Categories
Greece (Athens, Delphi) Greece (Peloponnese)

How to get from Delphi to Olympia by bus

See this restaurant? It doubles as the Delphi bus station. Really. 

COVID-19 Preface: Greece officially reopens to travelers on Monday, June 15. According to this Associated Press story published today, “Timely and strictly enforced lockdown measures have so far kept the infection rate in Greece low and the death toll below 200.”)

It was a little confusing. The Delphi bus station appeared closed.

An arrow painted on the building facade, however, pointed to a restaurant called “In Delphi Cafe” next door. Nearby, a man wearing a crisp white shirt and black trousers, waved us down from his curious position in the middle of the street. (It’s a slightly confrontational technique to entice wandering tourists to stop for a bite.)

“Dinner menu?” he asked. 

A bus schedule would be more like it, I thought, since my husband and I still needed to plan the next leg of our trip from Delphi to Olympia. We smiled, and asked, “Bus tickets?”

“Go inside the restaurant, please. Someone will help you there,”  he answered.

We ventured inside. The restaurant immediately reminded me of the beautiful double-story trattoria from Love Actually where Jamie proposes to Aurelia. A balcony. Warm gold-colored walls. Heavy timbers. Sparkling glassware.

A woman behind the counter asked us if we needed bus tickets in plain-as-day English. 

“Yes, we are going to Olympia in two days and we need bus tickets,” my husband explained. 

She called to another waiter, who dried his hands and stepped to a computer at the bar. 

So this is the bus station, I thought to myself. Hmmm. Interesting.

An employee wearing jeans, t-shirt, and a white apron wrapped around his hips walked in carrying a stainless steel container covered with plastic wrap. He had come from the direction of the “bus station” next door. They must use the “bus station” for storage, I thought.

This photo was taken from the balcony of our hotel the night we arrived. We spent two nights in Delphi, a quaint and quiet mountain town known for its famous archaeological site. Towns around Delphi, such as Arachova, are winter skiing destinations.

Our waiter/ticket clerk stared at the computer screen, squinting, and asked us when we wanted to arrive in Olympia.

It would take all day, he said. Of course, that was fine.

It was what we expected. For although it only appears to be a jog to the southwest on a map, the bus route would take us to Itea, a small town on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth just a few miles south of Delphi.

Then the route would trace the edge of the gulf for nearly three hours before crossing south into Patras. From Patras, we would take a bus to Pyrgos (NOT the Pyrgos on Santorini, by the way).

From there, a final bus would drive us the remaining thirty kilometers to Olympia, where we would meet our AirBnB host, the fifty-seventh (okay, not really, but it seemed like it) man named Kostas who we met on our trip.

Here’s the route our waiter/ticket clerk gave to us, written on the back of a receipt:

We purchased and received our tickets, thanked the young man, and told him we would be back for dinner.

THREE HOURS LATER…

Roast lamb, moussaka, wine, potatoes, salads… all served on a candle-lit table under the leafy branches of a tree so large it sheltered like an umbrella not only the peninsula that served as the outdoor seating area for the restaurant, but also the two streets that ran on either side.

Delphi’s In Delphi Cafe is charming. We chose to sit under the large oak tree outside on a peninsula bordered on either side by highway 48, which here is actually a street..

Below is a photo of our hotel, Art Hotel Pythia, in Delphi…it was manned by one employee. In the mornings, he had to cover BOTH the front desk and the upstairs dining room simultaneously. Speaking of the upstairs dining room, it offered a very generous and complete complimentary breakfast selection of eggs, meats, fruits, cereals, coffee, pastries.

It was fabulous breakfast, even though it had been overrun by a large traveling group of students who had already dined and left. Tables were littered with used china and glasses, since the one staff employee hadn’t been able to leave the front desk to clean. Still, there were pastries and eggs to be had, and it was nice to see actual dishes being used instead of paper and plastic.

We sympathized with the employee and knew he was doing the work of three to four people.

This hotel with its impossibly small staff caused us to wonder about Delphi’s economic outlook. The town appears to be a sleepy village holding on for dear life during Greece’s financial crisis. Across the street from Art Hotel Pythia was an abandoned multi-story hotel that was probably packed during the Olympic Games in 2004.

