Sunday, 22 May 2011

Wednesday 18th May 2011 – Paralio Astros, Greece

Today we travelled a little further over to the eastern coast of the Peloponnese. Jane plotted a route over a minor road starting just south of Stemnitsa and travelling through Hrisovitsi into the city of Tripoli. After half an hour we passed the second vehicle, so it wasn't exactly a busy road but it was a very good road and a pleasant drive through pine forests. Tripoli itself, and we went straight through the centre, was busy but it wasn't a problem and we were soon heading towards Tegea that we had visited earlier in the month. We wanted to check out the museum as it was closed when we were there before but we expected that as nearly all museums are closed on Mondays. It was locked again but something was happening inside. A posted told us, in Greek, that something was happening there at eight in the evening but this event was for school children. Looking through the windows we could see an actress dressed in a costume talking to the children but it was obvious that there were no artefacts in the building. Given that this was the most modern building that was labelled 'Museum', it was obvious that the museum was now closed and the artefacts had been moved, probably to Tripoli. Still, we had been able to buy another 1.5 litres of the excellent rosé wine (€2.50) from the local shop on the main road so all was not lost.
We continued on this road towards Astros until we came to Loukous (Grove) Monastery, also known as the Monastery of Christos Soter. It is actually a convent and is beautifully kept. The gardens are full of flowers including a profusion of roses and lilies that filled the air with a lovely perfume. Unfortunately, the church was locked but we were able to admire the exterior with its many ancient blocks of Ancient Eva that was only a few metres away. Pillars, capitals, carved blocks and a statue from the town were also displayed around the courtyard and there used to be many more before they were taken off to museums.
Across the road from the convent, looking like a building site with a massive crane perched above it is the massive site of the Villa of Herodes Atticus. Covering an area of over 20,000 square metres and hugely ostentatious it has been compared to Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli. Herodes Atticus was a Greek from a rich family who took Roman citizenship in the 2nd century AD. He became even richer and built villas all over the place. A lot of money had obviously been spent consolidating the site and preparing to construct a roof over it. Large concrete piers had been built all around the massive central courtyard (no doubt with gardens and pool), the crane was there to put the roofing in place and huge numbers of wooden panels (for flooring?) lay around. There was a tall fence all around the site but the main gate was open with an unlocked padlock hanging on it. There was nobody on the site so we went in and spent some time looking around. It was quite obvious that no work had been done on the site for some time so it is anyone's guess when it will be finished. Still it was great to be able to look around and it could be a fantastic site when the work is completed. Make a note to return in 20 years or so! The scale of the site is daunting and I was particularly impressed by the extensive bath complex with the heating and water flows clearly visible. Under the protective gauze and aggregate we know that there are mosaics. If all of the protected areas are mosaics then it should be spectacular when they are on display.
On then to the town of Astros where we found the archaeological museum. It was closed and had been for some time – since the earthquake (“seismos”) said the curator indicating the shaking with his hands. We were intrigued to know when that was but he had kept the garden in beautiful condition – the lawn was like a billiard table and the flowers were lovely.
Next was the beach resort of Astros, Paralio Astros where we found the rather drab looking Astros Camping. The very high, all covering eucalyptus trees, combined with the dull weather made it all look rather dingy. It was very cheap at €15 but not very inspiring. I cleaned my bike that was covered in dust from the journey and set off to have a look around the campsite on the other side of the village. The village itself was very pleasant and the Thirea Campside was a great improvement – brighter, much better facilities, closer to the village and a better beach. I had a chat with the owner and managed to negotiate a reduction from €24 to €20. I said that we would bring the motorhome the next day.
Photos: Loukous Monastery; An overview of the Villa of Herodes Atticus – the huge area with the concrete piers is only the inner courtyard; One of the temples within the villa.

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