| Part 2: Athens, Delphi, Olympia, Bassae
26.5: Munich -> Athens
Hotel Platon, Athens. 50 Euro for a
small room with A/C, TV, two beds, very small bathroom with shower and
hair dryer, WLAN. Value for money is not too bad considering that this
is Athens. Room is not too noisy, but the hotel is near a road with
lots of traffic which is noisy at night because people make races with
their bikes and cars. The blanket is very, very thin, so that it's too
cold to sleep with A/C. The A/C is individually adjustable.
Friendly staff, they add a bed (well, actually it's a mattress +
blankets) for Alissia.
Weather: hot in Munich, fresh in the
night in Athens.
The food on the plane is so-so (only one sandwich between MUC and FCO,
some bread + cheese and cake between FCO and Athens). FCO airport is
so-so: a bit run down and dirty. We land in Athens airport on time at
11:20pm local time. Everything runs smoothly, we retrieve the luggage
walk to the taxi stand. The road to the hotel is mostly motorway, empty
at this time. The taxi costs 43 Euro, plus toll and extra luggage this
becomes 48 Euro (!). We arrive in the hotel in the Moschato area near
the beach shortly after midnight. We sleep after 1am.
Hotel Platon, Athens. The location is
stupid: it takes almost one hour to get into town with the tramway
Weather: sunny blue sky the whole
day, some thin clouds every now and then cover the sun. In the late
afternoon the sky is overcast for about one hour. Strong sun, but not
too hot, actually surprisingly fresh due to the wind.
We get up at 10:40am and manage to leave the hotel at 12pm. We walk to
the metro station and at 12:15pm we take the tramway to downtown Athens
(Syntagma). The train is comfortable, quite modern and has A/C. This is
an endless trip, first along the coast (many beaches), then across
Athens. Athens seems to be a huge conglomerate of residential areas
with lots of residential flats. We don't see any impressive
architecture, no old buildings until we reach the city centre.
It takes almost 50 minutes to arrive to Syntagma, which lies next to
the parliament/presidential palace. From there we walk towards the
Plaka quarter, where we have lunch between 1:25pm and 2:25pm. The
restaurant we choose is not so good and in fact a bit overpriced.
At 2:25pm we continue walking across the Plaka. There are small alleys,
full of shops selling jewellery and tourist stuff. The entire
neighbourhood seems devoted to cater to tourists and relieve them of
cash. I can't see anywhere a telecommunications shop where to buy a
prepaid GSM card for the mobile phone. We pass by a flea market (in
Monistiraki square) where
they sell among other stuff movie DVDs (most likely unlicenced).
At 3:15pm we enter the Athenian Agora. This is large area below the
Acropolis with ruins of ancient temples and buildings. The ticket costs
12 Euro, but the guy tells us that tomorrow the entrance is free.
We spend the next three and a half hours in the Agora and the
Acropolis. On the one hand it takes some effort to navigate through the
terrain with a baby stroller, on the other hand I'm not in a hurry,
waiting got the evening sun and light, which should produce better
photos. However around 6pm the sky closes and gone is the nice light
for about one hour.
To get into the Acropolis you have to leave the baby stroller and bags
and backpacks in a locker room.
At 6:40pm we walk down from the Acropolis and head towards the Plaka,
where we look for a restaurant. We actually spend another hour, walking
across the Plaka, because there is so much to see and only settle down
in a restaurant at 10 to 8pm. This restaurant is sort of a Green
taverna, with a band playing live Greek music. Excellent atmosphere and
good food, but so is also the bill (i.e. the food is expensive).
After dinner at 8:40pm we start walking back to the hotel. Actually we
first spend some more time walking in the Plaka around the Acropolis
and in fact only catch the train at 9:45pm. Then on the way back we
miss the Moschato station and get out one station later. No problem,
opposite there is another train waiting for us. We quickly jump.
However we again miss the Moschato station, because it turns out that
the train does not automatically stop at all the stations - it only
stops if somebody presses the red button or if there are some
passengers waiting at the stops. We are back in the hotel at 11pm.
Weather: heavy rain until about 1pm,
windy, fresh; after it's overcast and in the evening the sky opens up.
I get up at 9am, Shirley and Alissia at 11am. We are basically stuck in
the hotel until after 1pm - no point going out in the heavy rain.
Finally at 1:15pm we leave the hotel and walk to the tramway station.
We get on the next train at 1:35pm and get out at the Amfitheas
station, because Shirley spotted a Vietnamese restaurant yesterday and
would like to have lunch there. Unfortunately, by the time we are there
it's 2:20pm and this restaurant closes between 1 and 4:30pm.
Never mind, we get back on the tramway, this time getting to the Fix
station where we change and take the underground for one station to the
Acropolis station. The underground of Athens is modern and well
organised; there are escalators at all exits and lifts for the disabled
and those who have strollers. We walk again to the Plaka and have a
late lunch in a restaurant. The food is not bad, but pricey and the
portions are smallish. All restaurants charge 3-4 Euro for the "cover":
kind of a service fee for the table. Overall restaurants here are
20-30% more expensive than in Germany.