Thank goodness for the amazing archaeological site just down the road! Read my post about the site here.

Art Hotel Pythia, our hotel in Greece.

The day we departed Delphi, we left our hotel around 11 a.m. and waited outside the restaurant/bus station for the large, air-conditioned bus that arrived about fifteen minutes late. We loaded our luggage into the lower bins of the bus and boarded.

It was a packed bus. There was a group of about ten kids travelling to the beach at Itea. Like kids everywhere, they were talking and joking, laughing over shared phone screens.

This map shows the route our bus took from Delphi in the upper right corner down to Olympia in the lower left corner. The small white dot in the blue road above the word “Archaeological” is in about the same spot as Pyrgos, our final stop before reaching Olympia.

Our bus made its way down to Itea on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth, which you can see in the distance in the photo below. This was a beautiful drive with two or three tight hairpin curves.

The weather was warm and sunny when we left; as we drove, the temperature rose. Thankfully, our bus was comfortable and air-conditioned.

After passing more and more olive groves on the way, we eventually stopped at the bus station in Itea on a road that fronted the shore of the Gulf of Corinth.

Itea was a quiet little town that, based on the many outdoor cafes and shops, we could tell would be busy with tourists in July and August.

I took this photo of my husband Mitch standing across the street from the bus station at this small dockside park.

We were nervous about missing our bus to further points south, so we crossed back over to the bus station and waited. The bus station was little more than a hallway with a counter at the back, so we couldn’t wait inside where it was warm. Instead, we bought spinach pies at the small restaurant next door and ate them sitting outside on the sidewalk next to our four pieces of luggage.

And then we waited. It was fun.

Our bus finally arrived and we boarded, knowing this would be a much longer leg of the trip than the short jaunt down the hill to Itea from Delphi.

Our bus ride meandered part of the way through the lowland hills along the coast of the Gulf of Corinth.

We stopped here and there at several towns to drop people off and allow others to load. In the photo above: a market along the way.

Of course, olive trees were everywhere, tucked into any field available. Note the Greek Orthodox church on the horizon.

We stopped several times to board more passengers.

Driving along the coast often meant driving about twenty feet from the water. Waves splashed onto the road in several places.

We passed through several nondescript towns. Many have boarded up or shuttered stores and offices. Greece’s financial state is quite obvious, especially in the more remote and smaller towns. Last summer, some blamed the Olympic Games for at least part of the economic crisis.

Along the road, we would often see Olympic statues such as this one that traces the route the torch bearers took as they carried the flame toward the games in Athens in 2004.

I took this shot of a sidewalk in Nafpaktos, one of a dozen or more towns we traveled through on our way to Olympia. It’s north of the Gulf as we made our way west to cross over to Patras.

We were nearing Patras, Greece’s third largest city (after Athens and Thessaloniki).

This majestic bridge can be seen from a distance. It’s the doorway into Patras and points south on the Peloponnese peninsula

This photo shows another point on the Olympic torch trail.

We were dropped off in Patras as this bus station. After going inside and inquiring about our next leg of the trip, we discovered we needed to be three blocks away at a different station to meet our bus, which was scheduled to leave in about fifteen minutes.

The only solution to get there quickly was to walk.

We each grabbed our carry-on and pulled our jumbo suitcases and took off for the right train station. We charged through empty sidewalk cafes, deserted in the mid-afternoon. At one, an employee was hosing down the seating area. The coolness from the water kept us moving on.

We finally made it to the Patras train station. As Mitch took care of buying our tickets inside, I waited outside to make sure we got on that bus.

Which we did.

Safe and secure in another air-conditioned motorcoach, we settled in for our next-to-last leg of the trip to Pyrgos.

This leg of the trip held its own frustrations for us.

We’re not absolutely sure, but we think we booked a local bus that stopped numerous times. One city we spent an especially long amount of town in was Amaliada. Either our bus driver was lost or he was just playing a trick on us because we spent about an hour piddling our way back and forth in this town.

