The cloak of doom….

One of the many benefits of doing what we’re doing (and, just for the record I’m really into this itinerant lifestyle….it’s grown on me more and more as the weeks have gone past, and Doris, bless her, has become more and more a permanent fixture in our lives) is that I’m having a relationship with my brother. It’s mostly electronic – but we are talking more on the phone now than we ever did – and he may often be abusive about the drivel that I put out there, but it’s better than no comms at all. So that’s great.

And that naturally brings me back onto the subject of wifi, which for both C and I, but me in particular, is a key element to making this all work. I haven’t missed a day on the blog and that must mean we’ve managed to find wifi every day. Which is true. And that’s saying something when you remember that whilst I had plenty of data on my smart twin-SIM phone when we were in Italy and Sicily, Vodafone wouldn’t let me tether. So we’ve had to find wifi every day.

Radio 2 - intermittently

Radio 2 – intermittently

It was a struggle in Italy, with few open networks. So when we weren’t at a campsite we used to stop for coffee and post there. But in Greece most towns have free wifi. And overlaid on that is the Fon network. In France and the UK you have to have a username and password to access Fon, which is fine if you have a BT mobile or broadband (we have that using C’s sister’s account). But otherwise you’re stuffed. In Greece the Greek government, sorry to be exact the EU, seemed to have paid Fon via the government sponsored mobile network OTE to put hotspots in most places. So you can get wifi in Greece either using the town’s free networks or via the Fon hotspot system. Mostly. Today we are parked by a lovely beach in hoofing rain and are listening to Radio Two via Fon. Fab. (Afternote – lost Fon last night and none this morning!)

Back onto yesterday. It rained overnight. Then it rained as we were packing up and leaving the Corinth Camperstop (you’ll be pleased to hear that I didn’t electrocute myself when I disconnected the electricity, but it’s only a matter of time before somebody does). It was a struggle to remain dry as we took Doris off of her chocks, unplugged, packed up, emptied the loo and filled up with water. To add insult to injury I caught my finger in the habitation door – it hurt. The photo of me is remonstrating to C which finger it was. It’s also conveying the very sense of how I was feeling with her in the warm and me outside in the deluge.

it's not what it looks like...

it’s not what it looks like…

It rained all day. We drove to the entrance of the Corinth Canal (I think I’ve done the history before, but it’s six kilometres long, joins the Aegean to the Adriatic without a single lock and from where I took the photo looks fab. It was built at the end of the 19th Century and is now used infrequently as the canal is not wide enough for big boats). We had coffee at a lovely all glass coffee shop at the entrance to the canal – coffee at €1.30 each and great music – and did some e-admin. The girl who served us said they have thirty ships a day pass through the canal, but we were there for an hour and didn’t see a thing. So they must be queuing up somewhere…

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After lunch we drove over the canal further down the isthmus and stopped for the night on the beach just north of Kineta just off the main road to Athens. I think we both thought that finding a decent wild camping spot would be tricky this close to Athens especially as the first bit of beach was a sprawling refinery (with about twenty tankers moored up) and then row after row of half decent villas having bagged the sea. But we turned off after about twenty kilometres and found a quiet place looking across to the Peloponnese. It would have been a remarkable sunset. Alas she was off entertaining someone else and had left us to the attentions of Mr Rain and his cloak of doom.

Doris for the night

Doris for the night

Oh, before I forget. Greek radio has just got better. I stand by what I said about not being able to find anything to listen to apart from a bit of jazz on the Peloponnese. Now we’re on the mainland our radios are alive with pop and stuff actually worth listening to. I grant you, it’s not quite ‘very normal people’ (Milan 102.5), but it’s more than manageable. Well done the radio folk!

We settled into a quiet evening routine. Frankfurters and ratatouille. No TV, just a bit of reading. I spent half an hour looking at the maps of Norway, Sweden and Finland. They’re big, long places….and the weather is unlikely to be kind. And the midges…and it’s expensive. But there’s a thought.

Believe it or not Mrs Sun has just popped out to say hello. There’s a half decent forecast for the next three or four days, but I’ll wait to be convinced. Jen and James arrive tomorrow! Yippee!

