The Great Greek Adventure – Part 1: Athens

For Mike and I, the Great Greek Adventure started when, towards the end of 2018, we were contacted by two lovely friends who we originally met in Tijax Marina in Guatemala in 2013. John and Jerie told us they were coming to Europe for three months and that they wanted to start their trip by visiting us, and Greece, for just over three weeks.

Thus the planning – and therefore the adventure – began and over the next few weeks an itinerary developed which would take in the many archaeological and other historic sites as well as cities, towns and villages and mountains, lakes and coast.

I decided it was impossible to write about everything we did and saw in one blog post so this one covers the five days we spent in Athens at the start of our trip.

Posing in front of the Roman Agora

Athens history dates back to Neolithic times but is most remembered for its “Golden Age” which lasted from 479BC when the Persian Empire was defeated and its oppressive rulers ejected from Athens to 404BC when Sparta gained the upper hand in the Peloponnesian Wars which had started in 431BC. This may seem to be a short period of time to call a golden age but it was a time when Athens was the principal city of Ancient Greece. The most famous of Athens’s monuments – the Parthenon – dates from this period, as do most of the other buildings which make up the Acropolis.

For a city dedicated to the goddess Athena who, according to myth, had beaten Poseidon in a contest to have the city built in their honour, only the best architects, materials and craftsmen would do. Unsurprisingly time, earthquakes, invading armies, pilfering, poor early renovation techniques and visitors footsteps have taken their toll and only remnants of its former glory remain – but they still manage to amaze.

The Propylaia – the three halled monumental entrance to the Acropolis

Just inside the gateway -Part of a shrine dedicated to “Health/Medicine

The Temple of Athena Nike

The word Parthenon means “virgin’s apartment” and was the largest Doric temple in Greece and the only one completely constructed, aside from its wooden roof, of white Pentelic marble.

View of the iconic Parthenon looking South West

Managed to miss  most of the cranes and scaffolding

The east side with a small part of a pediment remaining

The Metopes, square carved plaques, variously commemorated the Olympian Gods fighting the giants, Theseus leading youths into battle, the sacking of Troy and the contest of the Lapiths and Centaurs.

Centaur and Lapith

Little of the Pediment sculpture remains….

The corner of a pediment

….. and, similarly, a significant part of the most famous frieze depicting the Panathenaic Procession was destroyed or damaged by the Turkish gunpowder explosion in 1687.

Sadly and, in my opinion wrongly, much of what now remains of that frieze is in the British Museum, Lord Elgin having taken it along with one of the six Caryatids – the large columns supporting the south portico of the Erechtheion.

The sanctuary of Erechtheion

The other five are in the Acropolis Museum [which we didn’t actually visit] and the ones seen “on site” are plaster casts. It must have been tempting to make the casts whole but much better, I think, to replicate what now remains of them.

Four of the maidens from Karai

It was in the sanctuary of Erechtheion that the deity contest took place and Athena won it by producing the Olive Tree.

Athenas tree!

This tree is, reputedly, a cutting of the original tree, the cutting having been taken during WW2 to protect it from the Germans. Not sure how it was supposed to have been protected from all the other marauders and pilferers! But it makes a nice story.

Scattered around the site are column bases and capitals.

 

The one immediately above shows the hole in the top into which a chunk of wood was placed which fitted into a corresponding hole in the bottom of the next tier of the column. Damn clever eh.

On the slopes of the Acropolis are two theatres. Completely restored and still used for performances is the Roman Theatre…..

The Odeon of Herodas Atticus

…. but whilst the view was much more impressive from that one I found the Theatre of Dionysos far more interesting. It was the world’s first theatre, built by the Persians. Group singing and dancing contests were held annually and, on one occasion an artist left the group and took centre stage for a solo performance. As all you Thespians out there know, his name was “Thespis”.

Decorating the “Hyposkenion”, which was the support for the “Proskenion” [raised stage] were characters from the myth of Dionysus and his cult. Satyrs and Silens played a supporting role in all that Dionysus did and here two, of an original three, Silens can be seen doing just that.

The remaining side Silen

The central Silen – echoes of Atlas and Herakles

Most of the theatre seats were made of Piraeus limestone….

