This Time Last Year – Part 13: Western Peloponnese

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

April 30 2016 – Pyrgos, Katakolo and Patras

My main reason for stopping in Pyrgos is to catch the tourist train to Olympia then to the port of Katakolo, visit a nearby winery then return to Pyrgos to catch the bus to Patras.

Last night I had asked the hotel manager about the train to Olympia. There is no train he says. You have to take the bus.

Up early, as normal, I decide to walk to the railway station anyway. It is close to the hotel, that’s why I chose it.

Waiting for the train at Pyrgos Railway Station

At the station
Waiting for the train
That won’t come in
Not today anyway.

Tourist train promotions
Online timetables
online ticket sales
Virtual affirmations
In reality a different story
Not running today.

It seems the tourist train operates only a cruise ship demand basis. I decide to flag Olympia. I went there in 2013. Don’t need to go again.

There is a bus to Katakolo at 9 am. I wander back to the hotel from the peaceful environs of the railway station cafe – the cappuccino very good – and pack my bag, dragging the trolley case over those massive kerbs again to the bus station, put my bag in the luggage room.

On the 20 minute journey I take in the scenery, much as I noted yesterday –  houses painted mostly white or beige, bright rustic looking awnings and orange terracotta roofs standing out amongst the monotonous shrubs, olive trees (of course) and occasionally neatly manicured rows of vines.

Katakolo is a pretty port but it is deserted. A long line of cafes, only a couple open. No taxis. Ask at kiosk. No English. See sign ‘wine road’. Start walking. Hitching. I get a ride to a junction by one of many rubbish heaps. Walk some more. Another ride to another junction. Walk some more. Thank goodness for my phone’s GPS. A Greek Australian lady picks me up and takes me to the 150-year-old Domaine Mercouri winery.

Christophe and his assist Zacharoulo, give me a very warm welcome and a life-saving cup of coffee.

Zacharoulo and Christophe at Domaine Mercouri

I learn about the history of Mercouri, wander through the wild flowers to the ancient cellar and museum and return to the modern winery and cellar door for a wine tasting. The wines are impressive and I buy a bottle of the Filoi Dry White 2015 – a blend of Roditis and Viognier. Mercouri has original art work on its labels and there is another bonus in store, the artist, Yannis Adakomos, visits the winery while I am there.

Yannis Adamakos, artist, and his label artwork for Domaine Mercouri Filoi Dry White.

Christophe is bussing to Athens and gives me a lift to the Pyrgos Bus Station just in time to retrieve my bag, buy a ticket and catch the 1.30pm bus to Patras.

We travel the coast road. I doze off occasionally only to be woken when we get trapped in villages by cars that are double or illegally parked. What’s legal anyway? I almost got bowled on a pedestrian crossing in Kalamata.

My room at the Galaxy hotel is the most comfortable yet. I have a balcony and in one direction is the pier and Varasova Mountain across the gulf.

Hotel room balcony view of pier and Varasova Mountain across the gulf

I’m hungry. Its not far to Cafe Stathmos at Patras railway station. Neil and I ate here in 2013 before boarding the ferry to Venice. Expensive but on the evening of Holy Saturday the choices are few. Still cheap by kiwi standards. 3.50 euro for a decent glass of wine. Tasty souvlaki meal of grilled chicken not on a stick, chips and salad. Guys from Ghana selling stuff keep hassling me.

I cross the railway line and wander along the pier. There is a trendy cafe at the end. Cafe Molos. Neil and I went through the village of Molos when we followed my father’s WWII route. We got hopelessly lost. It draws the wonderful memories of my 2013 trip right back.

I order a glass of rose. It looks gorgeous in the setting sun. But oh my gosh. It’s sweet, sugary and tastes like boiled lollies with pepper. Maybe it will counteract the overly salty peanuts. Such extremes on their respective scales. The peanuts can be fixed by squishing them out of their shells the wine however no way to rescue. Local said the waiter. That’s all he knows.

At least the view from the cafe is interesting. The inner water of the port. The sun setting. Getting lower and lower. Still with reasonable heat.

I am the only one in the cafe sitting alone. After the sun sets I decide to go. I have not finished the wine.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. The Trainose bus that will take me to Diakopto is caught up in the Easter Sunday strike. What will the unknown bring?

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