Meteora – the pinnacles of belief

As we pulled into Kalambaka, Joy, our affable and passionate tour guide, was effusive in describing the Meteora to us. The was a collective gasp at our first site of these amazing pinnacles hovering above the village.

Meteora - suspended in air
Meteora – suspended in air

Meteora means ‘suspended in air’. Her arms created an arc to explain they were named Meteora because like shooting stars and meteorites they are between heaven and earth.The sound track of Close Encounters of the Third Kind leapt into my brain. There was an eerily sci-fi – religious feeling at the site of them.

Meteora monastery
Meteora monastery

 

The next morning we were up early to visit Megalou Meteoron, the oldest monastery. There were 23 monasteries at one time and now there are six as well as a beautiful, thriving nunnery with gardeners of many talents.

Megalou Meoteron
Megalou Meoteron

 

The remoteness of the pinnacles in Northwest Thessaly and the difficulty of access, meant that monks could continue to practice the Greek Orthodox religion and maintain its traditions, when the Ottomans were forcing conversion on Greeks in more accessible villages.  If you visited in the 1960’s or before, you would have been pulled up in a large net, much like a catch of fish. This would not have been for the faint of heart, today a funicular takes materials, monks and workers across to the monasteries. Great painters of Greece would come and spend time there and create wonderful art and icons of the saints.

My remaining question is how did the first monk make it up the cliff?

Happy Birthday to Frosty and belated wishes to Chris.

 

 

 

Majestic formations of sandstone and congomerlate
Majestic formations of sandstone and congomerlate

Luck in the Corinth Canal

Planning your journey through the Corinth Canal can induce a fair amount of anxiety. If you are assigned behind a large ship, the Canal controllers are very demanding that your yacht get as close as possible to the ship’s whirlpool wake. In fact, they often give the command “full power” and “close the gap” and many different types of hurry ups. There is quite a bit of current in the canal to deal with and shallows on both sides.

Corinth Canal
Corinth Canal

 

We were keen to make Monday’s crossing early to ensure the lightest breezes,Tuesdays are usually closed for repairs in the canal.  We all smiled in relief when we saw we were the first boat waiting. No ships in sight, so that meant we would be first in the canal. As we waited, another yacht approached under spinnaker in the distance.

James, Leanne and Cam
James steering , Leanne and Cam

 

The Canal Controller was very happy that Mercier was there, “standing by”, sails stowed and ready to proceed. Yachts were in the canal coming from the east, so they proceed through and we enter the canal. Nautico*, the yacht behind us was not up to the Controller’s standards and several barks came over the radio to hurry up. As we passed, we could see the auto traffic waiting for the bridge to be raised so they could get across.

The canal’s first spade of dirt was dug by Nero, but even an excess of slave labour could not manage to dig the canal. It took gunpowder to manage that. Wikipedia has the story, so I won’t repeat it here. Interesting reading not only for the history but because of the curses that seem to befall anyone who wanted to build the canal.

*name changed

Cam and Leanne enjoying the view
Cam and Leanne enjoying the view

Rion to Kiota, with stops at Lepanto -Navpaktos and Trizonia

We leave Patras and head into the Gulf of Corinth, we pass under the Rion-Andrion Bridge. We call Rion Traffic at 2 miles out and also at 1 mile out and they tell us where to pass. Heikell says the bridge is the longest cable stayed bridge in the world 2,252 metres long with three navigable channels. Strong currents are a known challenge in the gulf.

Rion-Andrion Bridge with Cam, Leanne and James
Rion-Andrion Bridge with Cam, Leanne and James

We proceed to the tiniest port we have ever encountered, a magical, fairy tale sort of place with a lovely beach and views out to the Rion Bridge and a Venetian castle. The Greek name is Navpaktos and when the Venetians were here it was called Lepanto. We pulled into the minute port and could not see a berth open but then some of the fishermen pointed to a spot. We literally went back out to the opening to drop the anchor, just at the entrance and backed onto the town stairs.

Mercier docked in the small but perfect port of Lepanto.
Mercier docked in the small but perfect port of Lepanto.

We found great food, Greek lessons and lovely gelato at Andrea’s and a secret garden just inside the Bastion walls. We tried to walk to the top of the castle but only made it up to the third bastion or maybe half way. We seemed to end up in private yards.

Venetian Castle in Lepanto
Venetian Castle in Lepanto

We were sad to leave Lepanto, it is so gorgeous and we didn’t really have enough time there to explore its history, Leanne and I decided we would go back even without a boat.  The beaches are pebbly but very nice. A castle walk to help us burn off all the lovely food.

Venetian Fortress and Castle
Venetian Fortress and Castle

We sailed to Trizonia, which is a marina the GFC left half finished. But a number of yachts find their way here for a night and walk into the town to visit the tavern’s.  We were welcomed by Greg and Julia of Mojo, who joined us for an enjoyable drink at sundown with quite a bit of information about sailing in Greece and going through the Corinth Canal.

