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Day 9 By bridge and by boat


Location: Spartia, Kefalonia

After another yummy Aliki breakfast, we headed up into Arachova to find food for our big journey. A lot of the town was papered up. Whether these places only open in the winter (this is a ski resort) or if this is a sign of the tough economic times, we are unsure. Either way, we found no open bakeries, either there or in Delphi, so we gave up and began our descent. We took a seemingly endless series of switchbacks down into the same valley of olive groves we sat above at dinner the night before. Our waiter had told us with conviction that there were “a million olive trees” in that valley. We believe him. There was also a fascinating clay factory there. Its excavations have covered the building, the machinery, and even the sides of our road in a layer of brick red dust. These factories must be the source of all the clay roofs and pots.

We continued along the top of the huge Gulf of Corinth through tons of tiny villages and tried to imagine what it would be like to grow up in one of these remote, impoverished places. Our privilege felt very real.

We stopped in Galaxidi, yet another cute seaside resort that makes its living off rich yachters and vacationing locals. This town has painted all its buildings in pastel colours, which gives it a fairytale feeling … at least for the first couple sea-facing blocks. We bought coffee for the road, as well as bread, cheese, olive spread, and cookies for a picnic lunch that we planned to have somewhere along the Gulf. The old men in the coffee shop looked at us as if we were from Mars. I guess they don’t see many people as pale as we are. One of them jumped up to offer us his seat even though there were five other seats beside his. Side note: Why are all the cafes filled with old men? They sit and smoke and stare on every outdoor cafe porch. Where are all the women?

It was getting hot. The car’s air conditioning was a life-saver as we continued down our 230 km trip west across the mainland, following the gulf. Although we saw many beautiful vistas, we never did find an easy place to pull off for a picnic; we sought shade and a view, a tricky combination. So we just pressed on to the west coast of mainland Greece.

When we were making this same journey (Delphi to the Peloponnese) 17 years ago, we had to take a ferry across the gulf of Corinth, from Rio to Patras. Since then, they have built a snazzy, ultra-modern, suspension bridge, a great feat of technology. Once across, the landscape changed dramatically. Beyond the extensive urban sprawl of the city of Patras, we found agricultural land the like of which we had not seen since Thebes: corn fields and produce stands were everywhere. There were roadside tables overwhelmed with pumpkins and open pick up trucks full of melons.

Our destination was the town of Killini, where the ferries depart for the island of Kephanolia (which, by the way, can be spelled about six different ways). We arrived there just after 2pm, and had booked the 4:15 ferry, but a quick chat got us on the 2:30 boat. The ferries are dated but relaxed. The windows have heavy curtains (presumably to keep the heat out) which block the gorgeous ocean view, so we sat outside and got delightfully misted with salt spray was we finally ate our picnic lunch. The colour of the water was mesmerizing.

We landed on the south end of this rather large island and tried to follow our useless map through some very rural, very hilly, rather verdant land with unexpected villages of about 10 buildings around every turn. After almost an hour ( likely on roads smaller than we needed to take), we stopped at a “mini-market” for the next day’s breakfast and lunch supplies and soon stumbled on the right area, more by geographic instinct than actual knowledge. By some miracle, we found our villa, a secluded paradise with a private pool and a 270 degree view of the Ionian Sea. I understand why Odysseus did not want to leave this part of the world to go fight at Troy. Wow.

After a quick swim, we took a trip to the beachfront restaurant in Spartia (our closet village) for dinner where we had our first young waiters … but the staff is still all male.

The next 5 days will be more easy than educational, more sun than sites. And we welcome that.