Kardamyli, Agia Sophia, Petrovouni, and Back
Today was a hiking morning and lazy afternoon. Kardamyli offers a number of trails of varying length and strenuousness through the hills above the town. I chose one that my guidebook said was the most popular—from Kardamyli to the church of Agia Sophia (sometimes spelled Agia Sofia, depending on the source), on to the village of Petrovouni, and back to Kardamyli by a different route.
The guidebook said the round trip should take about an hour and a half at a good pace and with few stops. I figured it would take me a little longer because, hey, I wanted a pleasant hike, not a forced march. So I shot for something slower than a good pace, whatever the heck that is, and with more than few pauses and full stops.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “An hour and a half? That’s a long walk, at best. Hardly a hike.”
Oh, yeah? It’s rather impertinent of you to think that, I’d say. Here’s the thing. The change in elevation from the base of the trail near Old Kardamyli to the trail’s highest point is about 650 feet. And there’s some going down a piece to go back up again. Not much. But some.
My hotel is partway up that elevation. But that didn’t help me any. The only way to get to the trail from my hotel is to walk down the steps and path almost to sea level and then along the primarily horizontal path to the base of the trail, near Old Kardamyli.
And that’s not the only reason my jaunt ended up as more of a hike than a long walk. The other reason? Well, read on, dear reader. Read on. It will arrive in good time. Or bad time, depending on how your day is going.
Trail to the Church of Agia Sophia
Early on, the trail to the Church of Agia Sophia passes by a couple of landmarks. The first is the Agias Nikolaos church. It’s an old, small, closed, unadorned church. But cute nonetheless.
The next landmark is the fairly nondescript tomb of Castor and Pollux. I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I didn’t know anything about those two dudes. I had to Google them.
If I am the only person who did not know about them, then I apologize for boring you with the next few paragraphs. Here’s what I learned.
Castor and Pollux were twin half-brothers from different fathers. (Don’t ask me how twin half-brothers work. I suspect the answer would turn this into a not-suitable-for-work journal.) Despite being of different fathers, the two were very close.
Pollux asked his father for a favour. Oh, I forgot to mention. Pollux’s father was Zeus. Yes, that Zeus. Pollux’s and Castor’s shared mother was a mortal named Leda
The favour Pollux asked of his dad was that Castor share his immortality despite being born of both a mortal father and a mortal mother. Apparently, both of your parents don’t have to be immortal for you to be immortal. I don’t know if the passing of immortality is patrilineal or if either parent can be immortal. Maybe someone can look that up for me.
Not that it matters to me personally. I became an orphan at the age of 59, more than ten years ago. Thus, clearly, neither of my parents were immortal. So I guess I’m out of luck on the immortality front unless I can work out a special arrangement with one of the gods. Does anyone have anything on any of the gods that would be sufficient to blackmail them into granting me immortality?
I ask because, apparently, it’s not impossible for gods to grant immortality to someone not technically entitled to it. I say that because Zeus granted Pollux’s wish.
After their corporeal death, Zeus made Castor and Pollux the constellation of Gemini, Gemini meaning twins in Greek. I’m sorry, but when I wish for immortality, that’s not what I have in mind. I want to continue to be a human, not a constellation. It’s hard to get a reservation in a nice restaurant if you’re a constellation. And, even if you could, they’d probably charge extra to accommodate anything so large. I doubt I could afford it.
Okay. Enough of that. I’m calling bs on that really being the tomb of Castor and Pollux. Their story sounds a little too far-fetched for me. I mean, come on. I don’t think Pollux was even born of a virgin birth. So how is it in anyway plausible?
Back to the trail. The remainder of it, i.e., the vast majority of it, is strenuous for a man of my age, but not overly so. Much of it is a dirt and/or stone path. The last part is a long set of rock steps.
Church of Agia Sophia
The church of Agia Sophia is an old, stone, closed, hilltop church. It’s not as small as the Agias Nikolaos church down below, but it’s still small. And it’s lovely on its hilltop perch.
Being high up on a hill, the views from there are fantastic.
