I am a big fan of slow travel. I like being in one place for a while to get it’s feel, to meet locals and see the rhythm of life.. I did not however stick to this ideal while traveling in Greece. And I paid for it, in stress and frustration. I tried to see too much and I did not do as I should have known was right for me and ended up with a few hard days.
Normally when on vacation I will take a week and pick one place to be in; or a guided tour that moves en masse. I love to travel, but the actual moving about is not the fun part for me. It is the people, which almost always means being in a town or with a group. After my boat trip ended in Mykonos I knew I had a week to make it to my boat to Italy in Patras. It was wide open. I could choose to sit on an island or at an Athen’s cafe for a week and just relax. However I had been reading a few guidebooks and got grandiose. Thus began my week of riding the Greek bus system around the country.
Our tour finished in Mykonos on Sunday. I had already booked a ferry and train ride to Italy and over the alps home that left Patras on Friday. At the point I left for Greece I had none of the intervening time planned, leaving me free to accompany any new friends to interesting places or just sit for days reading. I decided to get a ferry to Athens and spend a few days hanging here. I was looking forward to ruins and museums and cute cafes; as well as a place to sleep that wasn’t rocking back and forth with the waves.
Ok I admit this, I really didn’t like Athens. Herein began the fall. I spent only barely more time in Athens as I did in Santorini, and I think I got way more out of Santorini. Athens is neat, for about a day. I dislike late night parties, so maybe that is where it is at. I also don’t shop. I could have perhaps sat at a cafe; but for some reason didn’t feel that comfortable there. I spent one day seeing the Acropolis, doing a walking tour and experiencing the ancient agora. All of which were quite cool. Then I wanted to move on.
Both the monasteries at Meteora and the ruins of Delphi were calling to me. I looked at the large map of Greece and decided they were both perfectly doable in plenty of time before my boat. Why I had read about tours that do both sites in a 3 day 2 night tour. I, a seasoned traveler, can certainly better that in a 4 day 3 night tour that is slower pace with more off-road chances. Using German transport ideals they would have been. So I booked the hotels and got directions to the bus station (apparently the train system is on strike for who knows how long).
I should have taken it as a sign when the local number 24 bus driver had no idea where or even if his bus route (that I assume he had practice driving) stopped at the long-distance bus station. Several bus transfers later, I made it to the wonderful little town of Kalampaka, underneath the towering Meteora spires. The day and night there were wonderful. I met a new friend and hung out for dinner. It was foggy, but that lent more mystery. He decided to stay an extra day to get pictures in the sun. I should have done the same.
The next morning, I figured it would take 3 hours to get to Delphi. It is not so far on the map. Greek bus station attendants only seem to have a basic idea of how to get to places past one change from their station. I was told that it was a fairly easy run and needed to change in Lamia. The phrase “Change buses” in Germany would have meant a 7 min run between buses. It Greece it apparently means 6 hour wait, which no one mentioned. So in the end I spent 6 hours which I could have used to photo the monasteries in the sun sitting in a, albeit modern air conditioned, bus station. All because I was in a hurry to get somewhere. I spent the following several hours on a bus in the dark with no clue what Delphi looked like or where the stop was. This became panic when I saw the sign for the Delphi turnoff pass by. Apparently you have to change in Itea, which they might have told me in quick flowing Greek. The Itea bus station is a part of the main road where all the buses stop. No, not a widening with park places, just a 30 yard section where 4 buses at once stop and people start shouting. In the end I did make it to Delphi and had time to walk about the town and ruins. The ride to Patras from Delphi was no less panicky though nicely in the daytime. I wasn’t sure if the bus was going to make it in time for the boat. In the end I had only 15 minutes to spare.
- Greek transport is not German transport
- Must Remember: if it is good enough to see, it is probably worth returning later for.
- Returning to Greece I would stay on the islands
So I had several unpleasant travel days of uncertainty. These are certainly part of my travel story and help to remind me what I really like out of travel: the people not exactly the places. I am happy to have seen Delphi. Kalampaka was far more fun than Athens; but I know now that trying to travel like that, only a few days in a place, is really not a good way to shuttle myself around the place. I got greedy to see things and forget to follow what I had already set down ideals in my blog as the way to keep me happy while traveling. We all lose track sometimes and get stars in our eyes to see more. I hope I have learned my lesson.
Any stories about trying to see too much where you regretted it?