Today, I picked up a rental car and visited the Monastery of Osios Loukas (near the town of Steiri) and then went on to the town of Galaxidi. (People who know me expect me to employ a pun here on “picking up” a rental car. Probably something about not being strong enough to pick up a car. But I won’t do it. No how. No way.)
Since first planning this trip, the “picked up a rental car” thing, without the pun, made me a tad nervous. Well, it’s not really the picking up the car part that made me anxious. The thought of driving did it for me. And “a tad nervous” underplays that somewhat. Obsessively worrying, bordering on existential panic comes closer to the truth.
I am a somewhat tense driver to start with. Compounding that, before today, I never drove a car outside of North America.
That didn’t come out right. It sounded like I was saying that I never a started in North America and drove a car from there to beyond its boundaries. That too, but I meant that I’d never driven a car other than in North America until today.
(Yes. I know deletion is simple online. I know I can easily delete the possibly misconstrued sentences rather than leaving them in and then providing clarification. But I worried that this entry might be too short. I didn’t want you to find yourself with nothing to fill your day. I’m generous that way.)
Not only have I, until now, only driven in North America, but I’ve driven only in the two northern countries in North America. Driving in a non-English-speaking country, which may impose rules of the road that differ considerably from those in the United States and Canada, petrifies me.
When I take trips in Europe I usually depend on trains to get from city to city to town to town, or whatever my itinerary may be. If I want to visit a sight outside of the city or town I’m in and a train doesn’t go there, I can usually book a reasonably priced day trip, typically offered via a small bus or van, with only a few other patrons on board, to get me there.
Greece has some fast trains, but not to the places I want to visit on this trip. Hence the car.
All’s well. So far.
I can happily report that, once I got a ways out of Piraeus, traffic was light and the roads good. A number of twisty-turny sections required that I negotiate their curves as the roads wound up, down, and around hills, but I handled them with ease.
Beautiful scenery rolled by as I drove. Actually, I rolled by the scenery, not the other way around. But, before leaving Toronto, I paid a guy on Yonge Street twenty-five dollars for a literary license. I intend to get my money’s worth.
Oh, yeah. The scenery. Browns and greens coloured the hills of various heights and ruggedness.
I thought I spotted an olive grove on the way, but I’m not sure. It might have been some other type of grove. I found it hard to take a close look when I was so focused on the road, in mortal fear of what the way ahead would foist upon me.
The longer I drove, however, the more comfortable I got with it. My mortal fear abated to horrific fear, or possibly even just horrible fear. It’s a subtle difference, I know, but I’ll take what I can get. By the end of this trip, I hope to bring that down to merely an uncomfortable fear. We’ll see.
I am, though, happy to report that I haven’t collided with anything and nothing has collided with me. Nor have I plunged over a high cliff, resulting in a fiery crash, or a crash of any kind. Yet. So, that’s good. So far.
Monastery of Osios Loukas
I drove first to the Monastery of Osios Loukas. The (former) monastery, located near the town of Steiri, perches high on the slope of Mount Helikon.
The monastery contains two still-standing attached churches. The older, smaller church dates from circa 960. Construction of tthe newer church—newer compared to the older church—occurred early in the 11th century. So, it’s newer than the old church, but not exactly what some people would call new in an age when many young folk consider anything pre-cellphone to be old. Young whippersnappers!
Both of the churches are beautifully decorated, without overdoing it. A number of paintings hang on the walls.
Neither church comes anywhere close to warrant a “large” descriptor, but I’m pretty sure that both exceed the size of the church at the monastery in Hydra that I visited yesterday. Nevertheless, unlike the church in the former monastery in Hydra, as far as I know, neither of the churches in the Monastery of Osios Loukas displays such high and mighty pompousness as to think of themselves as cathedrals, even in their most snooty moments.
A small building that houses the ticket desk for the Monastery of Osios Loukas also hosts a small museum containing some fragments of ancient architectural elements. Other buildings include the monks’ cells (only one is decorated and accessible to the public), a bell tower (one can admire its beauty from the outside, but the public can’t go in), a crypt, and an old stable.