More dawdling in Alamiada…. but we did spy another church and some non-touristy scenes of typical Greek living: old men sitting at card tables outside of cafes or clubs, kids playing in playgrounds, young men drinking beer in the brittle, dusty grass of an abandoned city park. (I rarely saw women out visiting and socializing, by the way.)

True, Amaliada wasn’t Skopelos, but part of the reason we took bus transit was to see an unfiltered version of Greece. In fact, check out our neighborhood where we stayed in Heraklion.

Finally on our way out of town to Pyrgos, we spotted these hothouses of strawberries and watermelons.
The bus station in Pyrgos was a bright, airy place.

Victory! We finally made it to Pyrgos… ten minutes late.

Our bus to Olympia had departed ten minutes before we arrived. Instead of trying to book another bus for the remaining thirty-mile ride, we opted to take a taxi instead.

It had been a long day, but the end was in sight. And what a different world it was from mountainous Delphi!

Welcome to Olympia! Yesssss.

We met our AirBnB host, the sixtieth man named Kostas, for some friendly introductions. He met us in the middle of the street of our AirBnb, waving his arms to catch our taxi driver’s attention.

Kostas gave us a short tour to the entrance of the Olympia archaeological site so we could find it easily the next morning.

It’s quite a haul to get from Delphi to Olympia in one day, but it’s…

  • quite possible,
  • inexpensive,
  • and full of scenery that runs the gamut from the beautiful to the mundane.

While we plan to rent a car the next time we’re in the Greek countryside, we are definitely glad we took the public transit options that were available on our first trip.

Even though taking the bus requires you to engage in some risk-taking, confusion, second-guessing, and moments that will test your patience, we would recommend it if you want to experience authentic Greece.


Thanks for reading! I’m amazed that story ideas are still surfacing from our travels last summer. Leave a like, make a comment and become a follower for more travel posts. While travel stories aren’t my only genre on this blog, they do seem to dominate my posts lately. That will be changing soon.

For my totally separate English teaching blog, click here.

Categories
Greece (Athens, Delphi)

The strange situation I saw two days ago in Athens

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Photo: Marilyn Yung

An unsettling episode on our otherwise comfortable journey through Greece

I guess nothing came of the strange situation I saw two days ago in Athens.  Here’s what happened somewhere between the Omonoia and Ministiraki stations.

So, okay. I’m sitting on this gray metal bench waiting for a train to whisk my husband and I to our AirBnB in Paiania. As I stared at the departure sign’s red digital numbers, I noticed two security guards casually saunter up, talking between themselves. One, pale and tall, walked with his hands in his pockets, eyes on the ground as he spoke to his partner who, with his salt and pepper hair, appeared to be nearing retirement age.

I took note: two security guards.  Together.

Now I come from a small town in Kansas and have lived in rural Missouri for thirty years. I know next to nothing about public transit, let alone public transit in downtown Athens. Do security guards often travel in twos? Or just when a situation warrants it?

Whatever, I thought, my eyes moving from the guards back to the digital sign. It indicated our airport-bound train should arrive in about six minutes.

To the right, toward my bench on the platform, a man approached.

Here’s what I noticed:

  1. He was wearing a straw hat, a wide-brimmed style,
  2. and a too-small faded blue suit jacket,
  3. and black sunglasses,
  4. and a canvas hat under the straw one (yes, two hats),
  5. and long, wavy black hair stuffed under the neck flap of the canvas hat,
  6. plus, a drab white-and-blue plaid shirt under the ill-fitting suit jacket.

Here’s what I wish I had noticed: his shoes. They say shoes can say a lot about a person, but I didn’t look at his shoes. I couldn’t get past the straw hat.

Neither could the security guards. Once Straw Hat walked up, they took note. They had been standing silently, but when Straw Hat entered the scene, the taller guard whispered to the other.

The two guards passed by me and walked to the platform edge. They watched the man approach my bench, stop two feet short next to a garbage can, and stand quietly.

I turned away from Straw Hat to my husband sitting to my left. “Do you see this guy?” I whispered.

“If he gets on the train, we’re staying behind for the next one,” he mumbled quietly.

