Day Seven: Gythion

I’m glad I followed advice from home and brought Dramamine. I felt a little woozy at dinner last night, and could only eat a tiny bit of all the good food our waiter brought. And darn, it was Italian night in the dining room, and before the dessert course, all the waiters danced down the center aisle holding trays of tiramisù. Oh, well, I am sure there will be something just as delicious for dinner tonight, and after walking around Gythion all day I am actually kind of hungry.

Gythion is a relatively small town compared to Corfu. It sits around the edge of the Gulf of Laconia, at the tip of the Peloponnesian Peninsula. It was the naval base for Sparta, a very long time ago. Gary and Carolyn boarded an excursion bus to visit olive groves and an Olive Museum, because Gary used to grow olives in Australia when he had his farm. Now he owns a small sheet metal firm in Perth.

David and I boarded a tender boat from the ship to the small harbor, because there wasn’t enough room for the Armonia to dock. When we got there, we started off down the street, with the amazing blue water of the harbor on one side and the town on the other. Maybe it’s because I don’t live near the ocean, but I have never seen such clear blue water, ever. The entire sea from Dubrovnik to Gythion looks like someone emptied a whole bottle of blue food coloring into a glass of water. Near the docks where it was shallower, the water was a beautiful turquoise green. If we looked over the edge of the sidewalk into the sea, we could see schools of small fish and sea urchins on the rocks at the bottom.

We walked up the hill to the ruins of the Roman ampitheatre. It really captures your imagination, thinking about what it must have looked like 2000 years ago. I was very surprised, however, at the lack of care or any attempt to preserve it. It looked like it was part of a vacant lot, and we could walk right up to it and sit down. There were weeds growing through the cracks in the stones, and the stones themselves were covered with round spots of yellow and white lichen.

We climbed a steep path through tall weeds behind the ampitheatre to another ruin in the place where the map said were the ruins of the Temple of Athena and the Gates of Castorides. There were ancient olive trees growing there, and what looked like an attempt to build a treehouse in one of them. Nighttime teen hangout? We saw remains of a fire in the tall, dry grass and trash around it. I guess its just part of the general lack of rules and regulations we are strangled by at home. If that ampitheatre and old temple existed in the United States, they would be fenced off so you couldn’t get near it, and there would be fundraising attempts to restore them and turn them into a museum. There would at least be a canopy over it to protect it from the elements.

We walked down a side street and looked in vain for the old Roman cemetery. We passed by buildings and apartments in every state of repair or disrepair, mostly dis.

The Gythion marketplace was like a giant open air Walmart, where you could buy everything from fur-lined boots to plumbing supplies to underwear. The prices were irresistible. At home, David would pay $5 for one pair of socks, but he was able to buy 4 pairs for €5. I bought a beautiful green scarf for €5, too. At home, you cant touch a scarf for less that $15, and that’s if you find one on clearance somewhere.

After a short break where we ate the sandwiches we’d pilfered from the breakfast buffet, we walked down the dock the other way to a promontory where supposedly Helen of Troy and Paris celebrated their nuptials. It could have been a beautiful park, but again, the place was covered with tall weeds and spindly pine trees. It had a building that was apparently a museum of some kind, but it wasn’t well marked, even in Greek, so we decided not to go in.

Gythion was a nice place to visit, but I found myself wondering why a cruise ship would have it on their itinerary. Maybe there would have been more to see had we taken one of the excursions, to the Olive Museum, the beaches, or the Diros caves. To me, the most interesting thing about visiting places is to go where the tourists don’t and see how ordinary people live, so Gythion was great in that way. That’s also what I like to take pictures of — an old nonna hanging laundry out her window in Venice, three old men gabbing on the sidewalk in Gythion, an elderly fisherman checking his nets under a rack of octopus legs he must have caught just this morning.

Gythion was worth a visit, just for that.

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