A Pelloponnese adventure ending with a mugging in Athens

In 2010 we decided to return to Greece and explore the Peloponnese peninsula. After leaving Athens airport with our rental car we stayed the first night near Corinth. Not an auspicious start with a rubbish meal and horrible cocktails. Happily breakfast was delicious and afterwards we went to look at the Corinth Canal which was very impressive. Then we went on to Mycae to look at the ruins, museum and the famous Lion Gate. Then a 3 and a half hour drive to Monemvasia on the coast. We stayed at the Hotel Filoxenia for two nights. What a beautiful spot. We were on the other side of the causeway and walked over the next morning to the old part of Monemvasia which has no cars. We climbed to the top of the hill and to the citadel and replica Church of Sophia modelled on the one in Istanbul. If you do visit Monemvasia, climb the hill the views are magnificent.

After Monemvasia we drove inland looking for the Lousios Gorge ending up lost and eventually in the small village of Dimitsana where we got a great room overlooking a valley. During our drive to Lousios Gorge and finally Dimitsana we stopped off at Mystras, once part of the Byzantine Empire. It is a lovely complex with a castle, working monastery, church and museum. I also had to do some Jedi driving managing to keep our wing mirrors. The photo below is when we finally found the gorge and crossed a small bridge to save going back the way we came and a shorter trip to Dimitsana from the Lousios gorge.

Below are two reviews I did of Hotel Filoxenia the one at Dimitsana. Do not be put off by the negative reviews of Hotel Filoxenia we had no problems.

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g285708-d1401138-r64396326-Hotel_Filoxenia-Monemvasia_Laconia_Region_Peloponnese.html

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g189483-d654957-r65311168-Hotel_Dimitsana-Peloponnese.html

We then went on to Nafplio and stayed at the lovely Pension Eleni.

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g319780-d1083802-r65309328-Pension_Eleni-Nafplio_Argolis_Region_Peloponnese.html

We then visited Olympus and on the way back to Athens visited the Epidaurus Amphitheatre.

Debbie who is a trained opera singer also sang at the sweet spot in the amphitheatre much to the surprise and enjoyment of some of the visitors at the site. We then returned to Athens and dropped off the rental car at the airport. The next stage of our trip was not so nice after we took the metro to Athens from the airport were mugged by a gang of very large men and woman. When I say mugged they opened Debbie’s back pocket of her day pack and legged it with her handbag. No one was injured but Debbie’s handbag had in it her passport, credit cards and license. That is another story on how to get back home without a passport, which we accomplished without paying a cent on a Friday night when the embassy was closed.

Aside from the mugging it was a great trip exploring and getting lost in the Peloponnese and seeing some wonderful historic and interesting sights as well as spectacular scenery.

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Athens, Crete and my mad mate Rabbit

When I was working for the Holland House Youth Hostel in London in 1989 a few of us decided to go to Greece. Below is a photo of my boss and another of a few of us in the staff room.

Our friends Julia and Alistair were already in Greece and we met them in Athens. It was still the time of the drachma and the queues to museums and sites were short. My mate Peter Aka Rabbit and myself flew out to meet them. In a previous post I talked about how I had a wee too much to drink the night before the flight and was not a well puppy. In contrast, Rabbit was showered, shaved and as clean as a whistle. I could only be described as hideous and it was not helped when we got on the wrong train and then when we changed to the correct train I dry heaved most of the way to Heathrow. Happily, the flight was not full and the kind stewardess took pity on me and gave me a row of seats where I slept most of the four hours. On arrival at Athens, even with my dishevelled unshaven appearance I was welcomed with open arms into Greece. Rabbit on the other hand was thoroughly searched. We then met Julia and Al at Omonia square in Athens and went to a nearby pension and polished off a bottle of Retsina or pine Dettol to the uninitiated. We then spent a lovely few days exploring Athens, the Acropolis, the National Archaeology Museum and had a particularly lovely meal at the rooftop Eden Restaurant. I found a photo of us eating a fish that was first put on fire in front of us much to the delight of Julia as can be seen in the photo and yes she was swearing.