I watched the security guards. The taller one occasionally glanced over at Straw Hat. He made eye contact with the strange dresser. It reassured me to see that the guard wanted Straw Hat to know that he was being watched.

Good, I thought. They’re on to him. And Straw Hat knows it.

I shifted back on the bench and returned my gaze to the digital sign.

Five minutes.

More passengers wandered to the platform. One camera-toting man, a tourist obviously, noticed Straw Hat. His eyes snagged on the hat, and then dropped to scan the rest of the ensemble. He turned away.

Three girls wearing summer tans and sundresses walked up, chatting away, oblivious to Straw Hat. A mother pushing a stroller rolled onto the scene, her eyes never raising from her precious cargo. Two more men walked up. Both glanced at the hat, one’s eyes resting for an uncomfortable three seconds on the costume.

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Photo: Marilyn Yung

Four minutes.

The taller guard glanced again at the costumed man and made a call on his cell phone. The other tugged on his belt, straightening his gray shirt that read “Private Security” in all capitals.

Three minutes.

The crowd had grown. The sounds had changed: wheeled luggage rumbled by, shoes and flip flops shuffled through.

Several old men gathered. Two were in a heated conversation. One repeatedly pressed and raised his index finger up and down into his palm, counting off some reasons he was fired up about. At one point, his eyes caught the Straw Hat. He stopped for a split-second, wrinkled his brow in curiosity, and turned away to continue his reasoning.

Two minutes.

I turned to my husband. “Still watching him?”

“Just hang back when the train gets here,” he said, looking straight ahead, keeping the man in his peripheral vision.

In the corner of my eye, I watched, too. Straw Hat gingerly tugged at the cuffs of his sleeves to lower them. They already hung too low, I thought, nearly an inch beyond the hem of his jacket. He then inspected his fingertips. Pale hands, I noticed. Dirty nails. The few tendrils of black hair that I could see were so black they shone blue under the overhead LED lighting. He spent time tucking his hair under the neck flap.

One minute.

From down the tunnel, we heard a dull, deep roar of an oncoming train. Its front sign showed that it was bound for another central Athens station… not the airport. It slowed to a stop at the platform and the doors slid open.

A rush of passengers disembarked, displacing the chatting girls, the camera-toting tourist, the old men, the doting mother. As the train emptied, those waiting flowed toward it, including Straw Hat.

Suddenly, another man appeared wearing a sophisticated, double-breasted gray suit and carrying a clear plastic bag.  Two packages were inside wrapped in white paper. He approached Straw Hat, paused, and turned to face the train.

Straw Hat leaned forward and muttered words into the space between them. Then he turned toward the second train car and boarded. Gray Suit boarded the first car. So did the security guards. The taller one kept his eye on Straw Hat in the next car. Had they seen the comment exchanged with Gray Suit? Were they aware that they needed to watch him, too?

More passengers boarded. A few last-minute riders scurried to the platform, scooting inside the train at the final second before the doors slid shut. A bell sounded and the train sped away.

We wondered.

What was about to happen? Anything? Why would anyone dress so conspicuously? Was Straw Hat planning to peel off the layers of his costume as his crime progressed? Was he the distraction to entice watchful eyes off Gray Suit, the truly dangerous one?

We still wonder. What exactly did we witness? We heard nothing about the incident, but then again we probably wouldn’t. Beyond the most basic phrases, we don’t speak Greek, so asking someone or watching the TV for news is futile.

Our Athens transit experience is one of those curious travel stories. A peculiar memory. A shared inexplicable moment that we trust resulted in nothing more than an eyebrow-raising incident to retell over the years. This one story is thankfully the only unsettling episode on our otherwise comfortable journey through Greece.

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Photo: Marilyn Yung


Thanks for reading! This happened two days ago in downtown Athens. It was very unnerving at the time. The two men could have merely been out pick-pocketing. About ten minutes prior to this story, a station employee had warned my husband to wear his backpack on his chest. “The pickpockets are out today,” he had said. Maybe that’s all it was.

Leave a comment if you’ve had a similar puzzling encounter. Feel free to follow my blog for more travel stories.

