Friday, 31 July 2015

The End of the Peloponnese: Exporing Epidavros and Corinth

Greece, 3rd - 7th July 2015


Archea Epidavros
Before leaving the Peloponnese, we still had the northern end of the Argolid to cover, which is home to a great deal of ancient sites to visit; the closest of which was Epidavros (Epidaurus).  Epidavros was once an important healing sanctuary for hundreds of years, and is primarily known today for its ancient theatre, which is still used today for performances.

We wanted to visit Epidavros early in the day before the temperature started going up, so rather than heading straight there, we went back to Archea Epidavros, with the intention of driving to Epidavros first thing in the morning.  After going for a walk around the village we parked at our previous lunch spot at the end of the headland (GPS: N37.63692 E23.16187), but several gypsy vehicles had set up camp here and we didn’t feel like staying the night, so moved back to the main port.  Nearby some form of stage had been set up, and later we could hear speeches coming from the stage; we weren’t sure what was going on, but theorised it may have been some kind of local political speech because of the impending referendum.  It wasn’t the quietest spot in the world (a combination of the stage and general Saturday night), so we decided to drive inland to Epidavros itself, as we had heard overnighting in the main car park was tolerated.

Epidavros


As we approached the car park, we saw two policemen standing on a junction, and then another near the entrance.  We wondered what was going on, but when we pulled into the car park we quickly realised: the parking area was packed with cars and buses as the theatre was holding a performance.  During the summer months, the ancient theatre holds performances of classic Greek dramas over the weekends.  Had we understood a word of Greek, it might have made an interesting visit!  We found a spot in the car park to one side out of the way and settled in for the night (GPS: N37.59724 E23.07488) near two Polish vans, and other than the occasional overheard spot of singing or applause, had a peaceful evening.


In the morning, we entered the site and first went to see the theatre.  Once lost beneath the ground due to the way it matches the natural contour of the hill it is built on so well, the theatre was rediscovered only in the nineteenth century.  It is capable of seating 14000, and the precision that went into its construction means that the theatre has fantastic acoustics.  A group of young American girls decided to test the acoustics with a particularly grating rendition of ‘Party in the USA’; I’m not quite sure how the ancient Greeks would have felt about this modern use.


We left the theatre and went for a look inside the small museum before exploring the main site of Epidavros.  It wasn’t quite as extensive as Olympia or Mystra, but Matt found a novel way of doubling the time it took us to look around.  He’d read in our guidebook about there being a secret spring somewhere on the site.  I’d also read the guidebook and recalled nothing of the sort, but I’ve been wrong before so decided to take his word for it as he lead us on a wild goose chase around the ruins and surrounding grasslands as we tried to find it with no luck.  It wasn’t until later that day that he realised there was indeed no spring here, and was actually thinking about the other two sites he’d been reading about, Mycenae and Acrocorinth.  Give me strength!

Korfos


From Epidavros we travelled to Korfos, which is a small port town en-route to Corinth.  There are a couple of potential overnight points around here including one by the beach, where we spent a few hours relaxing before packing up around 8 and moving to a point closer to town by the harbour (GPS: N37.76363 E23.13293).  It had been almost 4 weeks since our last meal out, so we wanted to treat ourselves a little as this seemed a nice location for it.  We chose Stavedo Restaurant, where we inadvertently ended up ordering a very similar array of dishes to our previous meal out (moussaka and souvlaki, after vine leaves—I can’t help myself, I love vine leaves!), with the addition of big beans in tomato sauce which were essentially like giant baked beans, which we had seen mentioned on several boards whilst in Greece.  We also received complementary crème caramel desserts, but unfortunately neither of us are crème caramel fans (but ate them anyway).  The restaurant was right next to docking points on the harbour, and it appeared that a few of the boats had tables directly outside their boats, so they could walk straight from their meal to their boat.  Looking up the restaurant on Trip Advisor it appears that a vast majority of the people who visit the restaurant are people who dock up there.  The food was nice and the staff were attentive; the only downside was that the mosquitoes were also very attentive that evening, to the point where we were relieved to get back to our van before anything else could bite us.


