m e t h o n i

[ 23:10 monday 22 august – methoni, greece ]

rather than going straight to piraeus i decided to stay saturday night in athens. after dumping my chattels in an hotel i ate on a street terrace half way up the acropolis. the lights of athens glittered pleasingly below, particularly after several glasses of pungent retsina. on sunday morning i picked my way through the massed tourists in the flea-market by monasteriou. an old man was pushing an ancient pianola along the street, cranking the handle whilst croaking what sounded like a completely unrelated song.

by mid-morning i was ready to move on, but again i didn’t go to piraeus. i took a taxi to the bus station serving the pelopponese and got on a bus  to kalamata. i was the only non-greek on the bus, which i took as a good sign.

kalamata was deserted when i arrived. i walked off and found myself in a disused railway siding. five graffiti-covered steam locomotives were abandoned there, along with some elderly carriages and a two-car diesel set from the fifties. it didn’t seem to be a museum. there were no explanations and the exhibits were conspicuously uncared-for. it looked like the trains had just been left there when they were no longer needed and finally the whole line had been closed. rather surreal.

i had a cup of undrinkable coffee in a cafe by the port where old men were alternately playing cards and watching loud football on tv. then i returned to the bus station, where i learned from a gruff official that there was only one more bus that day and its final stop would be methoni. so i got me a ticket for methoni.

the village has just two streets, one of which was crammed with people eating and drinking when i arrived at ten last night. weaving through the diners i halloed an old lady sitting on a balcony above a sign saying “school of english”. she beckoned me come to a gate and twenty minutes later i was set up in a tiny apartment under her house. she and her husband made a big fuss, furnishing me with watermellon, home-dried currants, chillies and sage. what more could a chap want.

methoni is dominated by a huge venetian citadel built in the fourteenth century, when venice was the dominant power in the eastern mediterranean. it stands on a promentory with a sandy bay on the eastern side, a rocky coast extending northward and a mountainous island opposite. swimming off the rocks this afternoon there was nobody else in sight for several kilometres, incredible for the middle of august.

methoni’s an inspiring place but already i feel restless. i learned today there’s one ship a week from gythos to crete and it leaves tomorrow afternoon at four. if i catch a bus at six o’clock tomorrow morning i should be able to make connections in kalamata and inios and get there in time. but the timing will be tight. i’d put my odds at fifty-fifty.

: cH :

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