Greek Journal Part VI

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

Summary: DenveràLondonàAthensàLeptokaryaàLitochoroàMt. OlympusàLitochoro àKalambaka (Meteora)àIguominitsaàCorfu TownàIguominitsaàZorganian Villages, Vikos Gorge and Mt. AstrakaàAthensàLondonàDenver

 

5/22/2005: Korfu Island, Greece: After boarding the bus in Kalambaka we had an uneventful trip from central Greede, west of the Pindos Mountains, through Ionina to the port town of Iguomenisto.  Iguomenisto is the second busiest port in Greece with access to the Ionian Islands and the mainland of Europe.  Ferries leave for Corfu so often that our wait was minimal and at 4:45 pm we left port in a cool breeze and bright sunshine for the Island of Corfu.  As we passed by the

Old Fort standing guard over the port entry to Corfu Town the water was Mediterranean blue palette and the sky was crystal clear.

 

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The Old Fort at Corfu Town harbour

 

 

 

 

We had no lodging arranged so we pulled out our Corfu Guide book.  A short taxi ride later we were at the Couvilleire Hotel on the Esplande in Old Corfu Town.  The Esplande or Spianadha is like a toned down and much smaller version of Central Park.  The rectangular park and walkways are surrounded on two side, east and north, by hotels, shops and official buildings.  The south side is protected by the Old Fort and the west side by the Ionian Sea.  The Couvilleire was located on the very northwest corner of the Esplande with an unobstructed view of both the park and the Ionian Sea.

The central square and the surrounding building reflect the various occupation of the island dating back to the 1500’s.  The park itself is rectangular with shaded walk ways and the only cricket field in all of Greece.  The field was build by the British during their occupation and every Sunday year round you can see Greek cricket in Corfu Town.

On the north side of the park is the area they call the Lisbon.  This area of shops and cafes was built on the orders of Napoleon during the early 19th century.  He was home sick for Paris so he had the Ru de Rivole built on Corfu.  Just across the park on what I think is the south side is the Old Fort, Paleo Froureo.  First constructed around 600 AD after the Goths destroyed the city, it was subsequently fortified and modernized by the Byzantines during the 11th century, the Venetians in the 15th century, the British in the 19th century and finally the Greeks in the 1990’s. 

Looking back toward the Lisbon from the Couvilliere 6th floor roof top deck there are lines of tiled roofs looking like a scene from Venice.  Right behind the hotel, tucked in amongst apartments and shops is a roofless, two storey bombed out church, one of the reminders of Mussolini’s pointless bombing of Corfu Town during WWII.

5/23/2005: Corfu Town, Greek Island of Corfu:  Just wandered around town today.  Took a swim in the ocean a block from the hotel in crystal clear 78o water.

Had a long leisurely lunch at Rex’s Esiatoria located on a pedestrian walk way just off the Spianadha.  We had Greek salad, bread, olives, apps, main course and wine for two people for 36 Euro.

 

 

 

Open air café and town square in the Lisbon, Corfu Town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow we find our way to the beginning of the Corfu Trail.  Spent part of the day trying to locate the guide book and maps.  Before leaving for Greece I had contacted the author of the guide book and the shop that handles the book.  They had said to just look them up when I got there and obtain the book at that time.  Fortunately I had copied a fair amount of information and a vague map off of the internet.  When I found the book store they informed me the book had been sold out for a long time and was no longer in print.  They had no idea where to get one and besides a “good luck”, didn’t have much to offer.

 

5/24/2005: Had breakfast at the Couvilliere and stashed as much bread, eggs and fruit in our pockets as we could hold.  Since we have no idea what is available where we are going, or for that matter where we are going, that we thought it would be good to bring some provisions with us.

To get to our destination we had to take another Greek test.  First we had to figure out what bus to take to the south end of the island.  Logically, I thought, I would talk to information at the KTEL (island bus line) office at the bus station.  I asked for the bus to Lefkimi (second most southerly town on the bus line) and was told to look for the 10 am bus.  Since buses seemed to come and go every few minutes and none of them said where they were going I thought I needed more specific information.  Noticing that each bus had a number I patiently waited in line again and asked “what number is the bus to Lefkimi?”, to which the information man said, it is #12, why didn’t you just ask for the bus number the first time.

We boarded #12 and headed for Lefkimi with our back packs in our laps and adventure on our mind.  First things first,  we had to get dropped off at the right town.  As we passed through each small town and got closer to our destination, Mo asked repeatedly if the conductor would let us know when we got to Lefkimi.  No problem, no problem.  He would let us know. 

At some point it occurred to us that there was no Lefkimi ahead.  We asked the steward where Lefkimi was and we were informed we had missed the town.  The steward shrugged his shoulders and walked off.  Oh well, we could get off at Kavos.  Kavos is the end of the Corfu bus line.  From this stop the bus turns around and heads back to Corfu Town.  We knew the trail started somewhere south of Kavos so we grabbed our packs and started walking through town toward the south. 

Didn’t know much about Kavos when we landed there, but with just a walk through town we got quite an education.  Everything in town was in English, because the English had basically built the town.  A nice Greek fellow we met gave us the run down.  Kavos was considered the Gamora of Greece.  That explained the abundance of sex shops and advertisements for sex resorts.  In season the bars ran 24 hrs a day and at any time of day you would see passed out drunken Englishman on the sidewalks.  Even now in the off season people zoomed around on motor bikes, go-carts and ATVS.  Since our real goal was a town off the bus line called Sparteva we decided to get out of Dodge as fast as our legs and my sore foot could carry us. 

