A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: travellinghoney

Two Become Three

We headed up to Berlin, where we met Sue, Stacey's  Mum who will join us for about 3 weeks.

Berlin

We had generally avoided war related history until now, as it was something Sue wanted to see with us. Berlin is possibly the best place to start, as no city reflects the effects of the war quite like Berlin. They are not shy to admit the wrong, and are very open to all cultures now. Peace is the one word that would present itself most in Berlin. Starting at the large Tiergarten, a huge park 210 ha where usually "old & smelly" German men walk around naked. Unfortunately as it was a crisp winters morning, the only nudity was on the statues. Tiergarten has a history of about 500 years, originally a hunting park for noblemen.

Throughout & immediately surrounding this huge park you find the usual Impressive and huge European things:

A Victory Column,  67m high with a bronze statue of Victoria (Ancient Roman goddess of Victory)

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A Palace, where the President lives (Germany has a president and Chancellor) & the Parliament, where Hitler made all other political parties illegal, abolished freedom of speech, and implemented many extreme policies.

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A huge gate, where the ancient defence wall of the city opened.

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Everything in this park is impressive.  Countless historical events happened here, including the famous moment when Michael Jackson hung his baby out the window (the hotel is by the Gate).

The most notable thing is that this is the area that Hitler ran the war and genocide from. Just beyond the reaches of the park is the underground bunker where Hitler killed himself. It is now a carpark with a little sign.

There is no hiding what happened in the 30's and 40's,  and appropriately the monuments remembering the millions murdered are located at the most important location of the city.

The Hollocaust memorial being the largest, was designed in a way that the interpreter would see something that meant the most to them when they though of the war (It could be a destroyed city, mass tombs, etc).

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After the Soviets decided the war was over (they really won the war), Germany was divided into east and west. Additionally the capital was also divided east and west, so there was now a unique situation where the soviet union surrounded a small bit of western controlled land. An unhappy german soviet citizen could simply step over the border, seek asylum and leave the east for the west.

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As the west provided so much and the Soviets were very rough on the Germans that were now under their control, as many as 3.5 million left the east prompting a problem. In 1961 over night a wire fence and soviet armed military surrounded west Berlin, keeping the soviet population out of the "Fascist NATO controlled west" it wasn't long before the fence was 2 walls complete with death zone and snipers and mine fields. Basically the iron curtain has closed and you are here to stay.

It remained closed until the East Berlin spokesman Schabowski was announcing new regulations in November 1989. He wasn't part of the team that made the regulations, and didn't have all the information, but basically told people they were free to leave effective immediately, when that is not what the East had intended at all.

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Beyond the war and the wall history, Berlin has so much to offer. We enjoyed many things, but can't stay forever.

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Krakow

A day on the trains got us from Berlin to the capital of the old large polish empire (about dating back 500 years) of Krakow.

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A walled city, Krakow was the political center of Eastern Europe and Sweden, until the king accidentally burnt down half his castle (apparently in 1595 he was trying to make gold with alchemy, and the castle caught fire) then he moved to Warsaw, or so the story goes.

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The walls were successful in defending attacking armies, and in the center of town a watch tower over the church gave a trumpeter the ability to warn the town of imminent attack. Every hour a trumpeter plays his tune, and as the story goes one trumpeter was shot with an arrow before the tune was complete which explains why the trumpeters song ends so abruptly.

That's not the only folktale from krakow..

Under the castle is a cave, and in the cave lived the Smok Wawelski (the Wawel dragon). There are many stories, but the most popular is that in the 15th Century King Krakus had a problem. The Dragon ate young girls, eventually the only young girl left was his daughter (the princess), so he offered her hand in marriage to any who could kill the dragon. Many failed attempts the king was getting restless, preparing to flee. However a Cobblers apprentice devised a plan of taking a dead sheep, fulling it with Sulphur, leaving it for the dragon outside its cave. The dragon ate the sheep whole, became thirsty and went to the river to drink. The thirst could not be quenched so the dragon kept drinking until it exploded. The cobbler's apprentice married the Princess and lived happily ever after. Nowdays there is a statue of Smok Wawelski that still is fire breathing (every 5 minutes).

Another awesome thing we excitedly rediscovered in Poland was the goulash and Bison vodka..

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We also had more war history, including the German occupation, and the concentration and Death Camp Auschwitz - Birkenau.

