Yeah I really struggled for a title for this one.
I had only decided this morning that I would visit the ski centre. I’d called Alex the taxi driver and had arranged for him to pick me up from the hotel. Now the whole point of this trip was to see Greece in winter. It is apparent that I have missed that boat by a long shot! Spring seems to have well and truly bedded itself in. If I want to see Greece in winter – and I’m talking about snow here – the only chance I’ll get is to head up to the ski slopes.
Alex had already told me that there has been very little snow this year. There was one large dump in January and there hasn’t been much since. Nonetheless, the Athenians are here for a long weekend of skiing and the hotel numbers must have doubled over the last few days. I even had to sit in a waiting area for a free table for breakfast.
As we head up towards Mount Chelmos, the snow becomes more apparent. There are semi-melted piles along the roadside and it is definitely a few degrees colder. At the ski centre, the car park looks quite busy but Alex says that this is much emptier than usual. Now of course I’m not going skiing. At my age, my bones creak and groan getting up from the sofa. What chance would they stand under the rigours of downhill skiing? Oh my word, the stress on the joints doesn’t bear thinking about.
I arrange to meet Alex back at the taxi in an hour. That’s all I need to soak up a little of the ski slope ambience. I first go to check out the ski lift. I have a pass for the ski lift and do for a couple of seconds, consider using it. Then I remember I have terrible vertigo and get dizzy looking out of a ground-floor window. I’ll just stand and observe for while. There is a large lodge where you can go for refreshments and a bite to eat. From the terrace of the lodge I can just about make out skiers up on the higher slopes. The lower slopes are mainly used for children who are having great fun in the snow.
Around the back of the lodge are some stripey deckchairs where you can basque in the sun. It really is bright today and as I feel my face frazzle I wish that I’d brought some suntan lotion with me. I really didn’t think that I’d need it for my ‘winter’ trip to Greece. I won’t make that mistake again!
Next to the deck chairs is a DJ on a Red Bull truck mashing up some cool tunes and adding to the ski slope vibes. Jesus Christ should those kinds of words really come out of the mouth of a 64 year old grandmother!
Everyone that I can see looks so well versed in this outdoor pursuit. Even small children clip on their ski’s with such expertise. It’s just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Athens and this year the season is much shorter than usual. Maybe this is the last opportunity for them to ski this year.
After an hour of observing the skiers and snowboarders at play, I rejoin Alex back at the car. This place definitely has a feel of the Alpine. When Alex puts the car radio on and Greek music comes pouring out of it, I’m shaken back into the realisation that I’m actually in Greece! What a weird feeling that was!
On the way back to Kalavryta Alex asks me when will I leave Kalavryta. I will be leaving tomorrow I tell him. How will you leave Kalavryta he asks? I tell him on the rack railway back to Diakopto, a train from Diakopto to Corinth and a taxi to Isthmos. He breaks the news to me that because of the terrible train disaster, the two day strike that had already taken place was now to be extended for another 48 hours. I’d actually seen this on the news but hadn’t made the connection that it would affect my own travel plans. Hmmmm what to do? Alex tells me that there is a bus to Patras late on Sunday afternoon. From Patras I would be able to get the Athens bus to Isthmos. He could also drive me to Isthmos and it would cost around 120€. I need to think this one through.
I ask Alex to drop me off by the site of the massacre. I want to take everything in once more. As I leave the car he tells me to walk on the path and not the road. It seems that the dangers of the Kalavrytan roads is a thing.
After a little quiet contemplation, I start the walk back to the town taking in the views one last time.
Back at Filoxenia the options of how I get to Nafplio are flying around my head. I need to write down the options and then eliminate them one by one.
Option 1: Get the bus to Patras. It leaves Kalavryta at 5pm which means it will arrive in Patras at 7pm. Assuming that a bus would then leave immediately for Athens that means I would arrive at Isthmos at around 9.30pm. There is one last bus from Isthmos to Nafplio that departs at 22:20.
Option 2: I could stay an extra night at the hotel if they have availability. Nothing available via booking.com. So assume an extra night’s stay is 60-70€ and then the one nights hotel stay in Nafplio that I will lose. It means that I should be able to do another journey on the rack railway which I really wanted to do. But then there’s the faff of the train from Diakopto to Kiato. Train from Kiato to Corinth. Taxi from Corinth to Isthmos bus station and then another bus to Nafplio.
Option 2: Alex drives me to Isthmos where I can catch the bus to Nafplio.
I take into account my beleaguered body and my half-functioning lung and Options 1 and 2 are eliminated immediately. I phone Alex later that evening to arrange for me to be picked up at 11am the following morning.
I always get that sinking feeling when the time comes to leave a place that I have fallen in love with. I have that feeling right now and take a stroll around this picturesque little town, breathing in as much of it as I can. Last night I had eaten in a restaurant called Varvitsiotis which came highly rated on Tripadvisor. The food was pretty damned good. A bit more sophisticated than Taverna Stani – not that I’m knocking the rustic style taverna at all. Their soup was out of this world!
I was so impressed with Varvitsiotis that I’m going back again this evening. It is a popular place located behind Filoxenia and then to the right. Last night I’d had the wild boar stifado with horta and tonight I’m having the beef cooked in lemon sauce. Perfect for a chilly evening. At the end of the meal comes a complimentary glass of Tentura. It is flavoured with cinnamon and cloves and really warms your bones. I read later that is a liqueur made in Patras. Usually the base drink is brandy that is then flavoured with spices and orange and lemon. Tentura comes from the word ‘tincture’. I need to buy some of this!
I have one last stroll around the town and there are many shops that sell the local produce. There are no shortages of tomatoes here! I do indeed find a shop that sells Tentura. Oh and they also sell oak honey! The last time that I’d bought oak honey was from the grand monastery at Meteora. So far nothing has come close to rivalling it. I have to buy a kilo jar! I’ll think about how I’m going to carry it all later!