Corinth. Back on the road.

    Waking in the shadow of the ancients.

    For New Year’s Day we woke in a municipal car park that could be anywhere – except that we know what’s over the hill. A mere 100 metres away lie the extensive ruins of ancient Corinth. 

    Corinth was founded around 700BC and was a large city of 90,000 people by 400BC. To put that in perspective – Greece only has two cities that are more than twice that size even today.

    The ruins that we so nearly slept among are of its main market area, fountains and temple of Apollo. The theatre and opera could be put back in service after a little weeding. It doesn’t stretch the imagination to picture traders bartering with the slaves of the rich in the arcades that are still paved in marble.

    In the shadow of the ancients. Corinth, with its castle above.

    Ouzo. Tsiporo.

    Once we were installed in the car park and the dog’s business was done we headed to a bar for our early New Year’s celebrations.

    Last year I commented often on how Greeks ignore the smoking ban, puffing away in every bar and most restaurants. This year we hadn’t witnessed it until we arrived in Corinth. I guess it’s an ancient place and old habits will die harder here. 

    The towering owner welcomed us in many languages and was pleased to find we spoke English, his favourite after Greek. After 20 minutes he replenished our ouzo and tsiporo (I’ve retreated to the slightly more gentle ouzo) on the house. On the house? We’d die of shock if we were sitting in The Old Success and the landlord presented us with as much as a bag of nuts for free. Generosity makes everyone feel good. I wonder how we can remind Britain of that?

    On the subject of generosity: We ate in a Lagonisi restaurant having walked 40 minutes through the rain to get there. We asked them to call a cab to take us home. 30 minutes later the lad came back and said he couldn’t get a cab – so he drove us home. Thank you Barba Giorgis.

    Man with door. KC. Corinth.

    It was the smoke that drove us from the bar rather than any desire to leave. We’ll be back for coffee in the morning.

    At midnight a 15 gun volley woke us to usher in the New Year. No standing in freezing cold squares for The Wanderers. Once the dog had finished shaking out her fear we slipped back into our best sleep in weeks.


    We started planning for it back in October, but then everything changed a couple of days before our guests arrived.

    Last minute we ended up renting a good house at Lagonisi, only 30kms from Athens. Rick and Peggy lived downstairs with the warmth of good oil fired heating. Minty, Janice and I had the upstairs flat.

    Our immodest Christmas pile. With Rick and Minty.


    With my sister’s hire car we were mobile and a trip to Athens on Boxing Day was less challenging than it would have been in the van.

    Edinburgh has its castle hill with views over the city and out to the Firth of Forth.

    Athens has Lycabettus Hill with St George’s church at the peak and 360 degree views of the city, mountains, the port of Pireaus and a cracking line of sight to the Parthenon and the Panathenic Stadium. 

    With his hips worn down by decades of abuse Rick stayed at the lower level entertaining the cats and enjoying a world class view. Peggy pushed herself to get to the top and saw even more.

    And the big surprise – only the third public toilet that I’ve seen in six months of travelling Greece. One of the others was in Corinth where I’m typing now, but today, when it would be most welcome, it’s closed. 

    Both of our octogenarians kept up a good pace through their week, we saw some sunshine, and some old stuff too. Thank you both, and Janice, for making the big effort to get to us.

    It’s a family thing. Agia Triada.

    Back in the van.

    It was good having a house for a week or so. 

    The best bits revolve around hygiene. To be able to shower when you want, to wash your clothes, to use a toilet that doesn’t need emptying. 

    The extra space didn’t excite me much, not even in the kitchen, and with all the Christmas fare around it’s far too easy to over eat. Minty has food discipline, I have none. 


    Even for careful folk like us it’s easy to slip back into hugely wasteful habits in a house. Simply heating the large un-insulated space cost over a hundred pounds a week, while in the van heating and cooking costs us around ten pounds a month. The temptation of a bath when you haven’t had one for a year is too great to resist, as it is the next day, and the next. It was a luxury to have around two hundred square metres of space between five people, but vanlife has made me realise how ridiculous that is too. 

    All around us hundreds of similar sized houses sit empty and the concrete shells of those that were never finished create the largest pieces of litter in a country where discarded rubbish is commonplace.

