THURSDAY 27-04-23

It was a lovely peaceful night broken only by the early morning barking of imprisoned dogs within selfish owners motorhomes. Given the size of dogs which are often dragged around, and the size of the vehicle they are imprisoned in, there can be barely any floor space available for owners or pets.

Upon surfacing and throwing open the habitation door to welcome the bright sunny morning, we were greeted by the sight of a large sailing ship in the bay. We later discovered it was full of Yanks.

We were a bit sluggish at getting going, but nevertheless we arrived at the gate to the town of a Monemvasia by late morning.

So a bit about Monemvaia:

Monemvasia has the tripartite structure of a Byzantine castle-town with a citadel at the highest point and two fortified enclosures further down, delimiting and dividing the town in to Upper and Lower.  The urban tissue was not a result of planning but of dynamic development  of the settlement. The Upper Town was the administrative centre with the residences of the nobles.  Today, the Byzantine church of the Hagia Sophia stands dominant among the ruins of numerous ruined  houses. The gate complex, three ruined churches, a Turkish bath house, a Turkish mausoleum, three large public cisterns, and a considerable number of smaller cisterns still survive.

The Lower Town was the commercial centre with the workshops and the dwellings of seamen and tradesmen. Like today, the shops lined the central street, the "Messi Odus" of the Byzantines, the "Foros" of the Venetians, the "Pazari" (Bazaar) of the Turks and the Greek  "agora".

Among the twenty-six extant churches, the old metropolitan church of Christ Elkomensos, in the main square, holds pride of place. It is known from the texts that the ecclesiastical buildings were parish churches, katholica of monastic foundations, or side chapels. Other important public buildings are the Old Bishops Residence, the mosque, and the Turkish bathhouse. The ruins of the buildings on the south-west side of the rock attest to growth of the settlement extra muros as well.

The town reminded me of  Mont San Michel, in France. It had  a causeway, an entrance, and every establishment geared to take money from tourists. But it was all very pleasant and whiled away the morning. We thought we might have lunch over there but chickened out given the thought of ending up with a table next to noisy Yanks.

This afternoon has been spent back 'home' enjoying the sun whilst sat on our folding chairs. It was also an opportunity to deploy one of the latest toys - a 160W folding solar panel. I had to pay silly money to get a extension cable made so that the panel could be set up on either side of the vehicle and still be plugged in to the socket beside The Chef's cab seat.

Our motorhome parking area beside the marina doesn't seem as busy this evening, but we are expecting an exodus of vehicles from the parking area over the causeway should they be moved on by the police.

We did seriously consider going out for an evening meal, but there wasn't much on the menus that really grabbed us.

Tomorrow's cunning plan is to leave here in good time, sprint up the hill to the entrance to the town where there are two toilet cubicles and a tap with a hose. There we should be able to dump our black waste and top up the fresh water tank, having enjoyed a nice hot shower before setting off. If our attempt to do things properly is thwarted in any way, then somebody, somewhere, is going to get what we no longer wish to keep.

WEDNESDAY 26-04-23

My word, that was a dreadful night. We should have realised that having a playground near the parking area would attract the yoof later in the evening. One little scrote came begging for five euros, quickly reducing his figure to one euro before being told exactly what his chance of success would be.

As darkness fell the group became louder, joined by a young interbred with his car as well as Evil Kenivel's love child on a motorbike. The interbred took great delight in doing fast laps on the gravel surface of the oval roadway around the car park whilst sliding it on corners.

Eventually I concluded that he was trying to scare us and the two other campers on the car park, so I thought I'd give him a scare. As he came round again I opened the habitation door which would have opened on to the roadway and then I stepped out and kept walking in to the roadway, looking the drivers position right in the eye. I couldn't see him as it was dark. This resulted in him having to do a very hasty swerve. He didn't do it again.

They all finally went home at just before 23:00, only then could I relax and go to bed, The Chef having turned in earlier.

