Peloponessian Odyssey

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Our first stop on the Odyssey
With one day trip to the Diros caves out of the way and only three days left to cover the Pelops and also get up to Delphi, we had to set sail on our three day Odyssey the next morning. It was to be a long trip back to Ithac... err... Argos to return to our beloved Penelop... err... our friendly rental car guy Tasos, but we had our maps and were ready to get underway. We didn't realize that a mob of scooters (some might call them suitors) were at that very moment tearing across Argos taking advantage of our absence. In a rather stretched way, our Odyssey was not so different than another undertaken a by a much more famous Greek.

A great lunch to be had here
We took off from Tripoli after some rice pudding, a stop at the bank for supplies, and some food in our bellies. Filled with the spirit of adventure, we took off on the old highway for Olympia. The road was winding, like Poseidon himself (who has been promoted and now manages land as well as sea travel) was bent against our travel, and the 100 or so kilometres stretched hours.

Mountain village
We stopped in Orhomenos because there was a sign saying there were some ruins and drove up the mountain to find an old theatre on the mountaintop. It was nice because we could actually touch and use the ruins and had them to ourselves with nobody blowing piercing whistles at John. Plus the view from there was really nice, it was like looking down from Greece and seeing Saskatchewan, farmland spread all over the valley. Hungry, we stopped in beautiful Levini and were rewarded with some nice lamb and delicious greens. We also passed a really impressive village called Langadia clinging to the side of the mountain (which I remember from prior travels) and stopped for some photos again.

Olympia
Then, we travelled through a forest before arriving in Ancient Olympia. I think it was better set up for tourists since my last visit, probably for the Olympics, and I actually am glad I saw it again. Having paid our respects to Zeus and with Athena at our back (after all, we spent a night with her when John arrived), we overcame Poseidon and made it to Pyrgos for some food and Greek pastries in the main plateia. It was actually a nice city, what we saw of it. If nothing else, some food definitely hit the spot... even if it was Goody's (the Greek McDonalds, basically).

Dinner in Pyrgos
Then, off to Patra. We got down to the port and looked for a place to stay, finally finding a Pension that my Lonely Planet mentioned. However, they were complete jerks, which John assures me is a nice word for them. After a battle with the cycloptic woman at the till, from which we emerged victorious by asking if we could see the room that we were to pay 30 Euro for in low season, being told no, we can't, and walking out, we heard a strange music in the air (Calypso?). Walking towards it, we found a street wall-to-wall with people, and a Hotel Galaxy beckoning to us. We payed 10 Euro more to stay there, but we had been seduced by its siren song and great location, so we grabbed a room and were convinced to move our car from out of a back alley. The seductress convinced us to move our car in closer and closer until finally it was shipwrecked in a spot right down the street with the ruins of several other cars to keep it company. But strangely, we felt quite safe with our choice of parking spot.

Not good news, but...
Long hours of our journey (almost 8) were spent at that hotel, until finally we were able to escape the next morning at 11:00. To discover, as we attempted to flee, driving down the street, that there was a ticket on our window and our license plate holder on the windshield. A quick pullover revealed that we had been stripped of our plates and so we went to battle with the locust-like police. First, we stopped at a travel agency/tourist info place/oracle to gather information. It turns out that:

a) The fine was going to be 65 Euro.
b) Our adversaries had divided and we must first meet them in the post office (where we would pay the hefty cost of battle) and then at the police station where we would, the oracle prophesised, emerge victorious after some great and even more painful battle and a bit of misdirection.

We discovered the truth
As always, the oracle was correct. We made it to the post office, waited in line a long time, and finally paid our 65 Euro. That, incidentally, is a HEFTY cost for a parking ticket in a place where tonnes of people were parked anyway. Determined to keep our spirits up, we attempted to joke about the ordeal and even took photos. The moral boost saved the day and we won against the post office. However, even under torture, none would or could disclose the location of the secret police base, so we had to ask at a gas station. Finding it, I was called into the office of one of the officers to go head to head. Or so I thought. A translator was called, who notified me that I would not be able to drive my car for 20 years... errr... days unless I paid THREE TIMES the amount. In total, my friends, that comes close to 200 Euro. Needless to say, I yelled at someone for the second time on my trip. Obviously this was a trap designed to snare tourists (which we were) since leaving a rented car for twenty days is not an option, and I let them know I was unimpressed with being targetted thus. But, we were trapped. Worse, we had to go back to the post office to pay the rest of the money.