Limestone or marble signified your seat in society

…. but priests and other officials had front row thrones made of Pentelic marble.

The “posh seats” including the priests throne

Some, as you can see,  had their names carved on them and the centre seat was reserved for the Priest of Dionysus and had a canopy to shade him from the sun during performances.

Menander – a Greek dramatist who wrote 108 Comedies

In 338BC all the city states of Greece were captured by the Macedonians, of whom you will hear more in the next blog, and they, in turn were defeated by the Romans. At this time Athens entered her second important phase from around 180BC to 529AD and during this period various Roman Emperors, whilst on the one hand spiriting away some of the Classic artwork to Rome, on the other built most of the rest of the iconic sites of Athens.

Hadrian’s Arch in the foreground

In AD132 Hadrian built an arch to commemorate the completion of the Temple of Zeus, another work undertaken at his behest, 700 years after it was begun and then abandoned by the Persian Peisistratos.

The Temple of Zeus. Only 15 of 104 columns remain

The fallen column – blown down in a gale in 1852

The largest structure constructed under Hadrian’s direction was the Library.

The only wall left standing

Archway and pillar leading the eye to the Acropilis

Very little now remains and a current occupant of the site was more interested in the grass than the stonework.

There are two “agora” – the Ancient Agora and the Roman Agora which were the centre of Athens life.

The Roman Agora houses the “Horologian of Andronikos Kyrrhestes” – better known as the Tower of the Winds….

The Tower of the Winds

….which we found quite fascinating.

The roof is perfectly preserved and consists of 24 marble slabs around a circular keystone. Difficult to photograph so I hope you get the gist.

Incredible workmanship

On each of the eight exterior walls were incised lines which corresponded with an equal number of sundials and the eight main winds were portrayed above.

The SE wind

Apeliotes was the Greek deity of the south-east wind. As this wind was thought to cause a refreshing rain particularly beneficial to farmers, he is depicted carrying fruit, flowers and grain draped in a light cloth.

We couldn’t work out exactly how the water clock worked…

Such mathematicians

…. but there was some form of hydraulic mechanism which used varying amounts of pressure to power it.

We hope that any waste water was then directed to clear out the latrines.

Wot – no porcelain

A sign told us they drained into the main river running through Athens – bet that was lovely in the hot summer!

The Ancient Agora, bigger and more impressive, contained several remarkable buildings.

Entrance to the Odeon of Agrippa

The C10 Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles.

Built to commemorate the teaching by St Paul in the Agora, the exterior patterns imitate the Islamic “Kufic” style of brickwork.

The exterior of the Stoa of Attalos has undergone considerable renovation but it was quite amazing to think that this, and every other “stoa” in Ancient Greek cities, was a prototype for the shopping arcade.

Each doorway was originally a different shop

At the other side of the site and originally surrounded by metal workshops and foundries was the Temple of Hephaistos.

The Temple of Hephaistos in the distance

The Metatopes on the north and south sides of the temple depicted the labours of Theseus, and these, on the east side, are some of the twelve labours of Hercules.

Metopes with Triglyphs – the three banded spacers – between

Not surprisingly there are several museums in Athens and we had to make choices about which to visit. The small museum in the Ancient Agora contained some fascinating information about some of its artifacts…

A Klepsydra – part of a type of water stopwatch to time speeches

Gold decoration for shrouds

Fascinating

Naming and shaming

… and the private collection at the Benaki museum some outstanding exhibits. [Sorry Gill, I didn’t take a photo of the bibles.]

Phenomenal – a gold snood

A complete sitting room from a Macedonian mansion

But, no cultural trip to Athens would be complete without a visit to the National Archaeological Museum. Just wow.

