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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

THE ROAD TRIP: 1 ferry, 5 buses and a taxi

Galatia, the Peloponnese
It was a long day's journey but one I enjoyed very much, especially that serene feeling of traveling alone to a new destination, always an exciting experience for me.  I left Poros at 11 am. on the little ferry across to Galatia (about a 10 minute journey) and from there hopped a bus headed for Nauplion.  We had to change at Epidaurus and sat at a roadside taverna for a little while before boarding bus #2 on to the lovely town of Nauplion.  I've writing about this place before at http://www.travelthruhistory/html/culture11.html
Nauplion, The Palamidi Fortress
The Bourzi
Venetian Gate
Nauplion is a beautiful town exuding fading elegance, reminiscent of when it used to the capital of Greece.  It has an interesting, sometimes violent political history.  The first King of Greece, Bavarian Prince Otho,  had his residence here l833/34.  It's a picturesque town with a long, attractive waterfront and a high stony backdrop of cliffs where the Palamidhi Fortress looms above, a centre point of the War of Independence.  This is the site of the original acropolis which was later restored by medieval successors.  The towns third fort, the Bourtzi, is out in the bay. It was built in 1473 by Venetians to control shipping lanes.  Right across the bay is Argos, from where the fabled Argonauts set sail. My four hour lay-over there gave me lots of time to browse and refresh my photos of the town.
The Long and Winding Road
Panoramic View of the Sea looking down on Argos
Next I boarded a bus bound for Tripoli, which is the gateway to the Arkadia a place that features in a couple of chapters of my novel Shadow of the Lion. So of course I was thrilled to get a first-hand look at the geography. The road winds up and up, around hair-pin curves into the mountain heights with panoramic views of the valley and distant sea.  I couldn't help but think of my characters in Shadow who traversed that wild countryside by horseback.  Very hardy men indeed!

At Tripoli I had to walk across town to the Sparti bus depot and just made it in time to get the next bus, 10 minutes later.  I'd been to Sparti twice before and hoped I would make a connection on to Gythion because I didn't fancy getting stuck there.  The city is called Sparti, but it's the site of ancient  Sparta, a city that had no great temples or important buildings, its motto being "It is men, not walls, that make a city".   Modern Sparti is laid out on a grid and isn't very remarkable or scenic and in the past there always seemed be a lot of gypsy beggars lurking around.  I stayed put in the bus depot cafeteria for my two hour wait for the on-going trip to Gythion.

By 9.15 pm I boarded a bus full of young lads on their way back to their army barracks.  It was dark by then so I couldn't enjoy the scenery.  The trip only took about an hour and when I arrived at Gythion, not having a clue where to go, I just hopped a taxi and asked to be taken to a  pension that was recommended in my tour book.  It turned out to be an excellent choice as I am located on the sea front, right across from the little islet of Marathonissi where it is said Paris of Troy, having abducted Helen from Menelaus' palace at Sparta, dropped anchor and the lovers spent their first night  here.  How romantic is that?!
The Port of Gythion

The French-Greek owners of the hotel/taverna (the Saga) are very pleasant and I felt immediately comfortable and at peace.  For 35 E. I have a beautiful little room where I can sit on the balcony and enjoy the view of the coast and sea.  I can see it will be an excellent place for me to do some writing.

This morning I set off to find a bank and web cafe and will explore the town further and write more about it.
I am hoping I can find a bus tour around the Mani peninsula (which  is why I came here) but so far the tourist shop was closed so I'll try again later.  I plan to be here for at least a couple of days.  There is apparently a general strike in Greece for 2 days which means there won't be transportation although I did spot one bus today so I wonder if in the Peloponnese they are exempt from the strikes?

At Sparti

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