Prepaid GSM
Getting around

Part 3: Gialova, Mystras, western Peloponnese

Map of trip to Greece

26.5: Munich -> Athens
27.5: Athens
28.5: Athens
29.5: Athens -> Delphi -> Olympia
30.5: Olympia -> Bassae -> Gialova
31.5: Gialova
1.6: Gialova, Methoni
2.6: Gialova
3.6: Gialova, Mystras
4.6: Gialova
5.6: Gialova -> Ancient Messini -> Porto Heli
6.6: Porto Heli, Epidaurus
7.6: Porto Heli, Tyrins, Argos, Mycene, Napflio
8.6: Porto Heli
9.6: Porto Heli -> Athens
10.6: Athens -> Munich

31.5: Gialova
Hotel Zoe, Gialova.
Weather: sunny, blue sky, but not too hot (max. 24-25°C). Very strong cold wind blowing the whole day, which makes it very unpleasant to stay on the beach and almost impossible to swim on the sea. Staying on the beach under these conditions is torture.

We get up at 9am and have breakfast. We don't do much the whole morning, because Alissia is not feeling well. Around 1pm I go out and buy some sandwiches (our lunch). Although I order a chicken sandwich, they give us a ham sandwich. At 2pm we leave the hotel and drive to the beach. This is the semicircle shaped beach, which looks cool from above. It should be quite close to the hotel, but in the end it takes about 10 minutes to get there by car. The beach is nice, the only problem is the cold wind which is blowing at full force and makes it impossible to swim (too cold) and makes the stay on the beach unpleasant.

We only spend 45 minutes on the beach then get back to the hotel. Alissia got a cold and a stomach upset, because of the cold wind. For the rest of the day she is now in the room with fever. At 4:30pm I drive to Pylos (6km from Gialova) to check my emails, because there is no Internet cafe in Gialova. Once in Pylos I notice that all shops are closed. Surprise, surprise all shops close at 1:30pm and reopen at 5:30pm. So I drive back to the hotel and at 6:30pm I get back into Pylos (Shirley stays in the hotel with Alissia). I check my mails (there is one, just one Internet cafe in Pylos, the Pandigital; the connection speed is fast) and have dinner. I'm back in the hotel at 10pm.

1.6: Gialova -> Methoni -> Gialova
Hotel Zoe, Gialova.
Weather: same as yesterday, although a bit less windy: sunny, blue sky, but not too hot (max. 24-25°C). Strong cold wind blowing the whole day.

We get up late (after 10am), then leave the hotel at 12pm and drive to Pylos. There I check my emails for about 40 minutes while Shirley is shopping, then at 1:20pm we start looking for a restaurant. We settle on a place in the main square. The food is so-so, because the chicken of the souvlaki is burnt and the French fries are not well cooked.

After lunch, at 2 something pm we drive to the next town, Methoni. Methoni itself is nothing special, but there are the impressive ruins of a large fortress and there is a beach (beach is so-so). After visiting the ruins, we head to the beach and stay there until 5:30pm. Alissia enjoys playing with the sand.

Then we drive a bit further south along the coast. South of Methoni there are a number of bays, each with a beach. One of these beaches, the first after leaving Methoni, has fine sand, while the next accessible beach (which already is in the next village), has somewhat more coarse sand and small stones, but is on the plus side the best beach I have seen so far in this area. It's wide and long. There is a windsurfing centre here, from which I conclude that the wind must be blowing strongly the whole year. So it's not that just yesterday the wind was so strong. Rather it appears that here the wind blows more or less strongly all the time.

At 7pm we have a dinner in the restaurant opposite the beach (food is not bad), then head back to the hotel after a brief stop in the Internet cafe in Pylos. In the evening we don't do much.

2.6: Gialova
Hotel Zoe, Gialova.
Weather: sunny, blue sky, some small cloud, thin clouds layer for some time. Still windy in the morning, but in the evening there is almost no wind. Getting a bit warmer.

We are woken up at 9:30am by Alissia who crawls into our bed and claims her share of it. We have breakfast, then don't do much for the whole morning. At 12:30pm I drive into town (Pylos) and check my emails in the Internet cafe.

