Death by Baklava! - HM
Trip Start Jan 20, 2010
43Trip End May 20, 2010
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Where I stayed
Death by Baklava!
I have to start this entry with an admission. Although I was very excited to see Greece and the splendor of the ruins I was not so keen on eating Greek food. My experience of Greek food before arriving here consisted of some dry out spanikopita or a Greek salad from a fast food place at the mall, the occasional gyro, and once or twice some dessert called Baklava which left me unimpressed as far as a desserts can go. However, I now take back any implied or explicit deleterious word I have uttered on Greek food. The food is great. The Greek salads with fresh Feta cheese that melts in your mouth and vegetables that crunch with each bite that scream just picked. The lamb is tender and savory and the Moussaka ( egg plant and beef with a bechamel sauce) is now my favorite. And as for Baklava, I could live on it
Picking up a rental car on early Easter morning we headed out into Greece armed with only a map, a 1:1000.000 scale where all of Greece fit on your palm, better referred to by Steve as the postage stamp, and our wits and a rather short ( a few sentences at best) set of instructions on how to get out of town. We made it back to the hotel to pick up our bags and luckily had our friend and owner Tony willing to give us instructions in baby English short sentences to head us in the right direction. Miraculously, we actually made it onto the highway out of town and in the general direction of Delphi. I manned the map and did my best to negotiate the various intersections and turns mostly through phonetics and picto- graphic recognition of words. Steve had the exciting and stressful job of dealing with the creative driving techniques of the Greeks. Apparently double lines are only suggestions and forget speed limits at all. We did occasionally see a police car but had no idea what offense you might have demonstrated to be pulled over since there did not seem to be any rules anyway. In fact, one of the most interesting techniques was for a car to move to pass you and then just sit beside you for a while as you moved over into the shoulder because there was a double white line supposedly not allowing passing in the anyway
Amazingly, we arrived in Delphi in time to take a quick turn around Athena's Sanctuary. It was perched on a beautiful hillside looking out into the valley and the sea. No wonder so many civilizations wanted to possess Delphi, it is truly a beautiful place. We then headed into town since the rest of the ruins and museum were closed for the Easter Holiday and found our hotel.
The town of Delphi is not big but apparently swells to feed and house thousands during the high season. Right now is not a busy travel time in Greece which proved to be greatly beneficial to us and to our budget. There were a few foreign travelers and maybe one tour bus but mostly the town was housing local families and Athenians for the Easter weekend. We attended a wonderful little town dance festival held in front of the church on the square with locals taking pictures of their children and some even handing out food to all the attendees. It was nice to be included in a homey atmosphere of holiday celebration so far from our homes and loved ones. We meandered into a local restaurant for a quick dinner of lamb, Moussaka and of course Baklava. Yum!
We got up fairly early and headed out to the museum and the rest of the ruins
I tried to find the Oracle of Delphi to get some answers to some important questions, and no it was not the lottery numbers for the Big Jackpot, but unfortunately she must have been on Easter Break because she was no where to be found. I'm stuck trying to find my own answers again. Too bad.
We headed off to Olympia. Steve was getting good at the driving thing, in fact he was passing while in double lines like a natural. I managed to do fairly well at the navigating part and we arrived safely in Olympia. Another small town that grows to accommodate thousands during the high season. While Steve recovered from from Greek driving, I wandered down the main street to get my bearings.
It is a town which must supply every visiting tourist with the usual souvenir, a marble statue of your favorite God or Goddess, some postcards with pictures of the ruins or for those interested some of the local female beauty of Greece in very little clothing, jewelry in ancient designs and of course the required tee shirt ( My parents went to Greece and all I got was this stupid tee shirt). Up till this point I had avoided everything but the postcards but I finally relented in purchasing a lovely white peasant blouse with embroidered flowers for the next leg of our trip which would bring us to a Greek Island.
