We left Methoni and rode through spectacular scenery in rapidly worsening weather. We managed to take shelter in a village during the first downpour and took the opportunity to eat a spot of lunch. We managed to take shelter in a garage cafe during the second downpour and had a coffee whilst waiting for the worst to pass. The final downpour occurred just as we got to Dimitisana. We parked the bike under a tree and took refuge under an overhanging roof. About half an hour later, a charming gentleman (Jordan) came out of his hotel and asked if we needed somewhere to stay. We had parked the bike right outside! As you can see above (in better weather).
Cold and dripping wet we inspected the gorgeous rooms of a genuine boutique hotel. We really could not turn it down after leaving puddles on the floor and water soaking into rugs, apart from which the rain was still torrential and being out in it was not high on our agenda. We decided to stay two nights and, after a hot shower and dry clothes, enjoyed a beer in the bar which has the most amazing view. With the weather clearing we strolled into town past the Roman bridge and found plenty of choices for dinner. We ate well in Dimitsana.
Next morning we had a huge homemade breakfast, including fried nettle leaves and morel mushrooms that Jordan had foraged from the forest. Then we set off on a walk. The trail was reasonably well marked and our first stop was a surprisingly interesting outdoor water power museum. The whole area was famous for water powered industry right up to the middle of last century. There was a fulling tub that resembles a huge top loading washing machine, a flour mill, gunpowder mill, raki still and a tannery. All with very informative videos.
This is the fulling tub:
We walked on down the trail but turned around after a few hours and came back by road. It was all down on the way out to the bottom of the gorge, and all up on the way back! We should have taken more water with us, we didn’t, but there was an abundance of fast flowing streams on the way down.
The walking was quite hard so we didn’t get too many views of the scenery. There were frequent stops to try and capture photographs of butterflies! We do want to go back to Dimitsana and do a bit more exploring – there is quite a lot to see in that part of Arcadia but, this year, we didn’t really have time.
Next day we headed back to Nafplio for a relaxing evening before catching the ferry to Chios then on to home via Çeşme.
Our next stop was Methoni. We visited there, briefly, in 2013. This time we went the pretty way, over Mount Taygetos which must be one of the best bike rides in the world. Scenery is spectacular but we were a bit concerned by the darkening skies. Which opened. Fortunately whilst we were fairly near to a village where we took a rain break for a Freddo Espresso. We managed to get to Methoni without getting seriously wet and checked into the hotel on the beach. This meant we could use the sun loungers and umbrellas without incurring extra costs but, sadly, it wasn’t really beach weather whilst we were there. The storm broke as we reached our room.
Methoni is a quiet, seaside village – which gains much (but not all) its income from tourism. It also has a spectacular Venetian castle which, this time, we managed to visit. In fact we spent an entire morning in there. Apart from the castle we spent our time making friends with the local wildlife in a pleasant bar and eating some excellent meals.
Our next stop was Mystra. We rode there the pretty way, via Leonido, stopping off in Cosmas for lunch with a spectacular view… Some Italian bikers had the same idea so there was quite a crowd enjoying mountain sausage, chips and village bread.
Mystra did not disappoint. It’s an almost intact Byzantine city with many churches containing frescoes, a palace, a working monastery and plenty of interesting wildlife. The village itself is small and friendly, containing a number of small hotels and a sprinkling of restaurants. I think a lot of people just visit for the day from larger tourist centres.
After we arrived we walked up to the entrance to the site (there are two entrances because, if you only use the lower entrance, there is quite a lot of walking involved) where we saw some lattice brown butterflies on a tree stump.
Next day we explored the site itself. It took all day. Like many sites in Greece, the information boards scattered around give you a very good idea of what life must have been like when Byzantine Mystra was a living city. We were lucky to avoid the rainstorm that happened in the evening as the surfaces inside the Byzantine city are very, very slippery when wet!
Apart from the lattice browns, I think I shall save the wildlife for a separate post as Mystra is very, very photogenic.
We took a trip to Greece for Ashley’s birthday. This time we went on the bike. Ferry from Çeşme to Chios (Sakız) where we enjoyed a few beers with friends and nearly missed the ferry to Piraeus. It is probably worth adding that we did not see many refugees on Chios and those we did see seemed well settled with small businesses. Our friend, however, told us that the tourist industry is not doing well. Bookings down by 80%. Tourists, it seems, are fickle beasts.
We did better in Piraeus this time – we only went the wrong way once and when we did we quickly realised we were going the wrong way. Our excuse is that it was very, very early in the morning. We were in Nafplio far too early and our hotel room was not ready. The management could not have been more apologetic (even though it was not their fault – it was barely ten in the morning) so we took ourselves off for an excellent breakfast.
We really did not do a great deal that day, other than wander around and eat delicious ice cream. It really is very much a tourist town (it gets cruise ships) and we did buy a hat.
