Katakolon is a tiny town on the west coast of the Peloponnese, 25 miles from Zakynthos. The first thing you notice is that the port is an international customs port for clearing in from abroad, with restricted area, duty free and all that. Why? Cruise ships dock here and their guests can visit the old Olympia from here.
We moor with stern line and bow anchor - another somewhat exotic detail: There is water and electricity at the pier, very pleasant, every evening someone comes and writes down the names of the boats and their home ports - but never someone collects anything.
The little town is geared for day visitors, small boutiques with jewellery, leather, olive wood items, also some restaurants. It is located at a wide bay, 200m from the harbour you can find beaches with fine sand, the water is shallow, you can still stand comfortably 150m from the shore.
Katakolon is located on a headland that one has to drive around if one comes from the north. Behind the place, the way approximately 100 height meters through a pine forest, there, one can enjoy the wonderful view from a restaurant. By continuing to walk alongside the small road in order to descend at the end back to the city, one is immediately in the middle of the Greek agriculture: small flat houses, very simple, goats, sheep, chickens, olive groves………all in all, a nice worthwhile country day.
We are located in Katakolon on the west coast of the Peloponnese, in the landscape of Elis. From here a kind of S-Bahn goes once a day via Pyrgos to Olympia. In the tiny village Katakolon even cruise ships dock because of Olympia - luckily not today.
After a 45 minutes drive we arrive at the pretty little station of Olympia, five minutes walk from the ancient sites. It is impressive and fascinating: the sheer size of this temple and sports complex, which was one of the most important cult sites in Greece. It is impossible to grasp all the individual temples and to whom they are dedicated. A special charm is given to the place by the ancient olive trees that stand in between. Huge columns, pictures that we know from history books.
In a wide landscape, between two small rivers, the old Olympia is situated between light hills. One can imagine how sports were practiced here, in 776 before the turn of the century the first Olympic Games. The excavations are still going on, probably it was already before 776. Especially the stadium is fascinating: 192 meters long, the stands right and left made of grass, only in the middle a stone box, for the referees and dignitaries. It is said to hold 45000 spectators, they will have stood.
Which contributes to the fascination of the place: there are almost no people there. Because of the corona, only a few people come here at the moment, not to mention the hundreds of cruise tourists.
Beside a museum of the history of the Olympic Games that we did not visit, there is an antiquity museum in which there are findings of Olympia, huge statues of Zeus and other gods, frieze pieces with fighting scenes, but also Roman emperors.
The museum is once again a highlight, as it does not only show the findings from the classical Greek period, but also art and utility objects from the pre-Greek era as also from the following Roman era - thus, an overall picture results that goes far beyond the pure classical image of Greece - who knows that the Roman emperor Nero watched the Olympic Games here in a palace that was specially built for him?
The decline of Olympia was initiated by the fact that Christianity became the state religion in the Roman Empire and that other religious customs were subsequently banned. So this holy place decayed, earthquakes also contributed to it.
Nevertheless, Olympia is still today an intense experience of antiquity.
Zakynthos (in Venetian times: Zante) is the southernmost island in the Ionian Sea. It is beautiful and very versatile. We spent three days there and in one day we rented a car to see more of the island.
The island is divided into two parts, so to speak: The south-east is intensively cultivated, wine, olives, potatoes, corn……, the landscape is flat, partly hilly, with wide valleys. The north-west is harsh, the coast is rugged, vertical cliffs plunge into the sea, interrupted by small bays with sandy beaches.
Perhaps the most famous: Navagio, the Shipwreck Bay. Here a freighter stranded 40 years ago, which allegedly smuggled Turkish cigarettes on behalf of the Italian Mafia. A spectacular sight, from above, almost vertically over the bay. There you can see why the colours of the Greeks are blue and white.
The landscape forms are impressive: as said before, vertical white cliffs, but then also loose-like weathering forms, also volcanic rock.
A special thing in the southwest: the protected area for the loggerhead turtles that lay their eggs here, the young turtles hurry to get past the tourists into the save water. There is indeed a protection zone, but it is a tourist hotspot that is a little bit like a Party-hotspot.
In the interior of the island there are pine groves, plateaus with tiny villages, where from olive wood carvings to rose liquor (really tastes like roses!) local products are offered.
Not to forget: several monasteries, at least 500 years old, the Greek Orthodox Church is present everywhere.
We were located in the lively city harbour, at the moment it is pleasant, there are, probably due to corona, not the otherwise feared tourist rushes there.
Zakynthos is a worthwhile destination, for most different interests and preferences.