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Being the geographic centre of Europe, and having such a Jewish population nearby, Auschwitz and Auschwitz Birkenau was a key part of the Nazi's Endlösung der Judenfrage "final solution to the Jewish question". About 1.2 Million people were murdered here during the war & Hollocaust. At the extreme 12,000 people per day were sent to the Camp.

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Upon arrival a Doctor would determine if the "prisoners" were fit to work. If yes, they lived and were sent to work camps where they were underfed, living in extreme conditions where temperature can go to -20 °C, and worked until death. The remaining 3/4 (not fit for work) of prisioners were lied to, told they would be showered and deloused, and so proceed to the showerblock. They were told to undress, enter the shower room. Cramed with about 1000 people, the SS threw in Zyklon B. It didnt even take 20 minutes. Later the SS started chopping off all the hair (which the Nazi's resued as material for textiles), removing jewerly & gold from teeth and then burning the corpses. No evidence remained.

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The beginnings of Auschwitz was horrible, but not on the same industrial scale. Polish prisoners (anyone of power or high education) were sent there to the original Auschwitz Concentration camp. Food rashons were so bad most were lucky to last 3 months. Naughty prisoners were generally murdered, either shot, gassed, or most horribly locked in a room and set to suffocate, sometimes taking days.
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Seeing this has made us realise the horrible nature of humans that can exist. What's worse is the realisation that this repeated itself in Cambodia only 30 years later. Also, of the 7000 SS troops that run Auschwitz, only 12% were convicted of war crimes.

Prague

The Czech Republic has a interesting history. As Hitler liked Prague, he basically left it damage free. We stayed in an apartment which was above the local Indian takeaway. I was keen to go out for a Czech beer (ranked #1 beer drinking country in the world) and find traditional goulash or pork knee... Stacey and Sue after the trip from Krakow only had eyes for one thing so butter chicken it was.

Ohwell. I got my goulash, pork knee and plenty of beer over the next few days.
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Prague was busy, full of tourists, locals and culture.

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Most interesting is the famous astronomical clock. Apparently it is the oldest still working, and has some very quirky features, and worth seeing (or watching on youtube here

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We treated Sue to Ice hockey, where the local team lost (although the spirit of fans was impressive).
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From Prague we ventured to Karlow Vary, a famous and pretty spa town in the west of the republic. It turns out they drink the spa water, not so much bathe in it. Ohwell gave it a go and we have been magically healed of all ailments (this is me drinking from a traditional ceramic cup thing).

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Nürmberg

The next day found us in Nürmberg, Germany.  The home ground and HQ of the National Socialist party (the NAZI's).

Nürmberg is an interesting braviarian city, full of bier, würst and history, so appropiately we drunk, ate and explored.

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Currywurst and Beer. Perfect day.

The next day we found the appropiately named  "dokumentationszentrum reichsparteitagsgelände".

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The Nazis were mental. They had their own army before they were legally recognised as a political party. They built a massive rally ground (dokumentationszentrum reichsparteitagsgelände). They unified Germany, unsettled from WWI with extreme policy and propoganda, eventually illegally taking over the country and then well you know the rest. The rally ground was to be the center of the Nazi world. Massive stadiums for the puropse of propoganda. Back then the Nürmberg locals seemed fond of the propoganda, as the Nazi's seemed to convince them that they would restore Nürmberg to the center of the new Empire, something that historically they had been.

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After Nürmberg we ventured west some more to Cologne. Famous for giving its name to Eau de cologne, the first thing we did was visit the original cologne manufacturers shop, who was an Italian man with a French name living in Germany, Johann Maria Farina, who in 1709 made his famous concoction.

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It wasn't  easy getting there, as we had a nightmare on local transport, tickets come by way of coins or local eftpos cards, so our notes and Visa's left us about 4km away from where we wanted to be. Ohwell, we managed, and after some time learning about the cologne, where to next? We had to satisify Sue's sweet tooth so the Chocolate factory it was. Stacey laughed as she found Sue at the free samples and me watching the machinery.

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Cologne has a massive church, with amazing stained stained glass windows, and is also where apparently the three wise men are buried. As our latin and german is rusty, we can say we think we know which tombs were theirs. Above the Church is a huge belltower (157 m tall). Offering the best views we ventured to the observation deck, about 100m up.  Spiral staircase, steel steps and creaky noises made us wonder if the once tallest building in the world (1880-1890) would stay standing while we were up so high.

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Also, apparently the busiest train bridge in Germany has an odd problem, too many padlocks are starting to add too much weight...