We had one more night in the Gulf of Corinth in Kiator moored to an old town wall, we were able to have a delightful swim off Mercier and then find a taverna roasting the Sunday lamb on the spit.  We had a delectable dinner followed by a walk on the beachfront.

Our Secret Garden, the Venetian wall has crumbled allowing for great views
Our Secret Garden, the Venetian wall has crumbled allowing for great views

 

Farewell Lepanto
Farewell Lepanto

 

Olympia – a Sanctuary

As you leave Pyrgos and wind up the hill to Olympia, it is easy to understand why this is thought  to be the playground of the gods. From ten kilometres out, the air gets clearer and all the vegetation seems more lush and fragrant. There is a zephyr breeze and the temperature is perfect.

A clear day at Olympia
A clear day at Olympia

We first visited the Olympia Archaeological Museum. It covers the history of the site beginning with prehistoric artifacts until the Sanctuary’s demise under Theodosius ll.

One of two beautiful pediments recovered from Zeus' temple.
One of two beautiful pediments recovered from Zeus’ temple.

James and I watched many videos of Greece recently and now we wonder why we had never seen an aerial of the site as a whole. Olympia is remarkable. Imagine kicking a goal in your city’s biggest stadium and then imagine winning a race under the gaze of the gods and your country’s stadium. The games were “a pole of attraction for Hellenism”*

Meanwhile, it was a men’s only event. Women, particularly married women could not view the athletes compete. Not gods, kings nor husbands want to suffer by comparison with the strapping young nude athletes.

The Phillippeion, a monument to Alexander the Great and his father, Phillip ll
The Phillippeion, a monument to Alexander the Great and his father, Phillip ll

There are 23 separate monuments, including temples on the site.  We wished we could see more and next time we would consider finding a guide.  To this day, we are inspired by the passion and commitment it takes to take part in the Olympics.

 

 

 

 

*Olympic site brochure

Patras to Olympia

Patras is a very commercial port and we have had heard mixed reports.  We feel that although it isn’t a garden spot, the city is re-beautifying itself and there are some beautiful spots, but not close to the marina. There is a great ship chandler though and a few good restaurants nearby, there are plenty of cafe bars right at the marina.

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There were two delightful spaces near the marina, a small green dog park with some great dogs visiting every day and a small amphitheater,  which features dance classes in the evening with a view out to the mainland.

Patras dance class
Patras dance class

After much research, we decided to take a Ktel Bus from Patras to Pyrgos, a deluxe coach, for a circuitous trip of 1.5- 2 hours.  You get to see other sites on the way, but it isn’t a tourist bus.  You alight at a great bus terminal in Pyrgos and switch to a city bus to Olympia, the express bus goes in a slightly straighter line but takes almost as long as it seems to stop more often for passengers. Really cost effective, as a taxi would have cost about Euro125-150. The train does not seem to go into Olympia any longer and if you are going from Athens, it would be worthwhile to join a tour.  It is about four hours from Athens to Olympia.  It is beautiful and a worthwhile trip, with many rewards for those who visit. Next time I visit, I would like to spend the night

James at the Archaeological Museum, Olympia. A must see
James at the Archaeological Museum, Olympia. A must see

 

My expectations for Olympia were quite different.  It was a Sanctuary and there were many resplendent buildings.  Here are some photos and we have more for tomorrow.

Temple of Zeus
Temple of Zeus
Hermes holding baby
Hermes holding baby
James at the Stadium
James at the Stadium

 

From Zeus and Hera and all the gods and goddesses we visited at Olympia, we have birthday wishes to my sister, Linda Doubek.  James and I hope your day is wonderful.

More to come.

Zante – Shipwreck Bay, Navagio and the Venetian Fortress at Bohali

Shipwreck Bay, Zakynthos
Shipwreck Bay, Zakynthos

We all have our bucket list and one item on ours was to visit Shipwreck Bay, officially Navagio Beach. We were not expecting the right weather to sail to Shipwreck Bay and it is too deep for most yachts to anchor. It has been blowing Norwesters (30 knots) every afternoon, much like a Sydney Southerly Buster and we didn’t want to join the wreck. We tried to book onto a catamaran tour for the morning, but we could never raise the charter company. In the end, we spoke to Yannis and took a car up to the viewing point to get an aerial view of the bay and a tour of Zante Island. We weren’t disappointed with our aerial viewing, we had it on good authority “le water is colder than zee witch’s breast”.

one Bay North of Navagio Beach
one Bay North of Navagio Beach

The blue milkiness of the bay is from Limestone ‘pearls’ creating a swirl of aqua water, so the water is more translucent than clear. The colour is certainly one we think of when we think of sailing azure seas.

