The Greek experience

We packed our overnight bag once again, & left our little Pansyion early next morning, topping up with fuel & coffee to go before we left town. The light is wonderful at that time, & a lovely warmth in the air that is so pleasant, before turning into the searing heat of the day. It’s funny how you settle into your seat. Accepting  the fact you’re there for the next 8-9 hours, & looking forward to what the road ahead will bring. Checking all the essentials. All bags present & correct. Passports & money still in place. Phones plugged in & charging,  Water & tissues in the door pocket. Spectacles testicles wallet & watch. Yep all there.

We start off quietly at first, no music. Just gently taking in the views & the early movements of farmers & animals. watching as the day changes & becomes hotter & busier. We enter Greece around mid-day, & in spite of air con,   the heat through the side window is burning my legs. I’ve stripped down to  bikini, & strung a sarong across the window like a blind. We drove through forested mountains & flat plains. ( as the name implies. ) I’ve run out of superlatives to describe the scenery. Everywhere has it’s individuality, but all beautiful, stunning, awesome in it’s own way. We were on the coast road & could see ‘lovely’ beaches below us. It was time for a pit stop, so turned off road near Palamos & drove through a charming village to the beach.  We parked up & sat ourselves in a very nice beach bar, with a typical Zorba type in budgie smugglers who chatted to us & was amazed at our journey. ( I’d have taken a picture of the budgies but he would have noticed).  We felt really off the beaten track, & when we went in for a swim, commented that we wouldn’t find many Brits out here. The very next person in the water who opened his mouth was an Essex geeser.! So much for that theory. We get everywhere! After a quick swim , a drink, & a shower in a beach cabin we hit the road again, heading for Kozani for the night. We drove through one of the many underground tunnels & came out into cloud! It was the first absence of cloudless blue sky in over a month!

We had seen a large lake on the map & as always we’re ( well Rick is) convinced we will find somewhere lovely to stay nearby. Out first impressions of Kozani as we drove through are unrepeatable. Dirty, industrialised & just nothing going for it. As usual, once out of town we come into countryside & feel more hopeful. Only problem  now there is NOTHING around. No little villages or hotels by the roadside. We come upon the Aliakmonas Bridge which crosses the lake we were looking for, & is absolutely stunning, but we could see from the road ahead we were heading out to even more barren land & no sign of civilisation. Evening was falling. We had seen one & only one, lone hotel a few kilometres back so turned around & headed there. It was closed! A young lady came out to tell us so, & pointed back to where we had just come from & seemed to be indicating a road up the mountain on our left. She was telling us ‘Neraida’.

Its’s a steep road, but we can now see buildings high up the mountain & clearly there is a small village up there we would never have spotted from the main highway. As we round a corner we come upon a pink painted hotel. It looks lovely & we go inside to enquire. The gentleman owner spoke Greek & German, & we never decided which was his original nationality. He was asking 30 Euros a night for B&B which was perfectly acceptable. What a place! Immaculately clean. Old fashioned highly polished furniture, & some really unusual artifacts. Ancient radiogram, photos & memorabilia. It wasn’t as stuffy as a museum but you could have spent hours checking out the lounge & bar area. It was quite large downstairs & you could imagine it filled with people. How tragic there was no-one there. We were the only guests., & as he showed us to our room he took the dust sheets off the bed.  The room was again immaculate. The crispest white sheets I have ever seen & such a polish on the walnut furniture. En suite, & balcony over looking the bridge & Polyfytos Lake.

We asked if he served food, which he did not, but he pointed to further up the mountain & was saying we could get food there. Neraida! My god. Eureka!! never could we have expected to find such an enchanting village . The most beautiful little Greek Orthodox church, stunning stunning views, plus a spattering of places to eat. I read somewhere that the village IMG_1631 IMG_1632 IMG_1629IMG_1628IMG_1622IMG_1626IMG_1627IMG_1624t was instrumental during the war & was all but destroyed, & about 20 families still live there. It was obviously well known & visited judging by the number of cars parked in the street. I cannot imagine where everyone had come from given the distance from the next town. We chose a place over looking the lake & ordered their speciality. Pizza! Not forgetting a fine mojito or two. As the sun went down over the lake it was the most wonderful panoramic sunset I’ve seen.

We toddled back to our hotel full,  comfortable, & looking forward to a good nights sleep in the comfy crispy bed. As we locked the door I had a funny turn. We were completely alone in this strange place. Empty rooms all around, not even knowing where the owner was staying. A bit of a Norman Bates moment. ( Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho) . As we turned out the light I said to Rick ‘ do you think he has a CCTV camera in here? Wouldn’t blame him if he had, it must be so bloomin boring’. We laughed. Until I spotted a light up in a corner on the ceiling. Oh god he has got CCTV in here- turn the light on turn the light on! it was the light from the air-con unit. haha.  Night night.

Apologies for any repeat pics!