Monumental Attic grave amphora from around 750BC

Larger than life – a Kouroi – one of the earliest large stone figures

The life-size female equivalent – a Kore

The debate continues – Zeus or Poseidon. Whoever it depicts it is a magnificent bronze

Great detail

Representations of the god Bes

One of the rare preserved statues of the god Sarapis Amun Agathodaemon

Gold death mask known as “The Mask of Agamemnon”

I found these rather ghoulish. Gold burial coverings for a baby

Egyptian influence – funerary stela of the deceased Khenit and her son Kai

Part of double false doors of a tomb

Copper alloy with metal inlay statue of the princess/priestess Takushit- approx 670BC

Such detailed hieroglyphs and deities of the Nile Delta

“The Artemisian Jockey” – bronze statue recovered in pieces from the shipwreck off Cape Artemesian

Physical beauty

One of Mike’s favourite statues -Aphrodite, Pan and Eros

The incredible parian marble “Harpist of Keros” – from around 2500BC

Phenomenal – look it up. The Antikythera Mechanism – the worlds first computer

We did lots and lots of walking from site to site and museum to museum but our favourite walk was in the late afternoon round the base of the Acropolis along the popular promenade. The highlight was standing on the rocky outcrop just below the Acropolis on Aeropagus hill. Amazing views.

The city spread out before us

“On the Rocks”!

The sun sets over the Saronic Gulf

Our final “not to be missed” event was the Sunday Changing of the Guard which takes place in front of the Parliament Building.

Whilst the guards change on the hour, every hour, on Sunday a whole platoon marches down accompanied by a band.

A full show

The spectacularly costumed Guards are called “Evzones” and they are actually guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – with the names of battles in which Greek Troops lost lives inscribed along the wall.

Amazingly embroidered jackets

Changeover

So, all in all, a brilliant time in Athens – the place where Europe apparently starts and where I was, for now, still European!

Says it all

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A slow[ish] passage from Porto Cheli to Kalamata

You might recall that at I wrote about the “Medicane” and some of the chaos it caused around the Argolics and Saronics when it crossed the area on 29th September. When Mike and I left Porto Cheli on 2nd October we saw further evidence of damage. As well as dodging lots of branches and sometimes whole trees which were floating around we also passed this boat….

Really hope there was no-one on board when it overturned

….and, on arrival at our first overnight anchorage, could see this beached yacht in the north part of the bay.

We had read on the internet that it was a boat chartered by a group of ten and blown ashore in the strong winds. Fortunately they all escaped unharmed.

The anchorage was in the large Bay of Kyparissi which lies on the eastern Peloponnese coast 24 miles south west of Porto Cheli. We anchored just off the main town….

Lovely surroundings in Kyparissi Bay

……and went ashore for a look around. I expect that it is quite a bustling destination in the summer months with yachts – as there are several mooring options – and land based tourists, but it was very quiet when we were there, with more signs of bygone days than the present.

1869….

… and 1885

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again we had parted company with “Coriander” as they were heading north to meet family and we were making a leisurely passage to our winter marina in Kalamata.

We basically just went with the weather, sailing when we could and sheltering when necessary. We weren’t in a hurry so also took time out to see places along the route. All in all we spent 17 days getting from Porto Cheli to Kalamata, during which we sailed on 11 of them and covered 220 miles.

The weather on 3rd October was very strange – a kind of lilac grey tinge to the sky and no wind. It was definitely a motoring day but we only had 13 miles to go to from Kiparissi to Ierika so that was fine. We arrived late morning and as there was a boat alongside the village quay we anchored opposite under the cliffs. However, they moved and we took their place. We really liked Ierika and, although there isn’t room for many boats either at anchor or on the quay it would be a brilliant place to “hide” in all winds except, perhaps, strong winds from the west.

Above the small village are the ruins of the Ancient City of Zarakas…

Some of the ruins

…. and we spent a pleasant couple of hours in the late afternoon just wandering around before a sundowner on the quay.

Whilst walking alongside the lagoon we saw this fish.

At first we thought it was dying – and then, when we saw lots of others doing the same thing, decided it was probably feeding – though whatever it was after was too small for us to see.

Our last port of call on the Eastern Peloponnese was Monemvasia….

Approaching the island

Old village from the east as we sail by

…..or, to be more accurate, Yefira, the town which has developed on the mainland and is now linked by causeway to Monemvasia island. The name derives from “moni emvasi” and means single entrance. Until the late C19 a fourteen arch bridge – the middle part of which was a drawbridge – joined the Lakonia coastline with the rock.

Although we had been here once before we still walked up to the old village……

Signposted walkway to the upper village… didn’t go anywhere and had to turn round!