By the time we finish our lunch it's 3:40pm and it's time to finally
get to the National Archaeological Museum, which according to the LP
guide is open until 7:15pm on Mondays in May. We get back to the
Acropolis underground station and take the train to the Omonia station.
From Omonia square it's a 500m walk to the museum, which we reach at
4:24pm. Surprise, surprise, today is a public holiday and the museum
has already closed at 3pm...
We then spend some time in the museum park (lots of pigeons and Alissia
likes to play with them), then walk back, stop in a cafe for some
icecream (local Greek brand of a cornetto, not bad), then are back in
Omonia square at 5:40pm. From there we take the underground to Syntagma
station, just in time for the 6pm change of the guard in front of the
In front of the Parliament there is a huge flock of pigeons, waiting to
be fed by the people. There is a guy who sells bird feed (one small bag
for 1 Euro) and who has an instant camera to take photos of people when
the pigeons jump on you. The pigeons here are so used to be fed by
people, that they have lost their fear and jump on you, eat from your
hand, sit on your head and so on. Alissia has a great time playing with
the pigeons, watching them sitting on her arms. At one point I have a
pigeon on my head and three sitting on each of my arms. We play with
the pigeons until 7pm and Alissia has a great time.
After that we look for a pharmacy, but can't find an open one, as today
is a public holiday. In Germany there is always an open pharmacy on
duty even on public holiday and at night, but here there doesn't seem
to be a similar system.
So, at 7:10pm we take the tramway back towards the hotel. At the
Amfitheas station we get out and go to the Vietnamese restaurant which
this time is open. The idea would be to get a typical delicious
Vietnamese noodle soup, and possibly have a more affordable dinner. We
are also tired of eating so much meat - Greek dishes are heavy on meat.
Surprise, surprise, they have no noodle soups in this Vietnamese
restaurant. They could make one on request, but only a small one, not a
big one ...? Perhaps they can't bill it, i.e. have no price for a big
soup. So we order what they have on the menu. Again the portions are
smaller than in a comparable restaurant in Germany and the prices are
very much in line with the other restaurants in Athens. Well, we'd like
to spend less than 60-70 Euro/day on meals if possible...
After dinner we get back to the hotel, arriving at 9:30pm. I call the
car rental and ask them to send the car to the hotel tomorrow at
-> Delphi -> Olympia
Hotel Kronio, Ancient Olympia. 55 Euro
for a double room with some furniture, A/C, TV, WLAN (which I can't use
because it uses the WPA2 protocol), telephone, bathroom, big enough,
attached bath with shower. A/C individually adjustable. Breakfast
included (7-10am), room is quiet. Good filling breakfast by the way,
(eggs, toasted bread, jam, honey, butter, freshly squeezed orange
juice, greek yoghurt) - they even serve a breakfast for Alissia even if
the room is just a double one.
Weather: sunny, blue sky, some cloud
every now and then. Very windy in the mountains, warm but not hot
We get up around 9:30am, pack the things and at 10:30am I'm below in
the lobby waiting for the people from the car rental, Pegasus cars, who
will arrive between 10:30am and 11am. At 11am they are finally here
with the car. Some formalities and then we check the boots.
Miracolously the luggage fits all into the car - I was really afraid we
would have to take a bigger car.
At 11:30am we finally leave the hotel. After getting lost a bit, we
quickly find the motorway and head towards Lamia. We pay two times two
Euro toll, then the motorway is free. At 1pm we have a quick lunch in a
McDonalds restaurant on the motorway, then continue driving. We leave
the motorway in Kastro and drive towards Livadia/Delphi. Lots of street
signs showing the way to Delphi, so it is easy to get there. The only
problem are those countless speed limit signs, which often do not make
sense and often there is no end-of-speed-limit sign, so you wonder why
everybody is overtaking you when there was a 50km/h speed limit and you
are already driving 55 km/h. Also, some speed limits do not make any
At 2:33pm we finally reach the Delphi site. There is the temple of
Athena Pronaia (free entrance) and the main compound with the Apollo
temple, the stadium and other ruins. Many tourists, but not
really crowded. Quite interesting, although not much is left - you see
mostly ruins and can only guess what these structures once represented.
Climbing up until the stadium takes some effort, especially if you are
carrying a small child who is tired and wants to be carried every now
and then. It's not hot due to the strong fresh wind, but the sun is
We walk around the ruins longer than expected - until 4:15pm. Then we
head towards the nearby museum, which contains some interesting items
from the Delphi site. We are in the museum until 5pm, then head to the
Athena Pronaia temple which we previously skipped. Finally at 5:30pm we
leave Delphi. We have spent a total of three hours at the site - much
longer than initially expected (I was budgeting one hour, but just
getting to the top with the
stadium took over an hour, including all the photo stops).
