Weather Shock, Cold and Wet in Karytena (Καρύταινα or Καρίταινα)

Dave the motorhome has a misty view from the hilltop village of Karytena, out over the forested hillsides of Arcadia, Greece (N37.48493 E22.04166). We’re parked right in the centre of the village, as it seems you can do in any of the small towns here, and are planning to spend the night. As the population of the place has dropped from 20,000 in 1209 to only 232 in 2011, there aren’t many people for us to upset. It was a toss-up on whether we stay here or plough on back to the coast, but we opted to stay as the weather forecast for tomorrow is good, and the dank mist and persistent rain have already seen us quickly past the region’s best sights.

Dave, cheekily parked in the centre of Karytaina next to the tiny post office
Dave, cheekily parked in the centre of Karytaina next to the tiny post office

As you may have guessed from the post title, we’re not used to the rain! It hammered down last night as we pulled our coats around us on the all-of-20-metres shuffle to one of the tavernas we’d eyed up earlier. There were 3 or 4 tavernas in Langadia and they all looked the real deal, not too touristy, no pictures of food to be seen. This one had a fire though, complete with a log currently in the process of being devoured by roaring flames. In we went.

An hour or two later we exited the place, stuffed full of chips, kebab and fried chicken, muscles loosened by a few glasses of vino. I later found my chosen seat was below the telly, explaining why all the staff stared in my direction the whole time! No other punters arrived, although plenty of locals turned up in twos and threes to join a circle of wine-quaffers, chatting quietly, sharing the same pot of rose. We’d ordered red (from a choice of red, rose or white – just like an English pub), and we too got rose, maybe that’s all they had, or more likely our Greek is rubbish. I’d fancied kebab (souvlaki on the menu), wondering how many sticks I should go for at €1.80 each. A couple did the trick nicely, one of the staff getting up from watching the TV to cook ’em (which was silent by this point, as Greek traditional music had been popped onto the sound systems and some more logs fetched and thrown on the fire). She came back afterwards, we wondered if we should smile at her while munching. Not knowing whether Ju’s chicken came with chips, we ended up with a table full of them!

Chips! €22 (including at 10% tip) and we left the place full and warm.
Chips! €22 (including at 10% tip) and we left the place full and warm.

This morning we topped up Dave’s water tank from a nearby tap, looked about with no luck for a stray dog which had made friends with us last night, and took off through the mist, heading for Dimitsana, another hill village further south. The map showed the road narrowing on the way and there are no rock-holding nets here like across much of Europe – the rocks just fall. No worries through, the tyre-munchers were all on the other side of the road and it was an easy run, starting off as a corniche sliced into a steep hillside, morphing into a pleasant valley run. The landscape in these ‘ere parts is rugged stuff, forests and rock, streams and slithers of pasture land. A soaked shepherd raised his crook and cocked his head as we crept past his flock in the road, his dogs, rather less enamoured with the interloper, bared teeth and snarled at Dave’s skin as we sped up to leave.

This would be and surely is a beautiful part of the world, but for the awful weather. Pulling into a roadside stop-off just outside Dimitsana, I think we both knew we’d not be staying here the night. After a brief walk about the town, which was vaguely alive with the noise of kids in school, shops selling honey and craftwork and disgruntled-looking blokes stood on the steps of an open doored building, we squeezed Dave through the streets and cruised onwards.

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Dimitsana
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Dimitsana
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In our few days in Greece, we’ve seen a fair few dogs wandering the streets. Some of clearly owned by a restaurant or some such, others look fully stray. It’s hard to tell which might attack Charlie, but most seem to just want to be touched.
Dimitsana has square bell towers, apparently due to the Franks and Normans running the place 700 years back.
Dimitsana has square bell towers, apparently due to the Franks and Normans running the place 700 years back.

More rain poured down. After Dimitsana, the Prodhromou Monastery stands on a 300m high stack of rock ‘stuck onto the cliff like a swallow’s nest’ says the Rough Guide. As we couldn’t see much further than Dave’s front bumper, the chances of being greeted by this sight were zero. Onwards we went, slowly. Next up, The village of Stemnitsa. All we saw of this was the back end of a school bus, which we gratefully hugged through the just-wide-enough-for-a-bus streets.