……which, at least in the lower part, has been restored considerably in the intervening ten or more years.

Original gateway to upper village

Old upper village

Dome of C12 church “Hagia Sophia” in upper village

Lower village from above

More ruins!!!

Most recently restored square in lower village

Main square

Yefira is a very popular stop for yachts rounding Cape Maléas and the harbour is generally pretty full. Having said that, the available anchorages in the large bay and under the causeway are rather rocky and subject to surge and the holding, if med moored on the harbour pier, is poor – especially in cross winds. We were therefore very glad to find one of about five available alongside spots on the harbour wall empty – and, even better, the one furthest away from the entrance. We were therefore well protected from the wind, waves and surge during the four nights we stayed there.

Others were not so lucky. At about 3 am on 6th October I was awakened by the sound of anchor chains. Two boats on the pier had dragged and were re-anchoring. About two hours later one of them dragged again so went alongside the pier, which isn’t actually allowed – but there was no-one to make him move in the middle of the night and it was definitely his best option. All of this had woken up the crews of the three or four other boats on the pier and, quite sensibly, some went to check their anchor chains too. One couple decided they wanted to tighten their chain so turned on the engine to power the windlass. Apparently they heard some kind of “pop” and smoke started coming out of the engine compartment. They got off the boat and by the time I got into our cockpit, having once again been disturbed by the commotion of the other boats leaving the pier, this is what I saw….

Mike and I sat in the cockpit with fire extinguishers, as did the other boats moored alongside the harbour wall. There was absolutely nothing any of us could do to assist so all we could do was try to ensure that no other boats caught fire.

Genoa sheets burnt through and sail unfurled

Fishermen moved the two fishing boats moored on the other side of the pier to the alight boat and eventually the coastguard and fire brigade turned up.

Coastguard boat struggled to hold fire fighters close enough

Fishing boat got closer and the alight boat anchor chain was cut

Next to the pier ….. almost burnt out

All that remains

Three boats from the pier who had spent a few hours outside the harbour motoring around returned and rafted alongside us and others on the harbour wall.

It was an awful thing to witness but fortunately no-one was injured and no other boats were damaged. We were impressed by the speed in which an anti- pollution skirt was put around the burnt yacht – in fact it was done so quickly that they then had to wet it through a few times to stop it also burning.

It’s great that anti-pollution is taken so seriously. If it wasn’t, I suspect we wouldn’t see some of the wildlife we are lucky enough to come across on our journeys. Over the course of this passage the following sightings were particularly memorable.

Turtle in Yefira harbour

White wagtail – Monemvasia

Stunning kingfisher at Petalidhion

I mentioned above that Monemvasia is popular with yachts rounding the Cape [Akrotíri Maléas] which has quite a fearsome reputation, so picking a good weather window was important to us. Although it is generally less threatening travelling east to west [as we were] we still didn’t want to round it and find ourselves in fierce headwinds or heavy rolling seas.

The day we chose for rounding it, 8th October, dawned bright and fair with negligible wind – just like the forecast has said – and we left Monemvasia at 8.30am. Approaching Maléas the sea was wonderfully calm….

Lighthouse at the Cape

……and we had a 1kn current with us. It only lasted a short time but, when it is going the way you are, every little helps!

Having rounded the headland we were subjected to about 20 minutes of 20kn gusts off the mountains but the wind then settled to a lovely 10kn from the south and we crossed Ormos Vatika to arrive at our chosen bay on the small island of Elafónisos at 2pm.

A little gem of a place with crystal clear water and a lovely beach. We didn’t actually go ashore but we hope to revisit at the start of our 2019 sailing season.

Our next destination was Yíthion, 28 miles NW at the head of the Gulf of Lakonika. The cruising guide describes it as a pleasant low key place seldom visited by yachts. We really liked it. When we arrived there wasn’t much room to berth because whilst it might not be much visited by transiting yachts it is clearly a place where some people have chosen to berth longer term and we took one of maybe two or three spaces available at the inner end of the row of boats along the harbour wall.

Looking over the harbour to the newer part of town

We would certainly recommend it as a place to visit for at least a couple of days – for the general ambience if nothing else – and, if the harbour wall is full there is the option of the anchorage protected by the causeway.

