April 10, 2013
The Adventure Begins
When I woke up this morning there was the feeling of butterflies in my stomach; I was excited and slightly apprehensive about our upcoming trip. I was ready to discover a new place, but was not ready to wake up at six am to get there. We, my dad and I, took a taxi to the car rental place; we could have walked, it would have only taken twenty minutes, but we decided it was too early. When we got dropped off at the front of the building, we realized that it was not quite eight o’clock (when they opened), so we walked across the busy, two-way street, and went to a café, to get coffee and water for our car ride. By the time we had managed to re-cross the street, the rest of our group had arrived and the rental place had opened. After the boring paperwork was filled out and the keys were handed over, we were off!
As we drove out of the city we followed signs written in both Greek and English; when they were in Greek it was very hard to know if we were even going in the right direction. We went west from Athens, away from the Aegean Sea. We drove over the Corinth Canal, a man-made channel that connects the Ionian Sea to the Aegean Sea, and splits the Peloponnese from the mainland. We headed south for a while, then turn onto a smaller road and continued west towards our first destination – Olympia. The road we were now on turned out to cut straight through a cropping of mountains. We wound our way around the precipices of the peaks and the sharp turns of the road. The views were absolutely spectacular; you could see out across the valleys for miles and miles. The crisp blue sky was dotted with the occasional white cloud. The rugged crags of the mountains were vibrant green and brown. The cliff-side villages we drove through were perched as if by accident on the ancient rocks of the mountains. And the bright and dazzling sun bathed everything in a light worthy of heaven.
The views were agreed upon to be magnificent; but the twisted and warped road was not appreciated by everyone. A few people found themselves intoxicated with the sickness of sheer precipices and sharp curves. We drove over the mountains and arrived at the small town of Olympia. The sun was shining and the streets were filled with tourists and souvenir shops. We tumbled out of the cars and headed up the road in the hopeful search for food. The main street was lined with “traditional” Greek tavernas (huge tourists traps) and small fast food cafes. We chose a nondescript restaurant, serving pizza and burgers available for takeout. The menus were in English, a sure sign of tourism. But the food was adequate and much needed for our empty stomachs. After stuffing our mouths with thick-cut french fries, pizza, and sandwiches we piled into the cars again and went up to the archeological site of Ancient Olympia.
We parked our cars in the lot, there was only one other car, and meandered down the path towards the entrance of the site. We arrived at the ticket booth and haggled with the three men working there until we had secured eleven free admission tickets, a discount for European students. We sauntered through the gates and decided to meet back at the entrance in about two hours. My dad and I grabbed a map and began to walk towards the ruins.
We were never quite sure what we were admiring; the maps and signs were vague and did not always have decipherable pictures. We walked along the empty paths, void of people, and were astonished at the sheer size of the ancient ruins. There were crumbling walls and toppled columns that were easily as wide as I am tall. Houses still stood on the outskirts of the ruins; their roofs half-collapsed and rotted. We marveled at the intricate tunnels carved into one home’s walls, used as an indoor heating system that dated back to before the Roman Empire.
After we had our fill of ruins and rubble, we walked back into the main town and bought drinks to quench our dry throats and fill our again empty bellies. After our quick snack, we piled back into the cars and headed into the hills for the drive to the port of Killini, to catch the ferry to the Ionian island of Kefalonia.
When we ferried into the port of Poros, in Kefalonia, the sun had set and the mountains and villages were shrouded in darkness. We drove over and around mountains on thin, winding roads that seemed to drop into a black abyss. When we got to the capital of the island, Argostoli, an hour later, we followed the owner of our hotel up a small hill and into complete darkness until we came around a bend and there was our hotel. After a quick bite to eat at a recommended local taverna, we fell into deep slumbers, our minds filled with images of blue skies and clear azure waters.