At 02:30 I awoke to the sound of firecrackers going off on the other side of the car park. Looking out I saw two adults who had arrived in different cars setting off firecrackers that went off with small bangs along the ground, as opposed to the big bang version. They were probably Easter leftovers. It is worrying just what simple things give such simple individuals such pleasure at that time of the day, but they probably felt they'd had a good night out having woken up a few people.

Only then was I able to truly appreciate the beauty of 360° dog barking. Being on top of a hill I was able to listen to them from all directions.

Come this morning I could have done with a lie in, but I was keen to clear that village of knuckle-draggers before the tour coaches started to arrive.

Having watered the grass under the vehicle before leaving, we headed downhill to the toll road. We had to travel a number of miles on it before coming across a small lay-by with a toilet block. That was all we needed to empty the black waste. All we were short of now was a bit of fresh water to top up the tank (we still need it).

Our destination was Monemvasia. It wasn't on the Travelscript but when thumbing through the Greek tour guide a week or so ago I thought it might be somewhere a bit different to visit, and perhaps on the way back, give us the opportunity to find a quiet beach somewhere.

We used the toll road as far as Tripoli before heading south. Despite our taking the better road, it was still a bit hairy with lots of mountain driving, though with no nasty sharp hairpin bends.

Along the way we picked up another Brit vehicle and travelled in convoy until we pulled in to a Lidl store about twenty miles from our destination.

On arriving at the coast we parked up in the area I had identified on Google Maps (N36.687276° E23.042110°). It was a very nice spot across the causeway, but a German neighbour told us that the local police can be strict about parking overnight. Rather than risk getting moved on and having to find somewhere else to park, we went for a look round and came across a number of motorhomes parked along the marina wall, so off we went back to pick up the vehicle and re-park. In fact we are parked up in front of the other Brits vehicle. In the four weeks we've been away they are only the second Brit vehicle and occupants we have come across, the first being in Istanbul.

After a wander around the village we came back for a sit out in the sunshine on our chairs which we put between the marina concrete wall and the vehicle in order to try and keep out of the wind.

Tomorrow we set out for a nice brisk walk over the causeway to Monemvasia fortified town.

LECHAION WAY - This marble-paved road linked the port of Lechaion with the city.

The raised area is a Bema on which it is said Gallio presided over the trial of the Apostle Paul.

Temple of Apollo

TUESDAY 25-04-23

I like the sound of well behaved children out enjoying themselves playing. Having said that a party of three motorhomes rolled on to site yesterday evening full of noisy brat kids, and then parked side-by-side, fairly close to us. Within no time one of the little brats charged through our pitch, tripped over our hook-up cable and then dived through the hedge dividing our pitch from the neighbours.

This morning we could hear the caged kids noise through their motorhome walls, and then they were out and about. Fortunately it was a cloudy morning, and not ideal for sitting around outside and relaxing, though I doubt we would have been able to relax very much.

Luckily The Chef said that if I wanted to move on she was happy with it, which was music to my ears. Today was to have been our last day at Camping Isthmia Beach before hitting the road again. There would have been nothing to do, other than sit out in the sunshine, so we weren't missing out on anything by leaving.

We would head for Ancient Corinth, and visit one of the very few piles of rocks we would see on this trip. The Chef squared up the campsite the forty-two euros we owed them for two nights stay whilst I fired up the satnav and punched in our destination.

Unfortunately we had to spend a short while on the toll road having left the site, but it was a reasonable cost, thank goodness.

It was only a short journey but we were fortunate enough to pass a small supermarket where we could buy about half the things on our shopping list.

Ancient Corinth is up on a hill, and the access roads were a bit hairy. When we arrived at our parking area (N37.90750° E22.87806°) we saw a number of tour coaches, so they managed to get up here alright, though me thinks they came a different way in to us.

So a bit about Ancient Corinth:

For Christians, Corinth is well known from the two letters of Saint Paul in the New Testament, First and Second Corinthians. Corinth is also mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as part of Paul the Apostle’s missionary travels. In addition, the second book of Pausanias' ‘Description of Greece’ is devoted to Corinth.