These days, the old stable, two storeys tall, displays “detached 18th century frescoes from the church of Ayios Spyridon at Medeon in the Antikyra area.” Or so the brochure given to me at the ticket desk says. I went to the stable. The door with a large “Old Stable” sign beside it was closed and firmly locked. I walked around the building to see if offered an open door elsewhere. No luck
No staff members presented themselves. I trudged back to the ticket desk and asked if the stable was closed. The ticket seller told me it closes at 3:30. I looked at my watch. It read few minutes after two. I told the ticket taker about the closed and locked stable door. He shrugged his shoulders. I asked if he knew why it was closed. He said “no” and again shrugged his shoulders. It seems I can’t go a day without encountering something closed or blocked.
Being situated high on a hill, the views from the Monastery of Osios Loukas of the surrounding green and brown hilly/mountainous terrain are spectacular. I spent some time up there gazing at the vistas.
After leaving the Monastery of Osios Loukas, I drove to the town of Galaxidi for a two-night stay.
Why Galaxidi, you ask. Because I want to visit Delphi. That happens tomorrow. What does Galaxi have to do with Delphi, you further ask. Stop interrupting. I was just about to tell you that very thing.
When I looked online at hotels in Delphi, nothing appealed to me. A search for hotels a short drive from Delphi turned up Galaxidi as a seemingly good alternative with a couple of nice-looking hotels. Turns out, it is a good alternative. That is to say, I think it is. But I haven’t seen Delphi yet. Perhaps, despite the less than appealing appearance of the hotels displayed on the web, it’s better.
Galaxidi is a quiet, workaday town on the shores of some gulf or other. Apple Maps labels a big body of water as a few different gulfs. The Gulf of Krissa. The Gulf of Corinth. And the Alkyonides Gulf. There might be some other gulfs, but the labels are too small and have too weak a contrast against the background for my old eyes to read some of them even when I zoom in. I don’t get it. It’s one big body of water. How do they know where one gulf ends and the next one begins? Did someone put up dividing ropes in the water?
I think Galaxidi is on the Gulf of Krissa. But I’m not sure. It’s on one gulf or another, the combination of which would connect the Ionian and Aegean Seas were it not for the narrow piece of land connecting the Peloponnese peninsula to the rest of mainland Greece.
I used “workaday” a couple of paragraphs above. After writing the word, I realized that “workaday” may have a negative connotation for some people. But I didn’t mean it that way. I simply meant that the town isn’t flashy. And that is a good thing if you’re not looking for the razzmatazz of a big city.
(I usually do look for the razzmatazz of big cities. But, as you read in my posts on Hydra, I also appreciate breaks from that.)
I took a walk around Galaxida. The buildings are reasonably small. Whitewash covers the outer walls of some of them, but many sport pastel colours, mainly of the mustard, pinkish, and other warm hues. It makes for an attractive town.
The streets are fairly narrow. And the variety of whitewashing on some buildings and pastel colours on others makes for pleasing streetscapes.
Unlike Hydra, Galaxida has cars but, being a town rather than a city, not a lot of them. And drivers here don’t tend to roar through the streets. One or two of the cars do, but I never heard any of the drivers.
As I said, Galaxidi resides beside the Gulf of Krissa or possibly some other gulf. A generally rectangular inlet juts into one side of town. People park small boats there. It’s a picture perfect scene. Or, rather, it would be, but I’m not a picture perfect photographer. My attempt at a photo of it appears above.
Further along the coast, more toward the centre of the town’s waterfront, a bay juts into Galaxidi. The views of the town from either side of the bay are very beautiful, in a small town sort of way.
A small park with a few benches rests on the land at the end of that bay. A statue stands in the park. I found it kind of weird. But, then again, I often miss or misinterpret the meaning of art. So, you might have a different opinion about its weirdness, or lack thereof.
The statue’s subject is a guy dressed like a ship’s captain. One of his hands rests on a ship’s wheel, thereby cementing my belief that the artist intended him to be a ship’s captain. His other arm is raised as high as it can go, with its hand and fingers positioned as if he is waving.
A simply sculpted stone, or possibly a concrete thingy, sits in front of him. It looks like the artist intended it to represent a cannon pointed directly at whoever the captain is waving at.
I so much wanted to caption the sculpture with, “Hi! Hi! Great to see you, old friend! I have a cannon pointed directly at you and I’m not afraid to use it.”
And so ends this post. I hope you enjoyed it. If not, on your way out, be sure to ask one of the staff to refund your money. They will refuse your request firmly, but people often say engaging with other people is a very positive part of the human experience. Then again, they don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.