Karitena, Greece

October 15th, 2004

Karitena and valley

When we left Koroni Friday morning, we looked at our travel guide and decided we were interested in going to Karitena, Dmistana, or Stemnitsa. When we got into Tripoli the next departing bus went to Karitena. As we purchased our tickets, the bus attendant informed us that the bus did not go directly into the center of town. We weren't too worried because the towns usually aren't too large anyway. I asked if it was far and he said no it wasn't far. So we jumped on the bus and headed out of town. As we drove along, sunset came and went and it started to get dark. People would show up on the side of the road, in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere, and the bus would stop and pick them up. Then people would pull the stop cord and get off in the middle of nowhere. Finally, the bus driver pulls over on the side of the road, in the dark, next to a gas station (nothing else in sight) and tells us that this is our stop. As he is unloading our bags I ask if we go up the road in front of us. He says yes and points up the road. Well with no street lights, in the middle of nowhere, we start off on the road and head what turns out to be staight up hill.

My sister was in her black boots, but luckily I was in my sneakers because it was not easy to see the road and there were many dips and uneven edges. Since I was in the better shoes, I took my sisters pull bag also and we began our ascent. As we go along we are joking about whether or not there are vampires and werewolves in this area. All of a sudden, my sister shrieks and does a little side step. When I ask what's wrong, she says there was a spider. Assuming it wasn't a big deal I laughed at her. She says, no really, there was a huge spider. Since I still don't believe her, she starts to look around on the ground and then points out the biggest spider I have ever seen! It was just walking down the street like it owned the road. So we carefully walked around it and continued up the road.

After a little over a mile, we came to the top of the hill. Still not seeing any sign of life, we start looking for the hotel. Eventually we pass what appears to be a bar with three guys sitting in front. We didn't really want to stop there, so we continue to what appears to be the end of town. So with no idea where to go, we weigh our options, and decide it's best to head to the bar. As we roll our little bags up to the bar a woman runs out and asks if we are looking for her. I say, well we are looking for a hotel. I show here the name in the book and she says that yes we are looking for her. She saw us walk by the first time, but since we kept going she assumed we knew were we wanted to go. Anyway, she takes us to the room, which was a really nicely decorated ski lodge looking room, and points us in the direction of the only restaurant in town. Turns out the rest of the people in town, who aren't at the bar, are at the restaurant.

At the restaurant they hand us a menu, but when we try to order the waiter keeps telling us that they are out of each item. So finally we tell him to bring us whatever they are serving that evening. We ended up getting stuffed peppers, grilled chicken with french fries, and a little salad. All the food was good, so we gobbled it up and headed off to bed.

The next morning, we are awaked by music. I'm tring to figure out where it's coming from, when my sister tells me to turn off my phone. I tell her it's not my phone and that my phone doesn't play music. Realizing that the music is coming from outside, I groggily open the window to find that Simon and Garfunkles "Mrs Robinson" is being blasted from somewhere outside. That song ends and a couple of other songs are played and then it's all turned off. So wide awake, we get dressed and look for a place to eat. Again, there is noone in town except a couple people at the bar. The restaurant is closed and there isn't a bakery, so we decide to head back to the bar. The only thing available in the bar was strong coffee and we ordered two. Luckily we always carry snacks, because it was a long time until lunch. We looked for the woman we talked to the night before, but she wasn't anywhere to be found.

Armed with our camera, we set out walking around the little town. We finally got to see the road we walked up the night before (picture at the top of this page). The old buildings and plants were quite picturesque.
some of bldgs flowers in frame yellow flowers

The Church of Agios Nokolaos was beautiful, but creepy inside. Abandoned, closed up, and dark, there was a candle chandlier hanging askew from the ceiling. The door was just slightly larger then me. As we walked through the graveyard leading up to the door, I noticed that all the graves have pictures of the deceased sitting on top. I noticed that one of the grave covers had an open end and I joked with my sister that somebody got out. Then as we got closer to the grave we noticed that the picture on top looked exactly like the woman we had talked to the night before. The same woman that we had not yet seen during the day... Spooky... So we joked some more about vampires and werewolves before heading on the path up to the castle ruins.
church church side

At the top of the hill is the ruins of a 13th century Frankish castle...
Karitena with castle in background

As I headed up the hill on a very rocky path, it began to drizzle. The clouds had been rolling in through the little town since we had been at the church (even spookier), leaving the air damp and cold. I decided that I would jog up the little path as fast as I could and come back down before the rain started. My sister, however, declined to join me. I made it to the top of the hill and clicked off a couple of pictures before it all let loose. I considered taking shelter under a little arch, but decided my sister would worry. So like a billy goat in the rain, I gingerly picked my way through the rocky path to find my sister waiting at the bottom, half sheltered by a building eave.
castle gate old castle walls

Sopping wet we ran to the bar (only thing open in town) and asked for two hot chocolates. Those were the best hot chocolates I have ever had! They were made with real melted chocolate, lightly sweetened, and hot :) Interestingly enough, the girl we talked to the night before was now serving drinks (I guess she does come out during the day afterall). As we sat in the bar, the thunder rumbled off the mountainside and the rain came down even harder. The water dripped in around the window of the bar, snaked it's way across the floor and out the front door to join up with the water rushing down the street like a river down the hill.

When the rain let up a little I jogged over to our room to get some dice, cards, and books to entertain ourselves. We asked for an ouzo to keep us warm, but evidentally it's not proper for the women to drink in the bar during the day. She made up an excuse that it was almost lunch time and we would soon be leaving to eat lunch. Turns out that the restaurant didn't even open for another two hours. Since we had already seen most of the town and the rain wasn't letting up, we decided it was time to move on down the road. We asked the bar tender what time the bus would come to town. She tells us the bus doesn't come to town on the weekend. So we asked if there was a taxi. To which she replied that she would find someone.

The bartender found someone to take us and agreed to a price. The only hold up was lunch. In most small towns, everything stops during lunch time. If you don't eat during lunch time then you don't eat at all until dinner. So by four that afternoon, we were on our way to the next town.... Dimitsana.

The little design End

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