Ancient Corinth was one of the largest and most important cities of Greece, with a population of 90,000 in 400 BC. The Romans demolished Corinth in 146 BC, built a new city in its place in 44 BC, and later made it the provincial capital of Greece.

Some ancient names for the place are derived from a pre-Greek "Pelasgian" language, such as Korinthos. It seems likely that Corinth was also the site of a Bronze Age Mycenaean palace-city, like Mycenae, Tiryns, or Pylos. According to myth, Sisyphus was the founder of a race of ancient kings at Corinth. It was also here that Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, abandoned Medea. During the Trojan War as portrayed in the IIiad, the Corinthians participated under the leadership of Agamemnon.

In classical times, Corinth rivalled Athens and Thebes in wealth, based on the isthmian traffic and trade. Until the mid-6th century, Corinth was a major exporter of black-figure pottery to city-states around the Greek world, later losing their market to Athenian artisans.

In classical times and earlier, Corinth had a temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, employing some thousand hetairas (temple prostitutes). The city was renowned for these temple prostitutes, who served the wealthy merchants and the powerful officials who frequented the city. Lais, the most famous hetaira, was said to charge tremendous fees for her extraordinary favours.

Corinth is mentioned many times in the New Testament, largely in connection with Paul the Apostle’s mission there, testifying to the success of Caesar's refounding of the city. Traditionally, the Church of Corinth is believed to have been founded by Paul, making it an Apostolic See.

The apostle Paul first visited the city in AD 49 or 50, when Gallio, the brother of Seneca, was proconsul of Achaia. Paul resided here for eighteen months (see Acts 18:11). Here he first became acquainted with Priscilla and Aquila, with whom he later travelled. They worked here together as tentmakers (from which is derived the modern Christian concept of tent making), and regularly attended the synagogue. In AD 51/52, Gallio presided over the trial of the Apostle Paul in Corinth. This event provides a secure date for the book of the Acts of the Apostles within the Bible. Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul here, having last seen him in Berea. Acts 18:6 suggests that Jewish refusal to accept his preaching here led Paul to resolve no longer to speak in the synagogues where he travelled: "From now on I will go to the Gentiles". However, on his arrival in Ephesus (Acts 18:19), the narrative records that Paul went to the synagogue to preach.

Having parked up we made our way over the road to buy a couple of tickets at eight euros each. It wasn't long before we realised we should have read up on the place before we came in, so having checked at the ticket booth it would be ok, we went back 'home' for lunch, had a read up, and then went back in to the complex.

The piles of rocks were piles of rocks, but the museum was very interesting and contained, among other numerous items, ornately decorated vases which were 2,500 years old, and  wonderfully preserved.

The afternoon was quite cloudy which effected the photographs, but never mind, you have to work with what you have.

Once we'd seen enough we had a wander round the tourist shops and then down the hill to try and find the Camperstop which was being advertised. It turned out to be a private one, charging just thirteen euros a night including all facilities, but it wasn't an easy access road, and we were happy where we were.

The plan is to spend the night here and then strike out south towards Monemvasia 'Greek's Gibraltar'. I've got to make sure I set the satnav up to take us on the main road, as one of the others goes through the mountains, and I don't want that if I can help it.

We're quite high up, and the wind is picking up. Whilst we don't have noisy brat kids to contend with we do have recently fallen acorns rolling around on our roof.

MONDAY 24-04-23

It was a lovely peaceful night with not even barking dogs or church bells to disturb us.

We awoke to a lovely warm sunny morning, it seemed a waste to have a lie-in and so we were up at a reasonable time and over to the shower block. Unfortunately the showers were a trife on the cool side, not boarding school cool, but I most certainly didn't feel the need to add any cold water once I'd got the hot tap fired up and delivering.

It was lovely to sit out in the sunshine reading our books, and me making sure my feet didn't get the sun. I did get caught out once many moons ago, when, following much nagging I relented and took my shoes and socks off during a holiday in Cornwall. I spent the rest of the holiday in considerable discomfort and having to wear carpet slippers the whole time.

As the temperature climbed we deployed the awning which offered us some most welcomed shade.

