London, England, United Kingdom
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Kim had a few days in London to enjoy to local scene before heading south.
Monday, May 23, 2016
Travel day began with Kim experiencing traveling on the tube during peak hours. We have an almost uneventful flight to Corfu, but as we were approaching the runway into Greece we suddenly aborted the landing, circled around the island too "apparently" come in at a better height? Kim and I both reckon that the pilot was in training.
Safely on the ground, we settled into Hotel Bella Venezia then strolled around the streets to get a taste of Corfu before we return in several days time.
Dinner was.... Let's just say we choose poorly, very touristy and not the best food, but we agreed that's it for bad meals for the entire trip.
Kipoi, Epirus, Greece
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Woke up to fresh yummy Greek yogurt, two bowls later and after Kim had helped herself to nice strong coffee for two, we headed to the Corfu ferry terminal. Once aboard we headed for Igoumenitsa. Blue water, anchor watching, seagulls and islands filled our time for the hour and a half journey. Took a bit of searching to find the bus terminal but we succeeded and then found a tasty local bakery to pass the time until our bus arrived for departure.
The bus ride was thankfully uneventful and we barely stepped off the bus before we met up with our pre-arranged taxi driver Carlo. Carlo was fantastic, full of information about Zagori area and local lore. Just outside of the village Carlo stopped at the Bridge of Kokoris or Noutsos (see photo). It was constructed in 1750 by building both sides up at the same time and then inserting the keystone to hold it all up.
We were met in Kapesovo by 3 very friendly dogs and 7 cats all who insisted on helping Carlo carry our bags to the Guest house Thoukididis. The guest house is owned by the Papageorgiou family, who strive to make everything from the local area. Collecting wild mushrooms, growing herbs and making marmalades just to mention a few items that supply their small shop in the town square.
We are the only current guests and dinner was a wonderful mix of fresh vegetables, feta, stuffed tomatoes & peppers all prepared by Joanna.
Off to rest up for our first day of hiking to Beloi, Vikos.
Kipoi, Epirus, Greece
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
The first proper walk in Zagori began with a magnificent climb up the Vradehto steps, that was constructed by 19th century Greeks. This walk was full of wild flowers and bumblebees. The weather was a bit cooler but it was perfect for hiking. We reached Beloi and were treated to the first real views of Vikos Gorge. With a length of 20 km (12 mi), walls that range from 400 to 1,600 feet (120 to 490 m) deep, and a width from 400 m (1,312 ft) to some metres at its narrowest part is listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the deepest canyon in the world in proportion to its width.
We will be spending the next 4 days exploring this wonderful landscape. I'll let the photos do the talking.
Favorite food of the trip so far is zbeki (walnuts dipped in grape must)
Monodendrion, Epirus, Greece
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Forty six villages are grouped together into Zagori. The traditional stone villages are famous all over Greece for their distinctive architecture and also their history. The houses are built of stone - either the white limestone or the black "ironstone", which is found in and around the village; the roofs are of stone, lying on the roof structure without nails. All houses have shade courtyards, often with an outside kitchen for summer use. This courtyard opens out onto the main cobbled thoroughfare by means of large wooden gates - wide enough for a laden mule to pass through.
Kapesovo to Monodendri, Vikos
We started with a wonderful breakfast and after saying goodbye to all of our puppy friends and getting pointed in the right direction we headed down a narrow woodland path towards Voidomatisriver. The first stone bridge (Kontodimoi) of the day was located just below the village of Kipi. There were some nice bolted climbing routes by this bridge (note for a return trip).
From here we worked our way to Koukouli where we refreshed ourselves at the taverna under a "plane" tree. We saw several of these trees usually located in the village squares. The Tree of Hippocrates is the plane tree (or platane, in Europe) under which, according to the legend, Hippocrates of Kos (considered the father of medicine) taught his pupils the art of medicine.
Our lunch stop required us to remove our shoes and take a small nap by the side of the river for about 45 minutes. From there we continued to the Misiou Stone Bridge, then the final ascent of the Vitsa Steps to reach our rest area for the night in Monodhendri at the Arktourosu Hotel.
Before dinner we explored the village and visited the historic monastery of Agia Paraskevi, built on the edge of the Vikos Gorge. The monastery was founded in 1412 by Michael Voevodas Therianosand the people of Vitsa.
Kim instructions from the waiter at dinner was be careful you may find the bullet that shot the wild boar your eating.....
Arktouros Hotel - , Monodendri, Greece
Friday, May 27, 2016
From Monodendri, the trail into the gorge drops steeply to the Voidomatis River. The trail turns left while still in the trees and continues through the woods in a charming, lovely, and pleasantly graded footpath that parallels the river. Said to be the deepest gorge for its height, the VikosGorge measures 2950 feet deep and 3600 feet from rim to rim.
Several stops slowed our progress but it was worth every minute. Kim went swimming but I was too wimpy, way to cold.
We finally emerged into village of Papingo, after a 700 meter climb up out of the gorge, and as we were navigating to our guest house a gentleman called to us in the street. He was our host and was looking for us. Apparently he was getting slightly concerned since we were a bit late. The few extra hours laying by the river set our expected arrival back.
Our lodging for the next two nights is Saxonis House which is a traditional stone house in the heart of the village.
Papigkon, Epirus, Greece
Saturday, May 28, 2016
So for some reason the most difficult time we have with navigation does not happen in the wilderness but only when we are in tiny small stone villages in Greece? Every morning we wander around looking for where to begin our walk - we usually get there in the end after cutting through people's yards and bushwacking a little. ugh....
