It is Day 8 of our Cycle with the Gods tour in Greece (and our 6th day of riding). We had some complicated logistics this morning as riding from Lefkada was not an option due to a long tunnel where we could not cycle. So after a 6:30 a.m. breakfast we loaded luggage (it was still raining) and ourselves in the bus while our tour operator Steven took the bicycles in his van and trailer and we shuttled to Preveza for the start of our ride.
The roads were wet but the rain seemed to have stopped and indeed we were so lucky to have dry weather (and even sunshine) for the remainder of the day. Our first significant climb began at 20 km (12 miles) and luckily was only 4% for the next 6.4 km (4 miles). Though we were heading primarily north along the Ionian Sea, the road took us up along the coastal range through pine forests with views of the sea below.
At about 41 km we took a short detour to visit Nekromanteion. This is believed to be the site of an ancient temple dedicated to Hades and Persephone along the banks of the Acheron River. It is the site where souls would be welcomed to the underworld, and the living would come and fast and follow a very specific diet (including the use of hallucinogenics) to consult with the dead to learn about their future (including Odysseus). The site was described by Homer in the 8th century BCE though archeologists do not agree whether this was a farmhouse during Hellenistic times or the Nekromanteion.
In 167 CE the site was burned by the Romans and a church was built on the site. Later the Ottomans used the site for a home. The visit was quite interesting.
Then it was back on the bikes to finish our last 20 km (12 miles) with some long climbs. We rolled into the Port of Parga and finished our ride with a steep 1.3 km (0.8 miles) section on a narrow hairpin-turn road. We ended the day with 62 km (38.4 miles) and 782 m (2566’) of climbing. Luckily the temps were mild today and we rolled into Parga with views of the castle, port, and beaches under blue skies. Having a day off the bike yesterday really helped!!
After a shower and hanging the laundry I grabbed some lunch with a few others and we headed over to the castle to explore the grounds. Parga was an Ancient Greek village and during the 11th century the Normans helped the Greeks build a fortification to fight against pirates. In the early 15th century the Venetians built the castle as they had taken over this area. In the 16th century the Ottomans burned the fortress and the Venetians again rebuilt. This happened several more times until 1797 when the Venetians once again, with help from the French, reconstructed the castle. However in 1822 the castle came under Ottoman control until 1913 when the control of the castle was finally transferred to the Greek government. There are many vaulted rooms and passages that were used for storage, armaments, prisons and secret access. We only explored a small portion of the structure. Tomorrow we have a short day as we head to our last beach stay before heading into the mountains. I think I finally need to take a dip in the sea!