At 5:30pm we leave the Delphi site and, after one more stop in Delphi
village to buy some groceries, we drive towards Nafpaktos, where there
is the bridge which crosses the Peloponnese strait. It takes almost two
hours to get there - we only arrive at 7:25pm. In Nafpaktos we have a
dinner (souvlaki chicken + a dish of spaghetti for little over 10 Euro
- quite cheap for Greece), then at 8:30pm continue driving towards
Crossing the bridge costs a steep 10.90 Euro. At the other end I miss
the exit towards Patras, which is not well marked and on top of that I
drive through a toll point apparently in the wrong lane and it takes
some effort and an irregular manouver to get back to the right
Around 9pm it gets dark and everybody is starting to overtake
me. There are speed limits, but everybody is ignoring them. There is
also the double continous line on the road, which means that overtaking
is not allowed, but people still overtake all the time. At one point
even Shirley asks why I'm driving so slowly, and when I explain that
I'm already over the speed limit, she replies that if everybody is
ignoring the speed limit I should do so too. Unbelievable. Anyway,
after some time I understand how things work here. This is officially a
street with two lanes, but in practive it has three or four lanes. Slow
vehicles drive to the right, on part of the hard shoulder and let
faster vehicles overtake.
Everybody who is not driving fast is supposed to do so. This I why I
get honked so often. Speed limits and double continuos lines are
At 10:40pm we finally arrive to the hotel in Olympia and settle down.
-> Bassae (Vassae) -> Gialova
Hotel Zoe, Gialova. 70 Euro for a nice
big apartment with A/C, bath with hair dryer and bathtub/shower,
kitchenette, fridge, sofa, TV, no telephone. Breakfast not included,
but the overall standard is high. There is even a pool.
Weather: similar as yesterday, but
colder: sunny, blue sky, some cloud every now and then, overcast every
now and then. Very windy in the mountains, warm in the plains (perhaps
25-26°C), but cold at the Bassae temple high up in the mountains
(just 16°C). Only 22°C at 7pm in Gialova.
We wake up at 9am and have breakfast before 10am. We are still tired of
yesterday's long drive (and today as it turns out, the drive will be no
fun either). We check out around 10:30am, then proceed to the
archaeological site, which is very close to Olympia (just a few 100m, a
few minutes walking). Lots of tour buses on the parking and quite a few
hordes of tourists as well. The ticket costs 6 Euro for just the
archaeological site and 9 Euro for both the site and the museum.
museum contains a collection of statues, ornamental stuff which once
was on the buidlings of the site and bronze weaponry found in the area.
The site itself is relatively run down, with very few structures still
standing and mostly just blocks of stone lying around. Hard to guess
how this site looked once.
At 12:10pm we are done visiting the site (we spent one hour and a half,
but could actually have stayed longer, as we did not explore the entire
site). We have a meal in a restaurant next to the site - again fried
stuff, lots of meat, french fries. We are on a junk diet heavy on fats
and meat and low on vegetables. We haven't been able to find healthier
food so far in Greece - it's invariably either spaghetti or souvlaki or
At 1:20pm we leave Olympia and start driving. At first we catch the
wrong road and drive towards Pyrgos, then turn back and drive again in
the wrong direction this time almost until Lalas. Finally we drive back
to Olympia and ask somebody. It turns out that we should have taken the
small road in front of the Hotel Kronion... The problem is that the
streets in Greece are not well marked, so it is easy to get lost.
Then the nightmare starts. What should have been a short trip turns out
to be a long drive on narrow and winding mountain roads, passing by
Krestena, Andritsena and finally arriving at the temple of Apollo
Epicurius at 3:45pm - almost two and a half hours after we left
Olympia. On the way, Alissia feels bad and vomits, no wonder with all
those curves. The road is also not used very much and as a result the
vegetation grows in from both sides, making the road narrower. There
are holes in the road every now and then and there are stones on the
road. On top of that there are street signs which make no sense (speed
limits when the road is wide and straight) and the entire road has a
double middle line (= overtaking not allowed), even if there are
sections of the road where overtaking would be safe and possible.
The temple of Apollo Epicurius itself is a big disappointment. It
should be removed from the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The entire temple is covered by a white plastic tent, inside all
columns are enveloped by a metal structure. It turns out that the
restoration work has been going on since 1995 - now in 2007, 12 years
later, it is still not complete. Makes one wonder what they have been
doing in these 12 years. These people are extremely inefficient.
We just spend a little bit over 20 minutes at the temple site (there is
a freezing wind blowing up there), then leave towards the coast at
Tholo. The idea is that the coast road should be smoother and with
curves. It's just 46km until Tholo, be we need over an hour to cover
that distance. The road is in terrible conditions.
Down in Tholo at 5:20pm we take the main road towards Pilos. Great
coastal road, wide, few wide curves, almost like a motorway. Only 85km
until Pilos. We arrive in Gialova at 7pm. It seems that in the
Peloponnese you have to avoid the inland roads and just take the
In the evening we don't do much. Nice holiday feeling in the beach area
in Gialova. There are many families with children. Almost too cold in
the evening to sit outside and have dinner.