I'm back in the hotel at 2pm. There is not much enthusiasm for going to the beach now and Alissia is about to start her afternoon sleep anyway, so we are in the hotel until almost 5pm. Then we go by car to the Voidokilia beach (the nice circular one near Gialova). Now it's more pleasant, as the cold wind has almost completely stopped. This beach is nice and cosy when there is no cold wind. The water is also shallow, so it's ideal for children. I even swim - the top layer of the water is not that cold.

Around 7pm we head back to the hotel. In the evening we have dinner in one of the beach restaurants near the hotel.

According to the forecasts the weather will worsen over the next days and it should rain. Tomorrow I'd like to do the trip to Mystras - if I manage to convince my two ladies to follow me.

3.6: Gialova -> Mystras -> Gialova
Hotel Zoe, Gialova.
Weather: sunny, blue sky, thin clouds layer for some time. Not windy anymore. It was supposed to rain today according to the forecasts, but it did not.

We all get up at 10am. After breakfast, at 12:30pm I drive to Pylos to the Internet cafe, but today they are closed (it's Sunday). So I get back to the hotel and it's almost 1pm when we finally leave for Mystras. Mystras is a bizantine city with a castle, churches and buildings, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The first part of the trip brings us to Kalamata, a bigger city in the area, about 48km to the west of Gialova. It takes 45 minutes to get there. In Kalamata I look for an Internet cafe and I manage to find an open one relatively fast.

After briefly downloading the emails and having a snack we continue our trip to Mystras. Alissia in the meantime is sleeping, actually has been sleeping for a while and will continue sleeping until we are almost in Mystras.

It's 2:15pm when we finally leave Kalamata and head towards the mountains on the road to Sparti (Mystras lies very close to Sparti). The road now climbs up the mountain range with many narrow curves, then continues in a narrow valley, then climbs again before finally descending again to the valley of Sparti. No idea how high exactly we climb but it must be quite high, probably above 1000m a.s.l. as the vegetation changes notably. The distance between Mystras and Kalamata is a bit over 60km.

With a couple of stops along the way, we reach Mystras at 4pm. Quite some time, considering that we left Gialova shortly before 1pm. The idea initially was to arrive early in Mystras and have a lunch, because Shirley and Alissia suffer from motion sickness when driving on mountain roads with a full stomach. But it appears that Mystras itself is not a living town - it's just uninhabited ruins. No cafeteria, no restaurant are visible at first sight. It's 4pm and my two ladies still haven't had lunch. Never mind, it's late already, so we'll first explore Mystras and eat something later.

We initially park at the entrance to the high town (near the fortress on top of the hill). Today the entrance is free as it is Sunday. From the fortress you enjoy a great view of Mystras and the Sparti valley, where once mighty Sparta was located. Then we drive to the entrance for the lower town and explore the lower town. Most of the buildings are ruins, but there are a few churches in Bizantine style which are very well preserved (and probably have been restored recently). Mystras initially only consisted of the fortress on top of the hill, then later fortifications were added to protect the city below the fortress (known as the lower town).

At 6pm we are finally done visiting Mystras and quite hungry, since we skipped lunch. So we have a dinner in the Xenia restaurant below Mystras (you just continue driving a bit down the road towards Sparti). There are several restaurants in the nearby village according to the guy at the ticket counter. The food is so-so (the mushroom spaghetti are overcooked and contain too much cheese).

It's almost 8pm when we finally drive back to Gialova, arriving there shortly before 10pm. It took us two hours to drive 110 km across mountain roads in the Peloponnese, driving reasonably fast.

4.6: Gialova
Hotel Zoe, Gialova.
Weather: overcast the whole day, in the evening it starts raining and the temperature drops to 16°C. Strong wind for about an hour in the evening. At night thunderstorms and heavy rain.

Day spent not doing much, essentially because Shirley and Alissia are still a bit tired of all those hours spent driving yesterday and because the sky is overcast. No point going to the beach with such a weather.

We get up at 9:30am, have breakfast, then don't do much until noon. At noon I drive into town (Pylos) and check my emails and the route to Porto Heli where we will be driving tomorrow. It's a total of 269km to be covered in 4h19m (according to viamichelin.de) of which 87km on high speed roads. Great, another day spent climbing up and down the mountains. Since the road passes by Messeni, we'll visit the ancient Messeni archaeological site. Possibly we'll do another stop in the middle of the Peloponnese, although apparently nothing interesting is easily reachable (i.e. with a small detour) from the road.

