Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Back in the Islands

Ionian Islands that is, where Janet and I did a bareboat charter in 1991.  This evening, the 1st of July 2014,  we're at Ormos Agia Andreas, a beautiful anchorage at the very southern extremity of Ithaki (Ithaca), the legendary home of Odysseus. There are three other boats anchored here and a few goats ashore. The narrow bay is enclosed by mountainous terrain, limestone cliffs covered with what a Californian would think of as Manzanita and Madrone. No sign of civilization, ancient or modern. Tomorrow we plan on moving just five miles west to the island of Cephalonia. This may get posted from a hamlet called Agios Eufimia where the internet should be a little more usable.
That's Janet, the beach at Agias Andreas
The plan is to work our way northwards through the Ionians to Corfu and then back down the mainland coast to Parga and to Preveza where we'll haul the boat out for storage on the 28th. We'll have a few more days in Cephalonia and Ithaki and then make the major passage, another five miles or so,  up to Levkas and Meganisi. After passing through the Levkas canal its about forty miles to Corfu with nice stops to be made in Paxoi and Anti-Paxoi. Neither of us has been to Corfu before and we hear mixed reports. Very touristy but still worth the visit seems to be the consensus.
Passage to Ithaki, this isn't Cape Horn.
Our last blog post was from Galaxidhi in the Gulf of Corinth. We motored from there westwards towards the Gulf of Patras passing under the  spectacular Rion-Andirrion suspension bridge connecting mainland Greece with the Peloponnesos. A few miles south of the bridge lies the city of Patras, third largest city in Greece and a place neither of us had ever visited. 

Bridges, even really BIG, HIGH bridges make me nervous
And Patras was rather a surprise in several ways. The city is a big college town and forty thousand students make a difference in the waterfront scene which was very chic and fashionable. The clubs near the marina were full of young people who did not appear to be starving art students. The city is modern and bustling if not architecturally interesting. We took a day trip to a cogwheel (actually rack and pinion) narrow gauge railway up into the mountains through a spectacular gorge. We rented a car and drove the one hundred and twenty km down to ancient Olympia. Bill and Richard Bernard, friends who are crewing with  Mark and Dorothy of Pua' ena went along. They are new to Greece and Greek driving techniques. Since I pretty quickly fall into compliance with the local driving customs (like a bat out of hell,  to quote Janet) maybe they were a little, shall we say,  shocked, naaa……….Anyway it was a good trip and Olympia is a spectacular site with a great new museum. 

Olympia agora
The ancient games were held here from somewhere in the eighth century BC. They were officially recorded since around 776 BC and held regularly until abolished by the Roman emperor Theodosis in  394 AD as part of a campaign against 'pagan' religious observances. More than a thousand years of athletic and religious history here. The site was pretty much wiped out by huge quakes in 551 and 552 AD. It wasn't re-discovered by the modern world until 1877 when excavations began. Today its a lovely quiet place with spectacular ruins amongst the olive trees. It is well marked and easy to understand and the big new museum is one of the best we've seen. If you are traveling a little around Greece Olympia should be high on your list to see.
Temple of Olympian Zeus, the pillars lie as they fell in 551AD
We spent four days enjoying Patras and socializing, Pacific style,  with Pua' ena. That's the main thing we miss from the Pacific and SE Asia. There everyone is pretty tight and the yachtie community feeling is very strong. Here in the Med most people are on a holiday much closer to home and the need for companionship is less. In the Pacific its a way of life, for better or worse, not a holiday, and people are involved with each other.    

Richard Bernard, Mark & Dorothy Hazlett, yours truly and Bill Bernard
 On the 29th we pushed off for Mesolongion and Pua' ena headed for Italy. They plan on shipping the boat from Genoa to Florida. We spent two nights at the marina in Mesolongion which had nice facilities. The town itself is principally known for being the place where Lord Byron died of malaria in 1824 during the Greek war for independence. Decent enough place with an interesting city center cafe scene but not somewhere to linger. And from there, after a nearly flat calm thirty five mile passage we're here, Ithaki.

Sunrise departing Mesolongion
We loved the Ionian Islands in years past. We hear they have gotten a lot more crowded but with a little luck we can still find places to enjoy a little serenity,  if not solitude. Please stay tuned.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet


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