 

 

Categories
Greece (Athens, Delphi)

Scenes from a sunny house in Athens

AirBnB delivers again

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Kostas, me, Mitch, and Tania

This is our first major trip where by the time we return home, we will have utilized  AirBnB seven times! Today’s post is about our stay near the Athens International Airport with Tania and her son, Kostas (yes, another Kostas!).

Tania’s house is called “Sunny House” and it’s ten minutes from the airport, which was perfect for our needs since we were flying out of Athens the next day for five days in Crete.

Despite some communication problems between Tania and me during the day about exactly when and how we would arrive at her house, we finally met up around 4 p.m.

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The tile patio 

It had been a hectic day! We had taken a three-hour bus ride from Olympia (along the southern coast of the Gulf of Corinth), a subway transfer, and a ride on the suburbs-bound metro train. Tania could tell we were exhausted. After showing us the house, she said, “You look tired,” and she left us to rest.

However, before leaving, Tania’s son Kostas offered to handle ordering dinner for us later. We could look through the menus on the table in the apartment to make our choice, he said. After resting, we took him up on his offer and asked him to order two pork gyros from a local restaurant. In about fifteen minutes, a man on a scooter drove to our door with hot gyros in hand. Awesome!

Mitch and I ate our gyros on the sun-dappled patio table in front of our flat. It was a very warm day (some would call it hot), but with the breeze, it felt cool in the shade.

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I wish I had taken pictures right when we arrived. It was a great little place!

As we ate, Kostas was installing some tile around a concrete seating area on his mother’s patio. He came over and asked us if it would be all right if he cut some tile, as it would make quite a loud noise. Of course, that would be fine, we said. We didn’t want to get in the way of his project, obviously.

As Kostas worked, Tania swept leaves from her patio that joined ours. In front of her home, four trees provide lemons, oranges, apricots, and olives. She told us to help ourselves to all the apricots we wanted as there were simply too many to pick. We picked about six and carried them back to our place. Lucky for us that we’ve visited Greece during apricot season. (I never buy them at home because they’re rarely allowed to ripen on the tree.)

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Apricots fresh off the tree

After eating and resting some more, we both wandered outside to see Kostas’ tile project up close. As we spoke with him, Tania came out from her home.

“Sit, sit,” she said. Taking her cue, the three of us joined her around her wooden picnic table.

As the breeze stirred, we got to know each other a bit.

  • We visited about politics (Greece has elections in about a week; the United States’ 2020 election is already in the news).
  • We also talked about opportunities for young people in Greece, which seems to be a complex subject. For example, Kostas, a mechanical engineer completing a master’s degree in Romania, told us that engineers earn less pay than hair stylists. We relayed that teacher salaries in the U.S. also can reflect that disparity.

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  • We met their dog, Bruno. Kostas told us Bruno was a stray that they had adopted. Apparently, Bruno likes to chase cars. The road beyond the house,  a gravel one that feels like a country road, did occasionally have a car speeding by.
  • As we visited, a neighbor hollered in Greek over the courtyard wall. Tania spoke back and apparently invited the woman in. She greeted us with a smile, looked at Kostas’ tile project, indicated that it was coming along well, and went on her way.
  • Kostas gave us tips for visiting Crete, recommending that we check out Chania while we’re there.

Gradually, the clear night sky darkened. The sound of a flight taking off or landing could be heard in the distance and Tania rose from the table. About five minutes later, she returned with forks and plates of watermelon wedges.

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Olives are on the way!

We continued to talk and it occurred to me what a generous mother and son we had met. Both were eager to share about their lives and learn about ours. We told them about our daughter, who was returning to the U.S. from an internship in Italy, and our son, a college student studying photography and video production.

They were curious about Mitch’s familiarity with farming, raising livestock, and chickens. They were especially intrigued when they learned that Mitch even raises specific chickens for their feathers, which he uses to tie flies for fishing.

We also relayed to her details about some of our other AirBnB stays from the previous few days. One of those stays was actually a room in a small hotel. While it was a pleasant stay, it wasn’t quite the traditional AirBnB experience. People who choose AirBnb don’t want a hotel, Tania said. They want the experience of meeting local people.

