Dave the motorhome is sitting just a few feet away from the beach, he can hear the waves lapping on the shore, but between him and the sand is a fence because he has unexpectedly found himself at Camping Verdelis in Palea Epidhavros (N37.61877 E23.15726). Read on to find out how he ended up here.
This morning we got chatting to Alain and Karine who were touring in a small VW camper along with their two children, we have much respect for them as we sometimes find Dave a bit small. A VW with two child seats and all their toys, clothes etc must be a daily juggle. They are from Canada, the French speaking part, and it messed with our heads that they weren’t French. I know it’s a crazy thing to say but when you speak to someone who speaks French as their first language you expect them to be, well French. A classic example is as we went to leave, in France depending on where the person is from will determine how many times you kiss the side of each other’s faces (somewhere between 2 and 4), in Canada it is twice, but starting from the other side to the French! We chatted about travel plans and places to visit, as they are touring Europe before shipping the van back home (small vans aren’t that easy to find across the pond).
Waving farewell our plan was to head back in Nafplio to find somewhere to fix our broken bathroom cabinet door, as we drove in the traffic ground to a halt as it was market day. We turned and made our way along a promising-looking road full of DIY places, but no glass or mirror places were to be seen, so instead we filled up with fuel at the second station we spotted which was under €1.30 a litre (and were instantly gutted to spot one a couple of hundred yards away at €1.27, but then elated as we spotted one at €1.41 – not sure what that says about us and our state of mind!) and headed off to Epidhavros, home of a huge ancient theatre.
We had our fingers crossed that it would be open as our last huge ancient theatre visit attempt at Megalopoi was thwarted by the fact that it was closed, but which coined the catchphrase we often us of ‘I bring you ancient megalopoli’ (said with great gusto) ‘oh, it’s closed’ (said with much less gusto). The dual carriageway road leading into the site reminded us of Alton Towers as we were ushered around one side of the huge car park. A few coaches told us we were OK to uncross our fingers, it was open. Leaving Charlie to snooze in a shade-covered Dave, we wandered up to the ticket office, paid our €6 each, and headed in. First stop the museum.
As I looked through the door I was really impressed with all the statues and reconstructed pieces of building, but then I looked closer. It was only a couple of rooms big, and most of the statues had a little note next to them stating that they were plaster copies as the originals were held in the National Museum in Athens. In fact if you took out all of the plaster copies there really wouldn’t be all that much left in the museum! The most impressive original items were stone tablets, two were engraved with writing which basically outlined who had designed and decorated the place when it was built all those years ago, others were engraved by people who had been cured of their aliments at the sanctuary – which was the main reason people visited in years gone by. The sanctuary is now a pile of stones and everyone makes a bee-line for the theatre instead.
We opted to do the same as everyone else and headed straight to the theatre. As we climbed the steps and it emerged above us it actually took my breath away, it is an amazing sight. We wandered in and around the stage area and a woman approached us saying that we needed to stand on the stone circle in the middle of the stage and speak. As I did I could feel my own voice being reflected back into my chest. The acoustics are so good here that you can hear a coin drop on the centre of the stage even if you are in the 57th row (we know because someone tested it while we were up there!). We got chatting with Julie and Eric who are from New York State and travelling around Greece for a month or so, the next phase of their trip is a series of hiking expeditions on some of the Greek islands. They told us who they had both turned 70 and are now beginning to realise that they may only have another ten years of travel adventures left – it is a sobering thought, but also an impressive one as ten years is still a very long time.
Julie and Eric climbed up into the seats as we took it in turns to stand on the stone circle and talk to them, gradually getting quieter to see how well the sound actually travelled. When Jay resorted to mime and that mime involved monsters and flying creatures, the official blew her whistle and instructed us to step away from the stone circle. We set off climbing the steps to get a view from the cheap seats and half way up I heard a voice shouting my name, I turned and looked at Eric and Julie but it wasn’t them. The voice was coming from a couple behind the stage, who were waving in my direction. ‘Julie, is that you?’ echoed around the theatre (sometimes you really don’t want fabulous acoustics), ‘Yes’, I replied back to the two figures both wearing hats and sunglasses, ‘who are you, I can’t see you well’. I wandered back down the steps to see who it was, only to be greeted by a grinning Gerti and Ignaz who we last saw in Nin, Croatia in June last year! We’d tried to pop in and visit them when we were near to their home town of Salzberg, but missed each other, so it was really good to see them again.
We stood and chatted, falling silent to let a Dutch fella receit a text from the stone circle, then we climbed to the top of the theatre seats and chatted some more. We wandered around the site catching up on what we had been doing for the last ten months. They had spotted Dave in the car park, and had tied their bikes up next to him so we couldn’t leave, as they have a slightly older brother of Dave who they had left at the campsite and cycled to the theatre.
Around 3pm Gerti and Ignaz headed off to cycle back, and we continued to wander around some of the ruins of the sanctuary. The guidebook says it is the same size as Olympia and holds more fascination as all the buildings have a known purpose. We looked at areas which were labelled as the gymnasium, baths, dormitory and a strange round building which was a Tholos, its inner foundation walls form a labyrinth which is thought to have been used as a snake pit; one theory is that is was an early form of shock therapy treatment for the mentally ill who visited the site for a cure. Whatever it was was lost on us, as it was covered in scaffolding, in fact a lot of the site was in the same state as a major programme of reconstruction is (or was) taking place. It did prompt us to discuss at what stage is it best just to leave something as a pile of stones – a debate which will no doubt rage for longer than it will take for the place to be rebuilt!
Agreeing that neither of us were very taken with the sanctuary ruins, the theatre had been the big wow here and anything else pales into insignificance, we set course for the campsite Gerti and Ignaz were stopping at. We arrived just after them and sat outside chatting in the sunshine.
Jay asked the campsite owner if he knew of anywhere we could get our cabinet door fixed and at 6pm he drove us to a little workshop – we would never had spotted it by driving by – at 6pm tomorrow a new door will be ready to pick up for the princely sum of €10! We think we might just stop here for another day and chill out by the beach, after all we have good company and some wine is bound to get sunk tonight!
P.S. (Jay here), Ju’s just reminded me it’s the 10th anniversary of our first date. I recall being scared silly as we met up in a Nottingham city pub, the ice broken by the fact I’d been reading Motorcycle News and my face, much rubbed in anxiety, was covered in black print. All turned out rather nicely for us two, we moved in together within a few months and have been married for 6 years. How I love my wife, and my life.