Our 2017 Trip to Greece and Crete

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Within the diary entries, the date heading is a link to the photo page (as for the itinerary). The day of the week/ordinal number is a link back to the itinerary, and the day's title is a link to the track (as for the itinerary).

All dates and times are local times. This can give anomalous timings when travel across time zones is involved. Where a change of time zone is involved, offsets from UTC are given in parentheses. A single UTC offset indicates the local time for the day, and if multiple UTC offsets are given, these indicate the UTC zones travelled.

Note that the pages will change over time as I complete my editing of the resources. I am currently restructuring the tracks and blogs, so expect anomalous results for days after the checkpoint mentioned above. Where an entry in the time column exists, the day is up-to-date. Note also that when the document refers to 'John', the author is assumed, unless stated otherwise.

Day(Cruise) Date
(Photos)
Track Time Blog
0 24 Oct MEL-ATH 2315- (+11) fly Melbourne to Athens
1 25 Oct Athens -1300 (+3) arrive Athens and check in to Hotel Chic
2 26 Oct Athens all day Athens; Acropolis and Museum
3 27 Oct Athens; MY Galileo 1400 explore Athens; embark MY Galileo
4 28 Oct MY Galileo 0900-1200 Nafplio; Mycenae; Nafplio
5 29 Oct MY Galileo 0900-1215 (+2) Nafplio; Epidauros; cruising the Aegean
6 30 Oct MY Galileo all day Gythio; Mani peninsula; Cave of Divos; Areopolis (TBC)
7 31 Oct MY Galileo all day Palace of Nestor; Methoni Castle (TBC)
8 01 Nov MY Galileo all day Olympia (TBC)
9 02 Nov MY Galileo 0830-1230 Delphi Itea; Delphi; Cruising the Ionian Sea; Corinth Canal
10 03 Nov MY Galileo; Athens; X96 bus; ATH-HER 0815; 0950-1053; 1610-1700 MY Galileo disembark; Athens: x96 bus; airport; Heraklion
11 04 Nov Crete Heraklion: Archaeological Museum
12 05 Nov Crete Marking; Ancient Lappa (TBC)
13 06 Nov Crete (TBC)
14 07 Nov Crete Archontiki, Aryiroupoli, Lappa
15 08 Nov Crete Kallikratis and Frankocastello
16 09 Nov Crete Rethymno
17 10 Nov Crete Walk from Archontiki to Episkopi; Kourno Lake
18 11 Nov Crete to Chania to Athens travel to Chania and Athens
19 12 Nov Athens to Kalampala 0820-1345 Athens: train trip; Meteora monastery tour; Divani Hotel
20 13 Nov Kalampala to Athens 1732-2256 Kalampala: Divani Hotel; walking tour; lunch; train trip
21 14 Nov Athens Athens: walking around
22 15 Nov Athens-Abu Dhabi 1335-20 Athens: fly to Abu Dhabi

Trip Blog

24 Oct 2017, Tuesday (Day 0), title

The start of our trip to Greece and Crete did not start at the start of this day, but rather at the end. We spent to morning doing our usual Tuesday gym session, and then had lunch at Karisma before walking home. The afternoon was spent packing, although must of the hard work of sorting out clothes had been done yesterday.

We got David to run us over to the Morgans' just after 1930, since we had arranged to share a maxi taxi to the airport. It was probably just as well, as we discovered when walking to the gym that the Glen Waverley trains were not running this evening, and it would have been a lot more cumbersome travelling by bus. But even so, we (John) goofed a little, as while we were sitting waiting for the taxi at Morgans, John realized that his pills had not been packed. So a quick phone call to (son) David and he kindly fetched then over to us. Phew!

The taxi arrived at 2010, 10 minutes late, but we had spare time up our sleeve, so no drama. An uneventful run out to the airport, where we jointly checked in, threaded our way through security and immigration (with the shortest queues ever!), and then parted ways. John and Barb to the Emirates Lounge with their business class tickets, David and Sue to the ordinary lounge with their economy tickets. David has a theory that his great-grandfather sailed out from Britain taking 3 months, so sitting in cattle-class for 15 hours was nothing in comparison to that! My great grandfather was born in Australia, so I'm happy to take the extra luxury of business class.

We boarded an A380 (upper deck) at 2215 on time, and enjoyed the warm-up business hospitality while waiting for a push back, pretty much on time at 2315. Barb conked out almost immediately, but John ploughed on until the end of a very late dinner (around 0115 Melbourne time!)

(As I write this, we have just flown over Crete on our way into Athens.)

We both got some sleep thanks to the business class lie-down seats, although we later learnt from S&D that economy class was sparsely populated, and they had a whole row of seats each to themsleves. We woke up aound 0900 MEL time, but it was still dark, and there was another 7 hours of flying, which we absorbed by both watching Wonder Woman. (I would say, don't bother, but your mileage may vary.)

25 Oct 2017, Wednesday (Day 1), Arriving in Athens

We landed in Abu Dhabi at 0545 local time, with just a hint of daybreak. Again, Hursts and Morgans went separate ways to respective lounges, where we both struggled with a somewhat erratic wifi system (but free). The layover time passed quickly enough, and we were soon boarding an Airbus A321, somewhat smaller, but still comfortable enough. Although boarding time was 0915 local time, we were served lunch only one hour out from Abu Dhabi, so it was rather an early lunch. We both had the Arabic Mezze again, since we liked it so much on the first leg, and then John had lamb backstrap (jammed in the teeth!) while Barb had a fish dish.

John watched a movie after that - "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", which seemed appropriate enough on going into Greece. It was an interesting insight into the much stronger role of family in Greek culture, although, when it comes to Hursts, we must have a bit of Greek in us, as I recognized a few complementary themes in our own family culture!

We landed in Athens on time, and we soon through customs and immigration. The airport was fairly quiet, and the biggest delay was waiting for the Morgans' bags to appear on the carrousel - the Hursts' bag was about second off the plane, although John missed it as the distinctive "Aranui" label was hidden behind the routing labels. Sue spotted it quickly enough. When it did come to the Morgans' bags appearing, David was similarly myopic, and Sue and Barb spotted the bags before he did. There is a message in that!

Fully bagged up, we headed for the train, only to find that we had just missed one. No matter, the ticket queue seemed to work on Hellenic time, and it took a while to get the necessary tickets out of the ticket office. Since the next train was not until a half hour later at 1430, all was pretty relaxed.

The train trip was rather longer than expected, made extra long by the fact that it soon became quite crowded. John stood next to the bags to make sure that they were not tampered with, and that meant he had to stand all the way! Transferring trains in the middle of Athens at the Syndagma station was an extra challenge, particularly as we all had heavy or multiple bags to tow. People pushing in front of us on the platform while waiting for the next train further challenged our patience a little, but we made it, and two stops later on the transferred train, we alighted at Omonoia and search for the right exit from the station - no signs indicating which exit went to which street making it a bit of a guess! But we found the right exit rather by chance, and trundled our way down to the Hotel Chic.

We checked in quickly enough, but then discovered that the anticipated cup of tea all round was not possible, as neither of our rooms had the usual Australian tea mak fac ("tea making facilities"). But enterprising Sue went to the reception desk and asked for tea, and they gave her a thermos of hot water, and 4 cups and tea bags! So we had our much-anticipated cup of tea after all.

It was still light at this stage, so we decided to go for a short walk of 10-15 minutes duration down to Monasteraki, where there were many restaurants, flea markets, and night life. We found an interesting restaurant - perhas it would be more accurate to say that an interesting restaurant found us, as the spruiker out the front not only glad-handed us, but offered us free beers as well! Called the Euparis (which means "happy times" or some such), it offered lots of Greek alternatives. David and Sue shared a ?, while Barb and John shared some picked octopus and Greek salad. A baklava and Greek Coffee (John only!) rounded off an excellent meal!

Needless to say, we were all pretty tired, so we retired to bed somewhat early, in anticipated on an exciting morrow.

26 Oct 2017, Thursday (Day 2), Exploring Athens

We woke around 0600 and used the wifi to do our usual thing of reading the paper before breakfast. Not usual was the lack of a cup of tea, but this was addressed once 0730 rolled around and we went down to breakfast. No Morgans present, and we managed 2 and a half cups of tea before they arrived, just before 0800. Breakfast itself was appropriately Greek, with things like feta cheese, spanokopita slices, cheese slices, hard boiled eggs, Greek yoghurt (of course!) A slow start to the day, in keeping with catching up our body clocks.

We got away from the hotel a little after 0900, and walked in the direction of Monasteraki. David did not join us, as his leg was still giving him trouble, besides which he had seen the Acropolis before. We took our time, exploring things like the meat and fish markets, which were fascinating due to the different ways of operating and the different items on display. Rabbits, for example, were on display in the meat market, neatly skinned, but with their tails and hind legs still furry! Lambs were displayed intact, but for being neatly sawn in two, literally from head to toe! And the variety of fish on display in the fish market was amazing. A very definite reminder that the Mediterranean is a cornucopia of food!

At Monasteraki we went into Hadrian's Library, where we bought a combination ticket for a variety of iniquities - oops, I mean antiquities! The combined price was $E30, which was good value as we knew that the Acropolis, leter on our agenda was itself $E20. However, we did not qualify for a Senior's discount, as that only applied to EU citizens! The cheek of them. Australia does not indulge in such discrimination, but perhaps it should?

We spent some time in the library, checking out the iniquities. Then on and up to the Acropolis. The contrast in terms of the number of people could not be more stark. In the Library, there was the occasional other person looking at the iniquities. The higher up the Acropolis we went, the more people there were per square metre. When we got to the Aeropagus Hill there was jostling for position for the best photo, and queues to go up and down the stairs. For those that don't know, Aeropagus Hill was the ancient Speakers' Corner, and was the spot where St Paul delivered his famous "Unknown God" speech.

