Saturday, March 08, 2014

Transportation: Delphi-Kalabaka

Our SOP for pulling in to a town is to know our way out.  Everyone talked about doing a four-bus switch to go from Delphi to Kalabaka but we didn't find exactly how.  Upon arriving in Delphi, we were surprised to learn that on Fridays and Sundays you cannot start until 3:15 pm as opposed to 10:15 am on other days.  This means we would not arrive in Kalabaka until after 9pm on Friday.  For various reasons, we only travel after dark when it cannot be avoided.  In Greece, the main reason is that I want to catch all the scenery along the way.   We could stay another day, except our room has a pending reservation and there are not more things we feel compelled to do around Delphi.  We started to brainstorm and research.

The bottleneck is the Amfissa to Lamia leg.  Amfissa is 19 kms from Delphi.  Every morning  there exists 7:15 am bus from Amfissa to Lamia, but there are no buses connecting from Delphi.  This mean we would have to take a taxi, which is an extravagant proposition for us, both in terms of carbon footprint and cost.  After much deliberation we decided on the taxi.  We struck a deal with a driver to take us for 22 euros for a 6:30 am pickup.

The night before, I finished my blog duty and was doing last minute research,when the idea of taking the train occurred again.  During our research at home, we learned that Greece has very spotty train service and were pretty much resigned to taking buses exclusively.  Looking at the map, the bus route and train route almost intersect (1km apart) in Bralos about 35km north of Amfissa, and there is a train at 10:34 am that would take us all the way to Kalabaka.  I was immediately excited at the prospect of taking the train.  John was slower to warm to such a last minute change, right before bedtime....

Friday morning we were picked up by our taxi exactly at 6:30.  We caught the 7:15 bus from Amfissa.  The ticket to Bralos is 4.40 euros each.  It was raining as we approached Bralos around 8:15.  The young bus driver offered to take us all the way to Lamia and switch to the train there, so we would not have to be dropped by the side of the road and walk to the train station in the rain.  We assured him that we had umbrellas and good rain gear and would be okay.  

Ten minutes after the dropoff we arrived at the tiny (we expected) and deserted (we didn't quite expect) station of Bralos.  The handwritten board outside didn't look very current, but showed our train.  We just had to sit tight and wait in the 10x12 foot unheated unlit dingy waiting room.  The temperature was just above 50F.  While we didn't bother to put on our rain pants for the walk, we promptly put on our rain pants to keep ourselves warm.   

Soon after that, two passenger trains going opposite directions zoomed by without stopping.  While I didn't expect them to,  worrywart John went into overdrive -- is our train going to stop for us?  Actually I excel at worrying myself.  The two of us worry about different things.  Just last night I looked at the online schedule on their official website.  I didn't think Greece is such a dysfunctional country that they would get the train schedule wrong.  Nevertheless, John had me worried.  All I could do was to listen to my book, The Magus,  by John Fowles, which was at a particularly engaging part.  John took to pacing the platform [solely to stay warm- says John].

Around 10 John poked his head in the waiting room, all smiles, "a taxi pulled up, as if he'll wait for a fare."  Soon, another taxi pulled up.  Then a rainbow was reported.  That I had to see.  I went outside to admire the rainbow, and spotted a nice lady picking up bits of random rash.  I suppressed the urge for a confirmation that there will be a train.  Instead, I calmly asked her whether we wait at the platform or have to cross the tracks.  She spoke perfect English and pointed out that our destination, Kalabaka, is much more dramatic in the rain than under the blazing sun.  Then the three of us proceeded to have the nicest conversation.

At 10:35am the train arrived on time, we boarded train and got our tickets from the conductor, 9.40 euros each.  The first part of the train ride we were in the mountains, then we began to see the biggest plain yet for us in Greece.  I was relieved to see that they do have some flat land :D  Almost three hours later we arrived in Kalabaka.  The rocks of Meteora were dramatic.  The kind lady was not just trying to console us about the rain.  The train ride offset our carbon cost as well as financial cost of the taxi.  We were at peace and in awe of the rocks  as we took a leg-stretching late afternoon walk up in the peaks.

The Waiting Room at Bralos Station .
Bralos Stationa - On the Road to Kalambaka, Greece

The Station.
Bralos Stationa - On the Road to Kalambaka, Greece

The "highly maintained" official schedule board is not reassuring.
Bralos Station - Bralos, Greece

Bralos Station - Bralos, Greece

The 10:34 train was similar to this train that sped on by without pause.
Bralos Stationa - On the Road to Kalambaka, Greece

The train was relaxing, smooth, and quiet.
On the Road to Kalambaka, Greece

Looks like a new parallel set of tracks is under construction.
On the Road to Kalambaka, Greece

Settled into our hotel in Kalabaka and checking out the route for a late afternoon walk up into the Meteora rocks.
Meteora - Kalambaka, Greece

Up in the rocks!
Meteora - Kalambaka, Greece


Kathy said...

Loved the post! Always good to have a Plan B, lol, so glad it worked out for you, but I can easily imagine sitting in the train station wondering... I took the train from Kalambaka to Athens and it was fine, but I liked the KTEL buses too. The problem with the Greek trains is that they canceled all the international ones - as a cost-saving measure.

Kathy said...

Forgot to say, the notice board is fabulous.

Crash Eddy said...

You two can find a pony in a pile of horse sh*t! And you even enjoy looking for it.

john said...

@Kathy, The hotel owner in Olympia told me that the French, Chinese, and Russians are all interested in buying the Greek train system. To him, only the Chinese interest made sense; they would bring container ships through the Suez to Piraeus and then ship by rail to Europe. In fact he said Chinese are already building infrastructure in Piraeus.

@Ed, I think that's a complement. ;-) Thanks!

Kathy said...

Wow, fascinating info about the Chinese. That should certainly improve the train situation in Eastern Europe, but perhaps only for freight.