For me Athens is a big city without much character. Yes, there are the many beautiful ruins, but it is still a touristy city with restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and lots of people. That said I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. We had some magnificent food, accommodation, and sight seeing, but after a few days we were ready to move on.
The cottage is not too far outside of Athens and is so comfortable and welcoming. And where we ate a lot! In a few days we probably ate what we should have consumed in a week. For breakfast we had yogurt, feta cheese, honey, figs, bread, and more. Lunch was Greek salads with bread and fruit. It was so much, but so delicious I didn’t want to stop eating. One night they prepared a huge feast of grilled octopus, squid, fish, potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, plus wine, ouzo, watermelon, and homemade ice cream. It was delectable and almost as enjoyable was watching the three ladies buzz about preparing all the dishes, arguing about if the fire was big enough, laughing, and drinking. It was a very memorable night and we are extremely grateful for their hospitality.
Over those few days we definitely found our rest, which I needed. Does it ever happen to you that you get to a place, feel safe, your body relaxes and that is when the sickness comes? The haven of the cottage gave me that feeling and before I knew it I was feeling a little under the weather. Luckily I had time to get lots of sleep and good food and by the time we had to leave I was ready for the next steps.
The last thing we did at the cottage was planning, planning, planning. When we find those nice base camps to regroup we always need to set time aside to plan for the next steps. This time it was spent researching and booking the rest of our time in mainland Greece and the islands.
So with our bellies full, bodies rested, minds stimulated, and plans made we were dropped off at the airport to pick up a rental car. We were warned that driving in Greece is crazy, but after driving in Miami for years Athens and the rest of Greece was a piece of cake. We drove through the mountains and just as we came to the coast we spotted a dolphin gliding through the water. I took it as a good omen, although there are probably dolphins there all the time. Anyway we continued along the coast towards Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. In Greek mythology Olympus was the home of the 12 Olympian gods of the ancient Greet world.
As we were preparing for this trip we couldn’t find too much information about the ascent, but once we stopped in Litchoro, the base town, it became clear and was pretty straightforward. We picked up some supplies, got a map, made a reservation at one of the refuges, filled our stomachs with delicious gyros, and headed for the trailhead. The man we bought the map from recommended that on the way we stop at Ag. Dioryssiou, which is an old monastery. The monastery was in the midst of major construction, but there is a very nice hike to a cave monastery. It only took about 30 minutes each way.
We jumped back in the car and drove to Prionia. This as far as you can go with a car. There is a small restaurant and an awesome freshwater spring with super cold water. It was so good that a guy was there filling up water bottles to take home and put in his refrigerator instead of buying water. We packed small day bags, attached our sleeping bags and tent, filled the wine bladder and started up the E4 trail.
Remy and I each had a big bowl of soup with some bread we carried up. After thoroughly enjoying the soup we sat in front of the fireplace to warm up. Then we heard the dreaded sound: kkkkrrrrggghhhh… pip pip pip pip… thunder and rain. We ran outside and found our tent, sleeping bags, and clothes were wet. The cheap tent we got in Athens wasn’t as water resistant as it claimed. So we shook it out, set it to dry, and dragged our sleeping bags and clothes inside to a fireplace to dry them off by hand.
Once we dried everything out we layered up, ran back to the tent, spread out our sleeping bags, and hoped that the rain was done and we would get a good night sleep for our ascent the next morning. But it wasn’t our luck to have a peaceful sleep on the mountain. Those in the tent next to us were not climbing the mountain the next day so they stayed up all night, really the entire night, drinking and talking. That meant their incessant jabbering continually woke us up, but on the bright side we were up before sunrise to pack up camp and eat breakfast.
The climb…well the beginning wasn’t too bad for me. Most likely that was because we were stuck in the middle of a group of older Germans that were moving at a slow pace. Once we skirted around them Remy took off and I trudged up behind him. I really wish I had lungs like his. After about an hour of hiking up the E4 trail, at 2,450 m we made it to the first fork in the path. At this point we went to the right leaving the E4 trail (orange, #4 on map below). Most of the group continued on the E4 trail, but we followed what the guy who gave us the map suggested. The path leads along a ridge with a very steep drop. When we saw some mountain goats above us on the mountainside I made sure to come to a complete stop and then look, one wrong step to the right would be a long tumble down. We continued along this ridge to 2,700 m, an area called Louki. There we noticed the red arrows painted on the rocks to mark the way up to Mytikas (means “nose.”), the summit, only 200 meters above us. This route is difficult because of the risk of landslides. Remy and I started up, slowly. This is more like rock climbing than hiking, as the path is straight up. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to safely make it up to the summit. I was feeling a bit light headed and decided to wait at Louki. Remy continued on while I watched birds fly below me, goats run down the mountainside, and chatted with another woman that decided to wait as her boyfriend climbed.
Our last stop in central Greece was Delphi. We drove another few hours to a gorgeous campsite at Delphi Camping.
It was suggested that we first walk all the way to the top of the hill to the stadium and then walk down through the ruins because it is hot and there is no shade. Well, the paths wind through the ruins and we got distracted taking pictures and reading signs so ignored the advice. But we got there early so it wasn’t too hot while we were there, but something to keep in mind if you visit.
We took a couple hours to explore the ruins in the area, cooled off at the Castalian spring (water source for ancient Delphi) and then hopped back in the car for our journey back to Athens. Here we found a hotel near the pier since our first ferry ride was the next morning. We returned our rental car and enjoyed our last night on mainland Greece.
Greek Islands here we come!
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