The Risks (and Rewards) of Winging It

Well, I’d say Tuesday was a change in plans – but I didn’t have much of a plan to start out with. After a trip to Ancient Olympia, I still had three nights to kill before heading to Athens. I was waffling between heading to Methoni and Napflio. Methoni is located down on the very southwestern tip of the Peloponnese and is most well known for being the home to a great castle that was once captured by the Venetians. On the other side, Napflio is significantly closer to Athens and was the first capital of Greece and another former Venetian stronghold. I decided to just wing it and let my fortunes fall as they may and end up wherever I end up. Travelling like this is equal parts exhilarating and nervewracking, with a healthy dose of anticipation and terror thrown in as well. Part of the reason that I wasn’t able to make a decision is that I didn’t have the information on transportation – I knew both locations would require at least two bus changes, but I had no idea where or what times the buses would depart.

Public transportation in Greece means the bus. And each region has its own bus – and even though they are all part of the same KTEL system – each regional bus operates on its own and doesn’t necessarily communicate with the others. Adding to the confusion is the fact that some of the buses have good websites with helpful information in both English and Greek, but the ones I was looking at have terrible websites, only in Greek. So I figured my best bet to figure out which bus I needed to take was just to ask at the station in Pyrgos, the main town that connects with Olympia.

With this plan in mind I set out from Olympia early, attempting to catch the 7:30 bus to Pyrgos. Due to the holiday schedule or misinformation, the bus didn’t actually come until 8:00. About 45 minutes later, I arrived in Pyrgos. Asking at the ticket counter, I was told the best way to get to Methoni would be to travel to Kyparissia and then from there it would be easy to get to Methoni. Despite what I had figured out from the guidebook and from the internet that would be easiest to get to Methoni from Kalamata (the next major town past Kyparissia), I went with the advice of the ticket counter and headed to Kyparissia.

Here’s where things go really off the rails: once I arrived in Kyparissia, I was told there was no bus to Methoni or Pylos (a larger town near Methoni), only to a town called Hora (sometimes spelled Chora). But the good news was, it was coming soon. So I got on the third bus of the day and headed to Hora. The minute I stepped off the bus, I realized I had made a mistake. The bus dropped me randomly on the street in what appeared to be the middle of town with no indication of a bus station or even a shop selling tickets. Of course there is no one around who speaks English, either. I decide to make a halfhearted attempt at hitchhiking – Pylos is only 21 kilometers away – but then it starts to rain.

After making a loop of the town trying to find something that looks like a bus station, I give up and park myself under a large umbrella near where the bus dropped me off earlier. After sitting here for another hour and a half, finally someone attempts to ask me what I’m doing there instead of just staring. From here, we figure out that the bus station is the convenience store I passed more than once – with a tiny sign and bus schedule in the window. Of course, there are no more buses in the direction I want to go for the day. So at this point my options are stay in Hora or get a taxi to Pylos. I decide to take a taxi and get this day over with. 25 Euros later, I’m in Pylos at a nice hotel (with a nice off-season price!). So it might not be what I planned for the day, but Pylos is a picturesque town (when it isn’t raining) on Navarino Bay, one of the largest natural harbors in Greece.