I used my meger Greek to ask where Sparteva was and of course got a variety of answers.  The one consistency was it was south on the only road out of town in that direction.  After a very nice 5 km walk along a quiet road line with fruit trees, flowers and olive trees we did in deed come to the tiny town of Sparteva.  It is the southern most look out for the island and may date back to the mythical travels of Ulysses.  In the Odysee Ulysses sailed somewhere by here on his way to Ithica, one of the more southerly Ionian islands.  Our journey was no less challenging than Ulysses and at least he spoke Greek.

We walked to the high point in town, sat at the one cross road we had come to and ate a little of our pilfered fruit and considered our options: (1) Return to Corfu, (2) go right and (3) go left.  Just as we were feeling a little hopeless and needed some direction, two old gentleman came along the road.  The first spoke no English and didn’t understand my Greek, and the other spoke no English and was deaf.  So much for miracles.  Based on this new information and the very vague map I had we chose right.  After several minutes walking down a hill we literally came to the end of the town, the end of the road and the end of the island.  With my foot hurting and not much to go on we were about to head back to Kavos when I spotted a small yellow diamond shaped sign tacked to the side of an old barn.  The 

 

 

NßCTàS

 
sign looked like this                                                  , the official markers for the Corfu Trail.  

 

 

We happily descended the track in the direction indicated by the sign and entered new Greek world.  The olive trees must have been hundreds of year old.  Some of the old gnarled trees had trunks 6 ft in diameter.  There were forests of ferns 5-6 ft high, streams, flowers and bamboo.  Every once in a while we would come across a small grove of oranges and loquats with ripe fruit.

 

 

The start of the Corfu Trail.  Ancient olive trees, large ferns, fruit trees and a few snakes.  This is not your desert Greek Isle.

 

 

 

The one thing we found very little of was trail marking.  After following what appeared to be a main trail for several hours we came to a more established dirt road.  The next thing we know we were on the main island road just at the north edge of Kavos.  The Devil must have led us back here.  We crossed the road to a small quiet beach and had a snack and a swim before continuing on.

We walked about 4k north until we came to the town of Lefkimi.  Lefkimi was built by the Venetians around 1200 AD.  They wanted to capture the essence of Venice, canal and all.  We stopped for a snack and a beer at a café on the south side of the canal.  It must have been obvious that we were a little lost, because a nice fellow named Stavros and his wife, who were sitting at the next table, introduced themselves and asked if we needed some help.  Our intended goal for the day was Santa Barbara which was the west coast (we were currently on the east coast) of the island.  Stavros told us he had a good friend, Spiros, in Santa Barbara with a place right on the beach and to get in touch with him. Stavros called Spiros and left a message.  We said our thank yous and good-byes and started walking the 8 kms toward sea.  Immediately Stavros called out, “You will not make it that way”.   I pointed out our course on the map and Stavros pointed out if we did not cross the canal at Lefkimi, unless we wanted to swim across a large bay, we would be stuck on the south end of the island with no way to cross when we got to the sea.  That little encountered saved us about three hours of valuable walking time and frustration.  Again we thanked him, crossed the canal and shortly thereafter found a CT trail sign (the only one for the rest of the day) pointing to the sea.

After we left Lefkimi signs of humans diminished, in fact we saw no humans for the next five hours.  We followed the canal for a while and then as the trail split and split again we made our best guess. 

We knew there supposed to be a bird sanctuary on the “Great Salt Flats” but we were a little startled when we ran in to this critter

No humans, just a lone ostritch hanging out in a sycamore grove in the middle of no where.

 

We walked across the salt flats for a couple of hours and by some miracle, one of many, we came out right at the restored Venetian Salt Works and its 800 year old church.  We found a couple of people at an empty cafe along the shore line who we could converse with.  When we asked where Parovoli and Santa Barbara (our final destination for the day) where they just pointed down the beach and indicated maybe 8 km, maybe 10 km.  I was sure I had not been understood, but they as well as another independent source indicated the same thing. 

The sun was setting, we had been on the trail for about 8 hours already and it was 7 pm.  What lay ahead down the beach was an endless strip of empty sand with no sign of a trail.  After weighing the option we threw on the pack and headed north along the shore line.  This effort was short live because with in a km the tide came up and the beach was no more.

A miracle, a miracle!  Looking immediately left at the point where the beach disappeared beneath the Ionian Seas was a beach front hotel.  Well almost a miracle.  It was closed during the off season (now) and it looked dark and abandoned.  Never the less I walked up to the windows facing the sea and knocked on the door.  A young lady and a man opened the door and invited us in.  The young lady was the manager and the man was the cook.  Even though they were not opened they assured us they would put us up for the night and fix us a meal.  He had to crank up the kitchen so the woman sat us at a table looking at the sea and brought us water and wine.

The chef did more than put a TV dinner in the microwave.  We had salad, home made bread, calamari, lamb chops, double ouzo and a little local Lefkimi wine.  The meal and lodging was 47 Euro.  We were taken to our room and told to show up for breakfast around 7:30 or 8 am.  I don’t know what the place was called or where exactly it was since it wasn’t on the map. 

 

 

The view from our dinner table at the unknown hotel out to the beach and the Ionian Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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