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The next morning right before we left

Eventually, the conversation waned and a few yawns were heard. We all decided to call it a night, but before doing that, we went over our morning plans: Tania would taxi us to the airport at 7:30 in the morning so we could make our 9:15 flight to Heraklion, Crete.

With that confirmed, I asked if I could take a picture for my blog and, of course, they agreed. Kostas offered to take the picture. His long arms are good for that, he told us.

We thanked Tania again for the watermelon and wished Kostas well with his studies.  And with that, we turned in for the night.

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Photo: Pixabay


Thanks for reading! Click like if you enjoyed this post. What’s your experience with AirBnb? Follow this blog for more travel stories from Greece.

 

Categories
Greece (Peloponnese)

When your AirBnb host shows you the town

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Kostas, our AirBnb host in Olympia, Greece. The town has a permanent population of 700 residents, he told us.

…to share his enthusiasm for Olympia

As with all three of the towns we have visited so far in Greece since we left Skopelos Island, there is more to the towns than just the historical sites. For example, Delphi is a quaint Alpine-style village full of shops and establishments that cater to the tourist market that is always in town, at least in the summer months.

Mycenae is also a sleepy little village just down the mountain from its own historical site. There are a few tavernas, a mini-market, a bus stop, and a few other businesses that keep the town humming along.

Olympia is much the same.

When we arrived there a few nights ago in a taxi, we saw from a distance our AirBnB host, Kostas (another Kostas, not the one from Mycenae) standing in the middle of the street in front of our flat waving his arms at us. We pulled up, paid the driver, and lifted our bags from the trunk. Once we all shook hands, Kostas showed us our small studio apartment and gave us an impromptu history lesson about Olympia.

Standing inside our apartment, he showed us the laminated map below. He proudly explained several things to us in a deep, warm voice: how the ancient Greeks counted years by the Olympic games, details about the sculptures found at the site, and how the games were used by the Greeks to unite people and solve differences.

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A history buff, it’s obvious that Kostas loves his town and its prominent place in world history.  In fact, he reminds me of the enthusiastic Venetian tour guide I met a couple of weeks ago.

And then Kostas walked us downtown and over to the archaeological site so we would know exactly how to get there the next morning. When I say walked us downtown, I really mean that we walked down a series of steps from our studio to the main retail street that connects the modern town to the historical site.

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The door to our apartment is on the far right. The main street is right at the bottom of these stairs.

The main retail street, as one would expect, is full of tourist shops, clothing stores, jewelry shops, restaurants, tavernas, a grocery store, The Archimedes Museum (a free museum dedicated to the inventions and discoveries of Archimedes) and the town hall.

The three of us did make one stop along the way to the site. Kostas asked us to wait outside the little super market so he could go inside and buy a can of dog food. He wanted to feed a dog that lived inside the Olympia site.

Kostas told us that several dogs live around town that the locals look after. Once we crossed the bridge and neared the edge of the park, Kostas let out a distinctive whistle. Suddenly, we saw a white and black-spotted border collie mix bound out from the monument grounds. It sprinted for Kostas, who peeled off the lid of the can and flung the food out on the road for the dog to lap up.

Wow, I remember thinking, this is a nice guy.

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A jewelry shop owner snagged us inside with a tale of his brother who carried the Olympic torch during the 2004 games. He wanted to take this picture of us. I wish I had taken one of him!

After our history lesson and our tour about town, Kostas bade us farewell, asked us to contact him if we needed anything over the next two days, and took off back to his home.

At that point, we went back to our apartment and collapsed. It had been a long afternoon of bus riding from Delphi, through Itea and then along the edge of the Gulf of Corinth to Patras, and down to Pyrgos, where  we missed our connecting bus by about ten minutes.

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Once we made it to Patras, Greece’s third largest city, we barely made it on this connecting bus to Pyrgos. For some reason, the ride took longer than it was supposed to and we had to taxi to Olympia. Still don’t know what happened.

In a few hours, however, hunger called and we walked across the street to Kostas’ recommended taverna, Taverna Orestis. He told us it was where the locals ate since it was off the main street. He was right. By 11 o’clock p.m., the outside seating area was chock full of people.

