A gorgeous monastery mix-up and the largest closed theatre in Ancient Greece!

The monastery that wasn't the one we thought - might not have been a monastery at all, but I love it.

Dave the motorhome has earned his rest tonight, right next to the beach at Kalon Neron (N37.29758 E21.69504). We’ll be lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves on the pebbles, and probably Charlie trying to get out of the door all night – he loves the beach.

Last night we could see the black rain clouds descending towards the hill top village of Karytena where we were parked, so we hunkered down in Dave, cranked up the heating and watched a film. This morning when we woke the sun was peeping through little gaps in the clouds, but enough to make Dave cast a shadow and for the heating not to have to go on to lure us out of bed.

Karytena
Karytena

We were parked right next to the local post office, the iron grill across the door had been open all night and the sign said it was open from 7am til 2pm, Monday to Friday. I figured I’d get some stamps now while we were so close to save us trying to find some when we bought postcards. At 9am I tried the door, it was locked; so that was the end of the that plan and we packed up Dave and set off.

The weather today was so much better than yesterday we decided to head back up the road we’d driven down in the cloud to see the view and to walk down to the Lousios Gorge to see the Ancient city of Gortys and the monastery of Prodhromou, which sits perched on the edge of a cliff. Reaching the small village of Elliniko we followed the signs for the Gorge only to find that some kind EU fund had paid to turn the dirt track mentioned in our Rough Guide (well it is about 10 years old) into a nice ribbon of smooth tarmac. We weaved around the bends, descending down to the river banks. Reaching a bridge we stopped and checked our Rough Guide, it would appear that loads of people stop at this point and think they are there as it tells us to carry on for another kilometre.

Reaching the end of the road, marked by a couple of bins and a bridge way too narrow for Dave. It would have been a perfect wild camping spot, but we were there so early in the day we just took the gps in case anyone else wanted to stop. We walked over the swollen, raging Lousios river; it must have been all that rain last night, and followed the signs to the site of the Ancient city, which is said to be one of the most stirring of all Greek sites. I’m not so sure, maybe we missed something. We found a few ruins spread about in the vegetation, some of which had been excavated. Of those excavated one was a temple to Asclepius (the god of healing) with adjoining baths.

Charlie and Jay in Gortys therapy centre
Charlie and Jay in Gortys therapy centre

Jay made himself comfortable in a carved out seating area which was thought to be some sort of therapy centre, a well by his feet would no doubt have held lovely warm water as he sat and felt therapeutisied! A rattle of an engine announced the arrive of two French chaps who drove their little van right into the centre of the Ancient site. They wandered around for a while and we got curious so Jay came out of therapy and asked what they were up to; they were setting up some sort of an art installation – so we left them to it.

The Ancient city of Gortys complete with French van!
The Ancient city of Gortys complete with French van!

Looking up the Gorge I spotted a monastery in the distance, clinging onto the edge of one of the sheer sided cliffs which form the gorge. It was an amazing thing to see, and I took way too many photos of it. Especially now we’re connected to the internet and images of the monastery of Prodhromou on there are nothing like the place we saw! There are several monasteries along the gorge, we were obviously looking at another one – but I still loved its setting. Our friends Adam and Sophie (Europebycamper.com) who we met in Morocco made it to the correct monastery and have photos of it on their blog – it looks amazing!

The monastery that wasn't the one we thought - might not have been a monastery at all, but I love it.
The monastery that wasn’t the one we thought – might not have been a monastery at all, but I love it.

We checked out the little Ayios Andhreas chapel next to the bridge, but it was locked, so we opted for a walk along the gorge to the next bridge underneath the monastery which keener hikers can walk up to. The little stone path clung to the edge of the gorge, with nothing to stop us from joining the river below if we slipped.

Jay checking out the chapel
Jay checking out the chapel
I don't like bridges where you can see through the gaps, especially not when it's this type of gap
I don’t like bridges where you can see through the gaps, especially not when it’s this type of gap

All around us flowers were in bloom, butterflies fluttered around and above the roar of the river we could hear birds singing, it was perfect. At the bridge we stopped off at a ‘fulling area’, we don’t know what it was supposed to say but it was a cool little place where the water ran down into the river below. Jay soaked his feet as a coach-load of Greek teenagers filed past on their way up to the monastery above – rather them than us. We’d concluded that it looked amazing, but was one of those places that looks better from a distance, besides Charlie, the vertigo suffering dog, would have hated every step.