But it got worse than that. Slightly further up the hill, the queue to get tickets started, and the entrance was nowhere in sight! Here our decision to get a combined iniquities ticket proved well worthwhile, as it meant that we could go straight to the queue to the entrance itself! It was a bit like checking in at an airport - one queue after another, check in, customs, security, boarding, and so on. But we were soon in, and headed up the acropolis hill to the Propylon, or ceremonial gate. This itself was complicated, as although there were signs indicating the up path was separate from the down path, many people demonstrated that they were too stupid to read, and insisted on descending the ascending path.

Once we fought our way through the propylon (ceremonial gateway), the crowds had more space to spread out, and we were able to move around a little more freely. We headed for the south side of the Pantheon, which was the sunny side, and had less crowding, and were able to start reading the info boards all around, which were quite interesting, and partly made up for not having a guide book.

Although the place was crowded, the Acropolis is a big place, and people were thinned out enough that we could see what we wanted to see without too much difficulty. I have to say that it was slightly surreal, wandering around something that is in parts up to 5 thousand years old. To think that ancient (proto)Greeks were wandering around that long ago gives a certain sense of humility to one's own existence, and was quite sobering.

We completed our circuit of the Acropolis by 1330, although by no means had we completed a full perusal of all the exhibits. We wandered along the south slopes of the Acropolis, thinking to circumnavigate the citadel itself. We saw the two amplitheatres, the smaller one restored, the larger one not, past the Choregic Monument of Thrasyllos (don't you just love those archaelogical names?), but then discovered a locked gate. A woman with some official standing explained to us that the way out was the way back that we had come, but while we were standing there, a bloke with similar official status (he was carrying a sack of something) came along, and she unlocked the gate for him to go out. So we said "why can we not go out now?" and she relented and let us through, thus saving us a long walk.

Just outside the gate there was a restaurant that looked inviting, so we repaired there and ordered lunch. We had a plate ("mezze") of antipasto for 2, shared 3 ways, and the waiter seemed to think we were a little cheapskaty, but we persisted, and made it last. 3 beers helped in that.

Then on to the Acropolis Museum, a most impressive modern structure, built over an archaelogical dig that extended pretty well all over the museum footprint. The architects had got round this by making the ground floor of the museum transparent, so everywhere you went, you could see through to the diggings. This idea was extended to the upper floors, which made for some scary views!

The Museum is very impressive, and the exhibit that took my imagination was a life-size reconstruction of the frieze around the Parthenon, complete with sketches of the missing bits, so that one could easily imagine the whole thing, and the sheer scale of the effort and craftmanship that went into the building of the Parthenon. Such a pity that it was not better looked after by the subsequent conquerors of Athens!

We finished with a study of the caryatids, of which we were allowed to take photos. Then we started on the weary trip back to the hotel. Sue texted David to come and meet us at Monasteraki, and we found him easily enough once we got there (it was a long way back!) We found a restaurant (or rather, again the restaurant found us) and trooped inside for a delightful (with the emphasis on that last syllable!) meal - Barb had sardines, John had pork brochures. Then back to the Chic Hotel by 2000, whence we retired for the night.

27 Oct 2017, Friday (Day 3), more Athens; embarking on MY Galileo

The Morgans beat us to breakfast this morning, but not by much, so we were able to eat and chat in synchronism. We focussed a little more upon the Greek pastries today, but John missed out on the cheese "pies". He made up quite happily with the spanokopitas instead.

Leaving our luggage at The Chic, we set off a bit before 9, walking along the Piraeus Road towards the Ancient Agora and its old cemetery. We came across an imposing church, so we decided to have a look inside. Wow! Talk about ornate. Wonderful murals and friezes everywhere, and a good smattering of gold leaf, and some pretty imposing chandeliers, too. The chandeliers were obviously chewing through the light globes, because while we were there, three blokes wheeled out an extending step ladder, and proceeded to change a few light globes that were not working. Health and Safety did not get much of a look-in, Warren Greenwood.

Then on towards the Ancient Ruins. We had to go a long way round, as the entrance, would you believe, was on the opposite side from the main road. Still, it was a nice day for a walk. We paid our entrance fee, and wandered around the museum next to the entrance. The experience the previous day, and this day, made me realize that each archaeological site is organized the same way - plenty of ruins, but the really nice stuff worth preserving is moved into a museum that is attached to the site. Yesterday's Acropolis and Museum proved to be a little of an exception in that they site and museum charged separate entry fees, but that wasn't an issue yesterday as we had bought a combined ticket. Here the museum was part of the site and entrance included (as turned out to be the case for many of the other sites that we visited).

After the museum, we wandered around the site, and came across some archaeologists working on sifting through a digging, with much excitement each time they found something. A bit like Time Team, only without Tony Robinson. Took lots of photos. We even saw a live tortoise in the grounds while wandering around!

By then it was getting close to noon, so we first stopped at a cafe for late elevenses. The waitress was very helpful, and tried to explain how to get bus tickets from the nearby railway station. But all the machines were out of order! So the waitress sent a messenger boy off to the next station to get some tickets, which he did, but not entirely with good grace. Time was pressing, so the men set off back to The Chic to collect the bags, while the women waited for the messenger boy. They were most relieved (and grateful) when he came back, and then proceeded to rejoin the men at The Chic.

The plan was to catch a 49 bus, which left from the bus stop not far outside the hotel. A bit of a nervous wait, as '47' did not appear on the next arrivals board for a while, and when it did, it was already pretty full. A couple of us found seats, but more challenging was what we did with the luggage, as they was nowhere to put it (unlike the train from the airport). Indeed, as the journey went on, very few people got off, and those that did were soon replaced by additional arrivals. It was only as we approached Piraeus that we all found seats, and even then we got abused by a greek man who suggested that we should have caught a taxi!

We did not know exactly where to get off the bus, so when it was obvious that we were in Piraeus, we alighted, and walked down to the waterfront. A nice big marina, but where was our ship? It was past hungry time, so we stopped at a souvlaki place, ordered a beer and souvlaki each, and took stock of the situation. We eventually deciphered that we were only at the inner harbour, and that to get to the outer harbour we had a bit more of a hike. Appropriately refreshed, we walked right around the inner marina, and eventually found our ship tucked away down an unprepossessing laneway. We were the last (or close to the last) to arrive, as a bloke came running up the laneway to meet us, and take us aboard.

We were met on board by Joseph, our cruise director for the week, and an entertaining character he turned out to be! After sorting out some paperwork, we were further welcomed with a cold cocktail (Cosmopolitan, says Barb) which was most welcome. We are in cabin 6 on the starboard side, up one deck from the dining room and boarding deck, while the Morgans are down below, in cabin 11. The usual lifejacket and lifeboat drill at 1730, closely followed by a briefing from Joseph about plans for the morrow, and then dinner, which was an excellent Greek repast with lots of tomatoes, feta, cheese pies, olives, figs, etc., etc. I think I am going to like this cruise!

We were quite tired by all the day's excitement, and retired to bed before 9pm.

28 Oct 2017, Saturday (Day 4), MY Galileo; Mycena

We docked a little after midnight at Nafplio, so the second half of the night was quieter, as the motors were switched off. On looking out our window at first light (about 0700), we could see a small train with what looked like a steam locomotive at the front. Unfortunately, it was the other side of a fence, with no obvious way through, so further investigation had to wait.

We joined Sue and David on the aft deck a little before breakfast time at 0730, and had a cup of tea before going in to breakfast, which was the usual Greek fare. John explored the cold selections of prunes, dried apricots, walnuts, proscuitto and cheese, which was very nice, and required a bit of chewing, so it was not bolted down. Then some hot food - mushrooms, bacon, scrambled egg, sausage, etc., and that sufficed us. We had time after brakfast and before the bus left to enjoy a leisurely cup of (brewed) coffee. Missing the coffee machine already!

The bus picked us up at 0900 and we set off for Mycenae. We travelled through many fields of orange trees, all with their automatic air movers for frosty nights. Apparently, even being close to the sea does not stop these areas getting severe frosts and even snow in winter! So much for the Mediterranean climate.

Our first stop was at The Treasure of Atreus, a Mycenean king, buried in a huge dome shaped vault, built from blocks equal in size to anything Egyptian or Aztecian. The lintel stone above the door weighed 180 tonnes! Unfortunately, as the tomb was always open to sight, it had been pillaged of the treasures that were known to be buried with the king. But an impressive sight nevertheless.

Then on a few hundred metres to the actual Mycenean city, a huge ancient ruin of a walled city built possibly as early as 1800BC. It was most impressive, and we spent over an hour and a half walking around the ruins, taking lots of photos. Each part of the site was documented with information boards (in both Greek and English), so they were photographed as well to make sure we had adequate records of everything.

One feature that John wanted to see was the underground cistern, a tunnel that the Mycenaens dug to ensure that they had a supply of water in the event of a siege. It went down and down through a series of steps, with right angle turns every so often, so one quickly lost natural light while descending. Fortunately we had our phones with us, so we turned on the torch app, but even that was not a match for the uneven steps and stygian gloom. Barb gave up on the challenge and retraced her steps upwards, but John kept going for a bit. At the last turn, John stopped and waited while some more enterprising souls overtook him and kept descending, and when it was clear that they had reached the bottom and that there was not much to see, John retraced his steps upwards as well. All quite fascinating, at least in terms of the admiration for the engineering skills of the ancient Myceneans!

Then back to the bus via a quick visit to the Museum, itself worthy of a much longer visit, but as Barb said, we were a little "antiquitied out"! The bus had us back to Nafplio in time for a short walk around the old town with guide Jenny and director Joseph, pointing out the features to check out later. Then lunch back on board, a buffet of salads and fish, and very delectable.

After lunch, Sue, Barb and John set off to explore the town, while David rested his leg. We headed first for the steps up to the Ottoman fortification on top of the nearby mountain. Joseph had told us that there were 867 steps to the top, but a good view of the town may be had by ascending the first 50 steps. As it turned out, we felt that a good view was not obtained until step 125, but no matter. We took our photos, and then used the pretext that we had to meet David at the Gelateria by 1530 to keep faith with him.