The next day we indulged in some serious sight seeing. We didn’t manage to get to the museum on our previous visit and this omission needed to be corrected. The area has been inhabited since the iron age and there were the usual prehistoric pots plus some very fine Attic red figure ware. And the only entire suit of Mycenaean armour that has survived to the present day. In the afternoon we headed up the 1000 (actual number disputed but it’s an awful lot) steps to the fortress. This is huge. It was originally Venetian but was taken over by the Ottomans and then the Greeks. Once you get to the top the climbing is not over as there are a number of different bastions, linked by passageways. There are doors that seem to lead to nothing except thin air, but often there are steps leading down from them quite safely. And interesting though the history is, the major attraction here just has to be the wonderful views.
The evenings were spent in a large square in town where vendors found a ready market for various toys including giant bubble blowing machines and luminous twirly parachuting things. The square was full of children, and people generally strolling. After two lovely nights we headed off to Mystra, but that’s for another post…
We returned to Akyaka for our third visit. It seems to be becoming an annual event. The picture above, by the way is not Akyaka but Akbük (there are at least two places called Akbük but this one is between Akyaka and Oren).
Akyaka is one of Turkey’s official slow cities. It’s a place we go to relax so we can’t report any frenetic activity. We ate a great deal of kalamari and other seafood, all of which was fantastic. Akyaka really is a good place for seafood. Oh, and hand made organic goat milk ice cream.
We took the bike for a ride along the coast. We went down into Akbük pictured. At ground level there is a narrow, stony beach packed with chaise longues and parasols, so close together that everyone could hold hands. Not really as attractive as it looks from a distance, though there were plenty of cafes and restaurants that looked pleasant enough. We rode as far as Oren which we liked. It’s a ‘real’ place (obviously has year round activity) and we ate gözleme and more kalamari.
Next day we attempted a circular walk that should have been about 12 Km. Our intended route was interrupted at the last moment by an unfordable inlet so we had to turn around and go back the way we came. This made it a much longer walk but very worthwhile as we were able to sit in a ploughed field and watch a colony of bee eaters.
We were in the UK and Ireland in February then, in April, at Hilary’s father’s 90th birthday party in London. Pretty well as soon as we got back we took of on the ferry to Kavala, hired a car (with some difficulty, as it was a Sunday and everywhere was shut) and drove straight to Lake Kerkini.
Kerkini village is a delightful place. On this occasion there was a (very well behaved) school party staying in the hotel so we were treated to three nights in a beautifully restored house. Beers were taken at our favourite bar in the village and meals at the Oikoperigitis where our friend Vasilis is a guide.
On our first day we traveled around the lake, visiting favourite places and taking photographs of birds. The next day we went up to the monastery, above which is a small reservoir where we were lucky enough to see a black kite perched, motionless in a tree for about twenty minutes. We went on to a spot near the Bulgarian border where rollers are often found but we can’t honestly say that we found any. It was only a short drive on some extremely good roads. We did see a very long line of trucks waiting to cross the border.
We also went out on Vasilis’ boat. This is always a magical experience and different every time. This year the level of the lake has been kept low to avoid flooding of the villages. This has not been a totally good thing for the wildlife. We were not able to enter the drowned forest (which is, sadly, slowly dying) though we did get quite close.
It was, of course, perfect biking weather (we left the bike at home). But the next part of the trip was very windy so we were, eventually, glad of the hired car.
The Sunday before we went to the UK for a week, we went walking again with Zirve dağcılık. This time we went to Eski Foça which is a couple of hours drive from Selçuk. It was a mixed group and not everyone did the walking, though the walking was not particularly long or difficult. It was, primarily, a social and archaeological trip.
We started out by walking up to and almost completely ruined acropolis then on to the windmills which dominate the town’s skyline. Quite steep going and more difficult on the way down. The area has been in continuous occupation since the time of the Hittites and most of the monumental stones have been reused several times. This makes for a fascinating site, but one that is difficult to make sense of.
At the bottom of the hill are the scant remains of what must once have been an impressive theater. There are pot shards lying all around – though it can be hard to tell which are ancient and which were dropped by picnicers last week. Most of the chorus area was occupied by sheep.
After all this vigorous exercise it was time for lunch. Lunch was fish, eaten on the harbour which is well supplied with fish restaurants. We ate with quite a large group. The balık ekmek was a bit greasy but the calamaris (and the views) were excellent!
After lunch we were taken on a tour of the recent dig (there is an Athena Temple, or the remains thereof, near to the school) and the citadel by one of the working archaeologists. He was very interesting but rather softly spoken. There is not much left of the Athena Temple or the agora which is nearby. Most of the stone was taken by later occupants for other projects. Bits of it can be seen in the walls of the citadel. The walk around the citadel is enchanting. It has been restored in such a way that the various ‘layers’ of building are easy to identify. Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman. It is also monumentally huge. We didn’t get a good photograph of the citadel walls from outside. The picture below is of what remains of the temple (and the agora). You can see bits of the citadel wall from the inside.
After the citadel tour we went for a brisk walk around the English Peninsula before joining up with the rest of the group for some excellent ice cream to sustain us on the long ride home.