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From Cologne we headed more west to the open minded Amsterdam.
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Boats, Bicycles, the Anne Frank haus, museums with Rembrant and Van gough, pancakes and tradional dutch food saw us through.
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We ventured around on bicycles, where Sue showed us how to fall off in most entertaining style.

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Sue also dragged us though the famous red light district.

From the dam we picked up a car and headed over the massive Afsluitdijk dike. No, we didn't make up the name by pressing the keyboard randomly...
Its pretty cool... heres a link to see more on Afsluitdijk.

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We also visited uncle jack, my Great Uncle who was killed in WWII, who's plane was shot down over the Netherlands.

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From Uncle Jack we headed back to the dam, on the way stopping at a pretty town called Giethoorn, famous for not having roads...

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On to Brussels, our last stop before we fly onto Canada. Belgium beer, waffles and chocolate.

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Off to maple trees and moose! Canada here we come!

Posted by travellinghoney 05:26 Comments (2)

SNOW!!!

Yay :)

Heading towards the light

After new years, we decided to head south, trying to extend our daylight hours, as we are missing the Vitamin D that we got so much of in summer.

First stop was Riga, Latvia.

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Latvia and Estonia are in our eyes very similar, both had Soviet control for a long time, inbetween Germany and Russia meant a heavy wartime history.
The Estonians made the claim of the first Christmas tree, and in a typical NZ vs Auz competitive style, Lativa had the first decorated christmas tree...

The old town was full of old Zeppelin hangars, christmas trees (yes still after new years) and more beautiful old buildings.

It wasn't long before it started to snow, and didn't stop for a few days, which gave us 2 things, lots of awesome photos, and the realisation that we don't really carry much heavy winter gear (so most our photos feature us in the same clothes).

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From Riga, we kept on heading south to Warsaw.

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Warsaw was cold. Very cold. The snow had kept falling, and it was getting colder. We enjoyed the sights, sounds and tastes of Poland, as well as the central European tradition of relaxing for hours in coffee houses.

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As we are meeting up with Stacey's mum soon, we didn't stay in Poland long because we will be back!

Next stop, Budapest , the Hungarian capital.

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Arriving at 6am, we thought wow it is cold... it wasn't until about 3-4 hours later that we found out it was -13 °C!!! We rugged up and explored, then went to the popular traditional Hugarian thermal bath. A nice experience, air temp of -6 °C and water of +35 °C meant that we we warm but had icicles in our hair... With no clouds, we finally found the sun we have been craving, too bad that it was so cold that we couldn't work on our tans, but hey, we tried.

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That night the air temp dropped to -24 °C. No snow, just clear crisp skies. We almost witnessed a once in a lifetime event of the freezing of the Danube river (really big river that has 4 capitals on it and flows through 10 countries).

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Hungary has a rich history of politics, and most recently through the world wars. There were numerous Jewish and Soviet related heritage, and unfortunately many places mourning loss. On the river front was sculpture of the shoes that were forced off the WW2 prisioners before they were executed/murdered and thrown in the Danube.

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Hungarian goulash, and sheets of ice flowing down the Danube river sums up Budapest!

Off to Austria, then Germany!

Posted by travellinghoney 09:10 Comments (0)

The "Happiest Place in the World"

Also Known as Denmark, particularly Copenhagen...

15 Euro Flight

I want to start this blog witb some sweet travel advice... previously I had used skyscanner to help decide where and how to fly, but good old Google have proven one better. Google flights have a super handy explore destinations feature, which is a map fearure that shows all flights from a particular place, and is super easy to help plan trips and find excellent deals, like €15 from Dublin to Copenhagen...

Copenhagen

We arrived in to Copenhagen under clouds. Three days later, it was still there. That was not to dampen our spirits of what we have heard is a truly awesome city. On the train and into the city where we are staying. Immediately we notice 2 things, it's definitely almost Christmas and it is definitely Winter.

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We jumped on a walking tour and got shown around seeing all the sights of note, including the place where Mr J.C Jacobsen used a Scienctific approach to make beer and formed Carlsberg, named after his son Carl. Supposedly this is the innovation that has formed the modern approach to making beer as we know it today.

One important thing to the Danish is Hygge. It's an approach to life that makes them so happy, and basically it is improving everyday things that would normaly not be that exciting, so you get enjoyment from them. Once major method is by lighting candles... They burn alot of candles in Denmak. It is interesting to note that Copenhagen has burnt to the ground a number of times.

Copenhagen is a city worthy of cycling, becasue pretty much everyone cycles everywhere.

