Athens to Corfu
This is now directed mostly to Road Crazy, but will hopefully be useful information for others here as well. We just returned from our trip to Greece. We did bring along our own Garmin GPS, in which we had inserted a sim card, just as a back up to the one that was promised to us in the rental car. We picked the rental up from the Athens airport. The GPS was a Tom Tom, which we used, keeping the Garmin packed away, but at hand in case we needed it. We skirted the north end of Athens driving down to Nafplio and I was pleased to see how easy the driving was. The roads are in great condition and the traffic flows well. There are several toll booths along the way, which didn't bother me, since the roads were wonderful, and the toll booths were well marked in terms of which ones I should go to. The people working the booths were very friendly and helpful. The GPS took us south toward Napflion, and it did get a little confused about two thirds of the way down, but the map that we brought along, coupled with my studying the Peloponnese and road maps before we left, were all we needed, and we sniffed our way to the Pension Marianna, which, if I may add, was truly a highlight of our trip.
In a few days we continued driving around, heading south, along the seashore. The drive was beautiful and contrary to what I was expecting, the Greeks were very polite and good drivers. Fast, but good. We never felt that there was anything close to a close call! We drove down to Leonidio, then headed inland up the mountains into Kosmas. That was a narrow windy road, but we enjoyed taking our time and there wasn't much traffic. The scenery was beyond description; I live in Colorado, but have never seen such full, vibrantly green, healthy spruce trees in my life! We stopped in Kosmas and ate at a little cafe next to the big church in the town square, having a wonderful stew, beans, salad, bread and coffee. It was homemade, all of it and the owners were wonderful people.
We then headed on down the mountains, to Geraki, and then to Kyparissi, not to be confused with Kyparrisia. The road was heading toward the sea, and we popped out on top of the rim, two thousand feet above the sea. It was an amazing sight. We took our time going down the road into the villaged of Kyparissi, thanks to my wife (!) and spent the night. It is remote, like an island on the mainland, and the mountains jutting up are incredible. In the morning we headed up the hill again, through Sparti, and on to Olympia, via the Megaopli area. Near Geraki the scenery was just beautiful, with yellow flowers everywhere. We stopped and their scent was thick with a honey scent. Amazing. The highways, once we got to Sparti, were brand new and two lanes each way, perfect shape. I wish they were like that here in America! We got off the highways to head west toward Kyparissia, then north to Olympia. One note here, the Tom Tom GPS again got lost since it didn't know abou thte new highway, and was wanting to take us to an entirely new route. This was because it hadn't been updated by the car rental company. We took out the Garmin, newly updated, and it found the right roads. Even so, finding Olympia was a bit of an adventure, but we got there.
The following day we had to get back to the airport to fly to Corfu. Rather than take the recommended route back down toward Kyparissia and head east, where the highway was good, we chose the more scenic moutain route that a local told us about, well traveled and known, but still a smaller highway that was very curvy and hung to cliffs every once in a while. It was well worth it, as the scenery was fanatastic. It spilled us out near Tripoli, and we then got on the main highway back to Athens. Finding the airport was very well marked and easy.
Notes about driving the back country in that area...it is well signed and there are enough people who speak English that is is not a problem. In no way was it every scary or tense, just enjoyable. The village main roads were pretty tight, but everyone keeps an eye out for everyone! THe super highways in the middle of the Peloponnese were a dream to drive on. YOu don't necessarily get the back country feel and scenery, but it is an easy flow to drive with. And still very pretty. We also rented a car in Corfu and drove around the northern end of the island. The drivers there are a bit more frenetic, but still, very civilized we thought.
Hopefully this will settle some curiosity about driving. I loved it, and the independance it gave us!