Prepaid GSM
Getting around

Part 4: Porto Heli, Epidaurus, Mycene, Athens

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

6.6: Porto Heli -> Epidaurus -> Porto Heli
Hotel Porto Heli, Porto Heli.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some clouds in the morning in Porto Heli. Over the day the sky closes then reopens again. Brief rain around 6pm in Epidaurus, then sunshine and blue sky which cloud cover with closes and opens again.

We get up at 9am, get ready and have breakfast at 9:50am. After that we relax in the hotel pool.

The prepaid Internet card I bought yesterday (5h, 15 Euro) stops working, because the bandwidth limit of 10 MByte has been reached. 10 MB is sufficient for surfing on a few web pages nowadays, not for 5 hours of web surfing. I explain this in the reception, they make a phone call and after 10 minutes the card is active again and has no bandwidth limit anymore. This kind of problem must happen frequently.

We only leave the hotel after 4pm. The idea is to do the Epidaurus theatre today, otherwise tomorrow things will be too rushed. Also, today the weather is good. We first stop at a food supermarket where we buy some groceries, then drive to Epidaurus. The drive takes almost one hour and a half because we get lost (we turn right at one point driving towards the village of Epidaurus, not the archaeological site).

It's almost 6pm when we arrive at the site. There are some tourists, but not too many. Almost soon it starts raining and continues raining until 6:10pm. After that it stops raining, the sun pops out and we get some blue skies. The entrance ticket to the site costs 6 Euro. The theatre is impressive and so is the acustics - perfect sound conditions everywhere. Near the theatre is the other part of the archaeological site. This is just ruins, which are in part being restored. Not that much to see.

At 7:35pm we finally drive back. This time we just need one hour for the 53km separating Epidaurus from Porto Heli. Although we drive quite fast on these mountain roads, people overtake us all the time.

At 8:35pm we arrive in Porto Heli. We walk along the waterfront looking for a restaurant. Decent food, but the bill is a surprise. In the menu they indicated 14 Euro for the seafood spaghetti, for two people. The bill states 28 Euro for the spaghetti - apparently it was 14 Euro/person (!).

After that we don't do much. We just walk a bit around the waterfront, with Shirley inspecting the shops. Not that many shops and many are already closed anyway. Overall there is not much activity in Porto Heli right now. No pubs with music full of people, very few people, not much life. Perhaps right now is low season.

7.6: Porto Heli -> Tyrins, Argos, Mycene, Napflio -> Porto Heli
Hotel Porto Heli, Porto Heli.
Weather: same pattern as yesterday, without rain: sunny, blue sky with some clouds in the morning in Porto Heli. Over the day the sky closes then reopens again in the evening. Much hotter than yesterday (up to 30°C at noon, but only 21°C in the evening).

We get up at 9am, get ready and have breakfast around 10am. At 11am we leave the hotel and drive to the Tyrins archaeological site near Napflio. We briefly stop in Giannolouva for a photo shoot, then continue driving towards Napflio.

The 80km drive between Porto Heli and Napflio takes 1:30h and is no fun. It's mostly a mountain road with lots of narrow curves, passing through many villages, there are speed limits everywhere, even where they make no sense (and they warn of radar speed checks).

At 12:45pm we are at the Tyrins site (ticket costs 3 Euro/person). This site essentially consists of a long thick wall made of huge stones ("cylops wall"), perhaps 200-300m long, with some ruins behind. Kind of interesting, although very little is left of the ancient structures.

We spend 40 minutes in Tyrins, then continue to Argos, arriving there 10 minutes later. In Argos we visit the archaeological museum (2 Euro), a relatively small museum with some interesting artifacts.

At 2:40pm we have lunch in Argos, in a restaurant in the main square next to the church. We have some noodles, which this time are a bit better than usual, but overloaded with cream and cheese. This is a general problem in Greece - in all restaurants where we have pasta it is full of cream and cheese. Overall the food in Greece is heavy on meat and fats. Lots of grilled dishes in the restaurants.

Ar 3:30pm we continue to the next site, the ancient Mycene, arriving there around 4pm. This actually should be the highlight of our visit to Greece, the famous site of Mycene. We visit the grave of Atreus and the ancient city of Mycene (combined ticket is 8 Euro/person), but what is left is not too impressive.

The grave of Atreus is largely intact, but inside it's just an empty room with no decorations, paintings etc. In Egypt in the valley of the Kings all graves, which by the way are even older than the Atreus one, are richly decorated with wall frescoes. The walled city of Mycene is interesting, but almost nothing is left of the structures. Of all buildings only the base walls are left - again no decorations, mosaics, nothing. It's just interesting to note that the site of the city lies on top of a hill overlooking the plains, near to what probably in previous times was a small river.

We stay in Mycene - even visiting the museum which is kind of interesting -  until approx. 6pm, then drive to Napflio, arriving there at 6:30pm. Napflio has a cute old town, with renovated old buildings in a nice setting. The city is heavily oriented towards to tourists. We have a small thing in a cafe, then at 8:20pm start the long drive back to the hotel in Porto Heli, arriving there shortly after 10pm.