Have a great weekend.

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Akrokorinth

That was a good day, even if the rain set in about lunchtime and stayed with us for the rest of the day. By the time we got back from our expedition, even though I was wearing a Gortex jacket and a fleece, I was on the cold side. It was like a damp Spring day. Actually it wasn’t like anything. It was a damp Spring day.

we're going up there

we’re going up there

The walk up to Corinth castle (Akrokorinth to be precise) was straightforward. It was a four hundred metre climb, but up twisting tarmac which didn’t rise that quickly. It imagegot tricky when we entered the castle, a massive fortification on top of the local hill, when the gradient picked up and the tarmac gave way to big cobbles and rocks. You wouldn’t want to be assaulting this castle without the assistance of some cruise missiles and a couple of squadrons of special forces I can tell you.

The castle is built around three levels of fortifications and has three separate

three levels of fortifications

three levels of fortifications

gates. They’re all pretty grand and unassailable, but once inside most of the castle is ruined, or just not really there. We visited the keep, a minaret and a chapel, but up here it’s the views you come for. Unfortunately we were restricted to the tunnel vision created by the hoods of our jackets and having made it to the keep we decided that we could probably afford to miss the final bits of the battlements having done Mycenae a couple of days previous. As for the view ‘you can see Athens on a good day.’ Ehh, right. We couldn’t see the hand in front of our face yesterday. But, it was a tick against this ancient castle which has seen habitation for a couple of millennium, only recently being deserted because the difficulty of getting to the shops without a four-by-four.

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image

We tried to stop for a picnic on the way down, but the weather wasn’t having any of it. So we got back to Doris, put the heating on, hung stuff out to dry and had the rest of the afternoon doing bits and pieces (once we’d warmed up). I finished James’ walking stick and C and I put together the necklaces for Jen having learnt how to make a slip knot onto string from the v nice chap at Nafplio a couple of days ago. I think it all looks fab, and who knows, we might even knock up a few and see if anyone is interested in them?

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image

The weather stayed damp but we were joined by a second van, a couple of women, one from Iceland and one from Germany. I moved our electric hook up so they could plug theirs in. As I did the electricity arced against the street lamp which it is bolted onto in a Heath Robinson way. What with all the water I did worry that I might soon be toast, so once it was plugged in I backed away sheepishly and hoped to forget about it, especially as I know there’s no earth. Oh well.

We woke early to thunder and lightning. I can officially report that this is the worst winter Greece has ever had, especially since we’ve been coming here. Everyone we’ve spoken to agrees. The weather looks intermittent next week for Jen and James, which is a shame, but we will do our best for them regardless.

church without a roof on the top of the hill

church without a roof on the top of the hill

Moving on today. Not sure where, save I’ve got to find wifi to post this as we couldn’t get back on the Fon network last night and with this weather I’m certainly not going to try this morning. Could be worse…..our lives could be routine.

Have a great Friday.

….and the Temple of Doom

It’s important that we put some context on the site of Mycenae. This is a civilisation that existed around 1700BC. That is almost as long before Christ as we are living afterwards. And in our post-Christ time we’ve had some fallow periods of non-culture, eking out a living clubbing our neighbours with blunt instruments and eating roots and bits of each other.

the view from Mycenae

the view from Mycenae

So that’s a long time ago. An awful long time ago. Ok, so it’s not quite the same time as the Pharos who were around as long ago as 4000BC (and they had sails on their ships by then, when we were struggling to hold on to bits of wood for a float), but it’s still very ancient.

