Monday, September 28, 2009

Why Bother

Map picture

Volos, Greece

Yesterday I said that I would probably not have time to write about our visit today to Volos, Greece, but in fact there is so little to tell, that it is easier if I just get it over with.

Today turned out to present us with the most useless shore excursion we have ever experienced. Volos is pretty enough. It is a city of around 120,000 people located about 200 miles up the coast from Athens. My guess is that Princess stopped here because it was convenient to Athens, where we will arrive tomorrow morning around 5 am and begin the “turnaround day.” As a tourist destination, Volos really offers nothing that I could see of interest.

We began our tour around 8 this morning. According to our guidebook we were to visit two quaint and colorful Greek villages nestled in the hills surrounding Volos, and also would make a stop at the local museum; sounded reasonable enough. However, as it turns out today is Monday and the museum is closed, so the tour simply added free time to fill the gap.

We left the pier and drove for about an hour up the nearby mountains. The road was very narrow and it seemed as if we took one switchback after another forever. The day was overcast with a light drizzle and the scenery was unremarkable. We drove past homes and some small hamlets. Our guide was an absolute bore. She never spoke more than five words in a row – usually only three, before she paused to think of what next to say. She spoke very slowly and in a complete monotone – no change in inflection or pitch or volume. To make matters worse she had nothing interesting to say, just stories about Greek mythology. I was so lost in her constant stories about some Jason or other that I have absolutely no clue what she was saying.

Finally our bus reached a point where the road became so narrow that it could go no further. At this point we had climbed around 3,000’. From here we had to walk over a half mile up a very narrow, steep and wet cobblestone road. Eventually we came to a small plaza where our guide stopped and proudly announced that we had arrived. She looked at her watch and told us that we had 1 hour and 10 minutes to explore and shop at which point we would meet again at the bus – that is the bus that is now a half mile down a wet, narrow cobblestone road. With those cheery words she promptly disappeared into a nearby café.

I looked around in total disbelief. There was nothing to do or see. A walk to the edge of the plaza gave a view of the valley below.IMG_3841 A very small church was open so you could look inside, but all the shops were closed and there was really no place to walk. There was one small café open, so Lisa and I grabbed an espresso to kill time before the bus departed.

Back on the bus we departed for our next stop. Now listen carefully – the bus drove back down the road for no more than 5 minutes and pulled over at a small hotel we had passed earlier. The doors opened and our guide cheerfully announced that we would now stop for a cup of coffee and meet back at the bus in an hour! I was dumbfounded. This was not a village; it was just a small hotel off the side of the road. IMG_3903 We had passed a small church about a block prior, so I at least walked back to get a photograph or two, but another hour was wasted doing nothing. The small hotel had two severs to handle the roughly 120 people who had just descended on it, so you can imagine how long the process took just to get that “cup of coffee.”

Finally we departed and drove back down the narrow, curving, steep road back to the port and bordered our ship around noon, having done absolutely nothing of any earthly interest.

So our journey ends. We have had many wonderful experiences and a great time over all. Tomorrow we will make the long journey home and look forward to seeing everyone.


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