Cruise Specialists hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer are continuing to share their journey with us from aboard the 2016 Holland World Cruise. Previously they shared the experience of navigating the Panama Canal, sailing the Pacific in to French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong,Vietnam,Thailand,Dubai, Jordan, Israel and continuing the Mediterranean with Greece.
The cities are coming fast and furious now as they are all close together. We had one day in Piraeus, Greece, the port for Athens. We’ve explored Piraeus several times so this year we decided to go back to Athens on our own.
Quite a few years ago, we had done a tour here and remember distinctly that the air was yellow with pollution. More recently we visited the Acropolis and several other historic sights. So this day, we were just going to wander and hopefully find some of the hundreds of geocaches in the city. We were joined by two of our Guests and were walking toward the train station for the 30-40 minute ride to the city, when a taxi driver convinced us he was the faster and better alternative. So we hopped into his taxi and got a guided tour and a ride to the exact place we wanted to go. He also refused to accept payment until he returned to pick us up several hours later. That worked out really well. We were dropped at The Plaka, the old historical neighborhood with winding streets, neoclassical architecture, endless cafes, and lovely shops. We wandered there as well as around but not into the Acropolis, through the busy and more modern downtown, into the National Gardens, etc.
The next day, in stark contrast, we visited Katakalon, a small village that serves as the gateway to Olympia. The latter is the historic site which was the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games in 776 BC. It’s a famous and fascinating archaeological site, but we’ve been there and at this point, we’ve seen more than enough ruins. For many of these places, you need a lot of imagination as not much remains! Instead, we had one of those fabulous experiences you can’t plan. We’ve been here the prior two years and each time, we’ve stopped at the same small hotel, perched on the hillside overlooking our ship. The view is fabulous, the atmosphere serene, and the people friendly.
We climbed the hill and stopped in for our cappuccino as we’ve done twice before. The woman at the front desk remembered us and greeted us like old friends. The owners of this hotel, called Orizontes, also own a restaurant in town and it was our intention to stop there for lunch after our hike.
When we mentioned that, Dora told us that unfortunately, it was closed for renovations. Disappointed, we asked for a suggestion for another place to eat lunch. Wendy was really looking forward to the taziki. Dora went to ask the owner/chef and came back with a recommendation as well as a surprise for us.
Before we left, they wanted us to sample their food. In a few minutes, we were served a bowl of taziki, feta cheese, olives, fresh bread, and a big glass of ouzo each. It was 11:00AM, but it all looked so good, so we ate and drank what they gave us. It was wonderful – And they wouldn’t let us pay for it. How’s that for hospitality? We continued on the quiet country dirt roads, lined with olive groves, flowers, and very little else. It was beautiful. We wandered several miles in different directions and finally wound up on the beach about two miles from the ship. We walked along the beach back to the small but bustling town.
This is a great place for shopping, and our fellow cruise passengers certainly know how to take advantage. We saw loads of people who just spent the day shopping and hanging out at one of the many lively cafes and restaurants that overlook the water. We did stop in at the recommended restaurant to sample their taziki, some wonderful pita bread, and freshly made stuffed grape leaves. We do love Greek food. With a small carafe of the local wine, it was perfect.