8.6: Porto Heli
Hotel Porto Heli, Porto Heli.
Weather: overcast in the morning, until the afternoon the sky opens up and becomes blue. No rain. Not as warm as yesterday and quite fresh in the evening (a little bit over 20°C).

As usual we get up at 9am and have breakfast. We don't do much the whole day and just relax in the hotel. In the evening we explore a bit Porto Heli. This is a very small place, with essentially just one main road with shops, cafes and restaurants. It is mainly a harbour where boats anchor for the night, but there is no historic core. Porto Heli lacks the charm of a typical mediterranean old harbour city.

9.6: Porto Heli -> Athens
Athens Golden City Hotel, Marni street, Athens. 80 Euro for a small double (breakfast included), with attached bath+shower, elegantly and classy furnished room, A/C, TV, phone, no fridge. Fast WLAN in the room at no extra charge. Friendly and flexible hotel staff - they make a baby bed available for us, even if they apparently did not know of our booking (didn't they receive the notification from booking.com?). Room is ok, but is very small and outside the street is noisy.
Weather: sunny and blue sky the whole day. Sky is never overcast, just some little clouds in the evening in Athens. Warm, up to 30°C in the early afternoon, fresh in the evening (chilly wind before sunset in Athens).

We get up at 8:30am, get ready and have breakfast. Today the hotel restaurant is full of people (there is a conference). After the breakfast we get back to the room and get ready. By the time we finally leave the hotel it's 11:05am.

The drive to Athens proceeds smoothly, across mostly mountainous terrain with lots of curves which limits the average speed. Several photo opportunities in spots with breathtaking scenery. Was planning to stop at the bridge over the Corynth channel for a photo of the channel, but apparently we just cross it without noticing it.

We are in Athens a bit after 2pm, then it takes some time to find the hotel and we only check in after 3pm. Then we leave the hotel for the museum.

Driving in Athens is not that crazy as expected. The traffic is not that chaotic and there are enough street signs. It is also easy to get around, as you can use the Acropolis as a reference point.

At 3:50pm we arrive at the National Museum (we easily found a free parking space in a side street of the museum - the museum actually is in walking distance from the hotel). The first hall of the museum with the golden treasury of the Myceneans is impressive. These people really had lots of gold. The other exhibits shown cover the entire history of all Greek civilisations from the stone age (neolitic) to the Roman times.

After 6pm I'm out of the museum and join Shirley and Alissia, who finished early. We drive to the hotel to briefly fetch some stuff, then drive to the Plaka. It takes some effort to find the Plaka or a place close to the Plaka. We only need a few minutes to find a (free) parking. Apparently it is not that difficult to find free parkings in Athens.

At 7:15pm we start walking towards the Plaka. Since it's dinner time, we stop in a restaurant for dinner at 7:30pm. Just for a change this time the dinner is good and even cheaper than usual. After dinner we go for some shopping in the Plaka, then drive back to the hotel. We are back in the hotel shortly before 10pm and park the car for the night in a side road next to the hotel.

10.6: Athens -> Munich
Home, sweet home
Weather: sunny and blue sky in the morning in Athens; a bit less blue sky in Rome

We get up at 6:10am, get ready and leave the hotel at 7:15am. Initially we get lost a bit, then manage to get on the airport motorway (toll is 2.70 Euro) and at 8am are at the airport. There I meet the guy from the Pegasus car rental. He checks the car and finds a scratch on the left side (happened yesterday while the car was parked near the museum - some idiot scratched the car while we were away). The guy suggests 50 Euro for the scratch (car is insured, but there is a 400 Euro amount which you have to pay yourself).

We then check in, proceed to the gate and board the plane. The flight leaves more or less on time and arrives in Rome Fiumicino airport shortly before 10am local time. Then the fun begins. We proceed to the transfer counter and try to get the boarding pass. After five minutes of waiting I go to the lady at the Lufthansa counter. 'Oh... this is an Air One ticket, you must go there', and points to a counter to the right. Fine, so I get to this other counter (Alitalia). I queue up at 10:10am, then half an hour later it's finally my turn. These people are extremely inefficient - they manage to process just two passengers per hour. At 10:45am we are told that this is the wrong counter and are sent back to the original counter. There another lady tells us that it's too early for the boarding pass for Munich, since the flight leaves at 1pm. So at 10:50am we walk to a restaurant where Shirley has some pasta.

At 12pm the transfer counter is still empty, so we proceed to the gate, since they told us we can get the boarding pass at the gate. But the gate is also empty. At 12:20pm I'm back at the transfer counter and finally the Lufthansa counter is staffed. Although the lady claims she is not responsible, I finally get the boarding passes. But the seats are all non-contiguos and we are three with a small child. Sigh. Luckily once on the plane the Lufthansa cabin staff manages to reseat two people so that we are all in the adjacent seats.

The plane leaves with half an hour of delay (but what can you expect from a European airline?). Then everything proceeds smoothly and shortly before 5pm we are back home.

Copyright 2007 Alfred Molon