Licensed to Continue
With directions to the nearest post office, we set off, moral at an all time low and our pictures seeming to mock us. The directions, in a cunning move by police, were in fact misdirections, and we were told after waiting in line again that we weren't able to pay there but had to find the main post office again. Finally, we found it, charged to the front of the line, and told the woman that obviously we needed our car today and would have to pay the rest. The terrible cost was paid, with my money laid on the counter as far as the eye could see, rivers running green with their blood, but the battle was won. A trip back to the police station and they were to devistated to fight and so gave us our plates, and we fled Patra after a LONG layover swearing never to return (unless we had to).

The bridge out of Hades (AKA Patra)
Saddened at the loss of so much money, we weren't in that great a mood even as we came up to the new Rio bridge connecting Pelops with Central Greece/Sterea Ellada, where we were carried safely over the sea to a pretty town called Nafpaktos. We ate lunch in a restaurant right beside the beach and our spirits slowly lifted. Deciding that even now we could still hear Patras' siren song, we determined to put more distance between us and not dwell there in the sun, but drove straight to Delphi.

Delphi
The ruins there were very nice, as was the museum, and we checked it all out. This is where the oracle once was and three wars were fought over who controlled it before Roman times made it rather obsolete (since the oracle's control over Greek matters then moved to the Roman Senate). We continued our trek and arrived in Thebes/Thiva after dark and with one hotel full and the other too expensive. A big piece of souvlaki, some greek salad, and a phone call or two told us the trip should be three hours or so, bringing us home to Tripoli around 1 AM. However, with the new National Highway under our wheels, the music blaring from the iPod, and a lot of Coca Cola in our blood, we made the trip in under two hours getting in before midnight. We'd made it back home, but we still had one final ordeal - the scooters waiting in Argos.

Epidauros Theatre
So, we slept in Tripoli and went to tackle them the next day. We stopped for some of that world famous souvlaki in Miloi, spent an hour in Tolo on the beautiful beach there, and saw the Ancient Theatre in Epidauros (you can hear a coin dropped with perfect clarity from the very top - we tested it - that's how impressive the acoustics are at this site). Then, with a stop in the ancient capital of Nafplio, we tackled Argos. When we arrived, the scooters all were slain, or rather, parked and we were able to return our car, and, with a bus ride to Corinth and then Tripoli because there were no more busses direct to Tripoli that night, we got in, got cleaned up, and the nuptuals began with a night out at the club. It was a lot of fun at the one, and then we left to go to another one (where I'd made my zambetiko debut four years earlier) but it was so smoky that we had to leave. We sat and had, yup, more souvlaki and "megalo galaxia nero" which unforunately resulted in us getting just a little bottle of water, and came back home around 5:30.

And so ends our Odyssey. Soon, we're off to the islands and our next, but hopefully slightly more relaxed and less troubled, Odyssey.

<Pelops Photos>

3 comments:

mariah said...

hey dean i was wondering do you know miss fitz' son? Because miss fitz was asking about you. So if you want I can get him to write to you. Sorry i haven't wrote to you in a while but i got busy.(your probably thinking nice excuse)but really i got busy.School is goin kinda good kinda bad our teacher is as mean as a restling guy when you punch him in the face ok gotta go now bye. love mom dad ______ nicole larissa and mariah.

Dean said...

HAHAHAHAHA! Mariah, you crack me up! Too funny. I do know Miss Fitz' sons because I went to school with Lane and met Jay, and yeah, tell them to drop me an email if they want. I'm going to try to call you tonight anyway.

mariah and mom said...

Hey Dean well i'm gettin another computer lesson from mariah dad and I were in Las Vegas for 4 nights and 5 days and got home on october 1 and nicole asked dad if he was having a withdrawl attack by not reading your wonderful stories every day.We just read your latest story and we hope to hear from you soon (Like a phone call if you can) love ya mom and mariah. P.S. I did all the typing so you know because mom is still learning.