The small village, I’m inclined to call it a hamlet, rather than a village, of Agia Sophia sits a little piece along a road from the church.
By the way, if you’re in the market for a home, there’s one of stone and mortar construction available in Agia Sophia. It looks like a very old, very quaint, rustic fixer-upper that absolutely oozes charm. You can probably bargain the owner done in price due to the lack of a roof.
In case you’re thinking of making an offer, there’s a picture of it that should appear just below this paragraph. To be fair to everyone, the picture is there even if you’re not considering making an offer. That’s just the liberal kind of guy I am.
Trail from Agia Sophia to Petrovouni
The guidebook that advised me of this hike told me that, to get to Petrovouni, I should follow the path to the left of the church when facing the sea, as it is a shortcut that provides the added benefit of avoiding the boring road to Petrovouni.
I looked closely and didn’t see anything to the left of the church that appeared to me to be anything at all like a path. Not wanting to give up, I walked back and forth for a piece almost close to the edge of the church’s plateau, but couldn’t find it. (There’ll be more on why I walked almost close and not close to the edge a few paragraphs down from here. This is a teaser to encourage you to keep reading.)
Just in case the book was wrong about right and left or whether one should face the sea to determine that, I also looked on the right side of the church. There was nothing other than the steps I came up from Kardamyli.
I eventually surrendered and walked a piece along the short stretch of road to the village/hamlet of Agia Sophia, which is the start of the allegedly boring road to Petrovouni. About halfway between the church and its accompanying village/hamlet, I saw a trail on what would have been to the left of the church had I been facing the sea.
And it was a marked trail. The powers that be here mark trails with coloured squares. Typically, but not always, they were painted on rocks on the trails I was on today. The markings on the trail up from Kardamyli were squares with the top yellow and the bottom black. Or maybe the other way around. I forget.
The start of the trail I found near Agia Sophia displayed a solid yellow square. I figured the yellow and black squares signify a trail to Agia Sophia and then on to Petrovouni. Whereas the solid yellow squares, i.e., without the black half, indicate, I thought, “Okay, you’ve done the journey to Agia Sophia. Good for you! Bravo! Now you just have the trail to Petrovouni left.”
I was wrong. Remember I said above there was another factor that pushed my jaunt today from a long walk into the hike category? This is it.
The start of the trail was relatively easy. Although, there were a number of spots along the way that triggered my acrophobia. Sometimes it was just a minor event. Sometimes it was somewhat of a heart-thumping, hyperventilating event. But I pushed through it.
Most of the trek was under a blazing sun. I’m glad I remembered to put on sunscreen and wear a hat.
There were a few points on the trail where it was wide enough for me to pause and take in the vistas without my acrophobia getting the better of me. Yay!
One small section took me through a beautiful, cool, cliffless forested area. I greatly appreciated that because the day got fairly warm, particularly when climbing uphill. Weather is a cruel master. The weather god makes it much hotter walking uphill than down. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
One reassuring thing about the trail was that I spotted the yellow squares occasionally, reassuring me that I was indeed still on the official trail.
That having been said, I would have preferred that they painted yellow squares much more frequently along the trail. Being neurotic, I don’t want to have to wait more than few minutes to be reassured that I’m on the the right path.
I have to admit, there were a few points when I panicked and thought, “Oh My Zeus! (OMZ!) I’ve wandered off the trail! I’m lost! This is the hill I’m going to die on!)
Then I spotted another yellow square and I was fine. Fine for another few minutes, that is. Then the panic set in again and stayed until I finally spotted the next yellow square.
Have I ever mentioned that it’s not always easy being me?
I didn’t time my journey on the trail, but it wasn’t inconsequential. Far from it. And does the trail end up in Petrovouni? Nope. Not even close.
The endpoint (or starting point if you go the other way) is some way up the steps that I walked up to get to the church of Agia Sophia. Turns out, I went in a long circle.
From that point on the steps, I walked back up to the church and, having something of an obsessive personality, looked again for the path to Petrovouni. I think I found it, immediately to the left of the church, exactly where the guidebook said it would be.