Meet him we did, and on time. We went into the old Greek Orthodox Church recommended by Joseph as one of the two "religious experiences" in Nafplio. It was very ornate, full of gold and silver, and tons of icons. One thing that impressed (if that is the right word?) us all was the observation that all the Greek visitors would go up to the central icon (of Jesus Christ), and bend over and kiss it. Not sure I wanted to do that myself, and the others reflected that comment later.

Then to the Gelateria, the other "religious experience" recommended by Joseph, where Barb had a dark chocolate and a coffe gelato, while John had a creme caramel one. We munched through them sitting outside the church, and then John went off to buy himself a nice T-shirt that had been spotted by Sue, with "It's All Greek To Me" across the top, and then a handly list of Greek words and their English equivalents on the front. All agreed that it had, in Sue's words, "John written all over it". I think she meant metaphorically, as it actually had a few Greek words as I said, and none of them said "John".

I took the opportunity to buy a little milk jug with a reproduction of an ancient greek tiger/leopard around it, a gift which proved popular in more ways than one later on.

It had started raining by this time, so we headed back towards the boat. Not raining heavily enough that we had to dash, but we sauntered along boatwards nevertheless. As the rain got heavier, we quickened our pace, until we were back at the boat around 1630. We had a talk by guide Jenny at 1830 on the Classical Greek period, and then kicked on to dinner at 1930. After dinner, back into town to see the night life and night lights (it was still raining, although not heavily). We wandered around a few of the back streets, and a few of the front streets as well, before returning to the ship around 2200, whereupon we retired to bed.

29 Oct 2017, Sunday (Day 5), MY Galileo; Epidauros and the Temple of Asclepius

An extra hour of sleep this morning, as it was the ending of daylight saving in Europe. But we did get confused as all our clock devices (watch, computer, smartphone) all resynchronized unexpectedly without manual intervention. So what we thought was 0600 was in fact 0700 and time to leap out of bed and get ready for breakfast!

David and Sue had beaten us to breakky again, but with just a few minutes to grab a cup of tea, breakfast was ready and in we went. John had the nice cold fruit and meat selection again, while Barb went straight for the fresh fruit. I have to say that there is no shortage of nice things to eat on this cruise, even given the relatively limited choices (compared to Holland America).

A little time to check email, and write to the building surveyors about their delay in sending us last year's invoice for the building certificate!! Apparently this was holding things up, but no one bothered to tell us! Funny way to run a business, I thought. Then to the bus.

The bus took us on a short run of 30 minutes or so to the site of the Healing Centre of Asclepius, Greek God of Healing. The first site we went to was The Theatre, with a most remarkable acoustic. Jenny, our guide, demonstrated the acoustic by clapping in the middle of the "orchestra" (the sweet spot of the acoustic) and slowly moving out of the orchestra. The loudness of the clapping only slowly diminished as she moved to the boundary, but once near the boundary, it dropped away most markedly. She then invited anyone to come and orate or sing from the orchestra, and no one stirred. John, ever one to set the pace, walked out and launched into St Nicholas's aria from the eponymous oratorio by Benjamin Britten. Once that had happened, everyone (well, nearly everyone) also rushed out and did their little party piece! I have to say that the acoustics were phenomenal - it was like being miked up, the sound that came back to you had a huge presence.

Then we moved on to the Temple of Asclepius, now largely ruins, but parts of it are being restored so that the true beauty of the place can be better appreciated. It was a huge organization, and in its heyday attracted many many customers.

Then back to the bus and reversed our trip back to the ship, arriving just after noon and in time for a 1230 lunch and sail away. Lunch was buffet, lots of Greek food and salads. A highlight was Imambyaldi, which Barb makes at home. It was almost as good as Barb's!

I write this now on the stern of the ship, cruising down the Agean Sea, and watching Nafplio receding slowly in the distance, bathed in bright sunshine. The weather is cool, bordering on balmy, and I am sitting quite happily in a T-shirt, only feeling a little cool when the breezes blow. In the sun and out of the wind it is most pleasant.

We had a briefing about our stop tonight, and tomorrow's activities, then straight into 1830 dinner, before arriving in Monemvasia (literally "one way in") just after 1930. There are two parts to Monemvasia, the old town and the new town, connected by a causeway. The old part is nestled into a huge monolithic rock, protected on three sides by the rock, and the fourth by the sea, with a narrow road around the edge of the rock joining to the causeway. The harbour was right next to the causeway, and so it was a short bus ride up to the old town, where we had a short talk from Joseph about what to see. The old town was a little bit touristy, with lots of souvenir shops, but with very few tourists (save us!). We stopped at a wine tasting and has some very nice Malsalvas (name?), a rather port/muscat flavour, and we thought we might buy a bottle. But rather than lug the bottle around the rest of the walk with us, we thought we'd buy it on the way back.

So we walked on through the town, taking lots of photos, in spite of the darkness, and ended up finding our way to the wall at the other end of town. It was in an area that was not developed, with very little lighting (basically walls only, nothing anywhere else) and very rough paths, so it was a little challenging. But we found our way back into the town proper, and back along the main street to the bar where we had the wine tasting - to find it closed!

So back on the bus and returned to the ship, where we had a nocturnal cup of tea and then bed.

30 Oct 2017, Monday (Day 6), MY Galileo: Gytheio; (TBC)

We left Monemvasio at 0500 and over breakfast motored on to Gytheio. I say "motored" because the sails were put up, but we were not sure how much additional effort they were supplying to our passage, and indeed whether that effort was positive or negative! David was not well, possibly from the effects of the winds and waves that we were experiencing once we had rounded the south eastern tip of the Peloponnesian peninsula. It had been a little rough, as Joseph had warned us the night before.

Gytheio, which we reached about 11, is a delightful town in the Laconian Gulf. It was the main seaport of Sparta, but lost that distinction in the 4th C when it was destroyed in an earthquake. Today it relies much more heavily upon the tourist traffic, and they have recently expanded its harbour so that it can take cruise ships. Joseph was worried that this might mean the end of its idyllic existence, so we counted ourselves lucky to be able to see it in relative calmness.

We did a short walk along the esplanade to visit Cranae Island, connected to the mainland by a short causeway. It had a delightful little Greek church by the bay, making for some very picturesque photos. We walked out to the lighthouse, made of marble, but it was not open to the public. Then walked back along a slightly higher road than the esplanade, with more views of the town and its environs.

Lunch was on board, and then in the afternoon we set off by bus to see the Mani peninsula. The highlight of this tour was a visit to the Caves of Divos, which are quite extensive, and mostly flooded. The caves are quite level, which means that over two thirds of the caves can be explored in a shallow draft boat. We lined up for these boats, and Joseph had warned us the the people of Laconia are quite laconic (whence the word!). Our boatman was no exception, and his instructions to us were almost invariably monoverbal, if not monosyllabic! "Mind head" was as extensive an instruction that we got, and if he needed to repeat that instruction, he simply added "moment"! But he knew his stuff, and punted us through the channels, often with only centimetres each side, and never once scraped the side of the boat against any of the formations, zigging and zagging as the cave tunnels demanded.

Oh, and the cave formations were quite impressive too. I took a few photos in the boat, but that was challenging. The last third of the caves was by walking, and that gave more opportunity to take photos. We eventually emerged onto the coastline, and walked back to the entrance point along a pathway in the side of the rock.

We had to wait for the rest of the party to filter through, and had an opportunity to relax with a soft drink and take in the view of the clear azure sea and brilliant blue sky! Then back up the hill to the waiting bus.

31 Oct 2017, Tuesday (Day 7), MY Galileo; Palace of Nestor; Methoni Castle; Pilos

A really bumpy night as we crossed the Bay of ??, getting up at 0700, but forgoing a shower as it was too rough to hang on in the shower. There were very few at breakfast (!), and David and Sue did not turn up until after 0800 - although David did look a better colour than yesterday.

We docked close on 0900 at Pilos, and the bus was waiting for us. Once aboard, we set off at 0932 heading for the Palace of Nestor. (John managed to get his iPhone tracking working for the first time on this trip, and so there is a track for today.)

01 Nov 2017, Wednesday (Day 8), MY Galileo; Pirgos; Olympia

02 Nov 2017, Thursday (Day 9), MY Galileo; Itea; Delphi; Cruising the Ionian Sea

Although breakfast was at the same time this morning, we had an earlier start for the bus, so that we would have more daylight when transiting the Corinth Canal. So at 0830 we boarded a bus to take us up to Delphi. The route there was through miles and miles of olive tree groves, apparently containing something like 1 million olive trees! As we climbed up the mountain towards Delphi, we had a broadening panorama back down the valley towards Itea.

We passed through the tiny township of Delphi itself to the archaelogical site of Delphi, we were disembarked the bus, and began a long climb up the hillside (100m according to my iPhone tracker). We saw lots of iniquities, some still in ruins, some reconstructed, and the piece de resistance, the Temple of Apollo. Alongside it was the Temple of Hera from whence the priestesses dispensed their oracular testimonies. The Oracle of Delphi was a little bit of a con, a bit like modern astrologers. What they said was always a little bit ambiguous, so that with hindsight one could not actually say their proceies were wrong.

Jenny told us one story to demonstate this, a story which I think is a good example of how hindsight can twist the interpretation. A king went to see the Oracle, and asked her "which of my two sons will inherit my throne?" The Oracle replied "the one that kisses his mother first". The two sons raced back to their mother and son A was first to kiss her, because in his haste, son B tripped and fell. However, the people rejected son A, and preferred son B so that he inherited the throne. Annoyed, son A returned to the Oracle to berate the incorrect prediction. "Ah, but you see," said the Oracle "your brother kissed his mother first - the Mother Earth"!

We climbed all the way to the top, to see the stadium hewn into the mountainside. We wondered whether the athletes' test was in first climbing the mountain, since they would have been a little breathless just getting to the stadium! But we all agreed that it was worth the climb. Barbara was taken with the fact that their were croqusses all along the upper reaches of the path.

