Monemvasia, Epidavros & the amazing Corinth canal, Greece.

The weather these days is a bit hit-and-miss, we hide indoors for a couple of days before the howling wind and rain allow us to tackle Monemvasia, a great lump of rock suck out into the Mediterranean sea.

Waves battering the peir, Charlie gets a salt bath...not good!

Waves battering the pier, Charlie gets a salt bath…not good!

On the very top once stood a castle, now a ruin, surrounded by fortified walls to keep the privileged inhabitants and their houses safe. When the Barbarians invaded, back in the 6th Century, the locals fled for the hill (singular) and battened down the place. The island has no spring to obtain drinking water and not much land to grow crops, but the locals held out and kept the Barbarians at bay. Once upon a time this huge lump was attached to the mainland by natural rock peninsular, but an earthquake in AD375 put paid to that, it crumbled into the sea,  the inhabitants were now very isolated. Now the road bridge has been replaced, full length coaches trundle across every day to deliver camera-toting, euro-wielding tourists. By the 13th Century this lump of rock became a prosperous Byzantine trading centre, famous for the much sought after ‘Malvasia-grape’ and Malmsey wine, Richard III apparently drowned in a barrel of the alcoholic liquid. As with most of the ‘stuff worth having’ in Greece, it’s changed hands through-out the centuries, Franks, Venetians, Ottomans and the Turks have all have a go living here and added a bit of their own style.

From the top.

From the top.

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Looking south

Looking south

Winding tiny alleyways criss-cross through this little town of short houses and stunted doors, surely no place for average sized folk . Steep stairways and cobbled ramps lead you through a maze of streets, the only clue to your direction being ‘are you going up hill, or down’. How the postman (person) copes is a mystery. No vehicles allowed access to this town, all building materials need to be brought in on wheel-barrow. It’s so steep in places, you would need thighs of steel to carry a bag of cement up to the church near the top.img_2317

"No vehicles" means I'm OK.

“No vehicles” means I’m OK.

Narrow streets of Monevasia

Narrow streets of Monemvasia

Monemvasia

Monemvasia, the village is on the far side, facing the sea.

We’ve been in touch with Catherine & Chris of Lobster fame via FB “ It’s nice and warm here in Drepano!” Catherine reports, they just happen to be staying on the same campsite we have pre-booked for Christmas week. Ok, enough of this seven shades of winter…floor it!…go north to Drepano.

The beach at Drepano

The beach at Drepano

Sure enough, Drepano seems to be sitting in it’s own little weather bubble of warmth and sunshine. The  sun chairs come out, ’sir-Roccio’ the kayak gets ousted from the boot, inflated and thrust into the ripple-less briny and all’s well with MoHo life again. After an hour or two of fruitless fishing, I could swear there’s no fish in that bit of the sea, but heaps of enjoyment come from just floating about in the water. Catherine and Chris (the delightful, perfect hosts) treat us to a delicious meat-free Greek style/BBQ meal in the sun, add a bottle of wine, a few beers, mix in a few stories that will never make it to any blog … & all’s right with the world.

Perfect weather for a BBQ.

Perfect weather for a BBQ. Chris ‘Himself’ at the helm.

Five days later the temp drops 10 degrees overnight, time to move. A quick stop off at Epidavros and it’s across the Corinth canal and on to Athens. Greece has more amphitheatres than you could shake a Roman sandal at, but few as well-preserved as Epidavros, the surrounding baths are also famous for their healing powers, the ‘Lourdes’ of 4th Century BC, hopefully with fewer tat shops. A UNESCO world heritage site, a well-preserved and still used (in summer) amphitheatre with the possibility of seating 14,000 people, productions of classic Greek theatre first performed over 2000 years ago, well worth €6 each.

Freezing in Epidavros

Freezing in Epidavros

Epidavros Ampitheatre

Epidavros amphitheatre, the little red pixel, centre-left is Angie!

View from the stage

View from the stage

It mentions in our Camperstops Europe guide, that sleeping over in the car park here is tolerated. Given the healing powers of the place, I may even wake up with a full head of hair. But a pack of more than 20 wild dogs roaming the car park help us decide to press on. I like dogs, fact. If a dog has a problem it’s usually down to human influence. I don’t like semi-domesticated, hungry packs of wolf sized animals, who show no sign of respect for man, best off clearing out. We push on to the coast and find a spot next to the beach in ‘Ancient’ Epidavros, now known as ‘Plaea Epidavros’.

Parked up beach-side Playa Epidavros

Parked up beach-side Plaea-Epidavros…no dogs here!

Moody skies

Moody skies and bobbing boats.

While all the ‘big Greek productions’ took place inland at the main event, the lesser productions had a place here at Ancient (Plaea) Epidavros, with the sea as a back-drop…if only I’d took a camera. But to be honest, the place was not a patch on the main event & still under restoration, isn’t every attraction in Greece?

Corinth canal: We’d learnt that it was (for the most part) finally completed by a bunch of French navigation engineers who solved the problem of removing several million tons of solid rock, to make way for shipping transportation. A 6 km short-cut from the Aegean to the Ionian sea, saving hundreds of sea miles navigating around the Peloponnese. Some feat for the French back in 1893. The engineering company (and the bank backing it) went to the wall before the canal was finished, leaving the Greeks with a problem.

No giant rock-munching machines here, just thousends of hands holding picks and shovels.

No giant rock-munching machines here, just thousands of hands holding picks and shovels.

The Geeks eventually got around to completing the task and took most of the glory too. This kind of attraction really does excite me (sad I know). There’s a problem, a great big lump called the Peloponnese is just a wee bit ‘in the way’…tell you what…let’s turn it into an island! Chop through this bit, from one side to the other. We little humans were into big problem solving solutions back in the day, Suez 1869, Panama 1914, fantastic world-changing problem solving. Making the world a smaller place, long before the invention of passenger jets.

The Corinth canal, all the brick-work is below the waterline.

The Corinth canal, all the brick-work is below the waterline.

Of course as ships get bigger and wider, the canal becomes too narrow to navigate, but I guess it served it’s purpose. What a fantastic engineering achievement considering the year.

Sleeping spots:

n36.78883 e22.58225 Valtaki Beach (ship-wreck) great beach, no services. Quiet. Free.
n37.72850 e22.54220 Camping Mani Beach. Bit run down. Washing m/c ok. Nice beach. €17pn all in. WiFi pants!
n36.68640 e23.03940 Car park. Water at other beach. WiFi (Fon). Quiet.Free
n37.56890 e22.80170 Naflion public parking along with several other vans. No services. Occasional WiFi from leaky coach signals. A great spot to wake up in.
n37.53176 e22.89060 Triton2 at Drepano. Great beach, WiFi, good sanitaries. Very quiet. €20 pn. (unless you can haggle a deal for a longer stay)
n37.63545 e23.15830 Palea Epidavros. Beach parking. No services. Good base for walking.
n37.91148 e22.87832 Camperstop Corinth.€10. Slow WiFi. Perfect for Corinth ruins tour. Very friendly owners. Examine water quality before filling your tank.

Cheers all…Happy new year! X Wayne