, I saw little kids run along the bridge collecting them in a bucket. A lazy mans answer to fishing!
Anyway. My bloody vertigo. This isn’t the best place for me to be but I just can’t resist it. I walk across the bridge only giving cursory glances at the ravine below. I cling to the rail furthest away from the edge. My knuckles are white! I do stop to take a couple of photographs but I’ve well and truly got the eebie jeebies! Once across the canal I cross over to the other side of the road where there is a visitors centre and a couple of stalls selling clothes and bits and bats. I return down the other side of the canal and then back to the safety of the bus station.
Buses come and go to vastt array of destinations. Kefalonia, Athens, Igoumanisa, Kranidi. How wonderful it would be to ride the whole network by bus just to see what I can see.
A little later than scheduled the bus to Nafplio arrives. The bus driver tells me that today is the Marathon in Nafplio and many of the roads have been closed. The bus will not stop at the bus station. He tells me not to worry because it isn’t that much further away. As long as it’s on the flat it doesn’t matter. I selected my hotel based on the fact that it is on the flat and close to the bus station. At sea level and the outer edges of the old town are flat but then many houses and hotels begin to climb amphitheatrically up the slopes. Long gone are the days when I could heave my luggage up several sets of steps.
The bus is very busy with only a few spare seats but we soon arrive at Nafplio. The walk to my hotel is OK. My luggage is incredibly heavy so I’m relieved when I reach Hotel Polyxenia. I’m greeted by Alexandra who tells me I have a room on the second floor. That I hadn’t taken into account. Not to worry, I make it up the narrow winding staircase over several trips.
This place really is really charming. It has a traditional decor that is be-fitting of an old mansion house. Although I don’t have a room with a balcony, the bathroom is spacious and I love the large vanity. I just hope that those dolls don’t come alive at night and try to kill me in my sleep!
It’s late by the time I unpack but I am going to Aiolos Taverna for dinner. It was recommended to my last time that I was here. You’ll receive a very friendly reception and they are generous with the complimentaries!
An early night is had and I’m excited to explore Nafplio again!