Stremnitsa
Stremnitsa

Ancient Gortys is next, ‘one of the most stirring of all Greek sights’. In this weather? As visibility dropped to next to nothing we pulled over for some lunch beside a wooden water trough with an unlikely tap erupting from the rocky ground.

Grub time waiting for the fog to clear.
Grub time waiting for the fog to clear.

By this point the thought of just running for the coast and hopefully hitting some sunshine nagged at the two of us, what about all this stuff we’re missing up here? Folks who’ve previously passed this way and blogged about it have told us there’s good snorkelling on our planned route around the ‘fingers’ of the Peloponnese coast. The possibility of swimming with a turtle, spotting an octopus or cuttlefish easily trumps most ruinous sights, for me at least. We fought the urge to just keep driving though, twisting down off the edge of the Lousios Gorge we’d been following, over a few hills and back up a switchback or two we’ve called a halt here.

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View from Karytaina of the roads criss-crossing the Arcadia countryside.
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Karytaina on the path up to the town’s Frankish 13C castle, which currently looks more like a 13C pile of stones piled up next to an EU funded project sign, no sign of any work going on.

The rain’s called a halt to play as I write these last few words. I just checked the forecast for the next big town on the coast, check it out:

Not bad for April!
Not bad for April!

The BBC has just told us Margaret Thatcher has passed away. Being the son of a coal miner, I should perhaps not be dismayed by this passing, but as it happens her policy to close the pits probably saved my beloved father’s life, his lungs being what they are. It’s funny how life works. RIP Margaret Thatcher.

Cheers, Jay

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7 Comments

  1. Yesterday we had a drive out to the peak district and on the way home we spotted a familiar front end. Both of us shouted at the same time…look there’s a Dave. Sure enough a happy B544 tootled by and we both had a little chuckle. Could Dave be the start of the B544 spotter club!

  2. Hi
    Your blog is great, makes you want to go on these long trips.
    We take our two dogs with us in Europe, and want to take them to morocco next year.
    You took Charlie so I looked at the pet passport scheme and morocco is not listed!
    Am I missing out something as the last thing we want is to not be allowed home after the trip.
    Now you are in Greece are you planning on a return overland?
    Thanks
    John and Jan

    • Hi John and Jan. We loved Morocco, it felt like a real adventure! The Pet Passport scheme used to limit the countries you could take a dog to and then come back onto the UK within 6 months without quarantine. The rules changed in Jan 2012, allowing you to take your pets anywhere in the world as long as you complied with the passport rules, bringing Britain further in line with the rest of Europe (the British version of the EU rules were unenforceable, as there was no way to prove where your pet had been). We double-checked with DEFRA direct, and had no problems coming back into Spain or the UK. For your own peace of mind, I’d strongly recommend talking to both your vet and emailing DEFRA though, just to make sure everything is in order. Cheers, and happy adventures, Jay

  3. Hi Jay and Jules,

    We are really enjoying your trip, and Charlie’s aadventures. In our brief travels to Greece over the last few years we have been saddened at the way many dogs are treated there.
    One of our best sights was the wild turtles off the Kefalonian coast. Just magical, prehistoric creatures.

    Check out this monster truck trip a colleague of our daughter Eve has embarked on:

    http://pauldanielleandtruck.wordpress.com/the-truck/
    Best wishes,

    Mike and Sandy

  4. We drove all the way to see the cliffs of Mohr and when we arrived the fog was so thick we could not see our way into the carpark so you get bad weather no matter where you go.

  5. Kali Mera and yiassou to you both. Sorry to hear that the weather in Greece isn’t up to standard but we’re in Moulay Bousselham (yes, we had some strawberries from a smallish – he’s grown since last year- boy) and today the weather is good but we’ve also had plenty of rain in places, particularly in Essaouira, and the odd thunderstorm. There is flooding in some of the fields we passed so I think the weather is a problem everywhere this year. At least it’s not as cold as in England! We’re sadly leaving this country in a couple of days but we’ll be back! Your book has been invaluable and I’ve also read the first chapter of ‘A monkey ate my Breakfast’ and really enjoyed it so think I will download the whole book and relive Morocco all over again when we get back. Kalo taxithi! haven’t worked out how to get the Greek script on my Kindle Fire – do you know the secret?

    • So glad you enjoyed Morocco and found our guide useful. I think we’ve all been fortunate to miss the worst of a very bad winter across Europe – thank goodness for motorhomes!

      Julie :)

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