Saturday, March 25, 2017

Off to Europe - Greece and Spain - 2017

Leaving home on 3/25/17 we will spend ~3 weeks in Greece then travel to Spain where we will spend 4 days together (Madrid and Seville) -- then Cindy will return to USA on 4/19/17 and I on thad day I will begin to walk the 600 mile Camino Via de la Plata pilgrimage route from Seville to Santiago with Glenn Baldwin, my cousin's husband - hopefully finishing the first week of June
I decided to put the entire ~3 weeks in Greece into a 
single blog entry and without a great deal of text entries other than the brief photo descriptions.
Happy Travellers at Seattle airport.

We spent three nights in Athens, in the Plaka neighborhood adjacent to the Acropolis,, sight of the Parthenon.  Problems with my blogging app prevented me from including more than the single photo below.  
First morning we did a fun "Food Walking Tour" through an old neighborhood that included lots of delicious snacks!  An afternon tour of the archaelogical museum gave us a good introduction into the Parthenon and Acropolis.  All in all a pretty good day's activitiy considering the jet lag.

The ancient marketplace of Athens

After 3 nights in  Athens we took the metro to the seaport at Piraeus and a hydrofoil fast ferry to the island of Hydra - about 90 minutes in good weather.

Fishing boats arrive in the small harbor in the morning and sell their catch to the locals standing in line.  The cats soon arrive.

LOTS of Cats!

Men with teams of donkeys and mules arrive to transport all sorts of things - there are no cars on the island and only a verey few trucks.  Otherwise, this is the mode of delivery.

Narrow cobbled alleys with ponies.

Lunch overlooking the harbor on Hydra


Grilled squid, green veggies and wine.

After two nights on Hydra we made our way to Delphi.  The hydrofoil was delayed by high seas and we had a slower than normal journey back to Athen's seaport then by metro to Athens and bus to Delphi.  We missed the desired bus and had to wait ~3 hours for the next but did make it to Delphi before nightfall.  The next morning we began our tour of this historic area.

Following is our tour of the temple of Apollo complex - a surprisingly small area considering its importance in the ancient world.  
Legend is that Delphi is the center of the "world".  Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the earth and they met above Delphi where Zeus threw this stone to the ground - the bellybutton of the world.

We travelled up a narrow lane into the complex where the most important oracle of the ancient world made her judgements.

Temple of Apollo.  This site may have been utilized as far back as the 9th century BC.  In any event by the 5th century it was well know over the entire "world" (i.e. the mediteranean region).  The oracle, a woman, would sit on a tripod over a crack in the earth.  Intoxicating vapors (perhaps ethylene) caused a trance-like state and she would answer questions posed to her in unintelligible language that was interpreted by a priest.  Many famous people visited here - Socrates, Alexander the Great, ...

Temple of Apollo

Another view of the temple of Apollo

The site also included a theater or auditorium.

Also on the hillside is a stadium where panhellinic games were held - as the Olympic games held elsewhere on a different schedule.

We did several intersting hikes in the Delphi area then travelled to Kalambaka - three different bus connections that took most of the day but gave us a chance to appreciate the geography.

Kalambaka is the area of Meteora - a series of monasteries built on cliffs and mountaintops beginning 400-600 years ago.

Fried Squid

Grand Meteora Monastery

Nearby is Varlaam Monastery

View of the adjacent village far below.  Not a bad walk on a trail that was less scary than expected.

We left Kalambaka and travelled by bus to Trikala, then to Volos, then to Portaria on the Pelion peninsula.  There, we will walk for 7 days on a self-guided "tour" that we booked through Macs Adventure.
Many hillside villages!

View looking down to the seaside city of Volos

Large Plane tree typical of the village squares in this area.

Cindy on the trail.  On the first day we did a loop hike from Portaria.

We climbed nearly 2000' above our village

A nice day!

The next day we hiked from Portaria to Chania - in the winter it's a ski town but has been inhabited for many centuries by farmers, etc.

Stream crossing

The Manthos Hotel has been in the same family for 4 generations!

Breakfast by the fire!

Today we started walking near snowbanks!  Fortunately only small patches on our trail.  We descended from nearly 4000' to sea level so it was a fairly long day.  Not too difficult but somewhat slow going.  Mostly on "kalderimia" - basically stone paved donkey paths used for centuries to travel between villages.  Many still exist - at least in pieces.

We had lunch in the village of Kissos

Small church along the way.

The seaside town of Agios Ioannis where we spent the night.  Very quiet now but a popular summer destination.

Looking back into town as we left the next morning


Typical Pathway

Coffee break in Bouchari - this would be a nice place to spend a week!

More uphill sections!

Typical paths and view for the day

Village square in our destination - Agia Paraskevi.  This tree is supposed to be ~1000 years old and with a circuference of 140'.

Nice salad, stuffed pepper and wine!

The next day we recrossed the Pelion peninsula but at a somewhat lower elevation than the "ski resort".

We spent two nights in Milies, situated at ~1700' elevation on a hillside.  The next morning we hiked to Kala Nera on the seaside for lunch and than back up to Milies.

Quiet seaside resort of Kala Nera

We had quite a lunch!



And garlicy Tzatziki!  After the additional wine and shots of local "moonshine" given to us by our host we were a bit slow to climb back to the village of Milies!

Ascending through lots of olive groves.

Dinner back in Milies.  Somehow we regained our appetites.  Above is fried Saganaki cheese, salad and pitcher of red wine.

Also, local sausages with grilled peppers pus a plate of fresh green beans.

We left Milies by ~1 hour bus ride to Volos then a 4 hour bus ride back to Athens where we stayed again at Hotel Adams.
Another food shot!  Grilled oyster mushroms with tzatzikis.

Salad and red wine.  We also had moussaka and stuffed tomatoes.

Our last day in Athens we did a self guided walking tour.  Above is one of the honor guards at their tour of the unknown soldier - he is in traditional formal uniform.  

Lunch of greek salad, stuffed grape leaves and wine.

View of the Roman market in Athens.

Evening view of the Acropolis - from the rooftop patio of our hotel.  A nice place for a glass of wine at sunset.  

Well, that's it for Athens.  We have one more dinner and have scheduled a 6am taxi to the airport for our flight to Madrid.

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