We belted back down the hill to reach our rendevous at the entrance at the appointed time of 1045, but we were 2 minutes late, and most of the party had walked on to the museum. So we followed them. But as we were not the last, we had to wait at the museum entrance for the stragglers, so we had a quick cup of coffee from the cafe in the meantime.

The museum was impressive, and we learnt a lot more than we needed about ancient Greek civilaztion, and the mythical and not-so-mythical kings and queens of the past. By 1200 we were museumed out, and happily return to the bus and a 30 minute ride back to port and the MY Galileo - which had moved from our original mooring this morning, to be replaced by a (small) cruise ship, the MS Silver Moon (? check). Once back on board, the crew lost no time in getting us away, but before we had had a chance to start on lunch, we did a U-turn and sent the zodiac back to port - two crew members had been left behind!!

Another yummy lunch (we must stop (m)eeting like this!), and then a lazy afternoon sitting out on deck, some of us on the top deck watching the sails, some of us on lower decks catching up on blogs (like this one).

We arrived at Corinth just after 1700, as Joseph had predicted, and gradually assembled on the top deck to watch the passing of the ship through the Corinth Canal. But just as we were getting all excited, the captain cut the engines and we just drifted slowly towards the canal, all the more tantalisingly as the sun was going down rapidly, and we were just starting to make out the outline of the canal entrance. Apparently we had to wait for clearance.

The clearance came sooned than it seemed, and at 1712 we entered the canal, just as the sun slipped behind a cloud. But the light was still enough to photograph most of our passage through, and Barb and I both took movies of various stages. The first several hundred metres were clearly of different construction to the rest, and Joseph pointed out that this was the section dug by the Emperor Nero, who carked it before very much of the canal was dug. But he had the right idea.

In parts of the canal there were strong smells of sulphur, and the water had a milky appearance near the walls, indicating that there was some form of hot spring coming to the surface nearby. The whole transit of the canal took a fraction less than 30 minutes, and we emerged at the Athens end just after 1740, as dusk was falling. All very fascinating.

The rest of the day was an anticlimax. We had a briefing from Joseph about what was to happen on disembarking, then dinner, then off to finish off our packing. We had most of it organized before retiring, but some things like battery charging cables had to wait until the morning.

03 Nov 2017, Friday (Day 10), disembarking MY Galileo; X96 bus; Athens Airport; Heraklion

We had the alarm set for 0600, but we were awake well before that. The ship had arrived in Athens close on 2200 last night, as we were drifting off to sleep, so we did have a quiet and still night. The remaining electricals were soon packed away, and we went down for breakfast some 15 minutes early, in time for a cup of tea. We were consequently the first to breakfast, and soon joined by other early risers. By 0800 most passengers had appeared, and we were ready to depart. We said goodbye to Jenny and Joseph, and such other crew members who were around, and walked the gangplank at 0815.

Then started the mystery of finding the X96 bus stop. Joseph had had some difficulty the previous night trying to confirm where it stopped, and told us at breakfast that it did indeed stop at the square on the inner harbour. We trundled our suitcases around the esplanade, stopping to enjoy the sun a couple of times, and catch our breath. We were not in a hurry. The plane did not leave until 1610, and the bus was supposed to take only 2 hours, so we did have several hours spare up our sleeves. On our last stop along the esplanade, Barb went off to do some advance scouting, and came back to say that there was no indication that the bus did stop at the square, but that the stop beyond did claim to have the X96 stop at it. Just then an X96 went past, pretty well on the dot of 0900 (according to the clock in the square). So we trundled up the street to find the next stop, which on its destination sign indicated that the next X96 bus was in 14 minutes. So much for the one every half-hour theory!. Back to a cafe, called Gazi College, where we elected to have a coffee to while away some time.

At 0942 we zoomed back to the stop, where the sign indicated that the next bus was in 5 minutes. Another hit on the 30 minute frequency plan! Ah well, wait we did.

And the bus did turn up. And it was not too full, although that did change as we went along. As an articulated bus, it was never full, but occasionally some people did gather near the door making it seem fuller than it really was. It was a fast trip, taking only just a shade over an hour to do the trip (we had been told it was a 2 hour trip, but that was probably being cautionary about getting stuck in traffic and making the airport connexion).

There was some confusion over checking in, as the check-in machine issued a boarding pass only for Barbara, not John. So we had to queue for the manual check in counter, at which things went smoothly enough. But the woman did make a cryptic remark, which later revealed some consternation and angst. She offered to check in our carry-on luggage "for free", to which Barb said, "yes, but our computers are in them, so we will hang on to them, thanks all the same".

The rest of the time we spent alternatively checking out new areas and sitting down for some time and using the free wifi - which only lasted for 45 minutes at a time, focing us to pack up and move on, and start a new 45 minute session. We found a cafe (MacDonalds, as it turned out) which had cheap (and good) coffee. Then after that, a cafe out the front of the airport which had delicious Greek pastries (spanokopitas, ham and cheese, custard slice Epirus style). Then to the boarding lounge, which was not yet announced, but Sue said she had an email telling her that it was gate B29, so that's where we went. It was deserted when we arrived, but filled and emptied with two previous flights, one to Istanbul, the other to Ephesus.

Our boarding time finally arrived, but as we were filing out to board a bus, we were told we could not take our carry on luggage into the cabin - "the plane is full", they said. We had to leave than at the foot of the stairs onto the plane, which was when I smelt a rat. No other carry ons were being left there, and indeed, people were taking on cabin bags much larger than ours! Once on board I challenged this procedure, but all we got was a "plane is full" message again. While the plane was full, there was still space in the overhead lockers that we could have used. Talk about paranoia! I felt like the classic human sacrifice led like a sheep that is dumb before its high priest, told nothing and fearing the worst.

Of course, it was a panic over nothing - our bags did come out on the carousel first, but I still felt very shabbily treated by Aegean Airways. Avoid them if you can, dear reader, and I will feel a little bit of vicarious revenge.

Jim was on hand to meet us, and Donna in the car (parked Greek-style) outside, so travelling tribulations were so forgotten as we drove out to our apartment on the far side of Heraklion. We walked up to the local supermarket to get a few beers, and beer, cheese and crackers whiled away further time until our stomachs reminded us all that we had not had dinner. So we drove/walked up to the Petousis restaurant, recommended by our landlord. It was very nice, John had the "special gyros" and Barb had "grilled vegetables", washed down with a 0.5 l carafe of rose. All very pleasant, if a trifle over indulgent! The tail end of the meal was disrupted a little by three blokes at the very next table all lighting up some very offensive strong cigarettes, causing a somewhat forced exit to get away from them.

The waiter did give us some small dessert items as compensation, and we returned home to eat them, have a cup of tea, and then retire to bed. In spite of all the sitting around at the airport, it did seem like a heavy day!

04 Nov 2017, Saturday (Day 11), Heraklion; Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

A slow start to the day by mutual consent, but even so, we were able to get away just after 0900. That included a trip to the bakery to get some interesting Greek slices for breakfast. A short drive into Herklion proper, and Donna dropped the Morgans and Hursts off, while the Robinsons went on to find a car park (not an easy task in Greece!)

The Archaelogical Museum of Heraklion is very impressive. It has the largest display of Minoan artefacts in the world, and they are all arranged chronologically, spanning through a dozen rooms or so in the museum. We took several hours just getting to 1300BC, which was the peak of the Minoan civilization, and our feet and legs started complaining. Unfortunately, the museum cafe had shut for the winter, but we were allowed to exit and re-enter the museum on our tickets, so at 1145 we all trouped out (the Robinsons had joined us by this stage), and walked across the road to a little cafe, which had no one sitting in it - a bad sign! The cafe up the road was more popular, but they were all smoking, so we settled for the deserted one.

But it did not stay deserted for long. By the time we had ordered coffee and food, it had started filling. It seems our presence was enough to make others think it was a popular place! Ordering was an entertainment in itself. We each were given a huge heavy menu, with over 700 items (they were all numbered!) most of which were pancakes or waffles with various kinds of filling/topping. John had 420 (smoked pork, cheese, mushrooms crepe), Barb had 120 (rocket salad) and David had 476 (baked pancake). I forget what numbers the others had, but Sue had a waffle, while the Robinsons shared a pancake and salad, as we did.

While enjoying this food, we were assailed by various itinerants. First there came two young boys with (small) piano accordions, who serenaded us (without prompting) with a Greek version of Never On a Sunday - passable, but not what we wanted to hear, and it drowned ut our conversation immediately. Donna gave them a couple of euros, and they ceased immediately and moved off. Then came a bloke touting for the Communist Party of Greece. He got short shrift, for, as David said, "we don't want to get involved in Greek politics". Then two women tried out the roses scam on us, but we were having none of that. "Ochi" we said, and they took the hint too.

We struggled to eat it all, and David took a doggie box home, but all agreed that the pancakes were pretty good. Then back to the Museum to finish it off. The second half did not take quite so long, as there were far less small items, and lots more big ones, like sarcophagi (called "larnax") and friezes. We finished the museum about 1340, and the Robinsons went back to the car while the rest of us walked down to the harbour passing through several flea markets, stopping for a Ben and Jerry ice cream, and stopping to visit the large Greek Orthodox Church of St Minas.

Then back to Ammos Beach Apartment, where we had a beer, read emails, updated blogs, and dined on leftovers and a few pastries we had bought on the way home. Then a game of Hearts (which I won!) and to bed.

05 Nov 2017, Sunday (Day 12), Heraklion; Knossos

A slightly more organized start to the day, but still quite relaxed, leaving Ammos Apartments at ???, and headed towards Knossos, the location of the largest Mycenean palace on Crete. We were most pleasantly surprised when we parked just outside the palace grounds and found that today was free entry! Apparently every first sunday in the month is free entry for everyone. We congratulated ourselves on picking today to visit, not only for the free entry, but also for the fact that we did not buy a combined Museum/Palace ticket yesterday, since that would have been full price! As it was we got half price for the Museum (being seniors) and free entry for the Palace (being first sunday). So per person it was $E5 versus $E16.

