Woke very early this morning as we needed to get down to breakfast and finish before 8.15 when the car was being delivered to the hotel for us.
Great spread of the usual eggs, bacon, breads, fruits and cereals available for us so we can fill up with a good hearty breakfast which will last us through to this evening maybe with a coffee or some beverage at one of our stops
Weather quite muggy and promises to be a warm one. Made our way out of Piraeus quite easily with the help of GPS and made our way along the very good freeway towards Corinth. Had to stop and pay tolls intermittently but you don’t mind if the roads are good, which they are. Quite astonished by how dirty Greece has been as we have travelled out into the countryside from Piraeus, piles and piles of everyday rubbish just left along the sides of roads. They use a big skip type bin for a number of houses and each household takes their personal bin and empties it into the big one. Big problem here is that when the big communal one is full, they just keep putting more rubbish on top so that it just spills all around the bin.
Buildings as a whole are quite shoddy, many buildings half done and abandoned, scores of shops empty in every town we have been through. There just seems to be a complete lack of civic pride anywhere at all.
Anyhow, made our way to Corinth, some 70km from Piraeus to the Corinthian Canal. This is a massive shipping lane constructed in 1887-1893 to cut short the sailing time from Athens (Piraeus) to the Mediterranean. It is around 80 metres deep and sheer cuts down on both sides. It would have been a massive undertaking by the engineers and workers of the day to construct it. Didn’t bother with the ruins in Corinth as we have a long day of over 400km ahead of us and several stops to do.
Back on the road, we next made our way to Epidaurus to visit the ruins of the Sanctuary and Theatre of Epidaurus which was built in 1500 BC during the rule of Asclepius, the son of the god Apollo. In the amphitheatre style the acoustics were just amazing when someone stood on the centre stone on the stage area spoke. If the person standing there dropped a key, it could be heard at the very top of the staired seats. You could hear a whisper, paper being crumpled, a clap etc. One guide demonstrated by standing on the centre stone and clapped continually as she walked outwardly on the stage. With each step the strength of the sound of the claps diminished. Truly remarkable achievement by the experts of the day to realise the effects of the design of a building to enhance sound. The theatre still in a very good condition considering how old it is.
Had a look inside the museum at some of the retrieved artefacts before walking around the site at the remains of the city which included a hospice, gymnasium, bath house. I guess we would describe it today as a health retreat.
On the road again our next destination was Mycenae. This settlement is perched high up in the Peloppones mounains and is dated to the beginning of the 16th century BC. At the entrance to the settlement you have to walk through “The Lion Gate”, the oldest monumental structure known in Europe which features two rampant lions although they are missing their heads. Just inside we walked around the ancient grave circles where royal people were buried upright in shaft with precious items. German excavations in 1870s uncovered a collection of preicous gold artefacts including the “Mask of Agamemnon” which is housed in the museum in Athens. Climbing higher we could walk through the remains of a palace overlooking the plains below but with very steep cliffs behind for fortification. One of the main features of the settlement is the underground water cistern. It never ceases to amaze me how these ancient civilisations managed to build in such remote difficult places.
Finishing our sightseeing for the day, we now made the drive to Ancient Olympia for the night, having travelled over 400km today. We are still astonished at the endless rubbish lining the sides of the roads all the way around. No wonder Melbourne is the second biggest Greek city in the world, they couldn’t stand living in Greece. Certainly not a very impressive place to visit despite all the ancient wonders to see.
Weren’t too sure what to expect upon approaching the town and our hotel perched high on hilltops overlooking it. Checked in to find we had been upgraded to a junior suite
After a brief rest we made our way down to the town for a walk around. This is probably the tidiest place we have seen. Apart from the police station, church and town hall all other buildings were souvenir stores, hotels and tavernas. It is sad to see how empty and quiet everything is. There are quite a few tour buses around but not enough tourists for every store or tavern.
Went back to hotel so John could have a dip in the pool before dinner. Maureen eventually decided she didn’t need dinner after our huge breakfast and some fruit during the day so John and myself made our way back down to the town and found ourselves some wonderful gyros, me chicken and John lamb. We are still amazed that we have not seen any sheep or cattle or even chickens anywhere at all through our country driving. Surely they farm animals as well as the seemingly endless olive groves we have seen.
Time for us to hit the bed as the Ancient Olympic site opens at 8.00am and it would be great to avoid those tour buses.