Not sure what this is, but it was all along and beautifully coloured. An Iris?
Not sure what this is, but it was all alone and beautifully coloured. An Iris?
Sneaky wildlife making its bottom look like its head!
Sneaky wildlife making its bottom look like its head!
Jay soaks his feet in the icy water
Jay soaks his feet in the icy water
Charlie struggles on his way back with a huge stick
Charlie struggles on his way back with a huge stick

Back in Dave we fortified ourselves with a chocolate bar before setting off towards the coast. We got back to our overnight stop for last night and turned onto the main road, trying to find the new bridge over the Alfios river which overlooks a medieval bridge with a missing middle section. Only we were heading the wrong way on the road, so missed it. We’d gone too far to think about turning around so carried on to Megalopoli. As we approached the town the fields beside the road turned strangely bumpy, the grass covering a series of little humps, lying in the grass was a bit of a pillar, then a few more bits before we rounded a corner to see several temple pillars standing upright in a field. There is so much history around here that it just lies there undiscovered.

Ancient Megalopolis - complete with grazing goats!
Ancient Megalopolis – complete with grazing goats!

Reaching the town I spotted a mobile phone shop and jumped out to buy us a 3G Data SIM card. For €20 we’ll have 14 days of data (up to 2GB in total) once we have activated it. We’ll activate it when we struggle to find free wifi. While I was out getting the card Jay was reading up about the area, we had just driven past Ancient Megalopolis, one of the most ambitious building projects of the classical age. With no expense spared and nine kilometres of walls it was supposed to hold back the Spartans, but it never took root, its inhabitants preferring their old villages and returning to them. But the draw to us was that it houses the largest theatre built in Ancient Greece and it’s free to get in. So, we turned around and drove the couple of kilometres back to it.

Arriving in the car park it really didn’t look up to much, a fence surrounded a field with a couple of portacabins inside and a portaloo. The only problem was, the gates were firmly locked. We followed the fence around and soon we could see the theatre, set into a huge bank of a grassy hill. Only the first two rows of seats have been excavated (as was the case when our guidebook was written), but you can make out where the other seats would have been and how it would easily hold 20,000 people. By our feet some plastic netting fenced off a small area where a couple of shallow trenches had been dug, the bricks of another building quite clear in the bottom. Thinking back to all the amazing artefacts we’d seen in the museum at Olympia it’s baffling to think that no one has been round with a metal detector and dug the place
up – or perhaps they have and there are only brick and pottery left.

Charlie and Jay eye up the massive theatre of Ancient Megalopolis
Charlie and Jay eye up the massive theatre of Ancient Megalopolis

Back on the road again we tried to get to the coast without using the toll road. The road we took weaved either side of the long black strip of empty tarmac that was the toll route, it looks like everyone had the same idea. The only problem with taking the back roads is the signs aren’t always up to much, frequently the places names were only in Greek and my very basic grasp of the alphabet takes too long to work out what they say, before we’re passed them. Eventually I confess, I think we’re on the wrong road, heading south instead of west. A quick check of the GPS co-ordinates from our satnat on Autoroute on the laptop and it’s confirmed, we’re a tad off course. We work out a way back to the road we need, scratching our heads to work out where we went wrong, and head off along some back roads. A supermarket lures us in for our first taste of Greek shopping (and because we’re out of coffee and low on milk). Jay picks up some of the local brews, one of which is a dark beer, which will be a nice change from lager. I’m over the moon when I spot a few home favourites tucked away in among the local stuff – we’ve been in Italy so long I’d forgotten that supermarkets stock foreign stuff! I got so carried away I forgot to get the milk and had to go back in.

All hail Greek supermarkets!
All hail Greek supermarkets!
Yummmy!
Yummy!

Dave’s cupboards partially replenished we made it to Kalon Neron and parked up. Charlie played on the beach while Jay and I tucked into Cheddar cheese and onion sarnies – bliss. We’ve got the place to ourselves, so a cheeky 5pm beer has been cracked open by Jay, and I’m off to grab a glass of wine – happy Tuesday!

Dave's spot for the night
Dave’s spot for the night
Happy puppy in the sea
Happy puppy in the sea

Ju x

An Idyllic Day in Kalo Nero (Καλό Νερό)
Weather Shock, Cold and Wet in Karytena (Καρύταινα or Καρίταινα)
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3 Comments

  1. Hi Jason and Juli
    Thought it was time to say Hi. We have been following your amazing and informative blog for a month or so now, well done for being so dedicated and disciplined! And thank you for all the information you fill it with. We have made the decision to ‘pack up and go’ and are just trying to find the right van. Fingers crossed, looking at one tomorrow (if it has not been snapped up!) Enjoy your time in Greece, maybe we will get there one day.
    Can I just ask, why do you move around so much? I mean you don’t seem to stay for much more than two nights in any one place, is it a time constraint, or do you just feel you have seen enough? (just trying to work finances out in our heads :) )
    Hope you have had a good day, sunny rather than the rain we have here in Portugal.

    • Hi Jen, good luck with the van hunting! Why do we move so much? I guess it is down to time. There are SO many fabulous places in Europe packing them into a mere (!) two years requires frequent moves. Having said that, there are only a handful of places where we’d want to linger anyway. Some folks tow or hire a car or moped, so they can leave the van and tour during the day, something we might consider if we’re lucky enough to hit the road again in future. Cheers, thanks for saying hello, Jay

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