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Mycenae, therefore, is special because of its age, but also because of where it is. Stuck up high on a hill overlooking Argos and onto Nafplio and the bay. It’s a small town by city standards and as far as I can make out is mostly about some pretty special tombs, although there is the obvious remnants of a city kicking around among the ruins.

imageBut, to be clear, there are three reasons why you must go (and they’re mostly Indiana Jones reasons). First the entrance. It’s a huge stone gate with a couple of carved lions adorned on top. Welcome to our city. It may be an awfully long time ago but we can still build a big gate and decorate with it with animals from a different continent. Second there is an underground well, ninety nine steps down a man-made tunnel (for man made, read circa Bronze Aged man) to a big puddle of water. There are no lights, no hand rail and the steps are dodgy at times. In the UK you’d be banned from going anywhere near it without crampons, hard hat, ropes and a week’s caving course. We got down with the torch on my phone. Third there are three massive beehive tombs, two in the main site, but the most impressive is outside. Entering is a Harrison Ford moment. We just waited for a Nazi tomb raider and a rolling block of stone. Just fabulous.

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entrance to the well

easy does it...

easy does it…

So we did that. And after lunch in the carpark, where we had a chat to an American couple who were visiting and just happened to walk by, we drove to Corinth looking for a place to stop and a map of the bit of Greece we have yet to visit. We found the map(s) in Corinth and decided to stop at the Camperstop at Corinth. For €10 everything is included apart from wifi which we have managed to get (poorly) via the Fon network which is provided free by the Greek national company OTE. Apparently it’s the first (and only?) Camperstop in Greece. The chap who runs it has tried v hard including plaster Snow White and her Seven Dwarves and strange fruit painted in the national colours of all of his visitors. And free raisins in honey on arrival. We just missed Sandra and Iain who, we understand, left this morning.  Shame.

Ancient Corinth...walking up the hill behind in a mo

Ancient Corinth…walking up the hill behind in a mo

We walked up to Ancient Corinth which is a short walk into local town, another marvel of a city with its own fallen down temple, amphitheatre and tourist shops. It was closed by the time we got there, but much of it on view through the railings. There’s an even older city some height up on the hill behind Ancient Corinth. We might try and walk up there today and stay an additional night at the Camperstop. Looking out the window the weather looks ok for the moment so I’ll just get C up and tell her to put her walking garb on – about four clicks and for hundred metres of climb by my reckoning. Yippee!

3,500 year old tombs...at Mycenae

3,500 year old tombs…at Mycenae

So, got to go. Have a great Thursday!

Nafplio – our fave…

Sandra and Iain will be pleased to know that we met Tony today. There’s a small group of Brits driving round the southern bit of Greece and we keep bumping into each other. Tony’s an ex-Civi Servant who’s retired and taking time out in a lovely bright green

Tony...

Tony…

VW T4 with a raising roof. He plays a couple of instruments and seems to have spent most of his time here in the bay just east of Nafplio where we stayed the night before last and again last night. We got to know him because we were parked up for lunch in the harbour carpark at the far end of the bay and he poked his nose through the door. He’s sticking with Greece at the moment but has to be back to MOT the van in July. We may see him again. I hope so.

We had a v quiet night in the bay and woke to the promise of a visit by Mrs Sun and, after breakfast, made our way into Nafplio to post the blog and buy a map of northern Greece so we could plan stage two of the Greek Odyssey. We had coffee at the same place we’d had breakfast at the day before, inside this time, and it was great to sit back, do some e-admin and watch the Greek world go by. I am currently without wifi again, so I have no idea whether my politically motivated post yesterday drew any comments, so I can’t comment on the comment, if you get my drift.

our bay

our bay

Nafplio is our fave, every second shop in the Venetian quarter is a tastefully and v bespoke cafe and between each one of those is the smartest shop selling clothes, kitchen wear, jewellery etc. It is all done in the best possible, well you know what I’m going to say. They window dress in the most exquisite manner, more like you’d

another bespoke cafe

another bespoke cafe

expect to see in Milan than here in provincial Greece. We stopped to pick up some jewellery-making bits from such a shop and the chap behind the counter, in perfect English, taught me how to make a slip knot for a string necklace. So we bought some string…..and I also picked up a couple of ideas of what to do to finish off James’ walking stick. So progress in the hobby department.

