From Patras and after passing the majestic Rion Antirion bridge, we salute the Peloponnese and return to mainland Greece. The landscape changes, the green increases and in the smile of the people we begin to glimpse a memory of the Balkans.
The island of Lefkada remains connected to the mainland by a strip of brackish land, where the road also runs. It is initially easy, but heading south, the situation is constantly getting worse. Once in Vassiliki we take to climb on a long limestone coast, up to the slope towards the west coast of Lefkada. Here the road becomes an increasingly faint track that grows with difficulty between dense forests of maritime pines and tiny villages. The landscape becomes increasingly wild and finally we see the spectacle of Porto Katsiki, a strip of beach surmounted by an impressive limestone cliff and lapped by an electric blue sea. We remain breathless.
Travel tip: reach the beach of Porto Katsiki in the evening of a long summer day, take a bath in the blue sea and remain suspended in the silence and darkness of the night.
From Elafonisos and Monemvasia, the road climbs towards the fingers of the Peloponnese without stopping, curve after curve. Suddenly the splendid Sparta valley appears, green and luxuriant despite the summer heat. Here there is no trace of the times that were, when the Spartans dominated the ancient world, but still transpires a bucolic atmosphere sanctified by pastures and endless flocks of sheep.
After several hours we arrive at Pyrgos, where there is a sudden heat, the dust and the fear of some children who wash the windows at the many traffic lights that block the vehicles along the main road. A certain relief
it captures us when we see the sea again and we follow the dirt road that leads us to the campsite in Glifa.
Travel tip: wait for the sea to flow on the island of Zakynthos, sitting on the little beach of the Camping Ionion Beach
A day of bends and wild roads, a short ferry ride and finally we land on the almost Elafonisos peninsula. To welcome us an unexpected spectacle: a sheet of fine and soft white sand that slopes gently towards a placid and crystalline sea. Diving here is an unforgettable experience at 360 degrees: the water is so clean and transparent that you can observe the seabed for tens of meters, looking for fish and turtles caretta caretta that here still lay their eggs.
Travel tip: enjoy a sunset bath on the island of Elafonisos, out of season, in the silence of the wonderful Simos twin beach, between white dunes and turquoise sea, a stone’s throw from the homonymous Camping Simos
From Epidaurus we move quickly inland to the arid hills, destination of our next archaeological excursion, near the fortified acropolis of ancient Mycenae. We lose ourselves again in the Homeric accounts of Achaeans, Trojans and the love and warlike vicissitudes of the peoples who crossed the Aegean and the Peloponnese in the Archaic period.
In Mycenae we find good friends, an unexpected storm and a little rest after a few days of long journeys.
Travel tip: experience the thrill of being the only guests of the spartan Camping Atreus, right at the entrance to the modern village of Mycenae.
From Delphi we move in the busy direction of Athens but we take the painful decision not to stop, preferring to point directly towards the Peloponnese, which we reach suddenly when we pass over the spectacular Corinth canal. We also cover the historical stages that have filled our studies with notions, places like Salamina, Corinth, Thebes. From here the road proceeds tortuously along the eastern coast of the Peloponnese, until you reach New Epidaurus. Here a quiet town awaits us, good food, lots of new friends and a placid and mild sea.
Not far away, inland, the archaeological site of the ancient Epidaurus appears suddenly and unexpectedly, with its immense and spectacular semicircular theater, with exceptional acoustics, to be considered a worthy symbol of the Greek theater as it has come to us directly from the antiquities.
Travel tip: relax in the quiet bay of New Epidaurus, in the Camping Nicolas, literally one step away from the beach and the seashore.
A spectacular path between steep mountains and rugged coastline leads us up there where the gods of the ancient world had positioned the center of the world or rather the navel of the Mediterranean world. Delphi is a spectacular archaeological site that clings tenaciously to the slopes of Mount Parnassus and opens onto a vast and fertile valley, cultivated with olive groves. The view is made even more spectacular by the proximity to the Gulf of Corinth, creating an exceptional situation in which the sea and the mountains meet just a short distance away.
The archaeological site of Delphi is a gem of the ancient Greek world, with its temples, or rather the remains of the thesauroi votives of the Greek cities, the theater, the stadium. Walking up the sacred road, one can perceive the millenary history of this place, where the priestess Pizia generated her oracles in the temple of Apollo, where countless numbers of the many pilgrims of the past can be read. Among the many, we still read gnōthi seautón, the “know yourself” of Socratic memory.
Travel tip: Take a relaxing break from the trip at the Camping Delphi, overlooking the olive groves and the sea, then visit the archaeological site at sunrise or sunset.
We leave several friends at Meteora, but the trip will make us meet again. A last look at the beautiful stone mushrooms that overlook us and we leave for the sea, near Volos. We cross fields of wheat burned by the sun at the end of spring and we see countless huts of farmers and farmers on the hills. Finally we see the Gulf of Volos with its port and its white mantle of houses surrounding it. Quiet atmosphere. Think of the experience of TEM, the virtual alternative unit that was born as a Greek experiment to implement a system of exchange of knowledge and work similar to the time bank. The slopes of the Pilio were the refuge of the centaur and now defend themselves from the masses of tourists hiding small jewels like the beach of Mylopótamos or small villages like Koropi, where we stop one night to enjoy the slow and relaxed rhythms of the Greek villages.
Travel tip: Eat by the taverna and enjoy Greek salads, moussaka, pastrami cakes and many other typical Greek dishes
The ferry silts the calm sea when suddenly, after following the jagged coast of Albania and flanked the island of Corfu, it turns towards the bay of Igoumenitsa. A fresh morning, the ferry docks with a slight delay and immediately begins the journey. The road runs fast on steep hills, climbs up the sides of mountains covered with green pine forests and finally descends to perdifiato towards Ioannina. We are attracted by the quiet promenade along the lake and we are surprised by the mixed soul of this city where today’s European and Balkan tourists mix a distant memory of the Arab world and a more current Orthodox mysticism. To remind us of the smell of the streets of Ioannina, where Arab sweets, spices and silver handicrafts are still sold, as in a Middle Eastern souk. Overlooking an esplanade, which was the palace and still the tomb of Ali Pasha, the Ottoman ruler of Ioannina, where minarets and Orthodox churches coexist, in an architectural and cultural contrast that unexpectedly bring us closer to the eastern borders of Europe.
Still a few hours of travel and the natural spectacle of the Meteora monasteries, opens up before our eyes, leaving us speechless. The monks of the monastery of Varlaam look at us with detachment as we climb the stairs overhanging the monolithic rock formations, which explain to us that they have formed as the result of river erosion.
Travel suggestion: Camping Vrachos Kastraki, Meteora monasteries.