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On our first night in town, I took this picture from our balcony right after we got back from Taverna Orestis, located across the street from our flat. Kostas recommended it as a non-touristy choice since it wasn’t on the main tourist street. We ordered grilled sardines, dolmades, Greek salad, and tzatziki with bread. It was excellent and fun to see the locals socializing.

There were two large groups of about twenty each, several couples, and a family or two with children. I was surprised by how busy they were and so late at night! Our sleeping and eating schedules are so vastly different from those of the Europeans.

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We found this taverna right in the center of the main district. It was so quaint and also had the misters running in the afternoon, so we decided to enjoy the place with some cappuccini.

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Mitch had a freddo cappucino (iced) and I had a regular hot one.

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After a morning of sightseeing at the Sanctuary of Olympia, we took a break for gyros and sodas at another local taverna. Then we headed back during the hot afternoon to the air-conditioned museum. See this post for more about the archaeological site.

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During our second night in Olympia, we opted to eat in with food from the market on the main street. We bought some toasts, gouda cheese, a freshly-picked orange from a tree, some salami, and Greek olives. 

 

 

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Another view from our balcony.

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The morning after our visit to the archaeological site, we asked Kostas to confirm for us the time of the first express bus back to Athens. It’s very difficult to find current bus schedules and to know that they’re right.

At left is a screenshot that Kostas sent us via the AirBnB app so we would have a current schedule. We took the 9:30 express  along the southern edge of the Gulf of Corinth and made it back to Athens by 1:30 p.m.

Olympia is small and comfortable. It’s busy when loads of buses drop off tourists, but after they leave for the day, it’s a very quiet town. In fact, there are several unoccupied hotel buildings scattered about town. I’m not sure if that’s an after-effect of the 2004 Olympic Games building boom or not. Regardless, the town is a winner and was definitely worth the three bus rides and a taxi to get there.


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Categories
Greece (Peloponnese)

Meet our AirBnB hosts: Kostas and Toula

Our fabulous hosts at Mycenae

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Mitch, Toula, Kostas and me

AirBnb offers something that a traditional hotel doesn’t: contact with local residents. We met Kostas and Toula on our first night in Mycenae after three weeks on Skopelos Island.

That day, we had ferried to Skiathos Island, flown for 25 minutes to Athens, then taken a bus to Athens’ KTEL terminal, and finally taken a 1.5-hour bus ride to Fichti, which is just down the road from Mycenae.

Kostas was waiting for us under an olive tree in Fichti. When the bus stopped, the driver made no announcement and there were no signs indicating we were at our destination. Mitch decided to ask the driver where exactly we were and when the driver replied, “Fichti,” Mitch scurried to get our luggage from the hold. At that point, I realized that Mitch was not coming back. (He told me later he thought iI was right behind him.)

So I quickly grabbed my purse and hurried off the bus.

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Our AirBnb at Kostas’. We climbed up that spiral staircase to our door.

Kostas was expecting us to be arriving on this particular bus. I had been in contact as our plans unfolded throughout the day with his daughter Sophia, and she had kept him in the loop.

However, since we had booked our Airbnb under my name, when Mitch climbed down from the bus first, Kostas asked him, “Marilyn?”

But then Kostas saw me climb down, realized that Mitch was not Marilyn and we made our introductions.

Kostas was so friendly. He talked the whole drive back to our apartment. He told us about his daughter and son, who currently lives in Canada. In fact, Kostas lived in Canada at one time for several years, which explains why we were able to communicate so well. He struggled with finding words at times, but overall his English is excellent considering he is a native Greek and nearing retirement age.

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The sign on the outskirts of town showing the way to the ruins.

When we reached the little town of Mycenae, where our apartment was located, Kostas pointed out the mini-market and two or three tavernas, which we visited the next day.

Inside our apartment, Kostas and Toula showed us around the one-bedroom apartment. It had a nice living room, large eat-in kitchen, full bath, and plenty of seating with an extra couch tucked here and there. There was WiFi, air conditioning, a washer, and a large tile front balcony with clothesline.