I also check the weather forecasts. It's basically rain until the end of the week - and some sunshine according to different websites.

We still need a hotel in Athens or near Athens airport for our last night in Greece. There are enough places, even affordable ones, bookable through the booking.com site.

From Porto Heli to Athens it's about 2h40m by car, which means that we can leave Porto Heli in the morning, drive to Athens, visit the National Archaeological museum in the afternoon and then get to the hotel either in Athens city or somewhere near the airport. Still wondering whether to stay for the last night - in Athens city or near the airport.

I'm back in the hotel at 1:30pm for lunch. After that not much happens. I suggest that we might drive to Messeni (45 min), visit the site and do some shopping after in Kalamata, but there is no enthusiasm for this proposal. So we end up spending the entire afternoon in the hotel. Around 5pm it starts raining.

At 6pm we go to the restaurants and have a dinner. At 8pm I drive to Pylos and check again my emails in the Pandigital Internet cafe. I'm back in the hotel at 9:30pm.

5.6: Gialova -> Ancient Messini -> Porto Heli
Hotel Porto Heli, Porto Heli. 85 Euro for a double room with a baby bed, TV, phone, A/C, nice attached bath (good standard), decently furnished, breakfast included. Four star hotel with pool. WLAN in the room, but not free: 1h is 5 Euro, 5h is 15 Euro, slowish connection.
Weather: a mix of overcast skies, rain, blue skies and sunshine. The day starts in Gialova with a heavy downpour, then the sky opens up and the sun shines, after the sky opens and closes alternatively. Blue sky in the evening in Nafplio and Porto Heli.

We wake up late as usual at 10am and it's almost noon when we check out of the hotel. Then we drive to Pylos to check the emails but today the Internet connection is out of order, so at 12:30pm we leave for Porto Heli.

It's supposed to be 4:30 hours of driving to get from Gialova to Porto Heli according to viamichelin.de (269km). In reality we only arrive in the hotel in Porto Heli shortly before 10pm. Here's why.

We first drive to the archaeological site of Ancient Messeni, which is on the way to Kalamata (in Messeni turn left and drive for 19km), arriving there at at 1:40pm. We are at the site until 3pm - it's a large site which requires some time to explore, we could have easily spent one more hour. Then we have lunch and start driving again only after 4pm.

We reach the roundabout on the road to Kalamata only at 4:40pm, briefly stopping in Messeni for a photo of a local church. Then, after refueling the car (1.03 Euro/l, but a few hundred metres later a petrol station offers unleaded petrol for just 0.995 Euro/l) we continue driving, now towards Tripoli. The road proceeds for a while in the plains, then at one point starts climbing on the mountains. This time the curves are not too narrow.

It starts raining and for the first time in my life I manage to briefly lose control of the car. The front wheels slip on the wet road, the car zig-zags and it takes some effort to bring it under control. I stop and check the wheels, thinking that a wheel perhaps is broken, but all wheels are fine. Apparently the wheels are not too wide and the Peugeot 307 is not too stable on the road. Something like this would not have happened with a better car (and better roads -  roads in Greece are full of holes and bumps - even the motorways).

After some time we finally reach the motorway, which starts shortly before Tripoli. We reach Argos at 7pm and Nafplio at 7:15pm. In Nafplio I spot an Internet cafe, where I stop and for about 20 minutes to check the emails. Then, since it is already late, we have a small thing in a cafe. When we continue driving at 8:40pm it is about to get dark.

The drive to Porto Heli takes longer than expected. Again we drive up and down the mountains, as if all that mountain climbing wasn't already enough for today. I regret not to have booked a hotel in Nafplio which is so much more central and closer to all sites we are planning to visit. The roads are not well marked and it takes some guessing and luck to find the right way in the darkness. In Kranidi a street sign states "only 5km until Porto Heli" - in reality it's 12km.

Finally Porto Heli shows up and after some searching we find the hotel. It's almost 10pm.

Copyright 2007 Alfred Molon