Truth is, I saw it when I was there before, but I dismissed it as not possibly being a legitimate path because the first step down didn’t look so much like a high step as a small leap. And I didn’t think that taking that first step would be conducive to the preservation of life. My life, specifically.
Plus, I didn’t see a path beyond that first step.
When I took a closer look this time, I saw there was a path beyond the first high step down. It looked like only an exceptionally short path, no more than maybe a dozen normal strides, or possibly twenty of my strides, but it might continue to the left toward Petrovouni. Bushes obscured the remainder of the path, if, in fact, it was a path, so I couldn’t tell if it was a continuing path just by looking at it from above.
I didn’t try that possible path for two reasons. First, if I was wrong and it wasn’t a continuing path, I wasn’t sure I could climb back up that first step. And, second, there was that preservation of life thing to consider.
Road from Agia Sophia to Petrovouni
Rather than attempt that possible path, or impossible path, as the case may be, I walked along the road to Petrovouni. One advantage of that was that Google Maps assured me I was on the right route whenever I asked it to. My neuroses thanked me for that decision. Unlike me, they are quite gregarious.
I take exception to the guidebook’s description of the road as boring. It certainly wasn’t as exciting as death-defyingly inching along a treacherous cliff-side path, but it was a leisurely walk. And the meandering road afforded me some beautiful mountain vistas on one side and sea vistas on the other side.
(Other people might not describe it as “death-defyingly inching along a treacherous cliff-side path.” But other people don’t have my phobias. How is that possible?)
In my judgement, Petrovouni is either a very small village or a somewhat large hamlet. I’m not sure which.
All of the few structures I saw there were of a stone-and-mortar construction and very handsome. They all seemed inhabited.
I didn’t see any for sale signs. Sorry, home hunters.
The Trail from Petrovouni to Kardamyli
A sign in Petrovouni points the way to the trail down to Kardamyli. From there, it’s easy to find the trail if you take the correct branch of the one (unsigned) fork in the road beyond the sign. A little bit of backtracking to the fork and then taking the correct branch quickly got me to the trail.
Once on the trail, it’s impossible to miss the right way down during the day. I wouldn’t want to do it at night without a very bright and very reliable flashlight, though.
The path is a well-constructed stone pathway that was, in some places, steps. The stones in that main part of the path are as they were found in nature in nature and then placed, uncut, to form the path or steps. I.e, the aren’t at all flat. As a result, the trail provides ample opportunity to twist your ankle if you’re not careful. I was careful. Very careful. My ankles remain untwisted.
The cliff-side edge of the winding path/stairs is, for much of the way, constructed of cut stone blocks that are flat on the top and sides, but not nearly wide enough to walk on. At least, not nearly wide enough for me to walk on. Did I say cliff-side edge? Yes, I did. Have I mentioned my acrophobia? Yes, I have. There was no way I was going to walk that close to the edge of the cliff.
The views along the trail are probably fantastic. I wouldn’t know, though. Having a great many neuroses and fears, including acrophobia, I was too focused on continuously looking down to find just the perfect stone on which to place my foot on each step so as to neither twist my ankle, nor lose my balance and fall off the cliff. Some people scoff at my neuroses and phobias, but I’m convinced that I have only them to thank for, not just surviving the trek down, but doing so without damaging my ankles.
The stairs end some way above Kardamyli. Fortunately, it’s not sheer cliff the rest of the way down. The stairs end at a road that leads gently into town.
Back in Kardamyli
I started the above-described trek at about 9:30 in the morning. If this had been yesterday, that would have been 10:30. They changed the clocks here this morning, one week before we do so back home, which will be the night I get back. So, I get two extra hours this year, one here and one back home. How lucky can anyone get?
I got back into Kardamyli shortly after 12:30 in the afternoon, making it about a three-hour or so hike.
Nobody here other than the most touristy of tourists eats lunch before 1:00, and usually somewhat later than that. I do my best, but no doubt fail miserably in the eyes of locals, to not be too touristy of a tourist. So I wandered around a bit and went into a restaurant a few minutes after 1:00.
