Feeling surprisingly normal next morning we were awake & ready to leave by 7.30 am. Mrs Goat herd was outside our room waiting to be paid. We had declined breakfast wanting to hit the road. We had a long way to drive & a ferry to catch. We had a certain amount of trouble getting across Albania. The roads were decent enough but the signs were terrible. We took several wrong turns, but road signs would suddenly disappear. We took what looked like the right road but ended up on a goat track every time! We were stopped by police three times! First time ever. Twice for document checks & once for speeding! Lots of horses & carts on the road, but still very European dress, apart from the old ladies of course. It seems they like their gambling. Every other building was a casino. The scenery was stunning in parts. Good roads quickly disappeared into the familiar construction sites.
We drove on until lunch time, & stopped at a service station that had a food hall. The food was laid out behind a counter in hot trays. Not much choice & did not look very appetising. I vainly tried my smile & the question ‘English’? to the guy behind the coffee counter. ( He had one of those streaks of grey hair through a shock of black – like a racehorse) . The sneering curl of his lip indicated, ‘no, & eff off! I can, & have, eaten most things. But this was the most disgusting meal I have encountered anywhere. I chose what looked like pale baked beans in a pink sauce. Rick had what could have been chicken in a cream sauce, but certainly was not. Mine wasn’t too bad, but his was sour & hideous. The rice was ok! We ate in anyway. Rick needing the calories.
We arrive at the border with Montenegro, & once again pay insurance for 15 days. The country was stunning & clearly affluent .It is only a hundred miles of coastal scenery from south to north. Several marinas along the way, with the usual multi million pound boats. Amusing to think Chris did a boat delivery from here one time. Another border & another country – Croatia. getting used to this malarky now. We stopped late afternoon in Dubrovnik & had a fabulous meal in a restaurant overlooking the city walls & the ocean. We wished we had more time.A short walk revealed stunning architecture, side streets with hundreds of steps, gorgeous shops, ice cream parlours, & much more. There was so much to see. Maybe we’ll come back one day. We drove on once more & stopped just south of Split. Once again we had travelled for miles & miles without any sign of civilisation, & growing dark. We felt compelled to stop at the first hotel we came across, The Merlot. 50E a night was the most expensive yet, but we had no choice unless we took a chance driving on. It was very nice & the breakfast was superb. When we chatted to the owner in the morning it seems his passion was wine. ( Hence, The Merlot). He owned a vineyard. It would have been nice to visit but we were short of time. We should have been on the ferry today!
We are now heading for Slovenia & Austria. Weaving & winding up mountain roads, panoramic views below. The road signs warn us to Beware of wolves, bears & wild boars! Right, will do! It’s 30 degrees & blue sky. Busy roads & long fuel queues. We enter Slovenia around 3 pm & drive straight across. Pastel coloured houses, pretty flowers & very clean & tidy.
Little to report from now on, we have to drive hard for our ferry from Calais. We cross Austria which was stunning as expected, & on into Germany. After a 12 hour drive, we stopped during the night at a service station for a couple of hours sleep in Benny. The services were brilliant. We could use loos & have a shower. Onward & upward to France which was freezing! We’ve seen the last of the sun it seems.We made good time for the ferry & in fact were early. The swines charged us to take the earlier boat!
Amazing to be back in Blighty! Phew! One final drama. We are on the motorway at Derby & stop for fuel. One lapse of concentration & Ricks fills up with petrol, not diesel! 5 minutes down the road & Benny comes to a stop. We are on a slip road on a slight incline. I find a local garage on my phone & call them out. They never materialise, In the meantime Rick is under the bus, opening up the fuel tank & allowing the petrol to flow out & down the slope. I was praying to God no one would pass by & throw a cigarette out of the window! We had empty fuel cans in the boot, & he set off for the nearest garage, which luckily was just over the brow.
So that was it. 2,000 miles of adventure. All good. A little scary at times. Extremely funny at others, & above all – memorable.
Sorry it’s taken for ever to complete & I hope I haven’t bored you to death.
We will do it again I’m sure.
Over & out.
Finally we are on the road again, but not before spending a frustrating half an hour trying to get out of town! One of those where you drive round & round, non-existent road signs, & you can SEE the motorway but can’t damn well get to it.
After several hours we reached the Albanian border. Long long long long queues on both sides. The computer in the kiosk was down, & all passports were being checked one by one, by hand! There were several coaches parked up, & you can imagine how our hearts sank when we saw the drivers taking dozens of passports to be checked .Rick was talking to a nice smiley guy in the lane next to us. He had three boys who he wanted to practice their English. Football as usual was the main topic. Rick really must learn something about it! I sat in the…
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Finally we are on the road again, but not before spending a frustrating half an hour trying to get out of town! One of those where you drive round & round, non-existent road signs, & you can SEE the motorway but can’t damn well get to it.