The Palace at Knossos is huge, and lasted in one form or another for close on six hundred years. Built around 1900BC, there was some significant construction on the site until at least 1375BC, going through several phases of construction and destruction (by earthquakes and/or fire). What remains shows the extent of the work, covering 20,000 sq metres, and partly restored by a British archaeologist, Sir Arthur Evans. Evans' restoration is somewhat contentious amongst archaeologists, as he used reinforced concrete to make the restorations, replacing many timbered and stone constructions with textured concrete. The effect does give the imagination something to hang on, but it is thought that it owes a little too much to Evans' imagination, and not so much to scholarship.

Be that as it may, it was all very impressive, particularly when you realize that it represents some of the earliest Western civilization's achievements. We spent several hours wandering the site, retiring at 1115 for a well earned cup of coffee.

We then headed off on a tour of the hinterland, hoping to find a) a winery, and b) a restaurant, although not necessarily in that order or seriatum. Not too long a time or distance had passed when we found ourselves carefully weaving our way through a delightful little village called Archanes - and I say carefully, because the streets were very narrow and very steep. A couple of times we encountered cars coming the other way, but as we were going downhill, we had right of way (besides which, we were bigger!) and the other character had to back up (or rather, down).

As it was lunch time - in Australian terms, since the Greeks seem to have very late lunches - we sussed out a few restaurants, and settled on a cute one called ??? The proprietor was very friendly, and suggested we order 5 starters from his extensive menu. We went for a few well known dishes: fried eggplant, fried mushrooms; and a few lesser known ones: N? wood oven; pastry greens; and tomato balls. All were absolutely brilliant, and were accompanied by some fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic (itself almost eclipsing the other delicacies). Washed down with some bottles of Mystos beer, it was a gourmet treat! I did compliment the proprietor on the olive oil, and he said that he made it himself! Wow! Maybe I should retire here and grow olive trees? Hmmm, perhaps not. I doubt that I could match the years of experience that went into these delectables.

The proprietor brought out some Greek honey/wheat slices for dessert, along with some complimentary Riza, a clear strong spirit reminiscent of ouzo, but without the liquorice taste. The men liked it, but the women were not so keen!

Then Morgans and Hursts walked down the street to the main square, while the Robinsons brought the car around. John bought some olive oil (two little bottles) and a small bottle of Rika to relive the tastes later. Then back to the car to find the primary goal, but we were not so lucky with this. Travelling down a long bumpy and hilly side road through many olive groves, we saw lots of vineyards, but no wineries! As Barb said, maybe we just did not recognize the greek for "winery" on the roadside signs?

At the point of returning to the freeway, we recognized that goal a) was just not achievable, and set sail for home, arriving back at a bit after 1700. Two hours of catching up on email, computer games, blogs and reading saw us ready to leave for dinner at 1845.

We had dinner at a restaurant in the town centre, called Peskesi, but it was nothing to do with fish - rather, it was more of a shepherd theme, with lots of lamb dishes. John had an entree of sausage and dried tomato, thinking it would be a nice entree, followed by lamb meatballs, done in "the style of the old days". However, when it turned up, it was not dried tomato but dried capsicum, and not one sausage, but three! So John had a bit of an eating challenge (Trent, don't read this!) Barb had stuffed zuchini flowers, followed by vegetable stew, called "sympatherio". The lamb meatballs were very nice, but Sue, who also had them, said they were "too chewy". I don't think she has a very discerning palate, somehow.

We did have a little trouble exiting from our parking spot, as we had parked in a dead-end street. However, Donna was unable to back out, since a garbage collection truck came in to collect the rubbish, and then he was block in by a woman who parked in front of him, and then walked off! So we all had to hang around until she returned! Whoever says that Greek drivers are courteous is one of Peter Dutton's mob. That is, a liar.

Back to Atmmos Apartments, and we started packing before retiring. Off to new pastures tomorrow.

06 Nov 2017, Monday (Day 13), Heraklion to Archontiki

07 Nov 2017, Tuesday (Day 14), Archontiki

A very lazy start to the day, and nothing much happened until after 0800. A leisurely breakfast of muesli, and John revved up the coffee machine to provide a proper cup of coffee. The plan was to have lunch at a restaurant recommended by Nikos, and John needed to get his marking done. So Barb and the Morgans set off to explore the village, while Donna did her blog, Jim studied the maps, and John did some marking.

At 1215, the explorers returned, and we piled into the car to find the "Ancient Lappa" restaurant - which we did, after a few false turns. But it was shut. So on to the next village, Aryioupoli, where we did some walking around the village to find the "old roman archway" (actually a 15th C gateway with a Latin inscription above it: "Omnia Mundi Fumus et Umbra" (everything in the world is smoke and shadows). There is a story behind the inscription, see Omnia Mundi.

We wandered our separate ways for a while, and John found the Roman mosaic, which was quite extensive. Then John wandered back to the small cafe we had seen, where he ordered a Greek coffee while others continued their explorations. The coffee came with a small gratis glass of a honey liqueur, very nice, which he had just started drinking when the others reappeared and said "come on, let's get going!" Glug, glug.

Back to the "Ancient Lappa", but it was still shut, and looked like remaining so. So we really had no alternative but to go back to Aryioupoli, where we found another cafe with a small garden area, and order lunch. With a little difficulty, I might add, since it was off-season, and many of the menu items were off the menu. The woman proprietor had about as much English as we had Greek, but we somehow managed to order some pork souvlakis and pork chops (pork was about all that was left on the menu!) It was a relaxed, casual lunch, and we chatted on over lunch for over an hour.

Then we went looking for the Church of the Holy 5 Virgins nearby. We found it, and we amused by the direction sign which said "Church of Holly 5 Virgins". A short walk down a rocky track brought us to a) lots of tombs carved out of the rock on the hillside, b) a tiny church, which looked well maintained, and was open, and c) and a very old giant flame tree, which had been cut vertically down the middle to make way for an old road - perhaps Roman, it was not clear.

Then back to Athina House about 1630, where John resumed his marking, and most of the others retired to the spa. Marking all done by 1730, it was time for a cup of tea, then beer and pre-dinner nibbles, then dinner itself, which Barb cooked up from a few Greek vegetables: eggplant, mushrooms, tomato/cucumber/feta salad, goats' cheese, bread, and of course, olive oil. Yum, yum. After dinner, we finished off the game of Jo that was started last night, with David the eventual winner. We finished off the evening with lots of computing (see table of nerds)

08 Nov 2017, Wednesday (Day 15), Archontiki: Frankcastello

We (John and Barb) decided to make use of the house gym this morning, and got up a bit earlier to spend a half-hour or so pumping iron and generally puffing ourselves out a little, before settling in to a more-deserved-than-usual cup of tea, followed somewhat later when others were up by breakfast.

We set just after 9:30 and headed towards Episkopi, to follow all the signs we had seen to the Epicurean Centre. Our previous attempts to get there had been frustrated in one way or another, but armed with the knowledge that it was open on Wednesdays, we thought we were in with a chance. No way! It had clearly been shut for the winter season, and no more epicurean adventures were happening there until next April. Ah well!

The plan for the rest of the day was to head south, to the southern shores of the island. Sue's book told us of an "adventurous" road, which sounded rather interesting. Certainly, for most of the way, the scenery was pretty fantastic, and the road did get quite impressive with bare rocks on either side, showing that the road had quite literally been cut along the face of a cliff. But none of us were unduly worried - the road was wide enough for two lanes (most of the time!), and there was the usual Armaclad railing along the down side.

About 1115 the terrain levelled out, and we encountered many goats wandering along the road. In quite a few places, we noticed little pens fenced in with sheets of rebar, and in one spot actually came across a farmer tending to a flock of goats (what is the collective noun for goats? I think it might be a "herd", rather than a "flock"?) At 1130 we stopped at a tiny village, which we later discovered was called Kallikratis, where there was a single Taberna, with a bunch of people all standing around outside in animated conversation. We stopped and asked if we could get a cup of coffee, to which the response was affirmative.

I say "affirmative" because it turned out that none of the locals spoke much english. The crowd that was there were all family and friends of the owner, planning their Michelmas celebration (feast days are observed fairly regularly in Greece), and they absconded not long after we arrived. Fortunately, one of the stayed on, who was a cousin (?) of the owner, and who did speak a reasonable amount of english. So she was able to relay our orders to the real owner, and all was well. John and Barb had "diplos ellenikos" (double Greek coffee), John's "scito" (no sugar), Barb's "media" (medium sugar), and we both enjoyed same. John was a little hypoglaecymic, and order a "sfakia", or local cheese pie, whereupon the others all thought that a good idea and ordered a couple more to share. It was not really a pie, but better described as a layer of feta cheese sandwiched between two light pancakes. One can have them natural (John), or drizzled with honey (the others). They were yummy, and solved the hunger problem, anyway.

We pressed on. Out of the small valley in which Kallikratis sat, and upon to a saddle, where suddenly we could see the sea - largely because the mountainous territory all around suddenly disappeared! In front of us was nothing but a large river plain, and then the sea. We could not see the road in front of us!

This was because the edge of the mountain range was quite precipitous, and the road to the coast just went downwards. Of course, it did not go straight down, but it just about felt like it. It was a series of hairpin bends, 33 in total, zig-zagging down the mountain face. No Armaclad this time! There wasn't round for one! At each hairpin, you could look out the window straight down to the next one, some 30metres below. I must say, it was an impressive bit of engineering, but most of the other occupants of the car (well, at least the women) were not admiring the engineering at all. Donna, who was driving, nearly freaked out a couple of times. Offers to take over the driving from her were flatly rejected. I have some sympathy with that. When the road is a freaky as it was, it always feels like you are more in control of your own destiny when in the driver's seat!