The Corinth Canal


From Korfos we travelled to Corinth, which itself is an unremarkable industrial town rebuilt after an earthquake in 1981, and one of the hottest points of the region, but it is surrounded by many interesting sights to visit.  The first stop on our agenda was the Corinth Canal.  Building on the canal commenced in 1881 and it was opened to traffic in October 1893, where it provided a pass-through between the Aegean and Adriatic sea, reducing the distance between the two by 131 nautical miles and as an added side effect turning the Peloponnese from a peninsula of mainland Greece into its own separate island, connected only by bridges.


The canal is not much use to many larger modern boats as it is only 24.6m wide and so is more commonly used by tourist boats, but it is certainly an interesting sight to see, with 80m high walls on either side.  Many buses would slow to a crawl as they crossed the bridge, so as to give their passengers a chance to see the canal without taking the time to let them disembark.

The area surrounding the bridge over the canal is littered with souvenir shops -
this lady very enthusiastically tried to advertise to us 'Greek Melodies' CDs, which
from what we could gather, was music themed around specific Greek dishes.
There were different CDs for Moussaka, Greek Salad etc.


Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth


The archaological site at Ancient Corinth viewed from outside
The town of Ancient Corinth
Our overnight spot outside Acrocorinth
From here we went to Ancient Corinth, and found a spot to park in the shade until the temperature cooled down to visit Acrocorinth.  There is an archaeological site at Ancient Corinth, but we chose not to visit as we had just seen Epidavros and were planning on visiting Delphi in a few days.  Acrocorinth (no entry fee), the fortress that overlooks Corinth, is just a few kms away from Ancient Corinth and was supposed to have extended opening times until 7pm in the summer.  On our visit the opening times were no different to the winter opening times (until 3pm), so we’d already missed it when we arrived.  We parked up outside the site (GPS: N37.88982 E22.86811) for the night and visited first thing in the morning.


It is clear to see why the Greeks chose to have a fortress on such a sight when you visit it; the view from the remains at the top of the temple has 360 panoramic views, so would have been able to see any threat well in advance.  There is a non-fictional spring at Acrocorinth, and so we made a point of taking the walk to the underground spring whilst visiting the site to make up for our failed attempts at Epidavros.

The northern view from Acrocorinth
The underground spring
This little fellow decided that I looked very appealing to
jump on.  I wasn't best pleased.
I just wasn't hardcore enough to handle the heat!
The southern view from Acrocorinth
We spent the rest of the day at Afrodites Water Camper stop in Ancient Corinth (GPS: N37.91139 E22.87861, €10), which is set on the ground of one of the houses in the town and appears to be run by a grandparent/grandson team who live at the house.  After we got settled in they invited us to sit with them outside the house and presented us with a type of sweet made from oranges by the grandma, whilst they explained a little about what was in the surrounding area and asked a few questions about where we were from (with the grandson translating between Greek and English).  The temperature was in the high 30s for the majority of the day, so we didn’t manage to get much done beyond sweltering in the heat and handwashing a bit of underwear to tide us over for a while until the next washing machine. It is quite a basic site with toilets and shower but they looked like they hadn’t been cleaned for a while. Our electric tester showed the mains sockets had no earth so we didn’t risk connecting to the electricity that was included. It is still a worthwhile stopover to use for this area though and good to support one of only two camper stops we know of in the Peloponnese.

The submersible bridge at Corinth
The next day we made a trip to the nearest Lidl (as our time in the heat had left our supply of water and drinks running low), and parked up overlooking the sea close to the submersible bridge at the Corinth canal for lunch.  The bridge is a wooden based structure that sinks beneath the water when boats pass through the canal; as you make the final approach to the bridge there is a 3T weight restriction, so we had debates about whether to actually use the bridge with our 3.5T vehicle or whether to make the detour back inland to get across.  In the end we decided to just go for it, and obviously nothing too terrible happened as we are here to tell the tale.

We parked up for the night at a place we had found on the Our Tour blog called Limni Vouliagmenis (GPS: N38.03261 E22.87313), which is an area of parking near the side of a large lake/lagoon area connected to the sea by a small inlet.  Sadly we forgot to take any pictures of the spot.  Our journey through the Peloponnese had sadly come to an end, and we had a lot of decisions to make about which direction to head to next.

-Jo

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