Like the restaurant I had dinner at yesterday, this one is also by the sea, but at the other end of town. Unlike yesterday evening’s restaurant, the food at this one was very good. I had a tasty lamb dish and a glass of wine. I ate and drank them leisurely, while typing many of these words and enjoying the sea. After finishing my meal, I accepted the restaurant’s offer of a complimentary espresso and Greek liqueur. I left the restaurant sometime after 2:30 feeling quite good.
Then, I checked out the next door restaurant, which is also seaside, as a possibility for dinner. (Spoiler: That’s where I did end up going.)
After that, I visited the town’s small pier, which juts out from the road between the two restaurants. I sat on the pier for some time, enjoying gazing lazily at the sea. The sea didn’t do much other than lap gently against the shore, which was calming.
After leaving the pier, I walked through town and plumped myself down on a bench in the town square for a while. There, I sat listening to the burbling of the square’s fountain and enjoying life.
Yes. I know. Me? Enjoying life? It doesn’t happen often. Nor does it last long. But it happened for a little while today. Tomorrow? It’s another day. We’ll see, dear.
After a while, I got my fill of enjoying life. (How much enjoying life can anyone stand without dying of bliss?) I climbed back up the hill to my hotel to make sure I got back in time to watch from my balcony the sun set again over the sea, which happened an hour earlier today because of the time change.
The cloud cover or, rather, near-total-lack thereof at sunset today was pretty much identical to that of yesterday. So the sunset was almost identical to that of yesterday too. Consequently, I haven’t posted a picture of today’s sunset here. It would have looked the same as yesterday’s. If you haven’t gotten your fill of sunset pictures, feel free to go back and stare at yesterday’s for a while.
Despite today’s sunset being a rerun of yesterday’s, I stayed out on my balcony to watch the show again. This evening, I even sat out for a bit after sunset, daring the mosquitos that are present here now to bite me, in case the sun popped back up for an encore. But the sun is an arrogant, self-important, stuck-up performer. It apparently thinks delivering an encore would be toadying to the audience and beneath it. So it refuses to do encores.
Unfortunately, I won’t be here for tomorrow’s show. Pity. I would have enjoyed seeing it again.
Later, I walked back to the restaurant I scoped out after lunch. It was very good. Although, like last night there were items on the menu that weren’t available. This time, however, they were few enough in number that the waiter felt it was more efficient to tell me what was available, not what wasn’t. Last night it was the opposite.
The server told me the reason they didn’t have everything available was that tonight is their last night before they close for the season. That’s twice now that I was at a restaurant on its last night of the season. Here and once in Hydra.
And that’s just the times I knew about. Maybe I was at other restaurants on their last night of the season, but they didn’t tell me.
That worries me. (I know. I know. What? Me worry?) I’m in Greece for five more nights before heading home. The last is in Athens. That won’t be a problem. But the other four are split between two more towns still on the Peloponnese peninsula.
What if I can’t find anywhere to eat? Unlike in Hydra, I haven’t seen any donkeys here that I could rustle, butcher and cook, if necessary. What am I going to do?
Wait. I’ve got it. Cats. As I mentioned in a few posts on this trip, pretty well everywhere I’ve been in Greece is overrun with cats. There’s no way they’d miss a few. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.
At long last finishing up this post, I’m happy to report that, unlike yesterday, I can now find my way unfailing to the path and stairs up to my hotel. As I alluded to a few paragraphs ago, I’m scheduled to leave Kardamyli tomorrow. Maybe I should stay another few days to get my full money’s worth out of that new skill.
But, no. Press on, I will.
I usually read a tad of literature before turning in for the night. Instead I read this blog and it had everything I could have wanted. A meaty read with lots of twists and turns-some figurative and some literal-well placed cliff hangers (ditto), fine description, and, as a bonus, the chance to read Joel Klebanoff write the words “dying of bliss.” Thank goodness it didn’t last long. I wouldn’t want that a little trip should change the author we know and love beyond recognition.