We passed a woman stopped by the side of the road - with her bicycle! What kind of loony would cycle up a road like that? She did not appear to be distressed or puffed out, and politely said she was quite OK when we stopped to check. Further on there were some para-sailors, about to jump off the cliff. They were also well in control of their mental state when we stopped to check. (Well, we sort-of had to stop - the road was not wide enough to zip past them at anything about walking pace!) We saw them later from lower down as they sailed above our heads.

At the bottom of the hill (phew, we made it!) there was a Taberna, so we stopped for lunch. We were the only visitors, and a young schoolboy (child of the owner) was loitering about - having apparently been "too crook" to go to school! But he revelled in the opportunity to practise his english upon us, no doubt using that as a defence against any parental discipline later on.

Lunch was conducted in less than salubrious circumstances. The waitress set up a table in the sun, but as soon as I sat down, I realized I had not got my hat, and was very much in danger of getting heat-stressed. But when I suggested moving into the shade, I got poo-poohed, which I thought was not very inclusive by the others. Fortunately, Barbara agreed with me, and we retired to a table in the shade. But it did mean that all the food had to be divvied up unnecessarily. I wondered if it had been someone else objecting to the sun whether the outcome would have been the same. I think not.

The beer and the view were somewhat ameliorative, and before long we were back on the road again, this time a much straighter course. We were soon at the coast, where we had a brief stop at the Castle Franko (not open), but could find no way down to the sea, so we had to head quite a ways to the east to the next town, Plakias. This was evidently a big tourist destination in the summer, but as we were "off shoulder', the place was next to deserted. We took in the view, and an ice-cream, before heading back north, via a different route!

The road home was easier, but still tiring after a long and eventful day. We made one unscheduled stop, at a little chapel dedicated to St Nicholas ("I - I - I Nicholas!"). It was clearly quite recently built, with new stone and fresh mortar, and was nestled into the side of a cliff - the back wall of the church was the cliff! It was so secluded that one of our party - I won't say who - gave the bell rope a tug and rang the bell - just once - which made our touring party jump.

Back home, dinner was a home-made affair, with Greek salad (what else?), some beans, and then the baklava we had bought yesterday for dessert. Zonk.

09 Nov 2017, Thursday (Day 16), Archontiki: Rethymno

Very slow start to the day, in spite of the fact that Barb and I were up at 0630 to do some gym. A relaxed mug of tea to follow, as we were joined first by Sue and David, then Donna and Jim. Another mug of tea followed, then some breakfast, and the occasional cup of coffee. The music of a passing sales truck prompted us out to find a fish truck, with a salesman who spoke English! So we bought 6 little red snapper to cook up for dinner, and the salesman threw one in for free. So dinner organized, and by 1030 we were ready to go!

We set off for Rethymno, and found a park - the last one - in a free parking spot near the castle. Morgans and Hursts went castle exploring, while Robinsons went town exploring. The castle cost $E3 each, and we had a pleasant 2 hours exploring it before wandering back through the town via the Ottoman mosque and St Barbara's church. Unfortunately, the latter was closed, so Barb was a little disappointed. We found the Robinsons where we had left them in the car park, and we were relaxed to find that they had sussed out the restaurant which Nikos had recommended to us, and not only that, had made a booking for 1300. So a short drive and we we seated at a table with an excellent view across the bay to the fort.

What can I say about the food? It was just excellent. Barb had a carpaccio of sea bass, the best carpiccio I have ever tasted, while John had a cerviche, in memory of our time on Tahiti together. But that was where the similarity ended, as the Rethymno cerviche was subtle against the Tahiti cerviche of just basic (brutal would be too strong a word, although it did come to mind).

Then the main course: Barb and John had both ordered grilled octopus, called "Octopus Antikristo", served with a light mustard sauce and "mountain greens". That was just nirvana itself, and we savoured every single piece of octopus. The waiter then offered us dessert, but we all elected to go with coffee, John practising in his best Greek "diplos ellenikos" (double Greek coffee) with no sugar ("skatos"?). When the coffees all came out, we had a complimentary scoop of ice cream each, and a small carafe of Rika. Barb and John did a swap, Barb getting two ice cream scoops, John getting two serves of Rika (or maybe a little bit more?) Anyway, John was quite happy when we left the restaurant.

The back to Archontiki, as it was looking like raining, and we had washing on the line. That rescued, the blokes all drove down to the supermarket to get some essential supplies for dinner. Once home, we all piled into the spa for 45 minutes or so, then started cooking dinner, which was the six little red snapper we bought this morning, very fresh. Jim and David gutted them, and Barb cooked them. They were very sweet and delicious! Then a few hands of Jo, at which I had no luck whatsoever. Towards 2300, we packed it in, and went to bed.

10 Nov 2017, Friday (Day 17), Archontiki: walk to Episkopi; drive to Kourno Lake

Later start to the day: arose at 0702 to do gym, then cup of tea and breakfast on the balcony. It was a nice sunny day, after the early clouds rolled away, and the spa had heated up to 33 degrees, so a few of us (John, Jim, Barb, David) decided to have a splash. We rolled the roof back, opened all the bifold doors, slid the windows back, and just enjoyed the view and the bubbles. For probably too long. Then out to dry in the sun - John showed everyone how to get into a hammock, and dried off while relaxing in that hammock.

We slowly got moving, and at 1045, the Morgans and Hurst set off walking to Episkopi along what we thought was a more or less direct track. But we had trouble finding it, and the one we thought should have been it was fenced off. So we ended up going a very round-about route, and Barb had to phone Jim to say that we were semi-lost. We did get some sort-of directions from a couple we bumped into, and then they were joined by a bloke who said he was Nikos' father. This chap plied us with Raki from a two-litre water bottle - it was very nice, but we were not sure of its origins, coming from a 2-litre bottle being carried by a bloke emerging from the scrub!

Anyway, the track we were following did eventually come to a main (= sealed) road, which followed, and that brought us up to a junction with the Episkopi road, coming at the town from the other direction to Archontiki! We had done a round-about route. A bit more walking, and we found the Kactus Cafe, and the Robinsons, so we went in for coffee. Unfortunately, the woman apologised, and said that she did not have any cappucino coffee (or maybe machine?), but that she did have the makings for greek coffee ("diplos ellenikos"). So a few of us changed our orders, and we added a couple of cheese pies to the order as well - one just for John as he was feeling a little hypoglycaemic after the walk. It took a while, as the woman had a screaming baby to contend with, and was trying to cook meat on a BBQ as well, so she was trying to juggle several balls in the air at once. But we were in no hurry.

Then back into the car, and we drove around the many little villages nearby, checking them out. As we drove through the somewhat larger village of Kournas, we saw a cafe ("tabepna" in greek) called "Kalli Kardia" mentioned in Sue's guide book with positive reviews, so we decided to stop there for lunch. It was a most impressive feed - not as upmarket as yesterday, but what it lacked in quality, it made up for in quantity! We ordered a "mixed meat" grill for 4 to share among us 6, and it was more meat than we could barely manage. Add to that some stuffed vine leaves, oven baked feta, and a big plate of chips, and we were all pretty well stuffed like the vine leaves! The waiter, a very friendly and chatty young man, who spoke enough English that we could express all our orders quite adequately, threw in a slice of lemon honey tart and two small carafes of Raki for dessert, but only the men went near the Raki, and even then, were under rationing orders.

Then we drove on to Kouro Lake, the largest fresh water lake in Crete (it was not very big!), getting there just before 6 tour busses full of German tourists arrived! There was not that much to see except for lots of souvenir shops and cafes, several of which had already shut for the winter. Jim bought a few things for rellies at home, and then we set sail for home, getting back just before dark.

Beer and chips (crisps) for pre-dinner, and then a general eat-up left-overs for dinner itself.

11 Nov 2017, Saturday (Day 18), Archontiki to Chania to Athens

No lazing around this morning, as we had to be out of the place by 1000. Barb and I did your gym bit at 0630, then a cup of tea at 0700 followed quickly by breakfast, working on cleaning up any leftovers. Once the Robinsons were up, we swung into full clean-up mode, and managed to be out of the house and into the car before 1000.

Our route to Chania was not via the main road, but rather off the beaten track. So much so that several times we got lost and/or stuck on narrow back streets in small villages. On one occasion, Donna spat the dummy and said "I'm not going round that corner", referring to the steepness, sharpness and narrowness of said corner. After a bit of argy-bargy, John got out, walked up to the corner, sized it up, and thought that even Donna could handle it. So signalling her on, he then proceed to walk in front of the car, old railway guard style (but missing the red flag), waving her on at each squeeze point in the road - of which there were several more- before reaching a more substantial road.

Even then we were not out of the woods, as the village had several dead ends - fortunately sign posted, so we did not try them. But they were the only signs. Direction signs to the next town were conspicuously absent! So we travelled on thus, relying upon Jim's iPhone GPS and map, and a harmonious relationship in the front seat continuing.

At a little village called Kefalas, we stopped at what appeared to be the only taberna in town (or at least, the only open one), and had coffee. I think we might have been the only customers for the morning, save for a moustacioed gentleman sitting in a corner, who corrected by Greek pronunciated, and when I replied "Efkharisto, I am still learning", he replied "So am I, and I've been here for 6 years" in a refined english accent. Maybe the proprietor living out a sea change?

Then on with our small village explorations, finally ending up on the main road into Chania, and into which Jim managed to navigate us right down to the harbour's edge, where we parked the car (free parking, as the parking machine was broken!), and set out to find lunch.

