Friday, 23 October 2015

German Occupation

Friday, 23rd October

The weather continues to be unsettled, thunderstorms alternating with drizzle, interspersed with brief bright and breezy spells. We need a campsite to use a service point. I don't know how some other travellers seem to 'wild camp' for weeks on end; we find that after a couple of days we need the facilities of a camp site. So off we went around the headland to Finikounda in search of the ACSI site.

Methoni beach
On the way we stopped at Methoni to visit the castle. It's enormous, more a ruined fortified garrison town than a fortress. It was built by the Venetians to safeguard their lucrative trading links in the Eastern Mediterranean. Over the the centuries its ownership alternated between Venice and the Ottoman Empire. The fortress only finally fell out of use after Greece gained independence in the 1820s. 


The remains of the fortifications, protected by the sea on three sides, are very impressive. There is little left of the town, its wooden Turkish style domestic buildings have long been dismantled. At the far end of the garrison, jutting out into the sea, is a windswept bastion. A couple were having their wedding photographs taken. The bride's long flowing dress and chiffon train swept dramatically behind her in the breeze. Given the scudding shadowy clouds and crashing waves, the happy couple were certainly going to get wildly romantic pictures for their wedding album.


spot the bride...
Spot the bride!

From the car park we could see the road to Finikounda winding over the nearby headland. The map and the sat nav both indicated a connecting road. There was, of sorts; the first few hundred metres were half eroded by the sea, I edged Maisy along, nearside tyres lapped by the briny. Then there was a right angle turn down a narrow track with overhanging branches on one side, crumbling Tarmac and a deep ditch on the other. A small red car coming the opposite way forced me towards a small precipice, but we squeezed through.

Next year, you'll need a kayak, not a motorhome.
We reached the main road. The junction was up a short 1:4 gravelly slope, it was impossible to see passing traffic on the main road, and I was unconvinced that I would be able to manage a hill-start if I paused on the brow. Time to test out Greek-style fatalism! I just powered up the slope and turned right, trusting that the road was traffic free, which it was. I think to drive on Greek roads you simply have to expect the unexpected. If you are the sort of motorhome owner that spends hours polishing your pride and joy until it gleams with a level of whiteness unseen since 1980s toothpaste adverts, don't come to Greece; stick with Caravan Club sites in the Cotswolds, or risk the occasional jaunt down the Moselle.

It's not just us that's beginning to look a bit beach bum. As well as being muddy about the bilges, and sand encrusted inside and out, Maisy has picked up a few additional scratches. It's simply impossible to avoid being thwacked by branches as you edge past on-coming buses and trucks on smaller roads and side-streets. Of more concern is the constant battering the suspension takes on the pot-holed roads. I hope bits don't drop off. And since I appear to be drifting towards sharing my penchant for the catastrophic, I hope the brilliant automatic gearbox that makes Maisy so easy to drive, is robust enough to deal with the challenges of Greek mountain roads. Fingers crossed.

We arrived at Camping Anemomilos just after lunch. The manager, Costas, insisted we walk around to choose a pitch before we booked-in. Some pitches are down a steep track right on the beach, others on the hill above among pine trees. We chose the latter, after a brief conversation with Costas about Wifi coverage. Costas is very attentive, and came to help direct us into the pitch as it involved a bit of nifty reversing. It's a nice spot, but even perched on the top of the ramps we are on a slight downward slope. It's only for a couple of days, horizontality is over-rated anyway.

Camping Anemomilos - reception

Pitch with a distinct downward slope...

Campsite beach
The Rough Guide describes the nearby village of Finikounda as a typical fishing village which has expanded in recent years to become a summer haven for backpackers and a centre for kite surfing. Consequently, the place has a nice laid-back hippyish vibe, mixing typical family run Tavernas with hip looking cocktail bars that vaguely aspire towards a kind of Ibiza cool. Of course it's quiet now, but I bet it's lively enough in August. One restaurant looks especially good, since we are getting low on supplies maybe we'll eat out tonight.

A storm brews over Finikounda

Lots of tavernas

and bars aimed a summer backpackers

A relaxing place

Local free range livestock
very inquisitive..
and not camera shy.
When we walked back to the campsite we went to look at its beach. We realised that every other occupant was German, or at least German speaking, there are Austrian and Swiss vans too. I think many of them are planning to be here for weeks. Rather than simply camping here, they have occupied it. By camping more or less on the beach for the whole length of the campsite's cove, it means other, more transient visitors have to cross other people's pitches to reach the shoreline.




When we did, we were met by an impassive stare rather than a friendly smile. It's the first time this trip that we have felt the difference in attitude between itinerant and long-stay, over-wintering motorhomers. Such territorial behaviour was commonplace in some of the sites we visited last year in Spain, to the point of becoming inadvertently hilarious. There are only a handful of ACSI sites open in the Peloponnese after October, it will be interesting to see what manner of fellow wanderers we meet. So far not one other Brit. van to be seen,, either on the road or at a site, a few younger compatriots in the larger towns - budget airlines and AirB&B probably - and of course the clucking flocks of cruise ship battery hens, All the Swift and Autotrail owners must have headed to the Costa Blanca, trundling their Smart cars behind them. Here, they are conspicuous by their absence.

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