After lunch we went for a little walk. It was little as well. I had already taken a look along the beach to find it came to a dead end not far away, and Google Maps had already shown us there wasn't much going on in the local area, even if we did have the puff to climb the steep access road up to the main road.

We returned and put our feet up taking comfort from the fact that at least we did try to go for a nice long walk.

The weather here is following the same pattern as we had back in Athens. The day starts off with a lovely blue sky and then by the afternoon some cloud begins to form and we get a fairly strong breeze. So much so today that we decided it was best to wind the awning back in.

Early this evening it was barbie-time. I had bought a reasonably priced Camping Gaz portable barbecue

for this trip in anticipation of our being able to use it on a beach, should we be lucky enough to find one that is quiet.

It was the barbies first time out and whilst it did the job, it was French, and therefore not very well thought out and designed. The griddle didn't sit on the base properly, it being almost the same diameter, and the grill was concave shaped so it sloped towards the sides, resulting in my putting something under the barbie to catch the food should it roll off.

The lid was plastic, and so we couldn't use it to keep the heat in whilst I cooked (I can't believe they helped us build Concorde). Luckily I had bought along the smoker

which I intended to use to bake pizza and bread when we were 'wild camping', having bought along a few bits to modify its use.

Never mind, it did the job. This fine dining experience was accompanied by a bottle of Lidl's finest Sicilian Pinot Grigio 2020. There was a slight delay when I bought it as the manager had to go downstairs to the stores cellar, what with it costing over five euros a bottle.

Tomorrow we need to take a closer look at where our next few stops will be. There's one I fancy which is quite a bit further south, but I'll need to look at the kinds of roads we'll need to travel on to get there.

SUNDAY 23-04-23

A fairly peaceful night last night, though I woke in the middle of the night and didn't get back to sleep for a few hours.

The campsite was quiet this morning with many of the happy campers having left yesterday. The cunning plan today was to travel to Lavrio (N37.713796° E24.058828°), on the coast east of Athens, though not for any particular reason. From there we were to travel south a few miles to Cape Sounio to see the Temple of Poseidon but having looked at the route to those destinations, as well as the following two, we would have had to drive across Athens this morning, and then over just a few days circle the city to the south. For me it was all too urban and I'd had enough of city driving for a while. Plan 'B' was to just go straight to the Corinth Canal and then beyond it to Isthmia.

It took a little while to clear the campsite. Firstly we had to extricate ourselves from our pitch after we'd been wedged in to one corner of it by the owner when we arrived, so that she could keep the fire cupboard door clear, which is fair enough, but not helpful. Then we had to deal with the dump station, such as it was. The facilities at the campsite had been rather good, but the dump station was a bit testing. It really should have been located in a lay-by on the way out of the campsite. Never mind, we mastered it and left the campsite owner refolding the water hose as I obviously hadn't done it to her liking.

It was only about a thirty-five mile journey to Corinth Canal, just time for the toll booths to take about another €10.40/£9.28. It all adds up.

We parked up at the canal for a quick look around (N37.926144° E22.993695°). It was a lot smarter than when we were last here. The canal is closed to shipping because it is undergoing repairs. I think there is a problem with lumps of rock breaking away from the walls and crashing in to the water.

So a bit about the Corinth Canal:

The idea of a canal was revived after Greece gained formal independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830. The Greek statesman Ionnis Kapodistrias asked a French engineer to assess the feasibility of the project but had to abandon it when its cost was assessed at 40 million gold francs — far too expensive for the newly independent country. Fresh impetus was given by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, and, the following year, the government of Prime Minister Thrasyvoulos Zaimis passed a law authorising the construction of a Corinth Canal. French entrepreneurs were put in charge but, following the bankruptcy of the French company that had attempted to dig the Panama Canal, French banks refused to lend money, and the company went bankrupt as well. A fresh concession was granted to the ‘Société Internationale du Canal Maritime de Corinthe’ in 1881, which was commissioned to construct the canal and operate it for the next 99 years. Construction was formally inaugurated on 23 April 1882 in the presence of King George I of Greece.

