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Katakolon to Ancient Olympia and Back

Author: PenelopeCorelli
Date of Trip: June 2009

Tuesday, July 14: Katakolon, Greece

Had breakfast delivered early & got off the ship about 8am or a little before. Walked toward the train station. The ship’s information, detailed in most respects, omitted any reference to a train station in Katakolon and there was no sign of it on the map we received.

We walked up the street, and then followed another couple that was hurrying on. Husband Jim noticed that the tracks were on the right. When we had traveled farther, a woman called out to the young couple ahead of us, directing them back the way they had come, and down a different street toward the tracks and the beach.

We backtracked a few blocks, turning down toward the water, and saw a small yellow building with a platform. A small crowd was there. (This train station can actually be seen from the ship, we later discovered, and is directly across the parking lot at the port.) Taxi drivers along the way had called to us and said that the trains were “still on strike.” A shop owner told us that the trains were on strike on Monday (the day before). We never asked them anything; they perceived we were heading for the station and volunteered the information. Whether the trains had been on strike or not, they were not on strike today. “They’re regular trains,” spoke out another taxi driver as we were approaching the platform, as if to tell us there were trains, just not the ones we wanted.

The train tickets had gone up a little in price from what we had read online before we left, from €1 to €1.5 per person, per trip. The train ticket takers on board charged us €9 total, 3 people, round trip.

The ride took about 40 minutes, quite comfortable, and I believe they were air-conditioned, as they were modern and looked almost new. It was still early and not yet hot.

We got off at Olympia. The train also stopped at Pirgos. It just ran between the three towns. Occasionally in Nafplion and near Pirgos, on our way to Olympia, we saw some gypsy families or groups. Noticeably different, dark, brooding looks, dirty, and other than the young children, either emotionless or sad. Had no interaction with any of them anywhere; they kept to themselves. Very poor.

Noticed the loud humming of cicadas all over the area, as on Nafplion.

Used a restroom at a cafe and walked on to the Archaeological Museum. The cost was €9 for the Museum & the Ruins, €6 for the museums only. (I think it was also €6 for the ruins only.) Our daughter, 13, was free.

We took photos of the marble statues, assembled in lots of pieces, sometimes. Must have been a tremendous challenge to figure out what was what & where it went! This is a new building with high ceilings, marble floors, and good lighting.

Walked out toward the ruins. We came upon hundreds of tourists, and dozens of tours, the flags up and flying as trains of people followed. Acres of ruins, columns, pieces of columns, & walls.

Occasionally we heard a shrill whistle and looked to see an attendant frantically waving at persons standing or sitting on a column or rock where they were resting or were having their photo taken. We saw no signs with posted rules, but a tourist would find out soon enough what was and was not acceptable. We brought a Family Doll of another daughter, & took a photo among the ruins, but were prevented from doing so in another area that had been a Roman church, I think. I believe our intended action was being interpreted as disrespectful or irreverent, although the attendant said it was okay for people to have their pictures taken.

Though it was still fairly early, now about 10:15am, it had grown increasingly hot. We walked back to the Archaeological Museum, stopped at the cafe there, and had a large lemon granita (lemonade) – €5. Pricey. I think I had asked for a small one, but once it was poured, it was too late. Daughter Cate got a small cone of chocolate ice cream – €2.50.

Everyone was pleasant except for what I think was a rude American who refused to move his chair so Cate could sit down in her seat. We wrestled with the chair until it was freed from its place — the chairs were armchairs which took up too much room when anyone sat in them, as they had to be pulled out far enough from the table to squeeze in.

Took the 12 noon train back to Katakolon — it was a very rocky ride this time — via Pirgos. At another place we had 2 calzones – €3.40, and two drinks – €2.

I stayed in town to shop a little while Jim & Cate went back on the ship.

Saw an olive wood workshop with some lovely items, although I don’t use wood very much. Beautiful chess sets, salad bowls, and cutting boards. Napkin rings were €1.90 each, but they wouldn’t get used much at our house. Most items were very expensive, but all were hand crafted, so a lot of work went into each. Each piece of wood is studied to determine what will be made from it. I settled on an olive pick for €2.90, an appropriate item to represent the area, I thought.

I found an embroidered, tasseled place mat or small table runner that I bought for €5, a good price. Also got a small sponge at the same shop. Sponges are everywhere, in all the shops in all sizes, not particularly inexpensive, either, in my opinion. This one was marked at €2.50, but I had €2 in change, so the shopkeeper “okay”ed it. I believe that some people try to bargain here, because as I was looking at a pillow cover marked €15 the owner said she couldn’t go less than €12.

In all the stores in Greece (and Turkey) the “evil eye” amulet is very popular, on everything from jewelry & key chains, to icons & paper products. They are often glass or plastic beads with two blue circles around a black center, one a darker blue. Sometimes the Evil Eye is paired with Byzantine or Christian icons, also a popular souvenir here. They are worn as protection from evil — the stares of strangers casting magic and bad luck.

This whole area of Katakolon was quite clean and pleasant, in contrast to Nafplion, which in spite of the scenic views had a lot of graffiti (and places with litter.)

We stopped here a second time, two weeks later, on Tuesday, July 28. This was the only repeated port of the cruise, and we went to town just to use the Internet at a “Cafe”. There is one very close to port. We were without Cate on this leg of the cruise, and both of us used the Internet for 30 minutes at a total cost of €5. We also bought a mini book on Greek mythology for her, as she’d be studying this topic & reading the Odyssey as a high school freshman. The rest of the time we stayed on the ship, which is nice when most passengers/”pax” are off – An unoccupied hot tub!

There’s a rocky “beach” area here at the port, but we didn’t go. Jim went back on the ship & I took his photo on the balcony. There’s a Duty-Free shop here as you get off/on the ship. Prices are in dollars or euros. In addition to the cosmetics, perfumes, liquor & cigarettes, there are some toys and souvenirs of Greece.

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