Monday, July 14, 2003

14 July 2003 – 3:07 PM GMT+2

So after getting to Sparta, we turned west and headed toward the caves at Dirou. A strange little place indeed: it felt like a combination of a nice Mediterranean beach, a 1970's-era State Park facility, and the Wisconsin Ducks. You drive to this lot bordered by a covered-porch-area, a glass-windowed store room, and the entrance to the caves. We went down the stairs, put on our lifejackets, and climbed into the boat (along with a couple in the front). Camera flashes announced the start of our very quiet journey through the caves (and illuminated us for pictures from the nearby opposite shore, which the tour operators would unsuccessfully try to sell us at the trip's end).

It was very silent—aside from the occasional knocking against a stalagmite or the random "Take a picture, Harry. C'mon blah blah" from Mom or Dad. I enjoyed the silence—very peaceful. You'd hear water dripping and those stereotypical cave noises. I decided that the visitors-traveling-in-a-boat-in-a-cave-which-collapses-after-an-earthquake-and-they-must-escape-à-la-The-Poseidon-Adventure would make for a good movie. And as a plus, the lights flickered throughout the cave; all the cabling was in the water, prompting me to ponder about the electrical codes for caves in fairly rural Greece. We exited and I enjoyed a sit with Greg while the others went down to the beach for a few minutes.

For lunch we drove into Sygrou*, bypassing the many restaurateurs that were eyeing us (and our cash) up hungrily, and pulled over near this seaside café, which seemed quite comfortable and pressure-free. It was about 3:30, so some of us wanted something substantial, so we first walked to a fast food joint (with fruit in the window that wasn't for sale). I didn't get anything, but Grego and Teeps did, so we got that, walked past the neighboring authorized Bosch dealership, and back to the little café. I got a Fanta (no gas, in a bottle) and a Tiramisu ice cream (note: do not get it again). We lazed there until at least 4 PM (as they asked us to pay then, when our waiter went off duty), and then piled into the car, satiated but ready for a yummy time in Monemvasia.

Then we left and drove east through Sparta en route to Monemvasia, and after quite a long discussion we decided, hey, why not see Papou's parents' home town of Agios Nikolaos. So we turned off the main road and found a neat old-style metal sign pointing us in the direction of Agios Nikolaos—and the road was even paved! We pulled in, got out, and took a few pictures. A guy asked us what we were doing, but knew nothing of our family, as he only moved there a few years ago. He pointed us down the road to a shortcut back to the main highway. We got in the car and went on our way.

That is, until I said to turn right instead of left. A fortuitous mistake—the man we stopped to ask for directions turned out to be some sort of relative (we discovered this after Mom felt the need to explain ourselves). He talked about his relationship to us, how practically everyone that was related to us had left the village, and the like. We chatted a bit, snapped a few photos, and then took off down the brand-new road (one lane, nicely paved at points), to Monemvasia.

The rest of the drive was relatively short, and we pulled up to a no parking zone and promptly parked, just as everyone else had. Monemvasia is a small medieval town whose only relevance today is as a tourist destination peddling the same wares as most every other tourist boutique in the world. However, we did find a very nice little restaurant overlooking the sea where I had meager (but tasty!) lamb chops with fries (every entrée in Greece seems to come with fries).

At the dinner table I had been talking about Greg's adventures against the Sorceress of Bitchitude (Theresa) with his +2 sword of tastiness (the butter knife) and the like. Recalling an item he had obtained earlier in the day in Golden Sun: Reign of the Three Emperors, Greg held the bread basket over his head, and said "Greg got the Large Bread" as I did the "get-something-in-Golden-Sun:-Blade-of-Heroes" music. We all got a good laugh out of this, except for the six cats in my field of view (one of whom was eyeing the remains of Theresa's fish).

We left Monemvasia before the sunset, and drove a quite nice drive back into Sparta. Sparta is a town in which living a normal life seems plausible—like most Greek towns, it has a pretty active nightlife, but it also has fast food places, supermarkets, and other amenities that seemed lacking in other medium-sized cities. We found the Hotel Menelaus and went inside after finding a place to park. It looked quite nice and indeed was—the best hotel, in my opinion, of the trip thus far. The rooms weren't spacious, but they were comfortable, and, very importantly, the bathrooms were nice. Mom and Dad went into town (stopping at an Internet Café), while us kids washed up and went to bed.

*Editor's note: I have not been able to figure out where this actually was.