After several hours we reached the Albanian border. Long long long long queues on both sides. The computer in the kiosk was down, & all passports were being checked one by one, by hand! There were several coaches parked up, & you can imagine how our hearts sank when we saw the drivers taking dozens of passports to be checked .Rick was talking to a nice smiley guy in the lane next to us. He had three boys who he wanted to practice their English. Football as usual was the main topic. Rick really must learn something about it! I sat in the bus & sulked a bit. Everyone was out of their vehicles wandering about smoking. Now again someone would shout & wave at the kiosk, all to no avail of course. We noticed a disturbance approaching from the Albanian side. Someone was coming towards us on the wrong side of the road! Cars were being moved & a proper kufuffle broke out. It turned out to be a hearse!! Someone had clearly lost the will!
Eventually we were through with smiley man trying to push us forward & help us get ahead. So nice. We saw them several times along the route as we caught & overtook each other, with lots of beeping & waving.
I’d been nervous about Albania for some reason. I imagined it to be hostile. Guys with rifles round every corner. It isn’t a big country, & we had planned to drive straight across & out into Montenegro, but we had our most interesting & amusing time there. The roads were horrendous in places. It was like driving through a quarry. To be fair, something was being done about the roads, but mile after mile at a snails pace, weaving round boulders & rocks with cars coming at you trying to avoid the craters on their side. It was hideous spine jarring torture. A good job we’d had Benny repaired & not chanced our luck. He would never have survived. I often wonder how we would have fared if we had broken down there rather than Greece.In contrast, the scenery was stunning. Mountains, valleys, plains, & field after field of produce. It was like taking a step back in time. Very poor villages & properties, kids riding donkeys, & horses & carts alongside the cars. Every other shop sold tires & wheel rims. I wonder why? We were driving along a decent country road, & just up ahead could see a farmer coming across the field with his goat herd, intending to cross the road. Rick slowed right down & the goats started to cross. Suddenly from out of nowhere, & flash sports car roared past us at speed, startling & scattering the goats. The farmer jumped in shock. We continued to pass him & his charges very slowly & as we did so, our eyes met. I waved. He stood to attention & saluted.It was one of those surreal moments. A meeting of minds & cultures. I filled up then, & I.m filling up now recalling that special feeling.
The day was drawing to a close. It was around 7pm & we needed to find somewhere to sleep for the night. You just cannot assume there will be a hotel or availability the minute you feel ready. I did NOT want to be driving in the dark- in Albania- looking for a bed!
The next little village seemed to have several hotels as we drove through. When we went in to enquire however, they were closed, or just open for drinks. The one at the top of the hill, WAS open, & could offer us B&B for 20E. The rooms are getting bigger, & the price cheaper! It was an enormous room. Very old fashioned furniture. Dark wood,creaky brown leather suite, orange nylon curtains- but once again when I turned the quilt back. crisp clean sheets. The en-suite bathroom was interesting to say the least. Very clean, but again very basic. Hose in the wall for a shower. The freaky feature was a door that led on to the ‘balcony’. Health & safety alert! The balcony wall was about a foot high, & we were on the 4th floor! Rick couldn’t believe his eyes. I couldn’t even leave the door open when I was in there!
Someone had thoughtfully left a pink plastic comb with a few teeth missing.
The woman who showed us to the room seemed to be the housekeeper. She was middle aged, lithe & quick & took the stairs like a mountain goat. I got sick of her stopping & trying to urge me on faster. In the end I held my back, pulled a face & said ‘problem, problem’. She got the message.
We dropped our bags & went downstairs & outside to order a & drink & take stock. I think one of the reasons I felt more edgy in this country is that no-one spoke any English whatsoever, & I have no knowledge of their language either. Who does? I can grasp the basics of a menu. & order food, drink & probably a room in 4 languages, but really out of my depth here.These guys even looked at us as if we were from another planet, never mind speak to us!
It was very quiet. We decided we would need to go back into the village for food. Fortunately Coca Cola is everywhere, so I ordered that & served myself the old Jack Daniels from an empty chewing gum tub! Haha. The ‘pulling a beer pump ‘ mime seemed to work for Rick. However, business picked up, & as it got later, one or two people drifted in & sat at tables in the garden area. We saw food coming out & were happy to realise we could eat here if only we knew how.
Asking for a menu usually works in any country with the ‘opening a book’ signal. Here it was ‘opening a book, & both hands up to mouth eating ‘action. Looking at the menu of course was a joke. Not a clue, & the young waiter couldn’t help either. ( You find mostly these days in any country that the young people are learning English in school & are thrilled to practice. They either don’t teach it in Albania, or this lad hadn’t been paying attention)
I decided to take action. Grasping the menu, & waving the waiter to follow me, we all marched over to a table of 4 middle aged men with food in front of them. After the ridiculous question ‘English?’ was met with shakes of heads, I pointed at their plates. ‘What is that that on your plate & where is it on the menu? ‘ Now you have to use your imaginations here , because I am acting. ( More like Playschool than Downton obviously). ‘Is it Mooo?, (hands up to head like horns.) is it Baaaaa? Is it quack quack, cluck cluck, ( wings flapping) . Apparently as they offered me a taste, that particular one was ‘coo coo’. Pigeon? Quail? By now, the table is in uproar. I am hysterical laughing at myself, & Rick is a cross between embarrassed & equally hysterical.