Finally we left Papingo for a big day in the high alpine mountains. I did not expect to find alpine landscapes here in Greece but they exist. We awoke and loaded up on a lot of breakfast (and I mean a lot). Breads, meats, marmalades, yogurt, and a thick flat baked crepe with feta - which was fantastic. Then headed out from Papingo to Astraka refuge. This hike started going up and continued up for the entire day.
We scurried past some large hiking groups on the trail to get a little distance then the we saw very few people for the remainder of the hike up to the refuge. Several springs were located along the trail to refresh our water supply which was needed with the very sunny and warm day we had.
We reached the refuge before lunch and immediately continued on to Dragon lake. What a sight! I'll let the photos do the explaining.
We lunched at our high point above the lake and had complete solitude for about 40 minutes. As we headed down back to the lake we saw several "dragons" which were salamanders - actually not sure if this is why the lake is called dragon lake, but seemed reasonable to us.
Perfect day of hiking, properly tired.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Today was a travel day but fortunately it started out really slowly. Woke up and got moving at a snails pace than had breakfast before wandering to some nearby natural pools for a dip and lounge.
Carlo our taxi driver picked us up at 3pm to take us back to Igoumenitsa. No bus this time! We chatted most of the way about the current Greek government-debt crisis and other interesting topics. We arrived at the port at 5pm. He drove us to the ticket station, I jumped out of the car to buy tickets, dove back in the car as he raced us to the boat. We just made the ferry by about 1 minute. Feww...
A couple of hours later we arrived in Corfu, picked up a taxi to the airport to grab a rental car for the next few days. As we were looking for our car a women who was helping us recommended an Italian restaurant near our hotel.....so we parked and went there as soon as we dropped off our bags. Let's just say the Italian food was better than most of the food we had in Italy last year....weird I know, but true
Monday, May 30, 2016
Drove around the north side of the island today and over to the west coast. Amazingly winding roads, huge olive trees and discovered a castle.
Angelokastro - “Castle of Angels” or "Angelos's castle" is located at the top of the highest peak of the island's shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and is one of the most important Byzantine castles of Greece. The origin of its name is not completely clear, with some historians mentioning that in 1214 Michael I Komnenos Doukas, Despot of Epirus, sometimes called Michael Angelos, annexed Corfu to Epirus and following his death, Michael II Komnenos Doukas, often called Michael Angelos in narrative sources, further fortified the area and named it after himself and his father: Angelokastro. The Despots were related to the Komnenoi dynasty of Byzantine emperors. Today foreign language signs in the area refer to it, wrongly, as St. Angelo's castle.
Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Byzantine Corfu. It forms an Acropolis, translated as city on the edge, that surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and therefore presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle. The engineering of its construction at such a remote and forbidding location is remarkable by any standards, not only medieval.
It played a pivotal role during the Great Siege of Corfu in 1571 when the Turkish attack on the north western flank of Corfu was successfully repulsed by the defenders of the castle.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
We had stopped yesterday to pick up snorkeling gear so we were ready for our snorkelingadventure.
Today we got up early and headed to a secluded cove that I had found online and listed to be one of the best sites in Corfu. We drove to Afionas and hiked about 45 minutes to Port Timone.
The site was divided by two bays, one facing Ag Georgios, and the other, the sea. The one facing the sea had the clearest blue water and the bottom was full of wildlife and interesting corals to enjoy. We played around in the water, then warmed up in the sun. We continued this cycle for a good part of the day, relaxing and enjoying our last full day in Greece.
After we walked back up to Afionas and had a coffee & tea at a great cafe overlooking the sea before driving back to Corfu town. On the way back we managed to find the tiniest road with switchback of the likes I have never seen. Very fun to drive but the corners we so tight I could barely make them with the small rental car we had.
Bella Venezia Hotel - 4 Zabeli Napoleodos, Corfu Town, Greece
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Today was or last day in Corfu. We had a 17:40 flight to bring us back to London. We took the morning to eat a late breakfast then headed out and about the town to explore Corfu town. We first visited the Old Fortress.
Old Fortress of Corfu (Greek: Παλαιό Φρούριο, Venetian: Fortezza Vecchia) is a Venetian fortress in the city of Corfu. The fortress covers the promontory which initially contained the old town of Corfu that had emerged during Byzantine times.
Before the Venetian era the promontory, which lies between the Gulf of Kerkyra to the North and Garitsa Bay to the south, was defended by Byzantine fortifications which the Venetians largely replaced with fortifications of their own design. As part of their defensive plans the Venetians separated the promontory from the rest of the city of Corfu by creating the Contrafossa, a moat which is a sea channel connecting the Gulf of Kerkyra to the North with the Bay of Garitsa to the South, converting the citadel into an artificial island. The fort successfully repulsed all three major Ottoman sieges: the great siege of 1537, the siege of 1571 and the second great siege of Corfu in 1716.
After we spent some time there we searched out a soap making factory called Patounis soap factory. They are a family business in Corfu, Greece, making pure traditional soap from locally produced olive products.
Their most valued asset is the ancestral recipes and practice that have been passed on from father to son for five successive generations. The premises, preserved with the functioning tools and equipment dating from 1891, constitute a living memory of a unique local tradition. It has been a listed monument of industrial heritage with the Greek Ministry of Culture since 2008.
They manufacture the soap totally by hand. The oil is heated in an open cauldron together with natrium hydroxide to attain saponification. The mixture is washed out with sea salt solutions.
After about ten days cooking, the soap is hand-scooped into soap trays where is left to cool and harden. It is then marked, stamped and cut: all by hand, Finally, the soap is placed on wooden racks where it stays for 4 months to dry and mature.
We had missed the tour for the day but Mr. Patounis gave use a quick tour the the factory. It was amazing to see and a great way to end our trip.