The Peloponnese and Olympia

We said cheerio to Andy’s sister Sally yesterday (22nd May). She arrived in Kefalonia on the 12th May and met up with us in Sami on the east coast. From there we sailed across the bay to Ay Eufimia and tied up at the town quay. Sally and I walked along to one of my favourite beaches and although the water was cool, I went for a swim. Sally opted just to sunbathe.

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Swimming at Ay Efemia

The weather forecast looked good, so we set sail for Zakynthos, the island south of Kefalonia. Zakynthos (Zante) is a very popular tourist island and we had all been there before but not by sailing boat. We had a great sail and pulled in at small village of Ay Nicolaos near the northern tip. Costas, a tall Greek, arrived on his motor scooter and helped to tie us up alongside on the big concrete pier. He proudly explained that there was no charge for this harbour as there is no water or electricity available! We would have been quite happy to pay a small fee for the shelter but that’s not how it’s done in Greece. He also said we could get a free shower at one of the local hotels and he gave us the card for his restaurant. So we wandered along the road and got our showers in a spare room in the hotel. The woman looked quite confused when we gave a €6 tip!!!

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Ay Nikolaos

 

 

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Ay Nicolaos, Zakynthos

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An elderly man arrived on his motorised tricycle pulling a trailer full of local produce and I got the job of speaking to him. He had a little English and I bought tomatoes, olive oil, a huge jar of honey, currants and olives. Like most Greek locals I have met he was delighted to make the sale. A good supplement for whatever else he lives on. Another couple we met later, told us he was reluctant to accept a large note from them as that needed change and he then had to reveal the large stack of notes in his pocket!!
Dinner at “La Storia” later that evening was delicious and Andy continued his survey of moussaka. Verdict….still not as good as Erikoussa. We sat right down at the waters edge and one young couple even had a table on the beach. We did need fleeces on though, as the evenings are still very cool at this time of year. Costas greeted us. He seems to be “the” go-to man in Ay Nicolaos, I think he owns most of the village!!
Our next port of call was 32nM across to the Peloponnese mainland and the port of Katakolon. It’s a huge harbour that caters for cruise ships and used to have a marina, but like most marinas in Greece it fell to bits and only the breakwaters remain, leaving the pontoon chains lying on the bottom. So we went alongside again on the breakwater.
The frontage of the harbour was full of prosperous looking restaurants, but you didn’t have to go far to see that this part of mainland Greece is very different to the Ionian. The most striking thing was mountains of rubbish piled up outside the school, Church and every available lay-by. There had recently been a general strike in Greece so we presumed it was left over from that. Not pleasant and a definite vermin risk.
We were invited on to another boat for a drink by the owners Neil and Andrea. They also wanted to visit Olympia the next day so we decided to hire a car, as the trains are erratic to say the least. We had dinner and went to bed in anticipation of a long day ahead. Just as we were dropping off the local youths arrived with their car boots full of speakers. We were treated to an hour or so of rap and Greek music at maximum volume before they thankfully screeched off.
We awoke to find that 3 cruise ships had appeared during the night, with ranks of busses on the quayside to take them off to Olympia. We got our hire car and set off after breakfast. Luckily it was only a 40minute drive and Olympia seemed quiet. We assumed everyone had gone to the museum first so we went round the site. It’s a very large site and was mostly destroyed by a huge earthquake and helped along by an emperor who did not like the games! There were great signs in English though, so it was amazing to try to imagine how imposing it must have been once. The Olympic flame is still lit on this very site these days. We visited the museum just as the masses appeared on the site.

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Like we had found in Delphi, there was nowhere to eat, but we managed to get a cool drink and ice lollies just outside the site boundary. I presume it’s a deliberate decision not to allow food anywhere near archaeological sites. The local towns also have plenty of restaurants but Olympia town was heaving with bus tours, so we decided to give it a miss and headed back to the harbour.
The next day we sailed back over to Zakynthos, stopping at Zakynthos town. It’s a busy place with lots of ferries. Like many of the island towns, it was destroyed in the 1953 earthquake, but the local government decided to try to rebuild it in the old Venetian style. There are a few “Campaniles” and lovely squares. We had a delicious evening meal just off one of the squares. The “free” wine was nothing to write home about, a bit too like Retsina for my taste.
We had a walk up to the Venetian fort the next morning. Quite a steep climb through the back streets but a great view as reward. Surprise, surprise the fort was shut due to “lack of security”!!!

 

A little light shopping followed and then we were off at 1130, heading for Kefalonia again. Unfortunately, the wind was from a northerly direction but we could sail to start with and we also had a brief sighting of about 6 small dolphins (common?) fishing. As the wind increased and the waves got lumpier, we started motor sailing. The last couple of hours were pretty horrible, punching into a horrible sea and seemingly never getting closer to Poros harbour. It was a tricky entrance, dodging a ferry and the shallows, but we were all relieved to tie up in the shelter at 1915 hours.
Poros is a lovely wee town. Prosperous looking and geared up for tourists, however we did not stay long as the forecast was for strong winds over friday night and thunderstorms, so we wanted to be back in Sami by then. We headed back north in a bit of drizzle and anchored at Ay Eufimia. A slightly disturbed night followed, as the wind swung all over the place and the waves got up but we stayed put on the anchor and the morning was calm. A quick motor across to Sami saw us back on the town quay by 1045 with the harbour master welcoming us to our “home”.
The rain came overnight but we were sheltered from the worst of the southerly wind. By Saturday morning, the rain was torrential but all the new hatches were great and did not leak. Once the rain stopped, we had a walk up the hill behind Sami to the ancient hill town from the 5th century BC.

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Ruins of ancient Sami, 500BC

 

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Looking down on Sami, Kefalonia

Huge blocks of limestone had been cut and made into walls, towers etc. Very impressive and in a great strategic location. We also had lovely views down to the new town of Sami nestling round the bay. The next day we said goodbye to Sally after a great week with her.
So here we are now, waiting on our next visitor, my friend Anne, who arrives on Wednesday. The swallows are not serenading us so much now as they are busy feeding 3 or 4 youngsters each and brooding them at night. The weather is warming up and we are looking forward to some nice sailing round more islands and more swimming, well for me at least….it’s still too cold for the skipper!!!

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A stowaway

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Mending nets, Sami

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