Finnish people who have spent a long time away from their homeland tend to miss the same things: sauna, salmiak and rye bread. There are many other things besides, but these three can’t be replaced by anything else. Sure, many traditional dishes can be made in a foreign place, using local produce and spices creatively, or by making a pilgrimage to the nearest Ikea for Scandinavian products that are close enough to our own. But you can’t bathe in the sauna, if there’s no sauna. Nothing tastes like salmiak, except salmiak – the strong, bitter and slightly salty black candy you can only find in Finland. And Finnish rye bread, well, it just has to have that real sourdough taste with 100% rye flour and no yeast or added flavours.
Now that most of the world is in lockdown mode, some of us have time to write about boat projects – and maybe some have time to read about them! In January, when we began our boat’s freshwater system refit, no one had heard of the Coronavirus. We were enjoying a nice Greek winter with sunny, warm days and cool, sometimes cold nights, and occasional rainy spells. The perfect time to work on the boat, especially if it happens to be of an older vintage with plenty of things needing improvement.
In January we began the first boat project we had scheduled for the winter. In March we meant to sail the boat to a boatyard and commence further projects on dry land. Those plans have now been delayed, postponed to a “more suitable time”, or perhaps they might turn into something a bit different. Who knows, unexpected things happen, as we well know. When we first started our journey, we had ambitious route plans and schedules, which soon turned topsy-turvy. Since then we have only sailed (or stayed put, like we now have for the winter) one day at a time. It used to sound a bit cliché to say that to people who asked about our plans. But then came the Coronavirus, and the world has rapidly changed. I bet living one day at a time is much more common now than it was a few weeks or months ago!
After a leisurely Christmas and New Year it was time for some much needed boat refit – plumbing, to be precise. We’re still in the middle of it, and that’s why I won’t go into any detail at this moment. I will write about the project later, when it’s finished. There hasn’t been much time for anything else besides drilling, screwing, demolishing and building during the last few weeks.
During the first days of our mountain holiday in Zagori we visited the mountains and the spectacular gorge that I wrote about in previous post. In an earlier brief history I mentioned that there are also 46 old villages built of stone – now it’s time to visit some of them! These days there are less than 4000 inhabitants in the area. In the heyday the number was many times that. Fortunately, travellers interested in nature, hiking, biking, horse riding, canoeing, climbing and other outdoor activities are beginning to find their way here, as well as those who are into history, architecture and stone construction. And for people who just love rocks – we happen to have those among our friends – it’s an endless goldmine.
If you travel to a mountainous area, the first thing you naturally want to see there are the mountains! We found the Zagori area in the Northwestern Greece to be a true treasure trove of many other things as well – such as distinctive culture, history, stone villages and bridges, rich flora and fauna and all sorts of strange and wonderful things – but the mountains would be a good starting point. And those gorges and mountains are really the reason why the history and culture of Zagori turned out the way it did. Also, you can see very far from high places and easily form a general idea of the area.
Every once in a while it feels good to take a break from boat life – to travel along roads, live in a house that sits firmly on the ground, sleep in a bed that doesn’t rock from side to side. Before Christmas we decided to run away from the marina for a week, and headed to a region very different from the usual “Greek Holiday Destination”. Clearly these few months that we have spent in Greece are just a scratch of the surface: this country has so many facets, and so many stories hidden amongst its thousands of years of history. This blog post is not about sailing or the sea, this time we escape into the mountains!
Last time we left our readers hanging on the shore in Itéa, after a wonderful trip to the temples of Delphi. It’s about time to wrap up our October journey on the Bay of Corinth, but before settling down for the winter in Mesolonghi, we still had time to visit the town of Galaxidi. It’s situated opposite Itéa and it took us less than an hour to motor across the bay.
Delphi was once the centre of the world. According to the legend, the Cretans came here with their god Apollo, who had taken the shape of a dolphin, and built the first temple. But the dawn of Delphi’s history goes back much further. Somewhere in the mountains, there was the cave of Gaia, Mother Earth, where the predecessors of Apollo’s priestess Pythia performed their sacred rituals.
The sun was beaming from a bright blue sky when we began our ”autumn holiday” on the Bay of Corinth. We had our winter base in Mesolongi sorted out, but the winter was still a long way away! The day turned very hot, and a gentle breeze started in the afternoon. We rolled out our big genoa, and let the boat move downwind at her own chosen speed. There was no hurry, but our big lady seemed to be waking up as the wind gradually freshened, and was making good speed. Soon we could see the Rio-Antirrio Bridge looming in the distance. This imposing bridge that opened just before the Olympic Games of Athens in 2004, separates the Bay of Patras from the Bay of Corinth, and connects the Peloponnese to the Greek mainland.