For future reference, if it was warmer and you wanted a swim, our mate John from Zante suggested we drive to Porto Vromi and take a small boat to nearby Shipwreck Bay. If you are 21-30 take a party boat, but take sunscreen and a hat because it’s a long day.

Heikell says the Shipwreck was a cigarette boat, a smuggler’s boat to bring in tax-free cigarettes, which wrecked while evading the Coast Guard in a storm. John, Greece’s biggest Cat’s fan, says it might have been set-up to glamorise the most beautiful bay in Greece for tourism. It is so stunningly beautiful, it is hard to imagine they needed to improve the story line.

We came back past olive trees, that were almost 200 years old, rustic villages and pine forests. We stopped for coffee at the top of another wonderful bay. The view and colour of the water were remarkably brilliant.

Another beautiful bay
Another beautiful bay at Kambl

We finished the day at the Venetian Fortress at Bohali. We expected the Fortress/castle to be a small hill-top ruin but it is extensive and both the British and the Nazi’s had taken the Venetian’s work and reused it. We saw evidence of a British football pitch and the Venetian’s garrison prison and many wells. There was a large bastion overlooking Zakthynos Town but from every side of the formidable fortress walls, the views were extensive. It is well worth a trip.

Bastion of the Venetian Fortress
Bastion of the Venetian Fortress

We went for a walk after dinner and said goodbye to our friend, John. He asked us to let the Cats know he was barracking for them. So for John, ‘Go the Cats’.

Let’s talk about the Geelong Cat’s in Zante

First, I will explain we are in Zakynthos, which is called Zante in Italian. It is a captivating island with a small marina on the Town Quay, beautiful coastline and an animated nightlife.

The View from the
Zakynthos Harbour

Cameron, Leeanne, James and I decided an authentic gyro would be the go for lunch. The night before Leeanne and I had walked past a cafe on our walk and the aromas were enticing, enough to convince us for lunch.

The Lavocca (spelling is in Greek letters) gyro cafe is on Maiou St, Zakthynos about three blocks away from the harbour in an area where locals and Athenians eat in delightful cafes, restaurants and bars. There are interesting, arty shops in these streets too.

The owner comes out to take our order, we ask where do you come from in Australia. He laughs and says Melbourne. Then he asks if we saw Friday’s Cats-tastrophe game. We said no but we had read that the Geelong Cats had a bad night. For the next hour, we ate delectable, flavoursome gyros, with John talking to us about The Cats, Australia and His Cats. We were amazed at his passion for the AFL, but I have a few friends- David, Jo and Melissa, who I would like John to meet. They should definitely put the island of Zakynthos on their bucket lists. This island is a splendid mix of natural beauty and magnificent coastline.

The Crew with John & Denise from Zakynthos
The Crew with John & Denise from Zakynthos

John told us we should venture up to the Venetian Fortress (aka Venetian Castle), so we walked up to Bohali – quite a steep walk. Still the views were incredible across the island, indeed across the bay to Kefalonia to the North and Pelaponese to the east.

We visited a fascinating church, the church of Agios Georgios Filikon, icons and murals filled the church.

We walked up to the Venetian Fortress and found it was closed and went down to Diethones, a magical place with porch swings and views over Zante. They have enticing gardens and comfortable chairs and couches with views of the harbour, so you are never bored as you watch ships, ferries, yachts and party boats come into the harbour. Have a look at the photos and tell me if you think Zakynthos should be on your bucket list?

The outlook from Diethones
The outlook from Diethones

Big Happy Birthday to Richard (YB), hope you had a great day! We miss you.

Kioni and Sami

Sounds like a couple of celebrity infants or kittens, but no, they are two lovely villages in the Ionians. Like most of the Ionian Islands they were flattened in 1953 by an earthquake and have rebuilt themselves.

Panorama of Kioni
Panorama of Kioni

Kioni is a small jewel of a village with a small town quay and yachties laid out in a horseshoe of a small port. Lovely restaurants and a modern church, olive trees punctuated by the exclamation marks of cypress pines, Kioni is a delight.

On of the Colourful Shops in Kioni
On of the Colourful Shops in Kioni

We had the mooring next to and meeting the owners of Skylark, Desiree and Chris, who bravely dealt with Somali pirates and Ben the rat and still have retained their lovely sense of adventure. They advise no one to travel near Somali and have detailed instructions on dealing with a rat on board. We will heed their advice and hope that we meet no rats of either persuasion.

We were very happy to see a thriving cat population in Kioni
We were very happy to see a thriving cat population in Kioni

We left early on Thursday with great anticipation, we were going to Sami to meet with Leeanne and Cameron Dalyell. We were excited meeting old and dear friends, crew of Eventide and fellow Grammar student.

James, Leann & Cameron in Sami
James, Leanne & Cameron in Sami