The company's initial capital was 30,000,000 francs (US$6.0 million in the money of the day), but after eight years of work, it ran out of money, and a bid to issue 60,000 bonds of 500 francs each flopped when less than half of the bonds were sold. The company's head, Istvan Turr, went bankrupt, as did the company itself and a bank that had agreed to raise additional funds for the project. Construction resumed in 1890, when the project was transferred to a Greek company, and was completed on 25 July 1893 after 11 years' work.

After completion

The canal experienced financial and operational difficulties after completion. The narrowness of the canal makes navigation difficult. Its high walls channel wind along its length, and the different times of the tides in the two gulfs cause strong tidal currents in the channel. For these reasons, many ship operators were unwilling to use the canal, and traffic was far below predictions. Annual traffic of just fewer than 4 million net tons had been anticipated, but by 1906 traffic had reached only half a million net tons annually. By 1913, the total had risen to 1.5 million net tons, but the disruption caused by World War I resulted in a major decline in traffic.

Another persistent problem was the heavily faulted nature of the sedimentary rock, in an active seismic zone, through which the canal is cut. The canal's high limestone walls have been persistently unstable from the start. Although it was formally opened in July 1893 it was not opened to navigation until the following November, due to landslides. It was soon found that the wake from ships passing through the canal undermined the walls, causing further landslides. This required further expense in building retaining walls along the water's edge for more than half of the length of the canal, using 165,000 cubic metres of masonry. Between 1893 and 1940, it was closed for a total of four years for maintenance to stabilise the walls. In 1923 alone, 41,000 cubic metres of material fell into the canal, which took two years to clear out.

Serious damage was caused to the canal during World War II. On 26 April 1941, during the Battle of Greece between defending British troops and the invading forces of Nazi Germany, German parachutists and glider troops attempted to capture the main bridge over the canal. The bridge was defended by the British and had been wired for demolition. The Germans surprised the defenders with a glider-borne assault in the early morning of 26 April and captured the bridge, but the British set off the charges and destroyed the structure. Other authors maintain that German pioneers cut the detonation wires, and a lucky hit by British artillery triggered the explosion. The bridge was replaced by a combined rail/road bridge built in 25 days by the IV Ferrovieri Battalion, of the Royal Italian Army Ferrovieri Engineer Regiment.

Three years later, as German forces retreated from Greece, the canal was put out of action by German "scorched earth" operations. German forces used explosives to trigger landslides to block the canal, destroyed the bridges and dumped locomotives, bridge wreckage and other infrastructure into the canal to hinder repairs. The United States Army Corps of Engineers began to clear the canal in November 1947 and reopened it for shallow-draft traffic by 7 July 1948, and for all traffic by that September.

Modern use

Because the canal is difficult to navigate for large vessels, it is mostly used by smaller recreational boats. A notable exception occurred on 9 October 2019, when the cruise ship MS Braemar became the widest and longest ship to transit the canal.

The canal was closed at the beginning of 2021 after a landslide. It re-opened in June 2022 until October 2022. After further safety measures, the canal is scheduled to reopen again in 2023.

It had turned in to a lovely day and really quite warm, so we thought we'd make our way to Camping Isthmia Beach (N37.889630° E23.005677°), where we managed to bag a pitch on the front row of the grid facing the beach.

This afternoon has been spent sat outside in the sunshine which was quite pleasant, though we'll have to be  bit careful about catching the sun. We could easily wind out the awning to provide shade, but there is a little bit of a breeze at the moment, and besides, nobody else has there's out suggesting there's a good reason for it.

I did go back up to Reception to ask about the use of gas barbecues. There is a ban on barbies here due to the fire risk but the paperwork on arrival did suggest that gas would be ok. We had permission and so tomorrow we'll have a go at using a small portable jobbie I bought along which would allow us to take it on to a beach should we wish.

The highlight of the day has been the Vodaphone SIM card in the second Mi-Fi has come to life. I have to assume that the signal back in Athens wasn't very good. I'm beginning to think that most Vodaphone shops are empty because nobody is using them because of their coverage. We'll just have to see how we get on.