Greek Journal Part II

Greek Journal: 5/13/2005-6/8/2005

Summary: DenverLondonAthensLeptokaryaLitochoroKalambaka (Meteora)IguominitsaCorfu TownIguominitsaZorganian Villages, Vikos Gorge andMt.AstrakaAthensLondonDenver

 

5/16/2005:Athens,Greece: Most exciting event today, besides finding Kelley, was buying a cane. About 7 days before leaving on this trip I was warming up for a rock climb at Chuckwalla Wall in St. George and stepped back landing with my full weight on my right heal directly on a small rock. I was sure it was broken, but the X-Ray said other wise. The walking to the Acropolis yesterday really fired it up. Knowing that today we had to leave our hotel, walk about a half mile to the underground train with all our luggage and negotiate through the train stations and the airport was painful to think about. We found a pharmacy and bought a cane to assist in the effort.

 

The trip and finding Kelley went amazingly smoothly, but the luck or miracle that took place that allowed us to find Kelley and get on our way only became evident after the fact. Originally Kelley was supposed to catch the train in to Athens and meet us at one of the bus stations in down town Athens. That in it self would have been an epic achievement. After our original plan was set I figured out that it would be easier to meet her at the airport and get directly on the train to our next destination from there. Good plan except Kelley never got the email with the change of plans. She had arrived on her flight to Athens a little early and had headed for the bus to Athens. She had left the terminal and then remembered something she needed to check on inside the terminal and just as she came through the door back inside there we were. If she would have gotten on that bus to AthensI don’t think we would have ever found her.

Once we were all together we took the train to the connector station at Larissa just outside of Athens to connect with our train to Leptokarya.

 

5/16/2005: On the train: We got some traveling in Greece education today. Trains leave about every 4-6 hours from Larissa up the cost to Leptokarya. We arrived in the station with about an hour to spare and got in line for tickets. When I got to the front of the line the man at the window told me I was in the wrong line and directed me to another line. When I got to the front of that line the lady told me the train was full and we would have to wait for the next train in 6 hours. A mighty depressing prospect since it was hot, no food was available and given it was an 8 hour trip and it was now 10:00 AM that would put us at our destination around midnight.

As we hung around in the waiting area discussing our options an American student from Berkeley introduced himself and said “There are plenty of seats on the train. Just buy a ticket and get on”. I got back in the first line, insisted on buying three tickets, the train came, we got on with no problem and off we went.

 

 

5/17/2005:Leptokarya,Greece: Yesterday was a travel day. After leaving Larissa station in Athens we wound around the convolutions, hills and valley’s of the east coast of Greece. The further north we traveled the more rural and open the land became. The haze and pollution of Athens faded into rolling hills covered with olive groves and farms.

We stopped at every train station in every little town along he way. Some times people board or disembark, but more often the train stopped for its obligatory five minutes and then moved on. It was a relaxing rhythm. We read about Greece, learned a little Greek, caught up on Kelley’s life in Barcelona and her current life in Montpellier, France, where she was learning French while on a semi-work leave from her job Prous Science in Barcelona. We slept and watched the changing country side go by hour after hour.

 

 

 

 

 

On the train to Leptokarya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our destination was Leptokarya which is the first town you encounter as you pass from Thessalia and Epiros (central Greece) to Macedonia, which borders Albania on the west, Turkey on the north and Bulgariaon the northeast. Leptokarya is located right on the shores of the Aegean (east) and Mt. Olympos National Park(west).

Right now it is 9:42 am, the temperature is 72F. Mo, Kelley and I are sitting in lounge chairs looking east out to sea. Unlike the oceans I am used to on the west coast of the US, the Aegean is glassy smooth with the exception of an occasional ripple created by some seas creature surfacing. The geography is a little more condensed than I am used to, much like the Canadian Coastal Range. I am sitting 20’ from the ocean at 0’ elevation and I can look over my left shoulder and see the summit of Mt. Olympus, the highest point in Greece(9,571 ft.) just 12 miles away as the crow flies.

Other than the three of us, the beach is deserted as far as the eye can see in both directions. The beach side cabana bar just opened and Bob Marley is singing “No woman No Cry. I think it must be time for an ouzo.

 

 

 

Hanging out on the Aegean. Some serious whiteness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/18/2005: Still on the beach: Yesterday was pure relaxation. Read, laid on the beach and rented a bike for a leisurely ride through the town of Leptokarya. Rode along the coast on a small path for a while then randomly turned west on a small road in to the village. The remarkable thing about this town is that no matter how large of small the homes are, they are all very clean with white washed walls, tile roofs and beautiful flower gardens. I wish I had my mother with me to help identify the flora, because other than the roses and the bogenvias, I just know they are beautiful flowers.

 

 

After the tour de Leptokarya I met Kelley and Mo at an on the beach caf where Kelley introduced us to a European treat, lemonade and a beer, mixed together. After our relaxing day we enjoyed a meal at the Poseidon Hotel where we were lodging and readied our selves for our accent of Mt. Olympus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refreshing with a lemobeer at the on the beach caf in Letochoro 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our plan was to rent a car and get an early start since we had to drive to 25k to Letochoro at the baser of Mt. Olympus before we could even start our trek. There were two Eurocar rental guys that hung out at the hotel in lobby so we arranged for a car early the morning of the 18th.

Dumb OC Americans that we are, we were up at 6 am, packed and in the lobby waiting for the car at 7:30 am. Promptly at 9 am the two Eurocars guys arrived with significant blood ouzo levels. Not only were they late, but the cost of the car had escalated since yesterday and it was questionable whether or not there was really a car available. After a quick pow-wow we decided to take a taxi.

We learned travel in Greece lesson #2: Ask four people for the same information, average the content of the responses, disregard all information and just show up and negotiate when you are ready to go.

How things worked out is as follows: The day clerk at the Poseidon was a nice guy and took a personal interest in our desire to climb Mt. Olympus. He told us about Tasso who was the 11 pm to 7 am desk clerk who climbs Olympus all the time and could help us. I located Tasso who it turns out is the god father to the daughter of the hut master and head ranger, Maria Zalota, at Spelio Agopitos (hut on Mt. Olympus). The Zalotas are legends in these parts because Maria’s father single handedly built the original hut and started and ran the Mt. Olympus National Park for many years until Maria took over.

It turned out that Maria’s cousin was a taxi driver and he personally picked us up at the Poseidon and drove us to the town square in Letochoro. In Letochoro another driver picked us up and drove us 20k to the trail head for Mt. Olympus. Pretty simple when you know the right people.

 

 

Go to Greek Journal Part III

Go to Greek Journal Index