16-21 May 2019
The famous Battle of Marathon was the most important in Athenian history. 9000 Athenians and 1000 allies defeated 25,000 Persians and in the process only lost 192 Athenians & 11 allies compared to 6000 Persian dead. Its myth – that a man who had fought in the battle ran with news of their victory the 26 miles to Athens before dropping dead – resulted in the creation of the modern marathon. Not being up to much in the way of running nowadays, we wanted to see the burial mound of the dead Athenians which was supposed to be “quietly impressive”. Having escaped the madness of Athens we skirted the reservoir of Marathon Lake and found the burial mound without difficulty. However a fence stopped us getting closer without paying for the privilege and as we could see it fine from the road – a large mound unromantically topped by a guy in a white paper-suit strimming all the wildflowers off it – we considered our objective achieved.
So we immediately departed and for our next historical destination, Cape Sounio, another place Danny fondly remembers from his trip all those years ago – as a beautiful and isolated spot. The southern tip of Attica is certainly beautiful, a rocky promontory with a ruined 5th century Temple of Poseidon on top, one of the more picturesque ruins of the world.
Not exactly isolated any more – there were 4 coach-loads there when we arrived – but even the addition of a cafe, a small hotel and a couple of tavernas has not yet spoiled it.
The Cape’s excellent views gave good warning of anything coming from the sea and the Athenians stationed boats there to repel the unwanted and built temples to the gods for the back-up of divine protection. Today it is almost as famous for having been graffitti’d by Lord Byron (in 1801). Danny was determined to re-discover the great man’s signature. He could just have Googled it but instead did it the old fashioned way with patience and a pair of binoculars. Less pleasing to him was finding that a pair of scousers had also left graffitti – in 1884!.
The temple is now roped off to stop it’s gradual erosion by the grafiitti-ists! We also, incidentally, saw the ruins of the ancient town that ran down to the water from the temple and had good views of the ruins of a Temple of Athena. Lots of lovely wildfowers and no strimmers – a peaceful spot once the coaches left.
Back at the van we found an English couple with their motorhome and 2 small dogs parked next to us. A retired engineer & his wife travelling Greece for 3 months. We spent a pleasant half-hour swapping tales about our travels and sharing horror-stories about Travelworld where we both bought our vans.
We had noticed a dusty carpark below between the two tavernas and another motorhome parked up there. It was now after six so we headed down and parked with a view of the temple. We had to visit both tavernas – it’s only polite when using their parking – but the view of the temple lit up at nght with the sound of the sea lapping the shore was memorable.
Next morning we decided, for the sake of sanity and to stop everything blurring together, to put bouncing between ancient sites on hold and instead headed for a bit of recuperation (and laundry) at a campsite. We crossied from Attica back into the Peleponnese over the famous Corinth Canal, getting a brief glimpse as we passed over it – a narrow strip of surprisingly blue water between sheer limestone cliffs that tower nealry 300ft above it. But our interest was fixed on relaxation and the Blue Dolphin campsite was our chosen chill-out.
At reception the lady told us she had a large tour-group of 22 vans due soon – our old friends no doubt. We found the few prime pitches overlooking the sand and pebble beach all taken and their occupants watched with interest our manouverings to get round the very tight corner to the free pitches – another scratch added this time by a surprisingly aggressive oleander tree. The rest of the site was virtually deserted so, nursing our wounds, we reversed in under the ever-present reed screens, got the table and chairs out and relaxed in the sun with a sigh of relief. Okay, the facilities were dated and originally designed for tent camping and the “free wi-fi” was somewhere between dodgy and non-existent but we had great views across to Attica and Delphi, friendly staff and a campsite taverna that was pretty in that traditional blue & white way, looking out over the water and selling tin jugs of local red wine. Happy campers.
As we were eagerly anticipating our first bit of beach time, our 2 days there were of course grey and windy. We dandered the mile and a half into the village, Lechio, to stretch our legs finding it to be, on face value, an unattractive development. Nothing indicated to us that in olden days it was the main port for Ancient Corinth. But we did locate a friendly little Greek shop – how they love people from Liverpool – and a bar with old men chatting animatedly which sold us 2 large glasses of wine for the grand total of €1. Real Greece! Oh, and Kate broke her big toe on a kerb – lets hope she keeps her toenail this time.
The campsite taverna provided us with an explanation for the campsite’s name – the owner was born in Streatham and his father ran a restaurant called the Blue Dolphin which, he told us, was frequented by the Kray twins. On returning to Greece he set up the campsite which he called the same name, for luck, and still works there today. The taverna also provided us with a classic Greek meal – a huge pork chop cooked over charcoal and delicious stuffed squid, its tentacles crisped and its insides oozing Greek cheese and mixed peppers. Delicious. In the evenings the sky would tease us by clearing to blue then turning a lovely red as the sun set.