Messolonghi was our first stop which is actually in the Gulf of Patras. The Gulf of Patras becomes the Gulf of Corinth after passing under the Rion bridge. Messolonghi is on a sea lake formed by the endings of two rivers. To get to the town you have to go down a small canal past the islet of Tourlida which is linked to the mainland by one road. The houses are on stilts.
We moored on the harbour wall here along with four other boats. Unfortunately, there was a large group of youngsters making a nuisance of themselves so we moved off the wall and anchored, we were soon followed by the other boats. We took the dinghy ashore and wandered into town which was quite a lot bigger than it looks from the anchorage. There were lots of bars, restaurants, supermarkets etc we were pleased we ventured into town. We were walking to the supermarket and on the opposite side of the road was a rather imposing statue ( I haven’t been able to discover who it is) so I thought I’d take a photo, I got myself in position waiting for the traffic to pass in particular the bus, when to my surprise the bus driver stopped and waved at me to take my photo. Messolonghi is also the place where Lord Byron, the English poet died.
Patras was our next port of call, which is the third largest city in Greece. I have to admit that I’d not heard of Patras before visiting it. Patras also has the largest church in Greece, the Cathedral of St Andrew. Building started in 1908 and was inaugurated in 1974 and can hold up to 5,000 people.
Our main reason for visiting here was that we could take a ride on the rack and pinion railway, yes I can hear most of you asking what is that. A rack and pinion railway goes up and down slopes with a steep gradient. It has a toothed rail rack trail, usually between the running rails. The trains are fitted with cog wheels or pinions that mesh with the rack rail. It begins at Diakofto, on the coast and climbs up to Kalavryta (which is a ski resort – yes in Greece). It runs through the Homonymous Gorg. The ride was stunning and lasted about an hour.
This was the final destination of the train and was a lovely town in the mountains. Before the war it was a very wealthy town. There is a museum here dedicated to the awful events which took place on December 13, 1943 The Massacre of Kalavryta, also known as the Holocaust of Kalavryta, which was carried out by the German Army’s 117th Jäger Division. The extermination of the male population of Kalavryta was in retaliation for the execution of 68 German soldiers who had been captured by the Greek Resistance. The clock of the church is stopped at 2.35pm, the time of the massacre.
On the morning of December 13, the church bells rung and everyone was ordered to gather in the school, bringing with them a blanket and food for one day. The men were separated from the women and children. The males over 14 were led in groups to the nearby field called Kapi Rake which gave a full view of the town. The Germans then set the school on fire so that the men could see. Moments later the men were shot by machine gun. The women and children who were trapped in the school managed to escape by breaking the windows and doors. There is a rumour that an Austrian soldier, who had been entrusted with their custody, left one door open so they could flee.
The town was burnt to the ground and so everything was destroyed in the fire. This shows a woman dragging her deceased husband in her coat from where he was killed to the cemetery.
The final room of the museum is particularly harrowing as the walls are covered with the pictures of those killed.
We left Patras and crossed under the Rion Suspension Bridge leaving the Gulf of Patras and entered the Gulf of Cornith arriving in Nafpaktos a couple of hours later along with CopyCat. Now this was one of those Alghero moments, meaning there are only two spaces for boats on the harbour wall and amazingly we got them just as we did in Alghero. Well we thought we had, until an 85ft power boat squashed himself against CopyCat, which he shouldn’t have done. The harbour firstly isn’t meant for boats that size and there really wasn’t room and as a result damaged CopyCat’s passerelle (aka gangplank). The town is a very pretty tourist place with people arriving by coach.
We next headed to the only inhabited island in the Gulf of Cornith. We moored up in the harbour. Now we ‘ve been warned that, not necessarily here, but in some places people demand money for mooring and they are not the official rep. So, when a guy rocks up on his push bike you are never sure, so CopyCat quite rightly asked for his ID which he duly produced and we paid the princely sum of 8euros for the night. It was very hot here so we all decided to go for a swim, now the sea is normally quite warm, NOT so here, it took your breath away as to how cold it was and in the middle of July.
We wandered around to the other side of the Island which looked like it was quite “the” trendy place to be and certainly would make a great backdrop for the wedding photos. A boat arrived carrying flowers and two candles that were about a metre long and took them along to the church. They decorated the trees outside the church. We found out that the wedding was taking place at 7.30 that evening so we wandered back later, minus Ian! The bride arrived with her entourage on a boat from the mainland. They walked from the boat to the church being serenaded by a guy playing a mandolin. It is tradition that the Bride’s father hands his daughter over to the groom at the entrance to the church who gives her a bouquet.