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Mike's Odyssey to Greece - 2005

Part 11: Isthmos

As we were leaving Kalavryta, we remembered we had brought a bottle of wine with us.  We had decided that for dinner that night, we would buy a loaf of bread and a block of cheese and stop by the sea on our way back home to Athens.  And how do I know that Kalavryta is of the beaten path for American tourists?  The fact that very few people in the town spoke English.

Anyway, we took the train back down the mountain, hopped in the car, and headed back to Athens.  As we looked for places to stop, we decided we would stop near Corinth at the nearby town of Isthmos (from which the English word "isthmus" is derived; Isthmos is, oddly enough, situated on an isthmus).

Fort atop mountain
A church or fort built atop a mountain somewhere between Corinth and Diakofto.

Acrocorinth, a huge fort built atop a mountain near Corinth.

Along the road, we had stopped to get gas.  As we pulled in to the pumps, I noticed a guy driving a hearse had stopped to pump gas - while he had the DEAD BODY in the back of the car!

A Mercedes hearse and a dude pumping gas - and yes, that is a casket in the back of the hearse!

In case you wondered what they used for a hearse in Europe, it's this Mercedes.  The casket is extra, though.

So, we continued on further and then drove to a beach in Isthmos.  Finding a beach was hard work, as most of the beachfront property belongs to resorts.  We did, however, find one small public beach.  We pulled in, and believe it or not, it was actually cool on the beach (oh, and I mean cool literally).  The sun was going down and the wind started blowing, so if you are thinking of visiting Greece in late April or early May, remember to pack a jacket, as it cools off quickly at night.

As we busted out the wine, cheese, and bread, we suddenly discover that we did not have any glasses.  However, the ever resourceful Joe busts out his knife and with Jim's empty water bottle, we suddenly have two wine glasses.  (Just don't tell the French; they would certainly be insulted by us uncouth Americans...)

The beach we found at Isthmos.

Jim with wine
Jim, toasting with his improvised wine glass.

Joe and Jim with wine
Joe and Jim toast to our success at having our feast at the beach with the fine water-bottle crystal.

After our dinner, we hopped in the car and drove a couple of kilometers north to the Corinth canal.  There is a very narrow isthmus that separates the Gulf of Corinth from the Saronic Gulf.  For centuries, people had visions of building a canal across the isthmus, which would shave many hours off of trips around the Peloponnese (and would also help them avoid the dangerous rocky shoals along the south and western coasts of the Peloponnese that have been gobbling ships for millennia).  The ancient tyrant of Corinth known as Periander proposed a canal across the isthmus in the 7th century BD, but when he couldn't get it built, he built a paved slipway that allowed the ships to be dragged across the isthmus.  Then, the Emperor Nero decided he would build the canal with his 6,000 Jewish prisoners; unfortunately for Nero, the Gauls chose that time to invade, and the canal project was abandoned.  Finally in 1893, a French company completed the Corinth Canal.

We were looking for the canal while driving down the small two lane highway (one of our Greek friends said you can't really see the canal from the major highway), and all of a sudden, we came to a dead end where there should have been a bridge.

Bridge submerged
Where's the bridge?  Looks like it got washed out.

Boat passing
A boat passes through the canal.

We thought it might have been a drawbridge, but we were at a loss for where the bridge was.  Perhaps there used to be a bridge, but it was removed when the interstate went in?  But, as we looked across to the other side, we saw cars lining up on the other side of the bridge pointed right at us.  At that same instant, a giant wench started making noise, and we soon realized that the bridge was submerged.  So, just like Moses parting the Red Sea, suddenly out of the depths of the canal arose this bridge.

Isthmos bridge
The bridge following its trip to the bottom of the canal.

Corinth Canal
A view of the Corinth Canal from the previously submerged bridge.  Note how narrow the canal is.

Continue on to Part 12:  Miscellaneous sights of Athens (or "Hey, there's some ruins here")