Delfi, Ioannina & Corfu, Greece
Our next destination was Delfi, but for some reason Garmin couldn't find a route. I think Garmin heard all the terrible things we were saying about it, because then it threw a tantrum and wouldn't do anything. It wouldn't find any towns, points of interest, nothing. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise. We headed in the general direction of Delfi and hoped that the road signs would lead us the right way.
Usually Garmin helps us avoid toll roads, so after passing through a toll point we thought we needed more help in our route planning to steer clear of any further unnecessary costs. We pulled over and read through Garmin's instruction booklet, which said to hold the power button for 10 seconds. Nothing. We connected it to the computer, to see if there was anything we could do from that end. Nope. Then all of a sudden, after randomly pressing all the buttons, it started working again like nothing was wrong. Maybe it was just the heat, sitting on the dashboard in the sun all day. Whatever the reason, we were grateful it chose to come back to life.
As we were driving along, clearly following the signs to Delfi, Garmin decided it wanted to take a back way. If we have learnt anything from past experience, it is to disregard any stupid suggestions like this. So we ignored it, several times, and instead obeyed the signs on the road. Garmin wouldn't let up, relentlessly asking us to turn around. It took us a while to work out that we had actually plugged in the wrong destination and it was trying to direct us to a different town. So this time it was our fault, but I'm still glad we didn't listen to it and end up nowhere near where we wanted to be.
We made it to the ancient site of Delfi, halfway up a hill, overlooking nearby mountains. Delfi was amazing for two reasons. One: there was a freshwater spring, allowing us put some much needed drinking water tank in our van. Two: the ruins were close to the best we have seen yet. There was a gymnasium, Temple of Athena, Temple of Apollo, a few treasuries, a theatre with a beautiful mountainous backdrop, and a stadium, with concrete seats built around the edges (even the famous Olympia didn't have seats). Many of the structures were well-preserved, and the signs clearly showed what it would have looked like 2,500 years ago. We were highly impressed.
We left the ruins and drove to the new town of Delfi to stock up on food, but we couldn't locate a single supermarket. Plus every street seemed to be on a steep incline, making it almost impossible to park anywhere. We decided to try our luck further down the mountain, the scenery out of the window keeping us mesmerised for the entire trip. A flat, green valley dotted with olive trees lay before us, surrounded by imposing mountains on three sides and a huge bay at the far end. We found a town (and a supermarket) down near this bay, although instead of buying vegetables we somehow ended up eating oven-baked spanakopita for dinner. Not one of our healthiest dinners, but it probably wasn't our unhealthiest either. We found a car park right near the water, however the lack of any breeze left us sweating it up in the hot and humid van all night.
Danny can't go past a beach without having a swim, so as soon as he woke up the next morning he jumped straight in the water to cool off. The cool feelings didn't last long though. We spent the next five hours driving to Ioannina, hugging the spectacular coastline for half of the journey. Mountains jutted straight up out of the water, making each turn in the road postcard perfect. We saw another bushfire in the distance while we were driving, with planes dumping water on it in regular intervals. When we arrived in Ioannina we learnt that the planes were filling up with water from the lake right here in town, meaning the fires must be close by.
In Ioannina we wanted to explore the old town, located inside the city walls. It was full of narrow, cobbled laneways that would not accommodate a car of our size. Instead we parked outside the walls, found a cafe on the lake and sat in the shade with a drink. We love any amount of time out of the sun and the car, so we lingered in this prime location for quite a while. The lake was blue and still but we weren't allowed to swim in it, much to Danny's disappointment.
When we eventually left the pleasant cafe conditions we wandered through the old town to the citadel, which contained a museum, a mosque and not much else. It was a little underwhelming. The only reason we spent any time here was to watch the planes fill up with water from the lake.
After making our way back to the van we drove to the caravan park, happily right on the water. Dozens of rowers were out on the lake, obviously keeping clear of the planes nearby. Danny braved the internal temperatures in the van and cooked risotto for dinner, before attempting to make popcorn for dessert. For some reason this batch of popping corn just won't pop, so we ended up throwing the whole bag away. We sat outside in the coolish air most of the night, but of course our van was still sauna-like when we went to bed.
Forcing ourselves to wake up semi-early to get a head start on the day, we made the one hour drive to Igoumenitsa, a busy port town. In fact a very busy port town - it took us forever to find a car park. We eventually did, gladly left the furnace/van for the day and headed for the ferries. Destination: Corfu Island.
We didn't plan Corfu very well. Or at all really. Once we arrived we didn't know where we were or where we were supposed to go, so we randomly headed for the old town. It was surprisingly relaxed and not overly commercial, although it did have a McDonald's (but to be fair it was only the second McDonald's we had seen in all of Greece). We browsed the souvenir stores (where Danny bought a bottle of cumquat liqueur), devoured burek for lunch, then went in search for a beach.
Being a touristy island, we presumed we could just walk along the water until we spotted a stretch of sand. That didn't work. The only swimming area we could find was a concrete slab next to a fortress. (Later we discovered that there are great beaches all around Corfu, but we needed to catch a taxi to reach them.) There were a few deck chairs and umbrellas scattered around, so we claimed one each then jumped straight into the sea. It was saltier than I was expecting, and it wasn't the most idyllic setting, but nothing could ruin how refreshing the cool water made us feel.
On the ferry back to the mainland I sampled my first glass of Greek white wine. It was horrible. I was glad I hadn't tried more. Luckily I was distracted by the beautiful sunset over Corfu from the back of the boat, the cloudless sky burning an intense orange. It was a pity we didn't have the chance to explore the island properly, but I'm sure there are plenty more beaches ahead for us.