We finally got around to visiting Gythio this week. Our plan was to catch the bus into town for the market and for our first proper explore of the town. Having done a little research it wasn’t looking too promising as the Gythio tourist office themselves state “there are not really mentionable ancient objects to be seen, only a small Roman theatre, so just enjoy Greek life’. We need a few bits, such as a new mobile phone as our emergency phone no longer charges, perfect opportunity for our first retail experiences in Greece then. We were up with the lark and stood waiting for said bus at 8.45 – it came along bang on time, just unfortunate we were stood in totally the wrong place so it sailed straight past! The reason we were stood in wrong place is currently not clear, some believe it was the campsite receptionist giving duff information, or though it could also be that one of us didn’t actually listen to what she told him – jury is out. As the next bus wasn’t due for five hours it was shanks’ pony to town for us, no complaints from someone else so possibly that was tilting the evidence against said person?
Just before we arrived in town we came to what is apparently a small island, called Kranai, although an island it is now connected to the shore by a causeway and is more of an island-let – it’s just a little patch of land a few hundred metres from the shore. It’s major and possibly only claim to fame is that it’s where Paris and Helen stayed before heading off to Troy, after Paris had abducted Helen from nearby Sparta. I am never sure whether this is Greek history or Greek mythology and will admit I had to look it up it, for anyone else as unclued up as me it is the latter The island also has a museum of the Mani (third one so far) and a lighthouse but the major draw seems to be the taverna. When we passed it was heaving, Nico (bet that was his name) was singing loudly and many a Greek mama could be seen twirling around the restaurant after having had an ouzo or two too many. On a dreary day the ouzo and dancing looked more fun than the tourist stuff. We kind of disagree with the Greek Tourist Board that there isn’t anything that good to see here though, Kranai on its own is worth the stop.
Approach to town with Kranai lighthouse on the island
sunshine or not – the colours make up for it
Back in town there are two waterfront areas, the first runs along from Kranai to the port, then a second area around the harbour front. Waterside restaurants line the streets on both stretches, where the waiters risk their lives daily running across the roads to serve people sat on the harbour edge tables. At the far end of town there is a shopping area, not sure about shopping its more about cake. Every third shop was a bakery or a cake shop, either very old fashioned where you could see the bread being baked in the wall oven or at the other end of the scale with the most exquisite cakes imaginable. We found a phone shop and bought a cheapy for €18 but other than that there wasn’t much we wanted to spend our money on so we made do with a latte in one of the harbour-side cafes. The street market was in full flourish, not a massive market with the majority of stalls selling fruit and vegetables.
Good old fashioned bakeries
On the harbour front we happened upon a shop selling fridge magnets (I know, but I am loving them) so we popped in for a browse. The shop sold all manner of tourist tat, some good some not so good but it also houses the studio of the owner, a Mr Yiorgos Hassanakos. Checking it out later we found he is a respected artist in Greece and uses one side of the shop as his workshop, from where he creates the figures used by the Greek puppet theatre. As we stood he was working on new puppets and the walls were full of his creations and he kindly allowed me to take some photographs, amazing what you find in a fridge magnet shop me thinks 🙂
A couple of miles around the coast at Valtaki beach is the weirdly fascinating hulk of metal that is the “Dimitrios” is freight ship built in the 1950’s that was shipwrecked in 1981. Considering the length of time its been there at first it looks remarkably intact, you can walk right up to it, nothing stopping you except you will get wet ankles. Closer inspection does show its disintegrating, gaping holes through the sides and the structure doesn’t look like it has that many more years before it collapses. As with pretty much everything in Greece there is nothing that tells exactly why it is there and what happened to it. According to the internet rumours range from a ship smuggling cigarettes from Turkey to Italy and being set on fire to evade capture by the Greek authorities, to it being a ghost vessel of unknown origins. What the true story of how and why its there, who knows. Whatever it is, its very eerie being left there to rot but it is very photogenic and must be a bit of a tourist draw as there is a very good looking restaurant on the beach named after the ship.
We needed to refill one of our LPG tanks this week and I was just a bit nervous after the problems we faced in Tuscany with filling. Greece continued to prove that everything is easy as we pulled in and the chap filled us up without any questions or concerns. We thought we had used a full tank in the last 7 weeks but as it was only €5 to fill it there must have been at least a third of a tank of gas left. As we don’t use gas for heating a tank usually lasts us a good couple of months, as I intend to cook less and make more use of salad as the weather improves we should be using even less.
On the cash / budget front we are doing brilliantly so far. Campsites are all reasonably priced here in Greece so we are benefiting there with good deals even when we do not do long stay. Fuel is coming in way under budget as we are now moving only fairly short distances between campsites. We admitted at the start we really just stuck a finger in the air to set our budget, it would be easy to think that therefore it isn’t difficult to be under the plan but it could just as easily been the other way round. We are by no means feeling restricted on our budget, for us the being away and experiencing these places is outweighing any need to go out for meals or buy crazy souvenirs (with the exception of fridge magnets of course!).
As always there has been an upside of a downside, this week the poor weather has had a positive impact on route planning. I now have some squiggly lines on the maps all the way up to Hungary. These lines have varying coloured stickers on them that denote whether there is an aire or campsite or other place we might be able to stopover. Experience has shown that we cannot trust campsites that advertise as open to actually be open. Emailing ahead is proving the best bet and so far less than half have emailed back to say they are open. Then there is the other extreme with a lovely Dutch site in Romania telling us they are closed but if we are stuck then just turn up and they will put us up in the garden somewhere for a few days, we love Dutch campsites and the Dutch – they never seem to see anything as a problem. Our experience in Portugal, when we used seven Dutch sites as we could never find a good small Portuguese one, was the Dutch run some of the best small campsites anywhere.
With both Romania and Bulgaria looking like they were ‘planned’ I was extremely happy until I took a closer look and realised my campsites either side of the border where absolutely nowhere near a point we could cross the Danube. Again ignorance plays a major part as I thought there would be hundreds of crossing points not just a handful. Back at the drawing board it looks like we will take one of the extortionate ferry routes, we don’t have a budget at all for any ferry crossings (how rubbish is that?) so it will be whatever it is and we will make a saving somewhere to cover it.
As our week finishes we were out earlier today and popped out to Kranai island on the way back, it was something we should have thought more about first. The causeway is about wide enough for a car and a motorhome can just barely squeeze down – which we realised after we were on the causeway – nothing else to do but carry on turn around and slink back down it. This photo was on the way back – it was worse on the way out as my side of the van was teetering over the sea but I was too nervous to pick up the camera! Fair-play to the boss man, he might be rubbish listening to where the buses run from but he is pretty damn good on squeezing the van up the tight spots!
Our plans for the next week are not as exact as they are for the next two months, if we see the sun we head for the Mani for a few days, if we don’t then there isn’t currently an alternative. Luckily the weather has done a real about turn since Saturday lunchtime and we have been back with sunshine and its been very warm. There is still a blustery wind, which occasionally blows up to a gale for half an hour and brings an accompanying sandstorm, generally though its warm and hazy. Our forecast for the week is storms tomorrow followed by a fried egg forecast – fingers crossed.