Nafplio

Nafplio

meow...

meow…

Back at the bay we walked up to the rubbish tip on top of the hill to take in the views (they have to put their civic rubbish somewhere) and then walked back down to the white chapel that we had visited before when we had cycled round to the bay about ten days ago. It was just as we remembered it, all Greek, blue and whitewash, looking picture perfect set among a polkadot rug of green grass and bushes, white edelweiss type flowers with the odd purpley blue plant which we didn’t recognise. All framed against the wonderfully multi-shade of blue Aegean and a light blue sky. Perfect. Again.

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We moved back to our previous sleeping spot among a couple of other campers and C went for a storming run up the major hill (the one I had done the day before, about a mile and a half of climb to the saddle above Nafplio) whilst I faffed about with the skipping rope. Our routine kicked in (still no TV) and I finished the first draft of Chapter Seven whilst C knocked up chilli but with spinach rather than beans. It was great. We walked down the bay to get rid of the rubbish in late evening weather that didn’t require expedition clothing, and came back to finish off some stuff – me writing this for example.

inside Nafplio cathedral

inside Nafplio cathedral

C’s on her third of the Lewis Man trilogy by Peter May. She tells me that he is an infinitely better writer than me (Sarah Ferguson is a better writer than me), but she can’t stop herself editing his books now. The fact that she can find fault does give me some hope that mine is not written in a dialect of English long forgotten by mortals.

Off north to Mycenae today and then, we think, an overnight on Corinth harbour. We still haven’t found an appropriate map book, so that’s still on our list.

Have a good Wednesday.

Blockbuster rain

Yesterday’s post was the dullest thing I’ve written for a long while. Apologies for that. It’s just that when not a great deal happens I either report that, or get all philosophical on you, or discuss the Greek financial crisis, or Putin’s ambitions on the Baltic States. And then my brother would tell me to get off of my soapbox. So I set the high jump bar v low and failed to vault it.

still flying kites yesterday

still flying kites yesterday

It would be easy and fun to talk about Rifkind and Straw. How thick or arrogant do any pair of politicians have to be? It’s not the first sting to have caught out senior people with their fingers in the till and it won’t, if they continue to be that thick, be the last. As for Putin? The good news for all of us is the WWW keeps the average every day Russian in the loop on the whole picture. They can, having watched a bit of CNN, make up their own minds as to whether or not surreptitiously annexing every bordering country to theirs is a good thing. They don’t have to look too far back in history to appreciate that that form of colonialism doesn’t end well, no matter what it does for your leader’s view of himself, or the opinions of ageing acolytes that he has surrounded himself with. I guess like the rest of us they just want to live in peace with a reasonable standard of living. Sanctions won’t be helping in that regard and will inevitably colour the locals’ view of the imperialistic West, but that’s a matter of opinion I guess.

I won’t go on about the Greek crisis as, as I write this, I haven’t yet seen the list of reforms the Greek government is putting forward to make ends meet and, hopefully, secure the loans they need in four months time. (We are without wifi at the mo.). Hollande has proven that even as a left wing moderate promising all sorts of appeasing policies to a French nation, at the end of the day you have to make the country work – which I don’t think he has. And that takes difficult decisions and some unpleasant politics, especially this decade when countries need tough love to get them out of hole created by the financial crisis of 2008. Western politicians can’t ignore joe public, who expects so much more from their lives than even twenty years ago, and whose mums and dads are not dying quite as young as the state would like, want a decent pension, need health care, and all for much longer than ever before. So for Tsipras free electricity for the elderly is wholly laudable and a lovely, vote catching idea. But at the end of the day somebody has to cough up the taxes to pay for that bonus. And I’m not sure there is so much tax evasion across Greece that, if recouped, would fill that void and pay the international loan sharks. But I might be wrong.

icons galore in a special church in Nafploi

icons galore in a special church in Nafploi

I can hear my brother tapping away on his keyboard just about now. So I won’t write anything like that.

