It seems we were not in Korinth (Corinth) as we thought, we were in Ancient Korinth which was 5 km away from the newer version. It did mean we were very close to another set of ruins and we just had to brave the rain and make the 400 metres walk into the centre of the village to the archaeological site. We agreed we would only pay the entrance fee if it looked more spectacular than anywhere else we had been, as we both felt a bit all ruined out.
The ancient bit refers to a town from 400 BC with an estimated 90,000 inhabitants, which is reasonably new as they believe the area has been occupied by man since 6500 BC. During the war of independence the Turks pretty much destroyed the ancient town and then in 1858 an earthquake finished the job off and lead to the new town being built. The excavations site is pretty much in the centre of the current village, probably the size of several football pitches it sits within the modern day village with just a wire fence around it. You can pay to enter or, as we did, you can walk right around the perimeter on the public roads. We chose the free option purely due to being a bit tight, it probably was more than worth the €6 each but when the option of a freebie presents itself we couldn’t resist. As with all the ruin sites one temple was partially rebuilt (perfect for photo opportunities), in this case it was the Temple of Apollo.
Temple of Apollo
Even from the fence the whole thing was quite impressive, the buildings have some depth to them, in some case even the arches of window frames and its much easier to see the city outline than at other sites were its been piles of rocks that you have to picture as buildings. Even better its seems they are discovering more of Ancient Korinth by the day, on the outskirts of the village there are ruins a plenty, not sure how big this place was but its going to be a few hundred more years before they find and uncover it all. As one of the greatest cities of Ancient Greece we were more than impressed, it seems that even when you think you have had a total fill of ruins the Greeks have something a bit more special to entice you in to another one.
Alongside the ruins there is a good little cottage industry of shops and cafes, even on a wet and grey day the coach loads were arriving and everywhere was open for business. The tourist area of the village was pedestrianised with tavernas and souvenir shops each side and the Temple of Apollo at the end. The weather wasn’t at its best and we didn’t do the visit justice in terms of going in, yet would still give this place a big thumbs up and say its well worth visiting, especially if you are staying at Afrodites Waters.
We stopped off for a coffee and ordered a couple of slices of toast for Iain – we received a toasted ham and cheese sandwich each! Not totally sure they don’t understand what we want, I think there may be a ruse going on as you get what they want you to have and you happily pay for it. At €8 (£5.80) for two lattes, two toasties and a few crisps it was quite a bargain and it kept us out of the rain for half an hour. From there it was time to embrace the souvenir shops and hunt out a couple of magnets for the collection. In general Greece isn’t cheap for some stuff but on the tourist tatt its not bad at all – €1.50 for a magnet here vs €6 at Pont De Gard, bargain.
Precinct cafes with the Temple of Apollo at the end – good planning
We have both very much loved Campsterop Afrodites Waters, very different to anywhere we have stayed in Greece. The toilets are air conditioned, well I think that is why there was a hole in the roof anyway :). The mini market is just the best ever, 3 bottles of home-made olive oil, 4 jars of home-brew olives and some jam – what more could you need. The reception area has a BBQ grill, hot plates for cooking and a table and chairs if you want to eat there. If the Greeks need to make some money out of the tourists they could do a whole lot worse than have a string of these cheap and cheerful motor-home stop off points, no fuss, no hassle, just ace for a couple of days stop.
The perfect reception
The Camperstop advertises being just 100 metres from the ‘hidden and forgotton spring of Afrodites’ godess of beauty. At first we thought it was very well hidden as we couldn’t find it. Possibly well forgotten too as even the guide at the ruins didn’t have any idea where it was. Then I noticed a sign on site, followed a rough path up the side of the hill and hey presto it appeared I had found the spring. A craggy rock face with water dripping, the first part did look like it might be part of the mains system (the pipes visible in the mud gave it away) but the second, larger set of rocks were for my money the original springs of Afrodites, as advertised. I have therefore anointed myself quite liberally with the said spring water and should I not resemble a Super-Model by Thursday I will be returning for a full refund!
The Waters of Afrodites
Our main reason for stopping off here was more for the canal that the ruins. The Corinth canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean sea, being the bit along the top of the Peloponnese. Our first challenge was finding it, we found the top end fairly easily but there was a 3 tonnes weigh restriction on the bridge, we could see down the canal but the bit we wanted was a mile or so along – looking down where it was carved through the rock. We went down to the other end and hey presto there was another 3 tonne weight restriction. By now we were both getting slightly fed up with the idea of the canal – yes we have a map but the bit where the road crosses the canal has writing over it – we agreed to take the main road over and if we couldn’t find it give up. Turn right, 1/4 of a mile up the road one canal, at last. Once you find it you wonder how you could of missed it in the first place, well I think that was what Iain was trying to say when he queried why it had taken me several attempts to get us there.
Gulf of Corinth entrance to the canal
Was it worth it? for us a massive yes. Slightly disappointed there wasn’t a cycle path along side :), we were looking forward to adding it to our lists of canals cycled, but other than that its an incredible sight. It is a 70 ft wide cut through the land at the Isthmus of Corinth, and makes the Peloponnese effectively an island. The canal is 4 miles long and it’s very, very deep, built at sea level so it doesn’t require any locks. It was never really a great success, when it opened it suffered rock slides which were a major deterrent to users, nowadays the width of only 70 ft makes it impassable for most modern ships. As a tourist attraction it does it’s job and would probably do even better with some decent flipping road signs to it.
The Corinth Canal
Since we had arrived here we kept looking up to Akrokorinthos way up on the hill, 1800 ft above sea level. Being 4 km up hill we weren’t going to walk it, but the sun came out on the way back from the canal so we thought we would pop up for a look. Basically a monolithic rock with a whacking great castle perched on the top. It’s the home of the God of the Sun, probably as its one of the closest building in Greece to the sun. I suffer from a fear of heights, it was high and I suffered. The pain eased when it was free to enter, but the even though the rain has stopped the stone paths were very slippy and this didn’t help me calm my irrational fears. We walked / skidded up through the first two gates, the path went right to the top but I decided that was a destination we didn’t need to achieve.
Akrokorinthos – another one that cannot be missed
According to the tourist blurb it is “the most impressive acropolis in mainland Greece”, whilst we haven’t seen enough acropolis to be experts we did think it would be difficult to better this one. From the road looking up it seems to cover a fair sized area, it’s only as you start to climb the pathways and go through each gate you see the area is much larger than it at first appears. Not sure we did it justice, well we didn’t as they say it takes 3-4 hours to walk around everything and we were less than an hour. For the views alone its worth the drive up there, I cannot help keep promoting Greek tourist must sees – they really are so impressive you must see them if you can.
On the way up
The views just before the Sun God got home and started work
Seen from the village Up close
The weather here continues to run through the full spectrum. Monday afternoon we had three hours of torrential rain accompanied by thunder and lightening right overhead. Today we had a bit of rain and then the sun came out and reminded us why we are in Greece – a glorious afternoon of sunshine looking down over the Korinthian Gulf whilst listening to the sound of the local dogs barking and the motorway just below us 🙂