Anchorage and older part of town from the island, Nisis Kanai, now attached by causeway

Maniot Fort on the island

Nisis Kanai lighthouse

We have tried and tested the anchorage because having left Yithion on 11th October for a nice 11 mile sail in 10-14kn winds across the Gulf to Elaia we found that we did not at all fancy the mooring options there so turned round and sailed back to Yithion and opted to anchor. In fact, because winds seem to gust from the north and blow across the harbour we actually felt more secure in the anchorage than in the harbour.

The island from the anchorage

The next four nights we also spent at anchor – firstly at Scutari Bay and then at Porto Káyio on the east coast of the Mani Peninsula and the third and fourth nights at Karavostasi in the large Bay of Limeni half way up the Mani’s west coast.

Wonderfully secluded “Fisherman’s Cove in Scutari Bay

Popular Porto Kayio

The Mani is an amazing place steeped in history and is a very popular place with holiday makers in camper vans – though how they manage some of the steeply winding narrow roads I don’t know. The drivers obviously don’t suffer from vertigo.

An original Maniot Village – now an upscale holiday resort!

Its east and west coasts are very different and are sometimes referred to as the Bright side and the Dark side. When rounding the tip of the peninsula the huge bulk of Capo Grosso gives you the first inclination of why the “Dark side” might be appropriate. The imposing coastline is peppered with caves and split by ravines and it is perhaps no wonder why at least two places along its length are in the list of many claimed entrances to Hades.

Two entrances in one!!

Almost directly across the Gulf of Messiani from Limeni lies the lovely town of Koroni….

…. and we spent two nights here, taking time out to visit the castle…..

The monestary inside the fort

One of the churches in the fort built in the left nave of an older church

Inside the small church

The old walls – pretty thick

Bell tower of lowest and newest church

….and the splendid wine shop tucked down a back street.

The anchorage is mainly sand but there are huge boulders on the bottom. The water is very clear, which certainly makes it easier to spot them and we motored around quite a bit of the anchoring space trying to find somewhere we would not snag a rock with the anchor or chain. However, there are so many it’s not easy to find a 40m boulder free “hole” to drop the anchor in the middle of and when the wind shifted overnight our chain wrapped around one. Fortunately we were able to clear it easily by driving in a semi-circle.

We left Koroni on 18th October and arrived in Kalamata on the 19th having spent our final night at anchor off the small working town of Petalídhion.

Overall it was a really nice pleasantly paced trip from Porto Cheli to Kalamata and, although we weren’t booked in until the beginning of Nov there was no problem with us arriving 2 weeks early [we had contacted them to check] and we settled happily into our winter berth.

Home from home

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The calm…… and the storm

Well, I have been promising to tell you about the storm we weathered in Porto Cheli and will, indeed, come to that in this post. But at the time Andrea and Fiona left us in mid-September we had no idea of the bad weather to come so, with our friends Steve and Gill on “Coriander”, we intended to slowly make our way south down the eastern Peloponnese coast.

However, before leaving Nafplio we decided to spend a couple of days stocking up with food etc and take the opportunity for a bus trip to the nearby town of Argos. Today, the town is best known for its recently opened Byzantine museum – our main destination for the day – but its history actually goes back over 6,000 years, with the usual suspects variously occupying the area.

The museum itself is housed in the restored former “Ioannis Kapodistrias” barracks, named after the first President of Greece. Its six themed rooms take the visitor through “life in the Argolis” from 4000BC onwards all of which was very interesting but two exhibits particularly took my fancy. Firstly, this “Stibadium”….

More sophisticated than a chunk of bread for a plate!

… a semi-circular piece of furniture sometimes used as a desk but more often as a table in the “triclinium” – the large, usually arched, reception room of a Byzantine villa. During formal meals guests were “seated” on pillows in a reclined position around the stibadium and foods and drink were placed in the middle. They normally ate with their fingers, placing their chosen morsels in the nearest dish cut out.

Secondly, I rather liked this child’s toy…….

No doubt a toy for a young charioteer

….made of clay, it would once have had wooden wheels.