Homeward bound

So folks we come to the end of July & it’s time to start the long drive back home. I’m not going to give a diary of our holiday, it’s much the same as everyone else’s, save to say we had a wonderful time with the family all together.

One story though of an  unusual encounter with a ‘healer’ for Mikes herniated discs. In short, a little old Turkish lady who could have been 55 & aged harshly, or 355 & aged well. She was 4ft & a cross between Yoda & ET ( as we had been told). She came highly recommended & apparently receives medical referrals which was reassuring.  We drove 4 hours to her place, luckily on our way to Alachati for a couple of days kite surfing, an hour or so further north. Rick & Chris hovered quietly outside while Mike, Aysegul & I entered the wizards hovel. They later said there were strange animal noises in her garden . Chris decided she was keeping a baby dragon as a pet!  Mike lay on the strip a carpet on the floor & she proceeded to examine his back , immediately pinpointing the problem areas. Her treatment method can be described as a cross between osteopathy, chiropractic & wrestling. It was extremely vigorous, & Aysegul & I clamped our hands over our mouths in horror. Anyway when she finally asked him to stand up & walk round, he had a grin from ear to ear! It was fixed!  He wasn’t prepared to say by how much until he’d had more time to assess after sitting in the car, moving around etc. But I think he felt it was 90 % better immediately, & set him well on the way to recovery. A way better result than the proposed surgery, & following 30 odd injections in his btm.  A very surreal experience.

One other event which I will remember is running out of fuel at the top of a hill on a narrow country road. Just Rick Chris & I in the bus. We free wheeled , backwards, downhill (no brakes obviously). Rick leaning across the seats looking back steering with one hand, Chris in calm Captain mode with one hand on the hand brake & the other out of the window slowing down the on- coming trucks & wagons! Me in the back hyperventilating. They managed to swing it into a turning spot & with the last dregs of fuel started the engine to get us moving forward. Free wheeled down the remainder of the hill to a garage at the bottom. Such fun they thought, Men! If you’re wondering why I didn’t get out, I didn’t want to be standing alone if they went over the edge. I’d have had no lift back.

We depart Bodrum finally on 29th July, a couple of days earlier than planned, but with a contract booked for Rick to start work. We still wanted to take our time on the scenic route back.  We had some idea of the countries we wanted to pass through, but not completely decided. We’ll see how it goes.  We had an unremarkable drive north, towns we have driven through on the way, in daylight this time, but good roads. We’re stopped by the police for passports & license for the first time ever. had our last lovely chicken shish in Turkey at a fancy service station north of Izmir.

We were heading for Canneakale which I wrote about previously, but someone suggested Troy would be a good place to visit so we took a detour. We arrived in the ‘town’ on a very hot late afternoon. Tumbleweed could be seen rolling down the street.  Just a couple of shops/cafes & not much else. Yes you could  pay to walk down to the ruins , but we weren’t in the mood & needed to find somewhere to spend the night. A resourceful Turk had followed on his scooter to offer us his campsite, but we’d been looking forward to a lake side experience & so declined. As I commented at the time, no Helen, no Brad Pitt, & actually  bit of a one horse town!

Eventually with nothing suitable en route we took the ferry across to Esceabet & started looking for accommodation. It was getting late & darkish which always freaks me out . Most hotels were full & it was only later we discovered there was some kind of celebration in town. We asked an hotel ‘concierge’ ( loose description) where we could find a Pansyion (B&B) & he was remarkable willing to help.  He had a sister who owns a place just round the corner. He called her up & yes she had rooms available. He gave us directions & had been so kind. We didn’t actually find the sisters place, but in the general direction & just nearby we found a B&B offering room with breakfast for  50 lira (about 15 quid)    with breakfast.  The patron didn’t speak a word of English but we understood each other. In fact when we explained we would be leaving very early in the morning & not taking breakfast he gave us   20 lira   back! How good is that!?  The room was in the eaves, funny shape with triple wooden beds. Bathroom more like a wetroom but don’t think up market. This was just a shower hose in the wall & floor tiles like a death trap when wet! Once in I could hardly get out. It was VERY basic but immaculately clean.

It was dark by now so we dropped our stuff & drove back into town looking for food. We chose a busy place & sat down to order. We both did that looking round thing you do to see what everyone is eating & at about the same time said ‘ there’s no alcohol!’ Oh well we laughed it off, we can manage a meal without a drink. Ahem!  You choose your food from a counter display & it came up a huge plate of something I can’t remember except I couldn’t finish it.  As we took a stroll round town afterwards we realised none of the roadside cafes served alcohol.  nor did a couple of little shops! Hell fire! Finally found a tiny little store selling booze but limited  choice.  Never mind- beer & Raki will do thank you very much, & we trundled back to our little cheapo place to drink some in the outside eating area, making a handsome meal ourselves for the midges & mozies.  The only disruption during the night was being woken to the sound of drums at 3am! What the –  . Someone was banging a big bass drum & his matey a smaller lighter version. It  was the end of Ramadan, maybe that was why.