We left Triton II as the weather look set to heap all sorts of woes on everyone and anyone. And it did. We parked up in Nafplio, walked into town in a rainstorm of blockbuster proportions, found a lovely cafe to have an incredibly good breakfast at (omelette, eggs and bacon, toast, orange juice, two coffees, honey, a cake and some biscuits all for close to twelve pounds) sheltering from the rain with every other Greek who was trying desperately to make the most of their bank holiday Monday. Every cafe in town, and there are scores of them, was packed.

that'll be rain then...

that’ll be rain then…

We swam back to Doris and, as C wasn’t feeling her best, I wrote some of Chapter 7 and she put her feet up as we tried our best to dry out wet clothes hanging from under the awning parked in one of the many free carparks. We then drove over the hill to the bay we had had a picnic on before and parked up for the night (along with four or five international vans – the Greek vans having all headed home). We both went for a run and, with the rain easing and Mrs Sun womanfully pushing back the curtains and waving frantically from her front room, we managed to dry some of our stuff.

yesterday's view when we stopped

yesterday’s view when we stopped

Supper was fried rice and plenty of veg with some chicken. My insides have now learnt how to cope with more aubergine and spinach than they’re used to, and we watched On Golden Pond, which was a great Monday evening film even if it seemed a bit of a vehicle to show everyone how Jane Fonda’s work out was keeping her v trim indeed.

Mk 1 TT Roadster, Greek style - love it

Mk 1 TT Roadster, Greek style – love it

Not sure about today. The weather looks much better and we’ll have to go somewhere to post the blog. Mycenae tomorrow in what looks like glorious sunshine, so maybe a bit more on Chapter 7?

Have a great day.

A lazy Sunday

Another quiet day, hampered a little by rain which started spitting at lunchtime and then stayed with us for the rest of the day. We didn’t (shame on us) do the kite festival as it was too long a cycle into Nafplio in poor weather. I did feel for the Greeks who seem to have come here in their thousands to make the most of the weekend. Well they’ve got the wind to fly the kites – unfortunately it was accompanied by rain.

Instead we hung about the campsite doing stuff. First I booked a car for our week in Athens. At €145 it was cheaper for a week than the equivalent car in Italy was for three days. Hiring a car here is similar in cost to the UK – I’m not quite sure why it was so much when we booked one for Paestum, Italy. Anyhow we should have my favourite – a Fiat Panda, the car (the Mark 2 version) I am definitely going to buy as my run around when we eventually settle down somewhere. It’s a done deal.

We said cheerio to Sandra and Iain. They were off (and we’ve subsequently had comms with them, so we know they’ve arrived) to the camper stop up in the hills at Corinth. For those of you thinking about travelling to this area the stop is farm based, but

me whittling - note monster van in the background

me whittling – note monster van in the background

for €10 everything is included, notably electric, wifi and showers. We will inevitably end up there in the next week before we head north into Athens. As I said yesterday it was great to catch up with them again.

We then set about some hobby type stuff sat outside, under the awning. I can write this because I know that neither Jen nor James reads this drivel, but for their arrival I have been making James a walking stick out of a piece of sturdy bamboo. It requires some whittling (actually I’m using the hobby drill and sander I brought for the tour, but I’ve no intention of telling James that – ‘it took me ages to hand whittle…’) for the handle and I’ve sort of castellated the top bit. The bottom is secure using a plastic coke bottle top. It’s all v alternative and straight off of the beach. I’m becoming a much simpler person – and you can interpret that how you wish.

hobby stuff under the awning

hobby stuff under the awning

C knocked up a couple of pairs of earings for Jen using shells we found on the beach and some earring kits we’d bought, again before we travelled. I think they’re rather good and, if we/she put our mind(s) to it we could sell a pair for a couple of euros a time? The market test will be next Sunday when Jen turns up and then turns her nose up at them. We’ll see. But, to be fair, if they’re ok we could make thirty of forty pairs and put up a small stand on a site and who knows? It’ll hardly make us millionaires, but it might buy us the odd ice cream.

earings....

earings….

I then went for a run and immediately afterwards the rain came. Just when, if I remember the timings correctly, the main parade was about to start in town. Bless them – it’s been quite a winter what with the weather and the financial crisis. But, and this seems to be a key Greek trait, they’re still lovely people. The campsite must be a third to half full at the moment, with kids ‘n all. And yet it’s quieter than any big site we’ve ever been too. Iain told us that the night before last their neighbours came in v late and spent a couple of hours under the awning whispering to each other…..that just wouldn’t happen anywhere else that we know of.