We did not get far. On the waterfront there were continuous restaurants/cafes all the way around the harbour. The first one we came to not only had a persausive spruiker out the front, but several women needed the 'facilities' so we sat down at a table that the spruiker quickly organized. The women went off to do their secret women's business, then we decided to each order a single starter, and share them among us. We had cheese pie (Jim), vine leaves (Donna), cuttlefish (Barb), greek sausages (John), mushrooms (David), ntakos (Sue), and all were pretty good. The one bad spot was that the bread we were served was stale, and certainly not worth the $E1.50 a slice were were charged. The place looked increasingly dodgy when we (Barb) tried to pay with plastic, and first her travel card, then my travel card, then Barb's Bank Australia card all did not work. Mr Spuiker blamed the Australian connection, but I think he just wanted to be paid cash - which we did not have. David stepped up and paid the bill with cash ($E69)

After lunch, we went our separate ways, Morgans and Hursts to explore the town, Robinsons to relax by the waterfront. We saw some very nice silk pieces for sale in an old mosque, but they did not take plastic, so we could not buy anything. Wandered around looking at quite a few archaeological diggings, some Minoan, some Greek, some Roman. We also found an ATM, which did the right thing and disgorged money, proving the point that the spruiker's plastic card machine was malfunctioning, accidentally or otherwise.

At about 1530 we headed back to the harbour to meet up with the Robinsons, whom we found at another cafe about to order coffee. Barb was telling them about the silk items we saw, and how we couldn't buy anything because they did not have a card machine. Then the thought seized me - that we now had money, and I could zoom back and buy the scarf that Barb wanted. Which I did, but it was a little further than I recalled, and it took me some 10 minutes to get there, 5 minutes to buy the thing, and then another 10 minutes to walk back! By which stage my coffee had cooled somewhat!

Then back to the car for one last time, and we set off for the airport. I think we were all a little glad to say goodbye to the car - it was not well designed, there was only one way out of the back 5 seats, and the rearmost two had to wait for the middle three to exit first before the seat could be folded down. Add to that the fact that the door would often stick, the windows did not open, and the general ventilation in the car was lousy, and you have the Morgans and Hursts in strong agreement that the car was not that comfortable.

We had plenty of time at the airport to sit and chat, and consume the remaining 6 beers that we had. Even so we ended up donating 2 of them to the table of men playing cards behind us. We could not take them on the plane! Boarding was on time, and we then had a long bus ride to actually get to the aircraft! It was a relatively short flight (about 40 minutes) to Athens, where we said our final goodbyes to the Robinsons, and then the Morgans and Hursts made their way to the metro train into Athens. Same route as before, and the Morgans alighted at Omonia (they could not get into the Chic either, but were staying at another hotel nearby), while the Hursts went on to Larissa (next to the main railway station) and then walked 750m or so to the Novotel. Once checked in, we bought a beer and a gin and tonic, and took them up to the pool roof, not to swim, but to admire the Acropolis all lit up at night. Grog consumed, we returned to our room and retired for the night.

12 Nov 2017, Sunday (Day 19), Athens to Meteora

Had the alarm set for 0600, so that we could get things done before an 0820 train start to the day. At 0700 we went upp to the roof to see sunrise over the Acropolis, but it was a bit cloudy, and not much to see. Some nice colours over the adjacent mountain though (whose name I don't know). Then down to breakfast.

Breakfast was not as good as the Chic, I have to say, even though there were plenty of cooked items. I say "cooked", because most of it was not "hot". We had things like scrambled eggs (bit cold), mushrooms (too salty), cheese pie (too much pie, not enough cheese), pork sausages (not hot), hash browns (not cooked enough), etc, all washed down with some wishy-washy coffee (even two shots did not lift that out of the doldrums). The orange juice was nice and fresh, though.

Then back to our room, collect our things, pay the bill, and off to the station. It was a bit of a drag, quite literally, as I had to lug our big suitcase up and down stairs, over kerb crossings with no ramps, and ove Greek footpaths. Probably the less said about them the better. They are not clean, even, swept or otherwise maintained.

The Athens station seems to be in two halves, one half modern and reasonably up-to-date, the other half dismantled, trackless, and looking quite forgotten. You have to walk through the latter to get to the former, so it is not a good advertisement or encouragement for travelling by Greek trains. Our train pulled in at 0810, and we found our car, number 1, at the head of the train, seats 24 and 25. As it turned out, we had the compartment to ourselves, so it was a relaxed trip.

In a half-hour or so we were out of Athenian suburbia, and into the Greek countryside. Very few olive trees, some vines, but lots more vegetable growing. Around 1030 we started climbing into mountains. The climb up was impressive enough, but as we can over the crest, the view that opened up on the other side was just breaktaking, as the train line does its equivalent of a Kallikratis pass down into the valley.

Along this stretch there was ample evidence of a new line being built that would obviously replace the line we were on. While the engineering on this new line was also very impressive, it will likely as not not eclipse the scenery from the old line. So we felt quite privileged to have done it when we did. (A bit like climbing Uluru, I suppose, but without the intercultural angst!)

We had a glimpse of the wonders in front of us this afternoon as we approached the terminus at Kalampaka. Some amazing rock formations rising out of the plain, some 300m above the surrounding countryside. As we got closer, we could see the odd monastery perched on the very tip of these obelisks, and the sheer spectacle of it all just blew your breath away!

So we arrived at Kalampala, at the foot of the Meteora formation, so named because in the morning mists, the mountains seem to float above the clouds (from the greek word "meteor" meaning "floating" (or "flowing"), hence the english words "meteorite", "meteorological"). We were met at the station by Jim, our guide, who escorted us to a comfortable modern bus, loaded our luggage, and took us to a gyros cafe to buy a quick lunch (and for some to have a quick pee). The gyros were wonderful, and we ate them with slight haste as the bus then took us up the first hill for a spectacular view over the town of Kalampala.

But it got better as we went higher. Next a stop that took in the two towns of Kalampala and Kratikritos ("small crater", so named because the town is protect by a small crater-like formation on the rock, having moved here in the 16th C to escape maurading turks). The a stop where we could see some old ruins of the hermit existence in the caves that abound the sides of the various rock formations. Apparently the wood on this constructions has been preserved by the dry winds that blow in, and the south-east aspect of them, meaning that they are protected from the storms and snow that come during winter.

Then higher still to see some deserted monasteries (look up names?), and then on to the inhabited ones. There are some 27 monasteries in these parts, some completely disintegrated, some in ruinous state, some in reasonable condition but deserted, some reconstructed (20th C), and finally some inhabited ones (only 7 of those). Even the inhabited ones have very few monks - the 5 containing monks (males) have only a total of 13 monks between them, and some of these only 1 monk! There are 2 nunneries (monasteries taken over by women in the 1930s), and these are slightly more popular, containing a total of 14 and 23 respectively (check numbers).

The reason the monasteries are so deserted and the nunneries popular is interesting. In the 1980s, road access to the area was significantly improved, and the monks realized that the resultant influx of tourists was a money spinner, and started charging admission. This was a two edged sword, as many monks did not like the idea, and started returning to the monastery in Antiphas (name?). The nuns did not have this option, as there are no nunneries in Antiphas, and hence the (now) shortage of monks but adequacy of nuns in Meteora. However, both monasteries and nunneries now do charge admission, and this has meant their survival - 2 million visitors per year, each charged $E3 admission!

We went to numerous sites around Meteora, and saw each of the 7 inhabited monasteries, including the inside of St Stephan's, the more inhabited nunnery. This was $E3 each admission, and since they had a strict dress code inside - including no women in trousers - Barb had to don a tie-around skirt to make herself 'decent' according to monastic standards. The insides were interesting, but the most interesting part, the church, had a "No Photos" policy, which we respected, but which diminished the impressions we could take away and share.

Then to an interesting formation, called Sunset Rock, whence we watched the homoponymous event. Yes, I know, "homoponymous" is a mixture of Latin and Greek, but I saw it on a greek brochure, so if the Greeks can do it, so can I. But you would think that they would use the more correct "eponymous" (equal names) or even "isonymous" (same names), wouldn't you?

Once the sun had set, we all returned on the bus to Kalampala, to be dropped off at our respective hotels and railway station (some people were only doing a single day trip - it would have been long!). At the Hotel Divani by 1730, we repaired to the bar, and ordered a beer, and gin and tonic (same as last night). We spun that out, since the dining room was not open until 1930, but when the barmaid realized we were eating in, she went and opened the dining room for us, and took our orders. So we ate at 1900, with entrees of ? (John) and ? (Barb), mains of veal steak (John) and grilled chicken (Barb). Washed down with a half-bottle of local Macedonikas wine (merlot), and followed by a complimentary dessert of two shot glasses each of chocolate and berry tiramisu-style mixtures.

Only 2030, but we were quite worn out by the fullness of the day, and retired early to bed.

An attempt to follow our train progress

diverged from main line at ? through the village of Bralos Karva Angiers (?) Domokos Paleofarsalos Karaitsis (?) Karditsa Phanari Maroula (100-6048, 13:10:39) Trikala

13 Nov 2017, Monday (Day 20), Kalampala to Athens

Our alarm went off as scheduled at 0630, but what was not scheduled was a call on my phone at 0052 from Simply Energy in Melbourne, presumably as a follow-up to my complaint about the gas overcharging. But we didn't get to hear any more details, as Barbara gave them short shrift in terms of the timing of the call. Not their fault, admittedly, but it was not a welcome follow up. I'm guessing that they won't bother following up next week as Barbara invited them to.

We breakfasted in the dining room that we ate in last night, and there were a few more people for breakfast. But as per the Novotel, things just were not hot, so John confined himself to dried fruit and nuts, followed by a (cold) spinach pie, a (cold) hard-boiled egg, and 4 (cold) very small pork sausages. Barb had yoghurt and honey, a spinach pie, and a couple of sweet pastries, so she did not care much about the hotness. But I have to say that the coffee was not that hot either.

With our bags all packed and lodged with the hotel, the bus came for us at the appointed hour of 0830, and after collecting all our hardy hikers (we were clearly the oldest!), we set off up the road, stopping just the other side of Kalikratis where we alighted. Our guide, Balgelens (sp?), or Evans for short, introduced himself, and asked us to each introduce ourselves. The was a youngish (30s?) couple for California, a family of 4 from India (parent 40s, two boys ~17 and ~10), a young girl Tamara from Sydney, and ourselves.

