This … Is… SPAAARTAAAH!

… And it lives up to its name, the term it gave the world to connote plainness and conformity. It's as generic as a suburb of LA. (Except Los Angeles has more men in red leather underpants walking about.)

The journey here was suitably rugged. Packed local buses down twisting mountain paths from Arcadia at the crack of dawn, then a backpacked jaunt across Tripoli to find the right bus station (Greek towns have several.) Which turned out, like so many, to be less of a station and more a sort of counter with buses stopping outside it. With the idiosyncratic timetabling, obscure stopping points, and punctuated network – not to mention an alphabet I can't read without concentrating, where 'Sparta' looks like 'Enapta' – bussing around this first world EU member has been tougher than doing the same in undeveloped Egypt.

Ancient ruins are a bit sparse, too – the Spartans didn't fortify their towns, probably believing fortifications were for wusses, so preserved architecture is limited to a ruined acropolis and theatre. There is a good archaeological museum, and ancient Mystras is nearby (the reason there's so little of ancient Sparta to see – much of its stone was cannibalised to build Mystras, 6km away) so that's tomorrow taken care of.

I'm running out of time, so this is as far south as I go. No Diros caverns, no Gytheio, but no problem: I'll get to see Nafplio again, with no need to return to Athens. Which makes this trip one to remember.

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