We settled into our early evening routine which, since we lost rubbish TV, doesn’t include the goggle box. We spoke to our mates Richard and Caroline and Jen and I had a chat about the book – she’s done some editing of Chapter Six. The Internet is v intermittent here; it’s certainly worse since we were last here and I suppose that’s to do with the number of folk trying to get on site. I have to say one of the reasons we’re not pushing hard for a Greek SIM is that free wifi is so easily available. Every town seems to have its own net and nearly always it’s fee to use. We have become reliant on wifi for our general well being. I’m not sure if we should feel bad about that – it hardly makes us alternative, but it does keep us in touch with the world.

Rain again this morning. I’m not sure what that means. We might stay here another day – the weather is meant to pick up tomorrow. We’ll see.

Have a great week.

Back at Triton with Sandra and Iain

After Friday’s tourism extravaganza yesterday was a much more sedate affair. It started bitterly cold up in the mountains with the stupid dog that had sat outside our bedroom window shivering all night. I fed it in the morning with some biscuits and whilst frightened of the idiot man in the big warm hat, in the end took food from my hand and accepted a scratch behind her ear. I have absolutely no idea what she was up to last night, or whether she’d have survived it….certainly if the weather remains cold and she thinks sleeping out in the open is better than in the warmth of a bush, then her chances could not have been good. Where’s Battersea and Paul O’Grady when you need them?

lots of these in Nafplio Bay

lots of these in Nafplio Bay

The drive east from the hills to Nafplio Bay, where we pretty much started our Peloponnese odyssey two week ago, was on a perfect mountain road. Big sweeps of tarmac cutting through hillsides like a healed scar with panoramic views across to other hills, snowy peaks waving from the distance and wide olive tree plantations languishing in the valleys below was as good as it gets. The view across the bay when we emerged from hills was special. Nafplio Bay is semi circular, bounded on each side by high hills (we were just coming off one set) with a wide valley in the middle, and with its three castles (a bit greedy, but why mess about?) it was a welcome site after yesterday’s altitude. We stopped on the bay to find a coffee, but in the end C made one ‘in house’ whilst I used local free wifi to post the blog.

big views in the mountains

big views in the mountains

We drove into Nafplio, me snapping a few photos on the way, and remarked at how busy it was. We decided to head for Triton II campsite (good site, but at €20 a tadge on the expensive side) in case Sandra and Iain were there. What we didn’t realise was they were actually cycling round Nafplio at the time and on three occasions had tried to get our attention by waving like idiots – a demonstration that was clearly lost on us.

Nafplio Bay

Nafplio Bay

We foraged at Carrefour and made it to Triton II just before the rest of the Greek nation. It turns out that this weekend is a big kiting festival where everyone flies a kite and they parade an effigy through the town and set fire to it. I’m not sure how these two are related, but I suppose any excuse to burn an effigy is a good one. This all happens today and this evening, so we might be venturing into Nafplio later.

Anyhow Iain and Sandra’s van was on site so we left a note on their windscreen and settled down for some lunch – with Mrs Sun providing all the entertainment. Sure enough back from their cycle they made themselves known and apart from a decent run at about fourish we spent time together discussing the past ten days and future plans.

chez Baxterbus

chez Baxterbus

We are set pretty much. Next week pootling about this side of the Corinth Canal and then Athens for a week. They’re still umming and arring about big decisions like when to enter Bulgaria and whether to make it as far north as Scandinavia before they have to head home in November. Or whether to turn their trip from Baxterbus’ grand tour of Europe to Baxterbus’ not so quite grand, but blooming good fun tour of the Peloponnese. Whatever it was, yet again, good to catch up them. Doubtless we’ll see them again soon!

We had a light supper and both tired, probably from a couple of decent runs and four nights wild camping in the cold, we escaped to bed early.

Not sure about today. Looks like a single day of rain before it breaks again tomorrow. Might stay, might move on. Might watch the kite festival, might not. I’ll let you all know tomorrow. Chapter Six is posted, by the way.