This is a post I wrote last year, but as we have just arrived here again, I thought it deserved a re-post.
…..it was the Greek police-lady’s fault. “You will see it. There are signs” she told us……..
We were moored in the little harbour of Saghiada on the Greek mainland, with the intention of filling up with water and giving the boat a thorough clean. We had some time to spare, so we decided to explore the local area, and maybe partake in another of our infamous Greek country walks …..
Before starting on our most recent marathon walk, into the Greek hinterland, we checked the route on GoogleMaps, GoogleEarth and other Google related navigation aids. We also asked at the local police station for directions. The guy on the desk didn’t speak much English, but he called for assistance from the very nice lady policeman. He put one hand over his mouth and muttered ‘tessera tessera’ to her, and it became clear what he meant, when she said the final part of the road was extremely bad and not suitable for a hire car. “You need a tessera tessera” she told us, which we guessed meant a 4 wheel drive car.
We told her we didn’t have a car of any sort, never mind a 4×4, and we were going to walk. She took a sharp intake of breath. She held her forearm at an angle of 45 degrees to indicate the steepness of the climb. We weren’t deterred. She told us it was about 5 km, which was OK by us, so we set off in what we thought was the right direction.
After about a mile of walking up hill, firstly on a decent road, but which soon narrowed to a rough track, we had seen no road sign of any sort, and no sighting of any ruined buildings. Soon we came to what looked like a checkpoint. A ‘stop’ barrier with barbed wire either side persuaded us to turn back. I was actually worried we might have wandered into Albania, the border is only 5km north, at the top of the mountain……there was no one about, and I decided it was some sort of police station. No doubt they were all inside drinking Greek coffee and watching TV….
We had to retrace our steps some distance, as Tim, who always decides map reading is a man’s job, had failed to spot a turning we should have taken before the checkpoint. But he didn’t even have an actual map, just a screen shot on his iPad taken from GoogleEarth….. he shunned my offer of using my IPhone with GPS facility, but it probably wouldn’t have been much help, as the small roads and tracks didn’t show up on GoogleMaps. We continued walking upwards.
“There are signs and you will see it!” I yelled at frequent intervals, imitating the greek policewoman, who clearly was playing games with us. We saw no road signs and no village. But the views over the harbour and lagoon were spectacular.
After another thirty minutes, we rounded a bend, and there, in the far distance, was the tower of a church, and I recognised it as Agios Georgios, in the ruined village we were looking for. We were still several kilometres from it, but our destination was in sight. We heard a rumbling noise, and as we got closer, we discovered that coming towards us down the narrow path was a huge yellow tractor-like vehicle that was scraping the surface of the stony road with an attachment to make it smooth. We leapt, goat-like, into the bushes to avoid being scraped up. Maybe they were eventually going to put a proper road surface on this stony path, it certainly needed it.
Finally, after more spectacular views, we reached the outskirts of the ruined village. “We aren’t going to go in every single ruined house, are we?” complained the husband. “I’ll be the judge of that,” I replied. “As we’ve walked all the way up here, we may as well take a good look round.” It was very sad to think that German soldiers had caused the villagers to leave their homes by torching the houses in 1943. I’ve read several books recently about the Greek people and the atrocities they suffered in WW2, and seeing these dilapidated buildings really brought it to life.
The abandoned church was very impressive. It had been given a new tiled roof at some point, but the interior appeared unused. The walls and archways were still highly decorated with Greek religious paintings, and there were still small icons and religious decorations on show. I had read that festivals and concerts were occasionally held in the town square of this old village, and chairs and tables were stored inside the church, along with a large refuse bin, and a freezer!
Tim couldn’t resist a look inside the freezer to see if it held any beer, but I said it was more likely used for dead bodies before they buried them….. neither proved to be true!
After a good look round, many photos being taken, and a bottle of water between us, we decided to start our great trek back down the mountain. I had read that there was a recognised mule track, which went back down to the harbour village. It was likely to be fairly steep, but easier going down than going up…
To be continued…. in which we are close to calling for International Rescue….