Back in Nafplio the provisioning didn’t us long – the boat isn’t big enough! We therefore had time for an evening walk around parts of the town….

The Lion symbol of Nafplio

…..and its lesser known and visited ruins which sit atop the rocky jutting edge of the town – the “Akronafplia fortress”. There isn’t much left of Nafplio’s oldest castle, who’s walls date back to the Bronze Age, but we got great views over the ruins and across the gulf of the clouds gathering above and around the 1771m [approx. 5,800ft] high Mount Artemesio.

Almost biblical

We also found a brilliant bar called “Lichnari”…..

IPA and another specialist Ouzo followed!

Why is it always the last day of a visit somewhere when you come across such gems!

We left Nafplio the following day [14 September] for an easy two hour crossing to Paralia Astros where we spent 3 nights – no need to rush away, it’s such a pretty place.

Astros, viewed from the harbour

Old gun emplacement on the headland

Inside the lighthouse chapel

View from the top

All ready for a wedding

The harbour mermaid watches over us

Its castle, built in 1256 was later fortified by the “Zafeiropoulos Brothers, during the Greek War of Independence, when they built their homes there.

Ruins of one of the brother’s houses

Mike and I decided we would walk up to the inland town. Should anyone reading this think of doing the same I would suggest you think again – unless you want the exercise! It was a long straight dusty main road leading to a town that was, not unexpectedly, almost deserted when we got there as it is, after all….”only dogs and Englishmen”! The only slight signs of life were in a couple of ouzeries around the main square.

Perhaps hoping a friend might come along

Tiros harbour was our next port of call which we reached following a 2 hour motor-sail from Astros.

A dramatic setting for Tiros

We were quite surprised by the wave height given the relatively low winds and were glad that we had left fairly early in the morning as later in the day it was really quite boisterous at sea. Again we spent three nights – and saw just how much difference a charter fleet can make.

Evening 1 – all alone

Evening 2 – the fleet is in

Next day – Relative peace reigns once more

We bought some fantastic locally produced olives and oil from a small shop near the harbour and also strolled across to the other side of town to try to see the windmills….

….which, from the sea, are an excellent landmark for the port.

Heading south again on 20th September it was once more an approximate 2 hour sail to Plaka Leonidion. You can perhaps understand why this area is so popular – small distances with lovely places to visit.

It was here, the following morning, when we got first warning of potential bad weather to come. As do most sailors we know, we look at various weather apps/forecasts at least once a day and very strong winds from the NE were showing up. We had said a temporary goodbye to Steve and Gill the day before because Gill had pulled her back and couldn’t face med mooring in harbours and as all the anchorages along that coast were untenable with the NE wind direction, they had planned to stay in Tiros for a couple of days and then think about following us. Given the new forecast they had decided Porto Cheli or Koiladha were likely to be the best bolt holes if all went pear shaped weather wise. We felt the same and decided that we too would cross back to Porto Cheli, as even staying in the eastern Peloponnese coastal harbours didn’t seem like a good idea as their entrances and position allow in considerable swell with moderate NE winds, never mind strong ones. We could then see how the forecast shaped up over the next few days and, in addition, it was going to be Steve’s birthday 2 days later and we are the last ones to miss out on a good excuse for a party!

Thus, after a nice afternoon sail in 10-12kn winds we dropped anchor in our lovely sticky mud “home from home” Porto Cheli anchorage.

Boy, are we glad we made that decision!

The first forecast “blow” was due on 25th so we had three days grace and made the most of it by getting laundry etc done on the first day  with a very pleasant walk around the west side of the lagoon…..

Taking on water!

Abandoned … would make a great bar

….and along the ridge back to town…..

Looking out over the Saronic Gulf to the Peloponnese mainland

…. before drinks and a birthday meal for Steve on the second.

On 24th Steve hired a car and we all went off to visit Epidavros. Our route took us via the Didyma Caves – sinkholes created when caves collapsed a few thousand years ago. The larger of the two can be seen easily from the surrounding area…..

Conspicuous from a distance

……but does not look as dramatic close to. The smaller is below ground….

Down we go…

….and surrounded by trees and is only really seen once you have actually entered it.

An almost perfect circle….

Doesn’t really show the scale

….within which are two small chapels which have been there since Byzantine times.