Shopping done, Steve and I wander out to a local restaurant for some quick dinner and hike up some dark roads suggested by the hotel owner as good view points of the city. Book reading and writing completed another day.
We rose to walk into Olympia and view the ruins of the great stadium and the Temple to Zeus as well as various other sanctuaries, treasuries and the Museum. I couldn't resist the urge to place my feet on the starting blocks and do a quick run down the Stadium. It is quite a tough thing to grasp the magnitude of being in a place where the Olympic Games were started centuries ago. To think that men once lined up on these same blocks to compete for their various cities and regions with thousands of spectators cheering them along is mind boggling. My travel companion and I walked quietly through most of the ruins feeling almost afraid to disturb the ghosts of great athletes, nor did we what to incur any wrath from Zeus, he can be a bit testy I have heard.
After the museum and way too much time trying to locate and confirm some lodging for the next night, we headed off in the general direction to Kadamyli. I say general direction because given the lack of signs and our lack of ability at reading Greek it is basically a leap of faith that we actually make it to any place we aim for at all.
A friend from my previous corporate life was generous in giving me a very well thought out itinerary of Greece which included her hometown of Kalamata. Silly me thought Kalamata was a small town where they grow the famous Kalamata olives. I was right about the olives and wrong about the size of the town. Actually Kalamata is the largest city on the Peloponnese, about 160,000 people. Great for locating on a map and bad for finding your way through once you are in it. We did stop at the pier to experience some of the sea food and olives but then headed out to get to our next stop before night fall when we knew our chances of finding anything even remotely like civilization were greatly reduced. See the Greeks do not believe in street lamps except in the town itself and the roads are dark and winding on the Peloponese.
Luckily Kardamylii is a town the size of a small shopping center with various little cafes, a few rooms for rent and the usual singular stores, such as one pharmacy, one post office, one doctor, although oddly enough it does have two supermarkets sitting right next to each other. I catch imagine how it is decided which one to go to by the locals but I guess it works out somehow. Apparently this place is very popular with tourists who are looking for some great hiking opportunities. It has a gorge running from the edge of town back into the the mainland of the Peloponnese with fairly well marked trails criss crossing the mountains through a valley hosting ancient churches and monasteries.
We spent one day hiking up a trails heading to one of the monasteries only to get twisted round and winding up in the gorge itself, see the directions are written in German by some visiting professor and silly us we forgot to study German before coming to Greece. The map is just a series of various dotted lines on a photocopied piece of paper that the owner of our lovely little dormatia shared with us. Lucky for us we ran into a couple from Germany who had been coming here to hike for 20 years and knew the trails by heart. They were nice to share their knowledge and even share the trail for a little while to the monastery. A picnic lunch and some quiet meditation had us in a blissful state of mind before continuing our hike. We bid farewell to our new friends and found a trail out to the ruins of another Agia Sophia Church. Old and abandon this one lacked the grandeur of the Cathedral of the same name in Istanbul but none the less was inspiring. We finished our hike heading down to the local tavern on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea to sit on the sofas placed outside watching the sunset, sipping wine and having some Tapas, Life is Good!
Before heading to our next destination we took advantage of our location to get in another hike in the beautiful mountains of the Peloponnese. This time we headed straight up the gorge heading for the ruins of another monastery we had been told about by some fellow hikers staying at the same lodging as us. Unfortunately, they had spent 7 hours hiking the day before getting lost on the same trails we had used but without the good fortune to run into the nice German couple we met. They did however discover this monastery off the trail and thought they had a pretty good idea of where it was so we could find it. We started out with high hopes which quickly dissipated as the boulders in the gorge got larger and the way got harder. We eventually decided to give it another 10 minutes before turning back when I located a small trail off to the side of the canyon that looked promising, Signally my travel companion to follow me, which he did with only a slight roll of the eyes, we hiked up to a clearing. There was our monastery, complete with frescoes and alter still visible. Several pictures later we headed back to our car content in achieving our first goal of the day and ready to take on the next, Getting to Nafplion.