They also took great pride to show us the fridge, which they had stocked with six eggs, a small carton of milk, local honey, a loaf of bread and toasts, apples, oranges and apricots. Kostas also showed us a bottle of olive oil fresh from his groves. (He farms olives and oranges, he told us.) We used the olive oil to cook eggs for breakfast the next two mornings. They also provided instant and Greek coffee, which we made on a single-burner stove.

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Kostas and Toula kept lots of games in the apartment. Here are Greek Scrabble pieces.

Their generosity and hospitality were incredible… above and beyond! They have definitely mastered the art of what AirBnB calls “the extra touches.”

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The view off the side of our front porch balcony. Those are apricots in that truck. Olive trees in the distance… and right by the truck also.

The next evening, we visited with the couple again when we inquired about how to get a taxi back to Fichti. We visited inside their apartment, which was located on the ground level of their three-story building. Over small porcelain cups of Greek coffee, water, and fresh apricots, Kostas offered to drive us back the next morning, as he and Toula were making a trip to “the big city” of Argos.

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The view off one side of our front porch balcony.

We also met their sweet little Chihuahua-mix dog, Kirra, who sat on my lap and stared deep into my eyes. She is very old, Kostas said, which you could tell from her fully gray nose and jowls. She rolled over on her back in my lap as we talked.

Toula, who speaks as much English as I speak Greek, multi-tasked all the while. (Several times, Kostas would stop the conversation and translate to Toulah.) She kept her eyes on a TV program, and occasionally listened in our conversation about Kostas’ and our kids, job prospects in Greece for young people (there aren’t many, he said), the cycle of world superpowers, and how Greece needs the help of larger countries to succeed.

 

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The highway between Fichti and Mycenae was quiet at night. Earlier in the day, tour buses from Argos drive through. It seems that maybe Argos gets most of the tourist business.

Kostas also told us that it had been several years since he had been up the hill to the Mycenaean ruins. In fact, when he had been there before, he had been working there. “They charge too much to see it,” he said. “They think they are the United States and charge a lot for it.”

We explained that the 12€ tickets didn’t seem that high to us, but then again the culture of Ancient and Classical Greece is revered perhaps more when you don’t grow up around it. To us, it’s an amazing site. Perhaps to Kostas, it’s just a bunch of old rocks.

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I had chicken souvlaki and Mitch had pork souvlaki.  Both were served with french fries. We also had tzatziki as an appetizer. The weather was beautiful. Taverna owners and/or waiters walk right up to you on the sidewalk asking you to dine at their establishment.

We then made arrangements to meet outside the apartment at 9:30 the next morning for the drive back to the Fichti bus station. Kostas also said he would help us buy our bus tickets back to Athens.

As promised, we all met the next morning… fifteen minutes ahead of schedule.

The four of us made the ten-minute drive back to Fichti. We unloaded our luggage, then I sat with it under a tree while Mitch and Kostas walked across the street to get the tickets. Toula waited in the car. After a few minutes, she emerged from the car, and we hugged, kissed cheeks European style, and said, “Thank you,” to each other. Soon, Kostas and Mitch emerged from the bus station with tickets in hand.

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The Fichti (say “Fith-ya”) bus station, about ten minutes north of Mycenae

Of course, Kostas absolutely would not accept the 20€ Mitch tried to hand him, waving his arms and stepping back when it was offered. So, while Kostas and I hugged, Mitch tossed the bill onto his car seat. With her limited English, Toula couldn’t refuse it.

We took our seats under the tree, and turned to wave goodbye to our hosts. Kostas, now finding the bill, shook his head. “I don’t want it,” he said.

“Goodbye!” we shouted. He continued to shake his head.

“We would have spent it anyway for a taxi. You take it,” Mitch explained.

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This Greek Orthodox church is right around the corner from Kostas’ and Toula’s place.

Kostas finally conceded, smiled, and pulled away. “It’s been good to meet you,” he said.

“It was good to meet you, too,” we replied.


Thanks for reading! We’re on our way to Olympia today from Delphi. At least two bus station transfers, we think, but we’ll have to confirm with the driver. The bus station in Delphi is actually inside a restaurant. You just ask one of the waiters and he instantly turns into a ticket clerk.

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