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Two seas, two ferries and Athens traffic – Korinthos to Pireas (80/13,016k)

(written by Dave)

Today we crossed Isthmus of Corinth.  For the last two and a half days we’ve been riding with the Gulf of Corinth on our left.  This morning we reached the end of the waterway and crossed the isthmus to have the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea now on our right for the rest of the day.  These two bodies of water are separated by 6.4 kilometers and in early times this was a very strategic area.  If you’ve not heard these names previously, not to worry, neither of us has either.  This part of the world seems much smaller today than it did 2000 years ago.

The first attempt at a canal was in the 1st century AD but they had no chance to complete it given the technology of the time.  With the advances in the industrial revolution, a proper effort was undertaken in 1881 and the canal was completed in 1893.  It is only 70feet/21.3meters wide at the base and it has no locks.  So technically, it would make the land of the Peloponnesian peninsula an island.  The width of the canal and the size of modern ships make it virtually irrelevant in modern times.  Today it is more of a tourist route.  We knew it was coming but were quite surprised when we saw it below as we crossed a bridge.  The walls are quite steep and there isn’t much signage (in anything we can read at least).  We stopped on the far side and walked back for photos.

Overnight was quiet in the campground.  I guess that’s the case when you are the only guests.  They really weren’t open…  The sea did not keep us a wake as much last night as they have a small retaining wall that dampened the noise.  Oatmeal made brekkie quick but a wet tent delayed our departure.  We didn’t want a wet tent as we knew we had three nights in Athens and would not be able to get it out on arrival.   Sunrise at camp was great again, though my tentmate can’t seem to understand why I need to get up so early for a little bit of red sky.

The ride to the canal was quite busy as we rode through Korinthos.  We spotted a bike shop where we stopped for a few minor items.  We feared that development would continue all the way to Athens and were pleasantly surprised by a very quiet road and incredible views of the Aegean Sea.  The light was great but made hard to pick the actual horizon.  It felt much drier on this side but there were lots of wild flowers to spice up the brown.

Until today we were not really sure if the economy here in Greece is doing it hard or if we were just in a tourist area outside tourist season.  Today, after the canal we got a better idea.  This area of coast, overlooking the sea, was dotted by vacation homes.  Except the vast majority of these homes were not completed.  They either lacked a second floor, evidenced by the exposed re-bar or, even more common they had roofs but no windows.  They either over built or they’ve run out of money – either way, looks like a great place to pick up a new coastal home – if you have your own tools.

We had two ferries today.  The first was from Megara to the island of Salamis. The second was just after lunch in Paloykia.  We had a great lunch break sitting on the wharf overlooking a small fishing fleet in the harbor.  I am happy to report that Nancy did very well on both ferries.  So far the ferries here are much easier than those in SE Asia.  In SE Asia we typically had to unload the bike bags and strap the bikes on top of the ferry.  By then the stress factor was high and when they crammed you into a way-over-A/C treated cabin with no windows and bounced you across open ocean, you can only wonder why Nancy has lost any remaining fondness of boats that she previously had.  Well so far here we have on giant ship (no wave motion) and two roll the bikes on ferries – all taken on fairly calm water of the inner Mediterranean.

The ferry from Paloykia dropped us about 13k from Pireas (we are staying near the port, not in Athens proper).  The ride from the ferry was pretty dicey, lots of fast moving traffic that didn’t want to give us a lane and a very rough road full of lots of holes trying to swallow a bicycle wheel.  We made it the hotel pretty easy navigational wise and were pretty happy to be out of the traffic.  I did pretty well with the navigation (though my partner may have asked me to check the map a few times).  We are staying at a great hotel for a crazy low price.  I’m not sure if it is due to the economy, the recent riots or it’s just a quiet time of the year.  Whatever the reason, we are pretty happy to have a great room at the Phidias Hotel.  We’ve booked three nights and hope to get the ferry toward Turkey on Friday.  Unfortunately this Monday and Tuesday, and maybe Wednesday, there is a Greece-wide outer island ferry strike.  It is supposed to end on Thursday and should not affect us getting out of Greece but we will verify that in the morning.

For dinner we walked down to the waterfront area and had a gyro at a highly recommended restaurant.  We were not disappointed – I even had seconds.  Maybe as good as Lucky’s Gyros in Santorini.

Not sure what we’ll get up to the next couple of days.  We’ll make a plan in the morning.  We are both pretty tired tonight after our mini-sprint across Greece.

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6 responses to “Two seas, two ferries and Athens traffic – Korinthos to Pireas (80/13,016k)

  1. Wow, those sides ARE steep. Are they made of dirt or what?

    I want photos of your room, please.

    • The walls are solid rock, but they do have landslides. They really should have made it wider but now its lack ofstrategicvalue makes any additional work commercially unviable.

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  2. Jude and Hugh Wilson

    Those unfinished homes with reo sticking up to the sky are part of a Greek tax dodge. Something to do with not paying whatever tax it is, if your house is not complete…. lots of ‘not complete’ houses all over Greece.

    • Makes sense for those with re-bar out the top. Those with no doors/windows were clearly not inhabited – must be something else going on there.

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  3. The Corinth canal is amazing, must have involved a tremendous amount of man power and explosives. It would have been an amazing effort to watch.

    The sea and the sun look wonderful, did I mention that it snowed here on Monday?

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