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 Actuallywhere 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
It’s quite a haul to get from Delphi to Olympia in one day, but it’s…
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.
Thanks for reading! Check out my Italy (Venice) category for several more posts (Jewish Ghetto, the hospital, Calatrava Bridge, etc.) about Venice… a city I hope to visit a third time when travel opportunities return. I have a list of sights I still want to experience. Feel free to leave a like, make a comment and become a follower for more travel posts.
My next post: How to get from Delphi to Itea, Greece by bus
Yes, the region may be under lockdown, but our fascination with all things Venice isn’t.
The book’s preface titled “My Venetian Pantry” (her first must-have staple is amaretto biscuits) precedes six chapters such as “Sweet Breakfast Recipes,” “Recipes for a Venetian Aperitivo,” and “Fish and Game from the Venetian Lagoon.” Each recipe is accompanied by down-to-earth commentary to guide you through replicating some of Venice’s most renowned local specialties.
In “Vegetable Recipes from the Rialto Market,” British author Skye McAlpine, @skyemcalpine, describes the frank personal service you’ll experience if you visit the iconic market.
For example, she writes on page 69…
“No vendor at the market will let you take a bag of artichoke hearts home without pressing into your hands a bunch of fresh parsley to fry in the pan with them.” Expect this gesture to be accompanied with detailed instructions for how to best prepare the produce as well.
McAlpine also keeps it real.
A resident of Venice since the age of six, she suggests substitutions when needed. If a recipe calls for a certain type of radicchio that’s unique to the Veneto but hard to find elsewhere, she lets you know.
She writes on page 103, “If you can’t get hold of Tardivo radicchio, which can sometimes be tricky to source outside of Italy, then red chicory works well instead. It has a slightly different texture but a lovely, bitter flavor.”
Of course, the book sizzles with fabulous photography; however, it’s clear that the dishes are the star of the show. A photograph of “Gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and crab” on page 138, for example, shows the dish plopped on a plate without much overt styling.
The result? It’s not the cutlery, the plants in the background, or the vintage china you’ll want to stare at. Instead, like the towering campanile in Piazza San Marco, the Venetian foods dominate the table setting.
Thanks for reading! Tried any new recipes while you practice social distancing? I’ll follow up this post soon with a report on our experiences with some of McAlpine’s recipes. Become a follower to catch that post. Take care!
How do I stay for three weeks on a Greek island that contains more than 300 churches and 24 monasteries and leave the island with only a handful of photos of them? Tell me how that happens.
Here’s how: they’re everywhere. One can’t possibly photograph them all.
That was me last June when my husband and I spent three weeks on Skopelos Island in Greece, as part of our five-plus week journey across Greece. Yes, we were on the island for three weeks and yes, this meager post contains the entirety of my church photo collection. I wish I had seen more, but that’s for the return trip, right?!
No matter where you look, whether in town or in the countryside, you’ll see a church of some sort.
Some churches — whether they’re in the town (Skopelos Chora) or on the greater island — are quite large and are designed to hold a small congregation.
Others, on the other hand, are private and built by a family for their own use.
Even so, you’re looking at what photos I do have because (let’s be real), these churches are simply stunning.
Spectacular yet humble.
Ornate on the inside, yet unassuming on the outside.
In short, so very different from what I’m used to here in the United States that I was captivated.
Each church is so different in design from the others! To think that someone designed these buildings, supervised their construction, and saw them built in this little village where they continue to be used to this day.
Once you wander outside of Skopelos Chora, you’ll start to see the many small, private family churches that dot the countryside.
And now let’s head back to town to see a few more…
Thanks for reading!I hope you enjoyed these photos of the churches we saw on Skopelos Island in Greece, including those in Skopelos Chora. Follow my blog for more posts from our travels last summer. Also, check out my categories for more destinations near and far.
On every Sunday morning last June, my husband and I were mesmerized by the calming tones of musical chants floating on the breezes wafting across the natural amphitheater arrangement of Skopelos Town. Also known as the Old Town or Skopelos Chora, the largest town on Skopelos Island is home to 123 churches Greek Orthodox churches.
We discovered this church last June when we visited the island, one of three that compose the Northern Sporades east of Athens on the Pelion Peninsula. I’m not sure exactly where this church is within the town… somewhere down the hill, tucked among whitewashed homes and shops, nestled along a cobblestone street that may or may not show on Google Maps.
Follow my blog to catch my next post on the churches of Skopelos (both those in the Old Town and those scattered about the island), where I’ll show you a slew of charming places of worship, both private and others.
Click on this video to hear music similar to that heard on Sunday morning in Skopelos.