Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Civilisation?

Sunday, 8th November

Yesterday was one of those days where different experiences came thick and fast, so much so that by the end of it I felt exhausted and crawled off to bed early.

We had woken in the Camperstop in Korfos. It was another glorious morning. Considering we are now well into November then this spell of weather has to be unusually summery. It's a lovely harbour village here, set in a long U shaped bay with pine covered hills on each side, Consequently the sea, even early in the morning, is a deep, rather than silvery blue.



The place itself is a mixture of workaday fishing port and low scale tourist place. I think the fact that it is 8km off the highway down a winding minor road has discouraged development. The stop itself, at the far side of the bay, is good, but is only big enough for a couple of vans. The downside is the prevalence of wild dogs, they do tend to bark irritatingly, and you do have watch where you put your feet. No poop-scoops here!

Laid back Korfos
We got going early and stopped in the centre of the village to buy some bread. The bread is lovely here, quite closely textured, crusty top and bottom with a slight olive after taste. Despite there being very scrummy looking baclava on offer, we resisted and stuck with just the bread. We planned to have a coffee by the quayside and I decided that the water looked so good, a morning swim was essential. Somehow we failed to do both, we dithered about which cafe to go to and then gave up, then as I drove out of the village I missed the side road down to the beach, so, no swim.

I felt sad driving out of Korfos, partly I was a bit put-out at having missed the planned dip, but I think I also sensed as we drove towards Corinth that we were entering a familiar urbanised world with motorways, oil refineries, advertising hoardings, the usual stuff. Of course the southern Peloponnese is not un-developed, but the development is relatively low key, so the modern does not quite obliterate the old, and both are encompassed by the wild - mountains, ocean, and the dark night sky. You sense, among the ruins of past human habitation, at Lerna, Asini or Mystra, that you are walking in the footsteps of those who have gone before us, that we share the earth not just with contemporaries but ancestors. Perhaps it is this notion that lies behind the somewhat hackneyed phrase, 'a timeless landscape', that in fact what we really mean is that it is 'time-full'.


Soon we were heading through the outskirts of Corinth. We had set coordinates for Isthmia at the eastern end of the Corinth Canal. It was only about half a kilometre walk from the beach promenade where we parked to a submersible bridge at the end of the canal. We passed I an interesting half hour or so watching a small bulk carrier come through the canal, followed by a tour boat going the other way. By this time a small crowd of canal watchers had gathered, mainly the occupants of the cars queued up waiting for the bridge to emerge from the submarine depths. After quite a bit of mechanical clanking and grinding the planks of the roadway rose up from the bed of the canal, the lights went green, the barriers rose, and that was that. Quite a sight really.



The beach parking is just a short walk to the Corinth Canal

The amazing submersible bridge (it's submerged...)

The ship passes..



The road appears as if by magic from the depths..

and across you go!
Then we drove a couple of kilometres down the road to the famous deep cutting. The steep walls dropping away beneath you from the bridge parapet did nothing for Gill's vertigo, but in the end curiosity overcame her anxiety and she managed to cross over. The canal is astonishing, a real feat of late 19th century engineering. At one end of the bridge a plaque which some facts and figures about the canal. It surprised me that it was a joint venture with Hungary, but I suppose in the 1890s the Austro-Hungarian Empire probably was keen to strengthen ties with its southern neighbour, linked no doubt to diplomatic shenanigans between the 'Great Powers' relating to Russia and the Ottoman Empire. It does strike me that my understanding of history is not merely Euro-centric, but more specifically derived from a perspective from the continent's western fringe.




It's somewhere that has to be seen to be believed.
If like me you suffer from steam-punk nostalgia, then you might enjoy the video I took of the ships chugging up and down and various venerable  cogs and wires operating the magic submersible bridge.


After visiting the canal we headed for Aphrodite's Waters Camperstop in Ancient Corinth. It's very quirky, but the family who run it are lovely. Grandmother welcomed us with a gift of coffee and a jellied sweet made from currants. 


After the last few weeksof empty, picturesque roads, the motorway came as a shock.

A welcome gift from Afrodite's Waters Camperstop
Her grandchildren came around later with a list of the family's products for sale. On the wall of the reception is a big map with pins of all the places guests have come from, we duly stuck in a pin part way between Stoke and Manchester. One of the family, a boy in his late teens, spoke good English so we were able to chat to the owner. He has a motorhome too, and has travelled extensively, as far as Scandinavia. As he was chatting an older man turned up, Grandfather perhaps, he had all the sartorial elegance of Compo, but was very apologetic about it. He explained that he had been harvesting the olives from the next door grove, so really he had every right to look a mess! He looked completely exhausted too, but pointed proudly to a pile of sacks in he corner, the fruits of his labour waiting to go to the mill tomorrow. Half the harvest had already been done. We bought a bottle of pale green olive oil that only two days before had not even been harvested. They managed to sell us some of their wine too, unlabelled in a plastic bottle. He handed both to us with a grin, "ecologic" he said. 


Local  produce.

sampled straightaway

First pressing is one thing, on the tree yesterday quite another level of freshness.
The wine was light and fruity, we managed to demolish more of the 1.5 litre bottle than we should have, but awoke this morning with clear heads - "ecologic" we agreed.

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