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We got some wheels and rode around, where we found the self gorverning hippie city called Freetown (within Copenhagen).
They didn't like photos because some normally illegal activity happens there...

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We found the palace where the Queen of Denmark and the Royal family live, and we also were lucky enough to see some Royals. Not sure really who but the grand horse and cart display along with band music was pretty awesome.

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We found the Little Mermaid statue, to celebrate the story written by Hans Christian Anderson (he is Danish).

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We explored cool streets and exciting bridges, where as we found out were constructed well behind schedule, and that local construction projects seem to take a very long time, possibly because people only work 37.5 hours per week, and have 6 weeks off each year too.

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We tried the local christmas drink, called Glogg, it is similar to the mulled wine you would find in the UK. We also caught up with an classmate of mine and had some beers at the local bar. At only 60 DDK each they were quite cheap (12 NZD each).

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In summary Copenhagen is an awesome city, but an expensive one. Three days here and we think that it would be better experienced when we are not trying to survive for another 80 days travelling. Wow, only 80 days! Best get off to see some more stuff, we are heading over the bridge to Sweden.

Posted by travellinghoney 08:05 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

Retirement

The end of an era...

Where we left off...

I left off with the prepration of a rant.. We had just been yelled at and complained to by a private boat in Galaxhidi, for being unsporting, arrogant, and selfish. My favourite part of this is that the private boat that yelled at us:

  1. Knew we were going to a small harbour the next day, left after us in the morning and arrived after us evening, only to complain that we had filled the harbour...
  2. We proceeded to help moor them up, along with about 5 other private boats, including a large fishing boat; and the remaining 5 of our fleet that had not arrived yet.
  3. We helped uncross their anchor when they got it stuck with another private boat.
  4. Constantly complained to us about the horrible things we had done, and never thanked us for any of the help we provided.
  5. Whistled at me, trying to get my attention like I am a dog...

I am glad all that is over!
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We left Galaxhidi and continued our flotilla taking all 12 boats back to Gouvia Marina on Corfu Island.

Once we said goodbye to our customers for the last time, we lifted the boats (about 150) out of the water, and put them to rest for winter.
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We also spent lot of time enjoying the company of other staff members that we had not seen since May.
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And finally said goodbye to what we called home for most of the year.... It's only about 20 m2.
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Resuming the Travel

Venice

Our first stop on the resumption of travel is Venice.
Fantastic, a few others from work joined us, so we got an apartment for a couple of days in the middle.
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Getting lost in the streets, riding the Gondolas with Processco, drinking numerous bottles of Italian wine, and most importantly not eating Greek food!!! Pizza + Pasta, wow we have missed you.
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It was perfect for all of us, the girls went shopping, and the boys went to an awesome local bar that spoke no english and clearly was not a "tourist trap".

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The only problem was that it was about 15 °C colder than Greece... here comes winter.
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Awesome few days relaxing, then we had to head back to London so Stacey can get a new Passport (it was due to expire soon).

London

Back to London, where nothing is free (or cheap for that matter).

Staying with Amy, we made the most of our 4th time in London.

  • New Passport
  • Museum of Natural History
  • Harrods, possibly the most ridiculous shop in the world
  • Madame Tussauds wax museum
  • Bangers and Mash!
  • Winter Wonderland Christmas markets
  • English Ale in about 9 differnt Pubs, but didn't make it to the Slug.
  • Double Decker busses
  • Watch live Maori All Blacks + Black Ferns both win!

Here are the token wax museum photos... Justin Beiber had a really long line, so the best we could do...

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Next, off to Scotland and Ireland!

Tim + Stacey

Posted by travellinghoney 10:36 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Sailing Part 1

The first edition of our sailing adventure

Our life as Mediteranian Sea Gyspys

summed up in one awesome three week delivery flotilla, 300 NM, with 30 people and 12 boats.

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This story paints a picture of what Stacey and I have been up to for a while.

We live on a 9.5 m Sailing boat in Greece, along with Jake our Engineer; Stacey (Hostess) and I (Skipper) make up lead crew Delphi, showing keen tourists usually from the UK & Ireland around the Greek islands for a couple of weeks at a time.

Here goes:

Today we leave our base in Epidavros and head a small distance of 8 NM over to Vathi. Epidavros is a famous Greek town, where the ancient city hosts on of the most important and impressive outdoor amphitheatre in Greece. In July we watched a couple of theatrical shows of the classic Greek tragedy’s such as Oedipus (he kills his father and marries his mother), not bad considering the venue is around 2000 years old.

