We have spent days checking out on the internet what there is to see on the South East side of the Peloponnse, the guides books seem to miss out an awful lot that you may or may not come across just by chance. The passes around Mt Didimo were worth the trip in themselves, full of sunshine and spring flowers and offering up wonderful views over the valleys down to the coast. The roads were wide enough to enjoy the twisting and turning hairpins but the lack of armaco on many of the higher roads does cause more than a few heart stopping moments, more so when you are the one on the side hanging close to the edge.
View over Argolikos Gulf from Mt Didimo
Looking on the map we saw Big Cave and Small Cave both marked at the town of Didima, not too far off our route South so we diverted off for a look. Once in the village there is a sign pointing up a fairly unmade road, we followed it to the bitter end, and there is nowhere at all to turn around even a 6 metre motorhome. Well there is but Mr Olive Farmer had his tractor and trailer parked there. After watching us struggle he finally offered to move but only after all the olive branches he had been pruning had been picked up and put in his trailer. The speed he was going it was going to take the rest of the day so I took his slowness to mean he could do with a hand and helped clear the branches whilst he went in search of his keys. Eventually he moved his tractor (that was built when Adam was a lad) and we moved the van back down the lane. After all that effort Big Cave was probably the least impressive, its more like a massive cavern and it can be seen from the main road. To go and explore further would have meant wandering across Mr Olive Farmers land again so we skipped that one.
Big cave – with nowhere to turn around a motorhome!
Small Cave on the other hand is amazing, there are two small metal gates which you enter, it looks like walking into a grave. Then we followed the steps carved into the rock which took us through a tunnel / passage which leads through to the inside of Small Cave. It isn’t what I would expect of a cave, its more like a massive sink hole or cavern, once you have gotten through the rock then above you is clear sky. Climbing down the steps there is a balcony and from which you overlook both the cave and the two small Byzantine Chapels. A small path runs around the cave linking the two churches which are one on each side, Aghios Georgios (St George) which has wall murals dating back to the 13th century and the church Metamorfosis of Sortiros which is built into the rock. Both churches were unlocked and contained plenty of religious icons and lit candles and yet there wasn’t a soul around. It is truly a magical place, just the entrance through the side of the rocks makes it special and yet it is not mentioned on an tourist literature we have found anywhere, if you are ever near Kranidi then it is a must to see, trust us, its truly unlike anywhere else we have ever seen or heard of.
Entrance gates looks like a grave
Passageways painted white and carved from the rock
One of the churches carved into the rock
We spent the night at Kilada, a very busy fishing port with hundreds of small fishing boats, pleasure cruisers and even a few that Mr. Cowell might be seen using. We parked up out of the way on the promenade, not as out of the way as we should have as the small kiosk selling cigarettes and newspapers must be the busiest in Greece, a roaring trade of cars coming and going until the early hours. Over in the cafe at the other side of the road the sound of accordions drifted over, it was going to be a very quiet and peaceful night. Then the wind got up a little and we must have had some olive branches on the roof which flicked around all night scratching and rattling. Just after 2 am I awoke to Iain climbing out through the small sunroof, just a pair of legs dangling through a 2ft square gap whilst he tried to reach the said branches. It scared the life out of me for a few minutes as I thought it was someone coming in, well it was but I didn’t think it would be Iain. After all that he couldn’t move whatever it was so resorted to ear-plugs and went to sleep.
We drove down to the tip at Kosta to have a look over at Spetses, we made do with a look as we didn’t want to shell out for a ferry over. Instead we parked up and walked to the Cap D’Or hotel. Closed for the winter it may be but we wanted a look at what was the scene of many a past exploit of our niece Emma when she worked there a good few years ago. We had a look in the bar and your tab had gone Em so we didn’t need to settle up for you:)
Moving back up the other side of the coast we passed through what are known as the island towns, some are linked by causeways and some are true islands. Most of the towns appear quite similar with whitewashed houses and red roofs squashed in together at the bottom on a hill, next to a harbour. For us the most attractive was Poros, seen from the mainland village of Galatas. To be fair though as Iain pointed out if we had been to Poros and looked the other way then Galatas would probably have looked just as good.
Poros – prettier than any postcard could be
From Portoxeli around to Ermioni we saw more signs of 1960-1970’s tourism than anywhere else on the Peloponnese in terms of bigger hotels built with no thought other than pack ’em in high in a square box with a balcony. By no means is it as overdone as some areas in the Med but seemed so out of place as we haven’t seen many at all in the whole of the region. A good number of them now stand empty and look as if they have for a few years and some are slowly falling down of their own accord, not a bad thing.
We took the causeway over to Methana, almost an island with the weirdest causeway that climbs high over a mountain then dips straight down the other side. Right at the top was a very photogenic white and blue church, freshly white washed for the summer trade we did stop for yet another church photo, it was too lovely not to. A few miles along is the biggest town on the nearly-island being Methana. Iain loved it, I was a bit undecided. Some of the hotels were very 1970 and yet some were clearly much older and built with a thought as to how they looked from the outside. The main street was quiet but immaculately clean, a chap wandering along on his moped with a bin-bag picking up any rubbish as he went. The two cafes were busy with the usual worry bead conventions but other than that it was eerily quiet. We parked up just off the harbour, hidden away from the mains street behind a small park. We were joined by a dozen feral cats and a couple of hungry stray dogs and spent a very quiet night.
Beautiful church on the causeway
As we head back along the coast in the morning we came across a nature reserve of some sort, pink flamingos by the road side and several bird hides. We pulled in and got our binoculars out ready for a bit of spotting, as we climbed out of the van it started snowing. We were at sea level, Roland and Claire were miles away so where was the snow coming from? We gave up with birding as it was way too cold and decided to head for campsite back over at Iria. Firstly we needed to continue up the coast and a real stunner of a road carved into the side of the cliff. Then we started up the mountain, thought better of it, turned at the first junction and went across country. As we headed round the mountains we decided time to stop at one of the many, many bakers. They seems as frequent as the garages and most actually bake themselves rather than have stuff delivered in. We treated ourselves to traditional Greek cheese pies and some very stodgy cream cakes. The lovely lady baker insisted on a tour around her bakery, including the back room containing the massive bread ovens and the tower of ovens containing cakes just baking.
We are now set up at Camping Iria for a night or two whilst we plan our next few days. We are a little out in the sticks but its very flat where we are, that seems a good enough reason to stay and take the bikes down for an airing. By lunchtime today the sun was back and any signs of snow were well and truly gone. Its been a a very pleasant afternoon, becoming warmer by the hour. The campsite is fairly busy, mainly Austrians but a Dutch de-mountable pulled on just after us. We have a lovely big pitch in the middle of the site away from the trees. Despite that I spotted this these little critters at tea-time, our first Processionary Caterpillars, Iain was dispatched to remove them as that job comes under Logistics for sure.