    New Year’s Day.

    It has always amused me that on the very few days when everyone is on holiday the tourist attractions are shut too. In Greece it’s even more odd as the staff often turn up so that they can tell you that they’re closed. Such was the case with the ancient city. 


    Instead we slowly climbed the 4km hill to the Byzantine Acrocorinth castle 500m above the city. It was closed (with staff in place) but it didn’t matter, the walk and climb to the nearby Frankish Penteskoufi Castle opened ever more stunning views over the coasts to the north and south and our wow metre soared for the first time in a while. 

    As the sun fell the clear sky became clearer still, revealing more snow covered mountains before closing the day with a display of oranges, purples, and reds that more than compensated for any New Year fireworks we may have missed.

    Evening sky over our neighbouring Penteskoufi Castle.


    Did I mention the New Year’s Day sunshine? Overnight the temperature fell to 2 degrees, with a bone chilling wind from the north. Today looking up at the castle with freezing cloud swirling about it brings visions of Tolkein’s Mordor. 

    Stripping off for a scrub on frozen mornings morning doesn’t feel like a good idea, but you always feel better afterwards.

    It would have been easy to suggest leaving the high ground and coming back on another day, knowing that that day probably wouldn’t happen. Instead we pulled coats on top of coats and braved the blizzard.

    The castle, with red ringed ArchieVan for scale.

    Acrocorinth. The castle.

    The only entrance is through the west gate. It’s protected by a moat followed by successively stronger fortified walls one, two and three, each overseen by ever taller and more numerous towers.

    The steep slippery limestone cobbles alone are enough to defeat any technical shoe clad modern day invader. Even the teenagers had to forsake all dignity during their efforts to descend from the castle. I pictured the chaos that must have occurred when the soldiers of old tried to exit in haste, armed to the teeth and running on leather soles.

    There are remains of defensive positions here that date from the c.4th BC and it was occupied right through until the c.19th during which time the lingua franka would have swopped between ancient Greek, early German, Venetian, early French, and Turkish before reverting to Greek.

    The tower wreathed in cloud. Acrocorinth.

    Within are temples, churches, temples that became mosques, mosques that became churches and defensive towers. The walls stretch for over 3 kms, all precariously perched over 500 metres up.

    In the crazy way of such things in Greece, visiting the castle is free. There is scant information but this remains a seriously impressive fort. If you’re tempted to visit wear strong shoes and go in winter when the hordes are elsewhere.

    At the ramshackle café opposite the car park a fellow who I suspect was there to do repairs made us a coffee and let us sit by his fire for a bit. He talked us through the archaeology, stretching my few hundred words of Greek, but making enough sense to be interesting.

    A new peninsula.

    Last year we travelled around much of the Peloponnese, but missed the little peninsula that faces Athens. Friends are coming our to us in a couple of weeks, and until we return to Athens to collect them we’ll tour this sticky out bit. If we find out what it’s called I’ll update you.

    It’s hilly, very hilly, green, and tomorrow if the sun shines it’s sure to look rather special.

    The Argolis (that’s what’s it’s called, thanks Minty) is superb.

    We woke on Friday morning on the main street in little Korfos, and while it was only a few degrees outside, the sun was up and the van was warming nicely.

    A pair of gnarly old fellows moored this knackered looking craft and headed straight for a 10.00am tsiporo.

    The Evangelos. Korfos. Abandoned for tsiporo.

    Minty fed the cats.

    I practised a bit of Greek for the first time in a while.

    More important than all that was the sunshine. It’s transformative whatever your lifestyle, and living in a van it lifts the day like nothing else can.

    Happy New Year everyone. Or Kali Xronia as they say in these parts.

    Minty’s aid parcel from Bronco (and Molton Brown).
    Korfos. Pretty. But spikey.
    The bobbly blanket patchwork west of Corinth.
    Greek cells benefit from excellent ventilation.
    Peggy’s initiation into the religion of the souvlaki.
    Waiting for God, or Godot.
    Rick oversees the Athenian project.
    Give me big skies. Fokaia. Attica.

