We have been to a Greek island (Kefalonia), Northern Greece (Macedonia, including Mount Athos), Central Greece (Attica, including Athens) and now we head to Southern Greece (the Peloponnese). We are on a tour with our guide George and driver Christos.
A new adventure in this countryside marked by myriads of beautiful beaches, stunning mountains and quaint villages.
The Apostle Paul visited the northern city of the Peloponnese, Corinth, and wrote them several letters that are part of our Bible. We visited the ancient city and the speakers platform where Paul preached the gospel to the Corinthians (the agora).
On the outskirts of Corinth is a seaside sanctuary (archaeological site) dedicated to Hera, the first wife of Zeus and mother of Heracles (aka Hercules). Before leaving Corinth, we stopped at the Corinthian canal, a waterway cut through solid rock for ship passage. We watched a crazy teen bungy jump into the canal. No way we were going to try that!
We continued our tour on Friday, August 16 (now under a month left of sabbatical) as we drove to Epidaurus, a huge archeological site of the ancient healing cult called Asclepius. He is known as the patron of medicine. One of his symbols is the snake (think of the snake and pole we still use for doctors). The best part of the site is the theater with its marble seats and perfect acoustics. While many tourists were busy talking, I dropped a coin on the stage and Jody could still hear it hit about 50 yards away.
We spent two nights in the romantic city of Nauphlio. On Saturday, we toured a local castle, the ancient mountaintop ruins of the Myceneans (one of the most ancient people to inhabit Greece) and had a fun wine tour. In the evening, Jody and I walked around Nauphlio, did some shopping including a local jigsaw puzzle which we put together after doing our laundry in the sink and hanging them out on the balcony to dry (Ok, so that does not sound so romantic!!).
On Sunday, our tour headed south along the east coast of the Peloponnese. It was a day of trying out a variety of beaches. We hit a large, popular sandy beach, a relatively secret rocky beach, a small mountain stream-fed pool of cold water, and village beach mixing both warm Aegean Sea water and a stream of cold mountain water. It was a day of swimming, floating and relaxing. It is impossible to get bored of these Greek waters. We are trying to stain our brains with these images and memories.
Do some of you remember Telly Savalas from the TV show Kojak? We stopped at his small port village of Gerakos and had mid-morning coffee. The port is secluded and was historically controlled by pirates. We ate lunch and then took a ferry to an island and then spent the late afternoon at Simos beach. On Monday evening we spent the night in the seaside village of Neopoli. The view of the sea was stunningly beautiful. We walked through the white walled streets to the café area where we ate a twilight light dinner. Another peaceful night.
Tuesday continued our ride through the region called Laconia. If you look at the map of southern Greece, you will notice three fingers at the bottom. The left finger is called Laconia. the historic village of Sparta is located in the mountains of Laconia. We visited the ancient site of this military city. This village is famous for its simple “spartan” lifestyle. I enjoyed a Spartan beer!
From there we walked down from a Frankish castle in Gytheio, the port city for the Spartans. The cobble stone walk was challenging as the stones are so worn they are slippery. What an amazing complex all the way down the mountainside. At the end of the day, we spent the night in our best hotel to date with a swimming pool. At sunset, the night life was again very lively. Areopoli has a hot night life. Unsure of what we ordered for dinner at 9:30 pm, it turned out to be a vegetarian pizza! Score! Imagine, a small village with at least 20 cafe’s in a row, a few jewelry stores, clothing stores etc., in a village of about 1000 people. So many stores and eating places with hundreds of people out after 9 pm. Some habits do not change and we were the first in the village to sleep!
Today we hit the road and went to a cave where we went on a boat tour of stalagmites and stalactites. Our boat driver only spoke Greek so it was good that Jody’s partner in the boat spoke some English. Only 7% of the cave has been explored yet the sights in this 45 minute tour were incredible. It is profound to pause and consider the length of time it has taken for all of these formations to occur – in other words, this is a very ancient place we call home.
Next we struck out to find a laundromat. It is time to get some clothes cleaned beyond the bathroom sink! We began our trek north on the west side of Mani peninsula. We stopped at two nice beaches, ordered a late lunch and I returned to pick up the laundry. After eating carefully our fish with head and body in place so as to avoid the bones, we drove north to Kalamata, home of the eatable olive and the Mediterranean diet. One high point for me was our stop in Chalimus where we toured an olive oil press and factory. After we watched a helpful video of the process, we hit the store and tasted bread and a variety of olive oils and ate a few olives. Yum!
God’s good earth and people is so much bigger than we imagine in our part of the world. It is really no surprise that whereever we go, the people of the land think just as we do that we are in the best place on earth. Jody just said that while this adventure has been wonderful, we have both just begun to dream and to think about home. We live in a great place on this earth among some great people of God!