Our route took us around the southernmost (?) monolith in the Meteora formation, and we passed two destroyed monasteries, one in ruins, and one restored but unoccupied, several oak forests, to reach a comemmorative statue to one Vladavas (sp?), a greek rebel in the Ottoman Wars of 1809-21. (Need to check him out on Wikipedia) Here we had a break from the climbing, and Evans handed out an energy bar to each of us, and we all relaxed with some photo taking, sitting and taking in the view, or just sitting.

Then onwards an upwards, with the occasional photo stop, or an info stop, where Evans would explain something of the local surrounds. At one stop in the oak forest, we saw a salamander, a black lizard-like creature with yellow spots. Evans explained that the yellow spots were a signal to potential predators that it was poisonous, which probably deterred several of the party from handling it. But Barb and I both had a hold - a very cold-blooded creature, slightly damp to hold, but not slimy nor slippery.

Plenty of photos all the way up to the highest point, where we crossed the saddle, and immediately got a great view of the Vlamos (not right?) Monastery. We contoured along the side of the hill overlooking the monastery until we got to the Great Meteora, or Metamorphosis Monastery, where we sidled down the hill, and had to jump/slide down the last 80cm into the car park. It was 1115.

At this point Evans explained that we had until 1230 to go and visit the monastery, or otherwise just amuse ourselves. Barb and I elected to visit the monastery, which involved descending about 100 steps, then ascending another 200 to the monastery gate. We paid our $E3 each (Barb had to wear a skirt as yesterday), and made a beeline for the loos, which were squat-type - urgh. Needs must.

Again the church was "no photos", and most of the iconography was of matyrs getting beheaded or skinned alive or disembowelled, all rather graphic, so we did not linger long.g There were some great (=scary) views out over the parapets of the rock formations and surrounding monasteries. We also checked out the cellar, rather more to our tastes, and then it was time to head back to meet the others, and start our descent.

Which we did at 1220, 10m early as we had all reassembled (monasteried out?) The path down was all cobbled with rounded stones from the river, which was to reduce the wear of the donkey traffic in old days, but it did make it a little harder to walk down. Barb and I tended to be a lot slower than the younger members, and we only caught up with them when Evans had one of his info stops. Slowly and steadily, we reached the bottom (after crossing a cute troll bridge) just after 1300, boarded the bus, and were dropped off in town at 1310.

Our first stop was at the Cafe Ithomi, where we both had "diplos ellenikos", one "medio", the other "skito". They came in cute little turkish?/greek? coffee pots, which we could pour into conventional cups. We sat and enjoyed them immensely, while savouring the feeling of not walking. My tracker said that we had travelled 7kms, but I dudn't turn it on at the start, so it must have been more than that.

Then a short walk across the street to another restaurant, the "Panellion", which advertised eggplant on its sandwich board outside, so in we went. Ah but I forgot, the even shorter walk across the next street to a patisserie (their word) to buy a couple of chocolate thingies for tonight's train trip! We ordered fried eggplant, fried zucchini, abd grilled octopus, along with two beers (one "Beer Mythos", one "Beer Fix"). All were, in Donna's words, "absolutely delicious". But the service was slow. I had to signal one waiter to get the table cleared, and then go and fetch a menu myself to see what there was for dessert. Eventually a most yummy yoghurt and honey arrived for Barb, and a humungous baklava, just dripping with honey and walnuts, for John. I write this late on the train trip toight, and touch wood, have still not fallen into a diabetic coma.

Talk about slow service! No one wanted to know us when it came time to pay the bill and leave. We had to walk over the the main restaurant building to find a waiter, and to wait for him to finsh talking to some other table. All this time we stood opposite a sign saying "the customer does not have to pay if an invoice for service has not been given"!! Talk about doing a "runner"! We were both tempted to just walk out, or even crawl on all fours - no one would have noticed!

But honesty prevailed, we paid the bill, we walked out, and then walked back to the hotel, with some 40 minutes to kill until our pickup for the station arrived. It was at this point that Barbara discovered that she had mislaid our ticket for the train. We searched through handbags, carry-ons, pockets, camera bags, whatever, but could not find it. Plan B to the rescue! Barb found the ticket on her computer, emailed it to the hotel, and got them to print a new copy! Phew!

The bus arrived, we got to the railway station, we boarded the train, and found our compartment - the same one we had on the down journey, with an extra twist - a couple from Los Angeles sharing the compartment. We had quite a chat as we left the station, for a half hour or so, then we settled down to reading/writing/sleeping as the mood took us. Incidentally, the same conductor from yesterday came along to check our tickets, took one look at us, recognized us from yesterday, and paid but the merest glance at the brand new ticket. I reckon we might have got away with just spinning him the story of the lost ticket!

As I write this now, we are into the last hour of the trip, and feeling quite weary. I might pause here to resume on the morrow.

We did have some trouble getting out of the station and onto the Metro, partly because various lifts and escalators were not working, and rather than carry suitcases up stairs, we went looking for working facilities, which took some time. I suspect we were the last passengers on the train to leave the station.

And then, when we arrived at Omonoia, we had a great deal of difficulty finding the street that we wanted. I have to say, the Greeks are not good at signage. The only signs we saw were the names of the streets once you got to the exit, and even then, not all were so equipped. So to find anything, you had to walk around, and we kept getting lost, so we went up an arbitrary exit to better get our bearings, but that was little better. Eventually John had to walk the entire circumference of Omonia Square to find Agia ?? (check map!). Once found, a short walk to the Chic, and we were checked in by midnight.

Attempt to follow progress again

          17:33 Kalampala
          18:09 Karditsa
          18:20 Sothades
          18:30 Paleofaraselou (junction)
          18:45 Domokos
          19:10 Angiers (?)
          20:00 Adion (?)
          20:40 Bralos
          20:49 Lililaea
          20:54 Amphiklia
          21:07 Pourea
          21:20 Favlia
          21:32 Aliartos
          21:44 Siva
          21:59 Annoi/Insi/Lagnoi
          22:16 Sfendali
          22:56 Athina
        

14 Nov 2017, Tuesday (Day 21), Athens: exploring the place on foot

An extremely lazy start to the day, as we did not have to be anywhere at any particular time. Add to that the fact that Barb was not feeling 100%, and we deliberated hastened slowly. So a leisurely start on our walk at 1025, and we headed off in the direction of parliament.

We got to parliament about 1055, and walked around the corner to the presidential guard barracks. We were just in time, because as we were admiring the soldier (with dress and pompoms!) on duty, there was a sudden kerfuffle inside the barracks, and a new guard of 6 soldiers marched out. The back one peeled off, while the other 5 went off up around the corner, presumably to do some parliamentary thing. But we were having too much fun videoing the changing of the guard at the sentry box to care about that. The two soldiers did an elaborate ritual of turning and facing each other, then did this high-stepping march towards each other, turning and stepping in unison back to the sentry box, whereupon the previous soldier relaxed his guard, and simply march (ordinary march style) back into the barracks, while the new soldier did another little high-stepping ritual before settling into his guard position. But that was not all! A regular soldier in khakis came out, and proceeded to adjust the sentry's tassle, and then his garters, taking a fair bit of time to do so. Then he just marched off back into the barracks.

I managed to get all this on video, so I was pretty chuffed that our trip had been so timely and worthwhile. Since the National Gardens were adjacent to the barracks, we then decided to walk through them, getting excited because the map showed a cafe nearby, then getting all despondent, because it was closed!

A pleasant half-hour or so was spent wandering the gardens, but they were not quite what we expected, because they were not botantical gardens, rather flower gardens with lots of trees, and all the flower beds had been dug over for winter.

Leaving the gardens, we walked along the road until we found an extensive cafe with a spruiker outside. We needed little encouragement to go in and order a couple of coffees: diplos ellenikos, and a large cappucino. We took our time savour them, and enjoying the atmosphere. Then on to the Zarrelion, a magnificent building built with huge Ionian columns, but not much to see inside, as it was a conference centre, and all very modern (no iniquities!) inside.

So we walked on to the Stadium, first used in the modern Olympics era starting in 1896, and full of museums of related artefacts, such as every Olympic torch used since then. But this did not attract us much, so we did not pay to go in, but rather just looked at it from outside.

Next stop was the Arch of Hadrian, and interesting joint Roman/Greek erection, and still largely intact. It was next door to the Temple of Zeus, but again, one had to pay to go into that, and we were a little iniquitied out. So again we contented ourselves with a photo from the outside, and mooched off.

By now it was lunch time, and our next item on the itinerary was a walk along the pedestrian path around the south and west sides of the Acropolis. And the first part was a whole heap of restaurants! We picked a likely one, and went in and had a greek salad, fried eggplant, and moussaka (together with beers, of course). The eggplant was brilliant, but the service not so, and I could see the waiter's eyes narrow as Barb scooped up all the coins!

Off around the Acropolis. The weather had been sunny, but gradually closed in as we wandered up the Pynx Hill, site of the first Greek parliaments, and the birthplace of democracy. While we were admiring the magnificent stone work that had gone into building the bema (podium) wall, the heavens opened and we had to see crude shelter onder a tree. But this was not enough, so we made a dash for some rude shelter, namely the adjacent toilets. They were shut, but had enough of an eaves overhang that we waited out the rain in relative dryness.

Once the rain had passed, we continued our stroll of Pynx Hill, and then returned to the pedestrian way. Now I say "pedestrian", but that does not mean that vehicles are excluded. Exactly what the rules are is hard to say, but as a general principle, if a motorbike can go there, it will. Even cars did not seem to feel any guilt about traversing the pedestrian way, although the fact that some did so with their hazard lights flashing indicated that some motorists were at least aware that it was not a regular roadway!

We arrived back at Thissio at the cafe that was so helpful 3 weeks ago. So we stopped there again and had another cup of coffee each. Then we wound our way back via Monasteraki to our hotel. Rather than go out for tea - neither of us was hungry - we spent the time until 2100 catching up on emails and things, and starting to pack. At 2100 we turned in for the night.

15 Nov 2017, Wednesday (Day 22), Athens to Abu Dhabi

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