Eden restaurant in Athens with flaming fish

Eden restaurant in Athens with flaming fish

Crete

Our next stop was Crete by a ferry called bizarrely The Festus. 12 hours later we were in Crete in the capital Heraklion. We visited Kinossos rebuilt by a mad Englishman using concrete. Rabbit picked up a piece of concrete here and as far as I know he still has it in Australia. I am not sure why he wanted a 100 year old piece of concrete. We stayed a few days in the lovely city of Heraklion which has a lovely waterfront to stroll along and you can see the castle. Down the road a bit at the city of Rethymno (thanks Julia my memory is not as good as it was) we had a bit wee much to drink one night and I ended up leaving my passport and wallet at the bar we were drinking. Happily Peter was in the bar till the bitter end saw my jacket as he was leaving and grabbed it. He staggered home and used my jacket to throw and hit the window to awaken us to let him in. I slept through all this but awoke thinking where is my money and passport and there it was on the chair beside me. While I was having a shower Rabbit decided that he needed to use the toilet which was above the shower, to give the ouzo from the night before a new home. Not a pretty sight. I am so glad I was wearing jandals. He then decided he wanted to dye his hair black or he may have done that in London according to his memory but then again we are both getting older and the memory does play tricks.

Rabbit being artistic

Rabbit being artistic

After a few days of enjoying the nightlife and sights of Heraklion we decided to go to Matala.

Matala is a small coastal town on the south of the island and it was deserted as we were there in November. I enjoyed the peacefulness of it after being on reception at Holland House for several months. Back then Matala was a small quaint town now it is still quite small and not as over developed as the bigger resorts. We were literally the only tourists there apart from a few other people and there was only one restaurant open. It became our regular along with a bakery in the mornings where I developed a life time love for spanakopita. There were some amusing incidents in Matala. One stood out. Myself and Al one night were feeling particular energetic and decided to climb the hill to get a better look of the town and surrounding scenery. I do recall an amazing blood red sunset and then we heard a swearing Australian accent and the silence broken by bells and sounds of goats bleating. Suddenly over a hill came a herd of running goats with Rabbit behind them like a shepherd from the past.

After a week or so we said adieu to Al and Julia as they continued on their return to New Zealand via Egypt and we returned to Holland House in London.

Our big fat Greek Wedding and how Debbie almost became a widow twice

Debbie and I were married in May 2006 on the island of Zante in Greece. I met my future wife on a blind date which she did not know about through our friends Mike and Brian in Brighton. They had tried to set us up twice before but we were unable to meet for various reasons and it was third time lucky. I was working in Amsterdam at the time and over for a short visit. A few years later after going back and forth to Holland many times we were on our way to Greece to get married. The decision to get married in Greece was because neither of us wanted to get married in our own countries, Canada or New Zealand. We chose Greece as we had fond memories of the country and wanted somewhere we both liked and Greece fitted that criteria.

The paperwork

Debbie initially tried to get the right paperwork for us to get married but hit a brick wall and with a week to go before we left for Greece we still did not have the correct paperwork. In frustration she gave up and allocated me the task to get the permit to marry. We spoke to our Greek friend Toli who suggested when I go to the embassy to just shout loudly who do I have to bribe to get the permit. This absolutely worked and we had out permit to marry.

Our preliminaries

It was not a big wedding party, close friends, Debbie’s mum and dad and a few of my relatives from Holland. In total we were on the island for two weeks. Prior to the wedding we enjoyed catching up eating, drinking and doing a ride around the island on a boat. We organised a wedding planner on the island, she was brilliant. Organised the meeting for registering the wedding the day before the official wedding. We needed to do this to make it official although I still have no idea what it says as it is all in Greek. We choose the accommodation away from the main resorts at Lemni Keri and stayed at a newly built hotel with a lovely pool. The hotel we stayed at in Lemni Keri was only a few minutes walk to the Marathia beach and several seaside restaurants.The owner also ran a taverna in Keri the town on top of the hill a few kilometres away. This was the location we had our wedding party and nearby on a cliff top were married at sunset. The ceremony was in Greek and English with some traditional Greek touches such as lots of noise with a gun being fired into the air, sharing of honey and wrapped in a gauze sheet during the ceremony.

After the wedding we retired to the taverna with Greek dancing, music, great food, too much wine and lots of laughing. The taverna now has the claim to fame of having the biggest Greek flag in the world flying from a very large flagpole. See the website below for some great photos of where we married. The views from the taverna are stunning.

http://www.greece.com/photos/destinations/Ionian_Islands/Zakynthos/Village/Keri/Biggest_Greek_flag….Zakynthos_7-8-2010/39175802

The Honeymoon

This was the first of three honeymoons, the second was in Africa and the third in New Zealand. We spent a few weeks just driving around the island and found a great place where we spent a week. The first place we stayed at I got an electrical shock from the shower and a few days later at another place the same thing happened in another shower. It must have been my lucky May as I survived both shocks and Debbie was not made a widow. Although it has made me extremely cautious around electric powered showers! I would recommend going to Zante in May if you can as it was not that busy or overrun by tourists.