The one nearest to the entrance – “Agios Giorgios”….

Saint George at the door

….has wall murals dating back to C13.

Amazing

At the other side, the “Metamorphosis of Sotiros” is literally built into the surrounding rock.

Carved into the hillside

Inside the “Metamorphosis”

It is said that the villagers of the nearby small town of Didyma hid in this smaller cave during raids by invading Ottoman armies and much later from occupying Italian and German troops during WW2.

Mike and I had visited Ancient Epidavros once before, during a great charter holiday with friends Dave and Mag. However, the size and grandeur of the place stunned us once again. Whilst these inland ruins are known as Epidavros – you might recall that with our summer visitors we visited both Nea [New] and Paleo [Old] Epidavros on the coast.

The famous site of “Epidavros” was actually the Sanctuary and renowned healing centre of “Asklepieion” dedicated to the God of Medicine “Asklepios”

The museum is relatively small but contains some excellent artefacts.

Re-used later as part of a door frame in the “Asklepieion”….

“Accounting stone”

….this stone is actually an “account book” which records the expenses for the construction of the “Tholos”.

A close up of a small part of the stone

Medical instruments….

Ouch…. but some things haven’t changed that much

….and statues….

Unfortunately plaster copies, the originals being in the Athens Archaeological Museum

….are displayed, as is part of the surviving architecture of the principle building in the Asklepieion – the “Temple of Asklepios”.

Temple roof piece

Stunning plasterwork and stone-masonry include part of a frieze from the “Temple of Artemis”….

Beautiful

……. and this magnificent Corinthian Capital which topped one of the pillars of the “Thymele”.

Almost perfect and gob smacking!

Its preservation is a result of it having been buried, for some reason, by some of the original inhabitants of the site which meant that it wasn’t destroyed by earthquake or plundered. It was found during excavations carried out in 2006.

The ruins cover a large area and are well signposted with clear paths meandering through them.

Part of the “Katagogeion”

The “Stadium”

Part of the Temple

Obviously my “Off the wall” or “out of the box” humour

At the outer edge we finally reached the “Propylaia” – the ancient entrance to the Sanctuary, the Gateway through which the sacred processions passed and where the roads from the city of Epidavros and the western Argolid terminated.

The road in and out

The well…..

….. just inside the entrance was used as a cleansing place for pilgrims entering the sanctuary and remnants of pots and ewers also lie here.

In our view, the highlight of any visit to the site is the C4BC Theatre – reputedly one of the best preserved Classical Greek structures in existence today.

Steps and seats

Acoustically it is astonishing. Any sound made in the centre spot resonates throughout the theatre which seats 14,000 people and stages Greek Dramas during the annual Hellenic festival.

Just takes your breath away

Our final stop that day was the port of Methana.

Some kind of pumping station with the harbour behind

Over the summer we passed by several times whilst sailing between Aegina and Poros but never attempted to enter because we believed the entrance to be narrow and too shallow for our draught. Having now seen it we think it is probably best that we didn’t go. There is little space to manoeuvre in the lagoon and the outside harbour area where the ferries dock looked both exposed and stony. Boats arriving that evening had a hard job getting their anchors to set – and we are fairly sure some were “held” by weight alone. It was a calm night so it was probably OK but I hope they moved before the next night!

And, yes, this brings us to the first bad weather episode, the one which had led to our leaving the eastern coast and crossing to Porto Cheli. On the morning of 25th Sept we went ashore to shop for 3 days of food and then prepped the boat for wind and let out another 20m chain. All the boats around us were doing the same – except the idiot who came and anchored in front of us who didn’t believe us when Mike went across in the dinghy to tell him bad weather was coming and suggest that he was too close for the chain we had out. Fortunately he was finally convinced by another boat crew, who also stopped to speak to him, and he upped anchor and moved to a bigger space on the other side of the anchorage.

Two fairly sleepless nights followed. Some boats tried to leave on Day 2 but turned round once into the main Hydra channel and re anchored in Porto Cheli Bay. It must be very difficult if you have chartered a boat which is due back to. e.g Athens on a Friday and a hoolie starts on the Wed and blows for 3 days. Fortunately in all our years of chartering we didn’t encounter that, although we always planned our “furthest away” anchorage for about the fifth or sixth day of a fourteen day charter so that any delays could be, hopefully, compensated for.

