Today it was time for us to say goodbye to Athens and set off on the next part of our adventure. The place we had hired a car from was in the centre of Athens, a little further on from Hadrian's Arch, so we had a bit of a walk to reach it first thing. We'd hired the car at the last minute and gone for the cheapest car on offer; a small Nissan Micra. The prices seemed ridiculously good value after Iceland; we paid £76 for five days, which is cheaper even than our car hire in the Azores!
We picked up the car without any problems and Tim took plenty of photos of the bumps and scratches the car was already covered in! Then we were off, with the first part of the journey probably being the most nervewracking: driving out of Athens! As you can probably imagine, the standard of driving in Athens is rather chaotic, not helped by the numerous mopeds weaving in and out of the traffic, people walking across the street at random and vans simply stopping in the middle of a lane when there isn't anywhere else to park. Luckily, Tim had downloaded the maps of Greece to our Sat Nav before leaving home and so we were able to follow its directions without too many problems. I thought we might get stuck for ages in traffic jams, but it wasn't actually too bad and before long we were out of the busiest part of the city and driving off towards Corinth.
I had expected us to be on a large motorway, for which I knew we would have to pay a small toll, but had forgotten that the Sat Nav was set to automatically avoid tolls. It therefore avoided the main road and led us down a series of much more scenic smaller roads along the coast. After an hour or so we reached the Corinth canal, which we had just got a glimpse off as we crossed it on the train to Corinth yesterday. Being in a car meant that this time we were able to stop to take photos
There had been attempts to build a canal through the isthmus at Corinth since ancient times, but a combination of geological and financial problems meant that the canal wasn't successfully built until 1891. The high limestone walls of the canal are quite susceptible to landslides, however, and the canal itself isn't wide enough for most modern cargo ships, so today it mostly only used by tourist boats.
After Corinth, our route took us through an increasingly mountainous countryside.
I had expected Greece to quite dry and barren, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much greenery there was here.
At one point we came across a herd of goats who were quite casually sitting in the middle of the road
We also passed countless beautiful churches.
I've got no idea why, but every now and again we also passed what looked like small shrines with models of churches by the side of the road.
Our ultimate destination for the day was Olympia, but with the freedom the car gave us we wanted to take the opportunity to visit another town: Nafplio. Nafplio is a seaside town, and supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the Peloponnese.
I'd read online that there was free parking down by the port, so we headed there. Luckily this information turned out to be true, as it looked like parking would be a nightmare otherwise! As we got out of the car, pretty much the first thing we saw was this castle in the middle of the sea.
As we turned around towards the town, we then saw that it was in the shadow of this huge fortress on the mountain above. It reminded me a bit of the fortress in Kotor in Montenegro.
We were quite hungry by this point, so decided to get lunch at one of the restaurants along the seafront. I was very excited to find pizza on the menu (first pizza I've seen in Greece!). Tim ordered a burger, and was surprised when it arrived and turned out to be two burgers! Unluckily, he also ended up with sweet potato fries rather than normal chips.
After lunch we went for a stroll around Nafplio.
It really is an extremely pretty town.
There was a colourful main square...
...narrow little streets, full of flowers...
...and a big clock tower on the hill behind the town.
It definitely felt like a place we could come back to and spend more time
We still had a couple of hours of driving to do cross-country to Olympia though, so it was time to take a move. Our journey took us on slightly bigger roads this time, but still on winding routes through the mountains.
At one point we came to an amazing village, perched on the mountainside.
I've got no idea what it was called, but it was in an amazing location.
Shortly after that we came to another viewpoint at a rather rocky part of the road.
The view down into the valley from here was absolutely spectacular
I didn't expect Greece to be this scenic!
It didn't take us too long from here to get to Olympia. We are staying for two nights in an apartment which seems incredibly good value, at £52/night. As well as this kitchen/living/dining area (with random spare beds), we've got a separate bedroom and bathroom, plus a little outdoor terrace
Tomorrow we're looking forward to visiting the archaeological site of Archea Olimpia, where the ancient Olympic games were held!