19.12.2008 - 20.12.2008 20 °C
So, yeah, I left Singapore; now the travel starts for real.
Entry into Greece was a breeze. I’d panicked a bit, as immigration people can get a bit funny if your onwards plans aren’t complete and I still had the sector home from the USA to work out. Plus, my passport is going to expire less than six months before the end of the trip, so I thought I should get something right and invested in the trip home. As it happens, the Greek immigration fellow didn’t even say hello (a characteristic I have quickly found to be common here) let alone ask any questions.
With a 7:00 a.m. arrival in Athens, I didn’t quite know what to do; I couldn’t really check in to somewhere and sleep and spending a long day sight-seeing after a long flight didn’t really appeal. So I looked around for possibilities; the Peloponesse area looked inviting, but where? Movenvasia is a town on an immense rock, just off the coast but it would mean all day on a bus. Náfplion is much closer,
The bus trip down was OK actually; the road was narrow and windy, with lots of hills. We had to thread our way through Argos and its tiny streets not designed for buses; I began to hope that Napflio was spectacular, as Argos looked pretty good, somewhere I’d like to explore for a while (my guidebook tells me it is the oldest continuously occupied place in Greece, 6000 years old).
Luckily, Nafplio is even better; it is built on the waterfront, with a bunch of grand hotels and cafes. Out in front is a floating fort.
Behind is the old town; beautifully restored, with fancy shops, cafes, hotels, tavernas.
I didn’t quite know where the hotel I had booked was in relation to all this; right in the middle of things, as it happens, this is from my balcony:
Not that there was a lot happening; being the middle of winter (so the standard temperature is about what we might expect in New Zealand in summer) virtually all the restaurants and cafes were empty. There were a few smart bars where I'd find a few people, not really drinking but having a coffee and eating cake and smoking furiously. [There appear to be no restrictions on smoking at all here; when I was getting off the plain, I noticed a smoking area in the airport, created simply by putting up a sign in the main thoroughfare and providing some ashtrays.]
Then, as you move away from the water, things get a little less fancy. Lots of old school butcher shops and corner stores, along with street facing offices in which people were still doing obscure things after dark on a Friday night and the occasional taverna; these ones tended to be populated by small groups of old men. I went in to a shop to get onto the internet. After I'd given my credit card details a couple of times, I discovered it was not an internet cafe at all; it was some sort of online gambling place - luckily for me, I won a billion Euro before I found out.
Behind and above it all is a splendid church,
Looking down these steps, which were at the top of a hill already, it struck me that the people attending this church must REALLY want to go to church!!
Above that is the old fort:
I could not work how to get up to it, the gondola was closed for the winter, I could see paths near the top but nothing else. It was only when I caught the bus to leave that I actually found the beginning of the path up the hill. Ah well, I was happy with the bits I did see - there were fortifications from one of the wings of the fort I could get to.
I was a bit worried about dinner; dozens of restaurants and no-one in them looked a bit weird. I was rescued from my dilemma; a fellow from the restaurant behind my hotel accosted me as I walked past and was friendly so I went in (to be the sole occupant). They prodiced the exact soup I’ve been dreaming of for a long time but never quite been able to find nor get a recipe for – it is a spicy bean soup:
After such a healthy entrée, I didn’t mind that I pigged out on a mountain of lamb chops and chips.
As I was wandering around on the Saturday morning, I saw lots of people dressed up as Santa or his helper
Maybe it is just a local tradition to dress like tha; maybe they were going to put on a show. I have no idea!!