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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Deep Greek

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

I had mixed feelings about leaving Zakynthos.

Yes, I was happy that I hadn't booked more time than I had. Aliki had given me good advice. She said 'two days maximum'... and luckily, I had followed that advice. As much as Zakynthos was an incredible little paradise, it wasn't yet summer and activities were not exactly bountiful. The water was blue beyond my wildest dreams of what blue could possibly be ,but I couldn't exactly dive in and enjoy it. I will admit I was sad to go, as I knew that my time in Greece was coming to an end. I had only a couple days left... and then I was off to sunny England.

Any tan I'd collected throughout my time in Africa and Greece was set to be gone... not that I had much. Or any.

The ferries were equally as annoying trying to leave Zakynthos. I couldn't buy a ticket at the terminal... I had to go back into town and find the ferry office in order to make the purchase. It was a bit of a pain, but thankfully I'd given myself a lot of time to allow for these setbacks. It wasn't my first rodeo. My journey cost me €50... whereas my journey there, purchased online, had been around €80. Somewhere along the line, I'd been duped. Big time.

I was still cursing the lack of WIF.

As soon as I landed back in the Peloponnese, I had nothing but memory to direct me. Memory combined with fuzzy Google Maps can be frustrating at the best of times, but when you're also trying to navigate the traffic of Greece... It's not easy. The route screenshots were my life saver, as I maneuvered my way through tiny towns and back roads.

My plan for the day was to reach the small town of Valtesiniko.

Valtesiniko was a mountainside village and apparently of the most beautiful Gortynia villages, known for its traditional houses and churches. I followed so many secondary roads until I seriously started doubting the location, myself and what the map had originally told me to do.

I was deep in the Greek woods and felt like I was heading to a ski resort. There was no way I could imagine there would be a quaint village or a guest house at the end of this road.

I felt slightly lost and it was dusk when I finally did arrive, only to discover most guest houses were all named Valtesiniko or something or other. They all had the name of the town somewhere. The first place I came across, as mistakenly thought was mine, was completely shut... and I circled it, yelling out "Hello!" ... and desperate for anyone to hear me and let me in.

All I found was a beat up cat.

No joke.

Really... a beat up cat.

He was following me everywhere I went and I figured he was the spawn of Satan. My imagination got the better of me... and with absolutely no one around, I figured I'd landed myself in some demonic village. The cat looked ready to bounce on me and give me the nibble of death. Then I realized how beaten up he was. It looked almost dead. Half of it's upper lip, half his nose and one of his ears were missing. He was covered in dried up blood, was in excruciating pain and obviously looking for someone to help.

As much as my heart was breaking for the little guy, I was in no position to give proper assistance. Being quite lost and confused myself, all I could do was offer what little food I had, and be on my way.

Trying to maneuver the cobblestone streets here was challenging. These little hamlets are predominantly created for humans walking around, not cars. I eventually had to get out and look for someone to help me find my accommodation.

There was a little café and in, I went.

The lady was kind and offered to phone the owner of the guesthouse, who immediately jumped in her vehicle and drove down to get me. She'd been phoning me all day... stupid WIFI.

My cottage-style room was something right out of a Hansel and Gretel fairytale. Obviously not made of gingerbread, but the decor had that cozy, rustic inspiration. There was even a fireplace.

My original plan was to walk back into the village and dine at the café I'd just been at, but exhaustion got the better of me. Bewildered, disorientated and driving all day has a way of taking its toll.

I watched the sun rise over the vast mountain range, all from my bedroom window the following morning. It really was like a fairy tale. After the best breakfast I've ever had... (seriously... It was sensational... the variety of homemade baking was phenomenal)... I set out to make my way to Nafplion.

Ok... hear me out on this one...

There were two different routes available.

~ One had tolls... which obviously, I hate. I'm tired of all the money I've thrown away on tolls and I don't want to do it anymore.

~ One route did not have tolls. Hmmmm....

It was a no-brainer. I was obviously taking the route with no tolls.

I also have to mention that Google Maps doesn't tell me if a road is bad. Actually, I take that back. Maybe it does... but I don't know how to read that information, if it does exist.

So... anyway... you can probably figure it out from here. I took the route that didn't have any toll booths...

... and...

It probably wasn't the best decision I've ever made.

At first everything was cool.

I just went up and up and up and up... and didn't seem to stop going up. The road was exceptionally narrow and almost got more and more narrow with every winding turn. There was a lot of bending and curving as I made my way further up into the mountains. There were steep sections... and as usual, many rocks on the road. The higher up we got, the rocks turned to boulders and then the boulders suddenly turned into missing sectors of pavement. It was much like a video game. There was always a new challenge.

But... the scenery was magical. I think that's why I kept going. I had to see what was over the next mountain peak.

As the road serpentined ever more and more up, the pavement completely turned to dirt path... and then the dirt path eventually turned to treacherous 4WD.

It was here I started to think... "Am I comfortable continuing in my rented Toyota Tercel?"

To be fair, I probably shouldn't have gone this far at all.

It was time to turn back.

I felt like a bit of a quitter. A trader.

I was all about the adventure, right?

No... I was freaked out.

Terrified, actually.

I went down, down, down, down, down... until I was back in the modern world, rolling down the highway and hitting all the highway tolls. I think I got four that day... dang toll booths!

But... hey... I also got my share of adventure!

I eventually made it to Nafplion for my final evening in Greece.

I'd been here before, but as you may remember, it was in the pouring rain and because of the cold and the wet, I'd made the decision not to leave my car. This time I did leave my car... and I was so happy I did.

I loved Nafplion.

I had really wondered whether or not it was worth trying to go back again... and it was. Without a doubt. I adored this little town. It wasn't even that little! It was once the capital of Greece and it's also named one of the most picturesque and romantic cities in Greece.

Set aside all the striking natural beauty... they bring you SNACKS when you order a glass of wine. That's why I fell in love with Nafplion... romance was definitely in the air.

My place was... interesting.

I stayed at The Pension Isabo, and when I'd booked, I was fully aware that I was booking an attic room designed for a solo traveller. What I didn't quite realize by 'attic room,' was the steep staircase involved in reaching the attic. Had my knee been the slightest bit sore... had my pack been a little bit heavier or had not gone on my back... had I another 10+ years on me... I would NOT have managed the incline. I'm not even kidding when I say it was probably a 75° angle. It was steep, steep, steep. Once up though, the attic was adorable.

I wandered throughout Nafplion, taking in the sights and sounds of its charming centre. It was my final evening in Greece, so a little ice cream was in order as I meandered through the tourist shops and along the harbour promenade. When the sun went down, my evening called for a couple celebratory glasses of rosé... of course.

Toast to Greece!

One or two wines was all that could suffice for the perilous climb that awaited me.

I left my tiny attic very early the next day and made my way back to Athens. I did fairly well on the roads for about an hour and a half, until I took a horrendously wrong turn... and ended up in the chaos of dead centre downtown Athens inner city traffic.

It took about an hour until I managed to get myself back on track again. Back on track is code for 'back with the highway tolls,' as I think I managed to hit about five. I seriously think I've spent almost €60 on tolls in the Peloponnese. One of them was due to a much needed, quick detour off the freeway in order to fill the tank. I paid a hefty fee to merge back on again.

Very silly.

I did eventually find Athens International and felt a tremendous relief handing over my rental car. I failed to mention the back bottom bumper that I'd managed to knock out of kilter... but whatever... I paid enough in insurance.

Karma snuck up on me for my silence and deceit... and I lost my favourite hair tie in the wind, within mere moments of walking away.

Fingers crossed they give me back my damage deposit...


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