During the three days of that first storm front we generally saw around 30kn with gusts of around 35-40kn. However, the wind remained constant from the NE with no sudden direction shifts and we were largely sheltered from any fetch. It was therefore mainly a case of staying on board and being alert.

By the afternoon of 27th the wind had dropped sufficiently to take the dinghies ashore and we met Steve and Gill for a couple of drinks and to discuss the new weather front which we had been following on the internet during the past few days as it developed, this time out to the west. On various forums and some weather sites its name had been coined as the “Medicane” – as it was forming in the Mediterranean and, at its centre, it was reportedly showing sustained 95kn winds with gusts of 150kn+ i.e. a category 3 hurricane. Variously it was reported that it would pass either north of Crete but south of the Peloponnese, or south of Crete along the Libyan coast or further north along the south Peloponnese and into the Aegean.

It was tempting to think of going north up to Nafplio but we knew there was no shelter there in west winds. Astros and Tiros are protected from the west but any wind change would mean exposure. We also considered making a run back around into the Argolic Gulf maybe to Poros which has generally good protection, or up as far as Paleo Epidavros or Korfos. In the end we felt that the mud of Porto Cheli had stood us in good stead so far, our anchors were now well dug in and, other than in wind directly from the west, we were protected by land.

Another good decision.

28 Sept was very calm – almost eerily so.

Late afternoon on 28th September – everyone with most/all their chain out

Bits of drizzle on and off and then thunder and lightning around 7-8pm, but no rain. By this time the forecast had settled on the track of the storm being north of Crete with warnings that the southern Peloponnese was going to feel its effects.

Heavy rain started at around 7am on 29th and the winds followed. We now know that the eye passed to the south and east of us and then swung north. At the time all we could do was sit, fully suited and booted, in the cockpit and try to watch what was happening to us and other boats as the wind blew from south, to south-west to west,  finally north/north west. During the 19 hours we saw three particularly violent wind shifts and, each time, some of the boats in the anchorage dragged and had to try to re-set in horrendous conditions, trying desperately to work out distances between other boats and find a safe place to drop their anchors with enough space for all. A couple of boats were forced to move when wind shifts resulted in them being too close to their neighbours – or vice versa. Everyone managed to re-anchor and, as far as we could see no boat actually hit any other. We watched boats which had chosen to moor against the harbour wall get blown onto the quay and we could only imagine what damage might be being done to their sterns.

Happily, I can report that both “Owl and Pussycat” and “Coriander” remained firmly in place throughout the storm with both crews tired but delighted to see a calm morning follow.

Our anchor watch app – we didn’t move out of that circle

Ashore the fire brigade was out in force trying to unblock drains and remove debris. I think four or five boats on the wall had stern damage, but fortunately none had holed sufficiently to sink. What we were most surprised to learn was that Astros had been very badly affected, the wooden boardwalk and pontoon at Poros practically washed away and a couple of boats at Paleo Epidavros sunk. You might recall from a few paragraphs above that those were all places we had considered as possibilities. Much of that damage was due to fetch and, although we regularly saw 45-50 knots sustained with more severe gusts, the land protected us. The period when the wind went west was obviously the worst but, fortunately, that period was relatively short lived.

Had the eye passed directly over us it could have been a very different story. Happily, despite several towns and villages suffering some damage the eye actually stayed out at sea so catastrophe was averted.

So, that’s it. Two storms weathered in Porto Cheli – an anchorage I would certainly recommend to anyone reading this who might find themselves in the Argolic/Saronic sailing grounds facing similar conditions in the future.

Throughout this summer’s sailing season, and in previous blog posts, I have remarked on the changed weather patterns. I am not going to have another rant about global warming but differences are certainly beginning to arise more regularly and nature is showing us that it is not happy.

However, to finish on a happier note, nature also has a way of making us smile and, as in many of my posts, I am always delighted to post photographs of some of its small wonders.

European [Praying] Mantis

Long headed Toothpick Grasshopper

Mating European Fire Bugs

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