As it is day 1 we spend about two hours refreshing our 30 guests on how to use their one of eleven 32’ - 50’ boats, which they will call their home, transportation, and main source of entertainment for the 3 weeks it will take to get to Corfu.
Once they listen to us ramble on about sails, engines and toilets, our guests stock up on necessary food and drink (they all mostly get Gin and Ouzo, and a lot of beer) before departing to Vathi.

Having explained in our morning briefing on how to get there, where and what the wind will be, and most importantly what to watch out for to make sure you have a good day and don’t crash/sink or get stuck, our guests up anchor and head south towards Vathi.

Vathi is a tiny town with 4 tavernas and is set on a volcanic peninsula.
Clear water and a relaxed Greek hospitality makes this an awesome spot.

On arrival to Vathi, we found that there would be enough room for 4 or 5 boats, and as we are 12 I needed to be creative.
Knowing the weather will be calm overnight, I successfully moored 12 boats on about 15m of quay space (each boat is at least 3m wide and 10m long). Stacey doubted my ability thinking that it would be too ambitious to crowd the harbour with our fleet.

All boats in and after a beer and some rum, our friends from Sirocco (another lead crew) visited for dinner. Mostly kiwis, we enjoyed the company and ended up having a bit of a laugh.

In the morning everyone assembled at a taverna for a spot of breaky and all important coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice, then let me explain the plan for the day and Stacey the things to once they are moored up.

Another easy day planned, light winds and a short hop, 9 NM north east to the amazing island of Agistri.
The name Agistri means fishing hook in Greek, and they say that tourists are hooked because they same people have been coming to Agistri for 50 years! It should be a good day on the water with some nice lunch stops (as long as they avoid the underwater cables that supply power to the island).

After breaky, Jake and I helped people set off, then we said goodbye to Vathi for the last time.
The taverna owners gave us a brown bag with a plastic bottle full of their local red wine to say thank you for bringing tourists to their town.

A little bit of sailing on the way to Agistri, but a bit slow for our liking we motored there to make sure we are first in and moor everyone up correctly before our big day to tomorrow (don’t want any issues lifting anchor and there are a number of permanent underwater chains and anchors in the harbour).

I was very happy to see the harbour was quiet on arrival, not much creativity needed today, nice and easy.
The boats trickled in slowly in, last one arriving around 5pm.

A couple of boats had noticed some problems, a small rip in a sail, a faulty light (they had to go toilet in the dark) and a fridge that wasn’t cooling down as good as it should be, so Jake and I got stuck in and sorted it all before our 6pm briefing, as we had an 8am start tomorrow.

After briefing the group went up to a taverna where we had arranged a group buffet meal with Greek music and dancing.
The taverna is owned and run by a very attractive Greek/Australian family and even after doing the same event a number of times over the season as a crew we still enjoy it every time.

After singing, dancing and enjoying probably too much wine, off to bed as we are up before 7am.

Overnight wind picked up and I was up a couple of times checking to make sure the boats are as safe and comfortable as possible.

Boil the jug before sunrise, a strong coffee or two later to help recover from the wine we were about helping boats leave Agistri for the Corinth Canal, 20 NM North West. The North Easterly wind didn’t ease overnight, making it a cracking 7 knot sail, arriving at the Corinth Canal faster than expected.

After a bit of admin with the canal we were entering bang on midday, exactly as planned.

The Corinth Canal is simply awesome.
The wind had dropped fully and the sun was out (it still is no where as hot as July’s 35-40 °C), but a great passage through an awesome masterpiece of nautical history. We cruised through at about 4 knots; I climbed the mast to take some photos and everyone enjoyed the 3 miles in a different world.

Goodbye Eastern Greece and the Saronic Gulf, Hello Corinth and the next step west.
Leaving the canal the Corinth Gulf was calm with a light breeze that picked up from the North.
This made for a pleasant sail through to Kiato, making today’s whole journey 33 Nm.

As expected the wind brought swell, so the mildly protected harbour of Kiato made it a comfortable gentle rolling sleep.

Toady we are off to Galaxhidi, a popular spot for tourists and a town rich in history, nearby is the ancient sight of Delphi, the place that our boat was named after.
Delphi was the centre of the Greek universe and where the Oracle lived.
On our journey we saw turtles, dolphins, and but didn’t catch fish or get any sailing.

Stay tuned for the next part of our journey, including some angry people on a private boat!!

Posted by travellinghoney 05:33 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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