    14 Replies to “Corinth. Back on the road.”

    1. Sounds like you have another year of adventure ahead and with it off to a great start!
      Happy new year to the three of you from all of us.
      All the best.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks David.
        It was good to see you back in September.
        I love the house and still talk about it when I get the chance. The proportions truly impressed me, utterly huge, yet it all feels right, and unlike the Greeks you actually live in it.
        Did you read Homo Deus? I’m on his third book at the moment.
        Best wishes to the family and hope to see you again soon.
        KC and The Wanderers.

    2. I have to say that both you and Minty made it a wonderful Christmas for me, as I am aware it did for both Peggy and Janice. The efforts of you both to ensure that we saw interesting parts of Greece were appreciated.
      After your friends have been, it will be time for all three of you (mustn’t forget Polly) to continue your travels and enjoy exploring countries at your own leisurely pace.
      Thanks for everything, hope to catch up with you later in the year.

      P.S delighted that you use (in my humble opinion) the correct way to refer to a date, not the politically correct nonsense of Common Era (ce)

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Morning Rick
        Ah yes. Dates.Imagine how confusing it would have been living in a BC year having to count down to an imaginary event that you didn’t know about?”What year is it Daddy?” “250BC young Aristotle””What year was I born in Daddy?””242BC Aristotle””Am I getting younger Daddy?'”Shut up you clever little bugger. Go play in the road.”
        Thank you for joining us, putting up with us and looking after us.I hope we’ll see you in Spain, or France or some other nice place.Cheers and look after yourself.

    3. Happy New Year Kelvin. I hope 2020’s travels bring you, Minty and Polly good health, wealth (however you wish to define it!) and loads of happiness (which I think is how you now define wealth!)
      Much love and big hugs

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thank you Jonathan.
        Certainly the things that concern us now are very different to the worries of our earlier lives.
        A sunny day, a simple meal, good wine (ideally at less than €10 a litre) and a view. If the people are friendly then so much the better. We don’t need much more than that.
        Best to you both and I hope we’ll see you in 2020.

    4. Happy New Year to you all! Now I really hope you keep the blog up in 2020 as one of my NY’s intentions is, when I see something interesting I want to read not to save it to one side and think I will read it later because I’ve got to do something more important first … (I stare at my piles of wanted but unread books and saved links on my phone or tablet) Reading is important not a guilty pleasure and as blogs go this is one of my favourites! Woofs to Polly dog and best wishes to you guys 🙂 x

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Hi Jo
        Great to hear from you.
        The pile of books by the bed. It makes us look so clever, except that the only other person who sees the pile knows just how clever, or not, you really are. And it makes you feel guilty. 
        That aside, I’m sure I’ll have such a pile again when I next have a normal bed.
        With all the travel I still miss Cornwall. I’ll give it a mention next week.
        Thanks for your support and lovely comments.

    5. Rachael Smart says: Reply

      What fills me is how this trip has such far reach. About the space we take for granted, the luxuries we use, the futility of waste. I find it quite humbling. It’s a lesson in just enough. Photos make me long to travel because the gratification is in the wilderness rather than anything material. Wishing you both good vibes.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        How much is enough?
        A whole lot less than we think.
        Thank you Rachael.

    6. Dear Bro, Mum and I had a great time with you all and were so pleased to see Rick again…same time different venue! Thank you for all your efforts to supplement our enjoyment at every turn – pea omelette and champagne breakfast to mention but one.
      Now we see you back enjoying new corners of Greece, exploring and discovering new aspects of a way of life that differs on many levels from our own. Enjoy your adventures yet to come as you move toward other new beginnings.
      Great photos as ever to be treasured, especially the association of the time we spent watching the sky in Fokaia on Christmas Eve.
      Safe, happy travels Intrepid 3!

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks Sis.
        It’s always different. Sometimes better, sometimes less so.
        Right now we’re on the island of Methana and it’s my favourite place of this winter. There are storms coming though and we need to find shelter away from the northern tip where we sit have breakfast.
        Cheers. KC

        1. Happy New Year guys
          Great to see the pictures and read your news….and fabulous you both (and Polly) are having such a great time.
          All the very best
          Bev and Dave

          1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

            Thank you both. Great to hear from you. If you fancy a winter trip give me a shout.

    Leave a Reply