On August the third - exactly one month after we arrived - we left Messolonghi, first to Zakynthos.
A month which was so completely different from what we had expected. The equipping of the boat, the preparation, the putting in and out, the testing, the optimizing - we had not expected that this would be a real hard work and on top the Heat.
But beyond this work we got to know the city, it doesn't open up immediately, only at second glance, no, actually only at third glance. And we still get lost in the chessboard streets. But we really liked the beautiful streets, partly paved with marble, like from the Venetian times, the cafés and the shady squares, by the way also the restaurants. Also the beaches in Tourlida and in Kryonéri, we enjoyed them very much.
It is a beautiful city with very very friendly, helpful and uncomplicated people. Two are worth mentioning: Dimitris, the self-sacrificing, totally reliable and very friendly electrician, who helped us in the sweat of his brow by kneeling in the boat for hours at 30 degrees for the electrical system - and Mimis, the wonderful boss of the Marina Bar, who read every wish from our eyes, who also made contact with other important people - and who always brought us something good to eat and/or drink. We will miss them........
But we plan to come back: At the end of October we want to be in Messolonghi again and then "winterize" the boat, go back to Heidelberg, and then in spring back to Messolonghi - it was beautiful there!
This week even the Greeks think it's a little hot. Until 37 degrees……..
What can you do? Take a bath. Our current local mountain is the Varàsova, barely 1000 m high, its huge rock face rises vertically from the sea.
Less than 100 m in front of it there is Kryonéri, a tiny village with a small fishing harbour and several rustic pubs. And the special thing about this location is that you can swim on a sandy and pebble beach right in front of the rock face - and that the water is shallow there.
These are the typical Greek bathing places: A parasol, under it a small table, on the left and right a sun bed. One orders something to drink and by doing so, one has so to speak paid the user fee, a very pleasant regulation, we think.
Kryonéri is located about 15km east of Messolonghi, you are diagonally opposite Patras with its huge Rion bridge. And the wind that blows out of the Gulf of Patras makes bathing and lying even at 37 degrees not only bearable but really pleasant.
Today with our car: Our destination was Astakos at the Ionian Sea, from where the ferries to Ithaca depart, about 45 km from Messolonghi.
The landscape: Aetolia Arcania. Messolonghi is located in the lagoon nature park Messolonghi- Ätoliko.
So first we went along the lagoons, which remind strongly of the Camargue, here salt is also extracted on a large scale. With one difference: the lagoons are bordered on the land side by a wild steep rugged mountain range, where there are vertical rockfalls and which is covered with maquis, if anything grows there.
Ätoloko is a small town completely located on an island, it has two access roads on a narrow arched bridge.
In this area there is agriculture - olives, maize, wine, watermelons…….and there is fishing, namely - because of the shallow water - eels. They are smaller than the ones we know in Germany, they are not smoked, but fried and taste very good. Sometimes, as in Messolonghi, the flat wooden houses of the fishermen stand on stilts like pile dwellings in or near the water.
To the north, the route continues into the mountains, in serpentines and narrow curves. You have to be careful, because behind a curve suddenly a herd of goats can stand. Already here you have wonderful views of the strongly structured coastal landscape of the Ionian Sea, brown-red limestone cliffs and the deep blue sea, partly green between eucalyptus or cork oak trees.
The rock formations are wild and varied: right next to each other there are calcareous layers, volcanic forms like weathered lava rivers and then again huge sloping plates like slates.
Astakos is a tiny beautiful town with a pier where fishing boats, but also sailing boats moor. There are restaurants preferably with fish dishes - we have tried one and can recommend it.
The car ferry to Ithaca drives with its bow flap directly onto the pier, 20 meters further you can swim, an idyll.
On the return trip we made several small detours into the bays and drank a very good espresso freddo in Ätoliko - a completely successful Sunday trip.
Yesterday, light wind was predicted - we wanted to use this to finally try out all sails and test the sailing characteristics of Aglaya. No sooner said than done: First out of the long channel (Messolonghi is located in a lagoon) under engine. Then at sufficient depth the sails are hoisted - three out of four are brand new.
They can be set very well. Then they stand well - very well. Nevertheless, with mainsail, jib, furling genoa and mizzen it is of course hard work - especially at 30 degrees outside temperature.
Aglaya sails beautifully - and the sea behaviour of the hull is just as we had imagined: Calm, softly setting into the wave, very stable, no need to balance with the rudder, even when the waves come from the side.
So: A beautiful sailing day all around with a wonderful boat.