We ordered what looked vaguely familiar on the menu Romfstek. It came as poor quality minced meat that had been flattened like a huge burger, coated in something & deep fried. The garnish was a half a plate of raw red cabbage. Yum. The bottle of red wine was surprisingly good!
The evening wore on, & Rick had popped inside & noticed the waiters were setting up the main dining area as if for a party. Tables & chairs were being set up in long formation. He tried to ask one of the young waiters what was happening. Party? ( singing dancing action?) Yes.’Wedding?’ ( ring finger action) No. Waiter indicates snipping action in nether regions! Ahhhhh !! Circumcision party!! Rick backs away.
This is the best night ever! I can not believe how surreal & funny this is.
I settle back to watch the guests arriving & the night developing. It was late for a party that involved children. 10 pm onwards for guests arriving, young families with small children & babies mostly. I identify the hosts, & the little circumsee’ee, who was not a baby but a toddler & clearly too comfortable to have been ‘done’ that day.
I was fascinated to see the fashions. Not very different to ours. Men everywhere have no problem do they? Trousers, Chino’s, shorts even & smart shirt. The ladies were wearing skinny jeans, cropped pants, tight tops, short shift dresses, bare midriffs. I studied them most carefully. If you had shown me this image & asked which country are they from I could not have guessed. I don’t know what I expected, but not this modern style.
We continued to enjoy more red wine outside & the start of the party. They had many guests & 2 DJ’s inside. The little boys were all dressed in white & seemed born to dance. However young.
Mrs Goat Herd came to talk to me. Aren’t women brilliant? Without any understanding of language, I learned she was 55, had 2 boys & a girl, had worked there 10 years & was cleaner/ housekeeper. She had a hysterectomy in 1998.(I made that up)
The party was in full swing & I was pretty happy/tipsy by now. It was time for bed. We had to walk through the main room for the upstairs & stopped to watch for a moment. They were dancing to village music. ( not very challenging for the DJ’s). They danced in a circle like the Greek dance we are familiar with, & the lead dancer was holding a wad of notes. They dropped it into a basket, dropped out, & the next person took over. From out of nowhere, a guy stood up , approached us, & in an Essex accent asked ‘are you English? What are you doing here? No-one ever comes to my country!’ Unbelievable! He was Albanian, had lived in Maidstone, Kent for the last 10 years & owned a car valet business. He was amazed to meet us- so were we! He insisted on buying us drinks. Oh my. The only thing I recognized behind the bar was Metaka. The cognac type liquer commonly found in Turkey & Greece. It would have been rude to refuse. One of the DJ’s ( the handsome one) spoke French, & for the next hour or so I entranced him with my French conversation. Ah Oui! Lots of Gallic shrugs. The last thing I remember is being helped up the stairs to bed.
We’ve had a lovely quiet night & great sleep. No psycho moments! At 7.30 am the day was light & bright. We were greeted downstairs by an older Greek lady. No sign of the patron from the previous evening. She could have been his wife, or a helper from the village.We never knew, but she spoke a little English which was helpful.
There was a lone table set for two in the beautiful dining room overlooking the terrace.Breakfast was an unusual mix of breads, cheese, cake, & cold boiled eggs. It seemed strange to us there were no tomatoes. In fact, we didn’t see another tomato throughout the rest of the journey! We ate what we could, & I packed the boiled eggs away, in case we needed rations later. You never know where your next meal is coming from. We chatted to the lady about the hotel & the lack of guests. This, apparently is how things are in Greece now. No-one has any money. No-one comes any more. She talked of a once bustling hotel .It was heartbreaking to hear. How soul destroying to polish & dust a place every day, waiting for guests that hardly ever materialise. We said our goodbyes, ( feeling like leaving a donation!) & headed off, towards Albania.
It was 8.30 when we departed. 9.30 when disaster struck. We were turning off the village road heading for the motorway, when a loud crunching noise from Benny (the bus) brought us to a halt. For those who are familiar him, you will know that when Rick says ‘oh shit, now we’re in trouble’, we really ARE in trouble! We pulled into the side of the road while he examined the engine, looked underneath etc. Nothing major to be seen. There was no one around, no garage, nothing. There was nothing else for it but to carry on- slowly! However it seemed like a gear problem, & in low gear it crunched & grated like hell, but with some speed in higher gear toddled along just fine.
This was not a nice feeling. The roads were busy, but the gas stations & services were heaving! It must have been a holiday day or something! Queues to get to the pumps, queues to get out, queues for the loos. I have never seen anything like it! Rick chose to pull in one & have another look underneath. He got his tools out & told me to sit in the drivers seat. ‘Right, I’m going underneath. Take the handbrake off & put your foot on the brake. When I shout, put it into gear, but don’t take your foot off the brake or you’ll run me over!’
Arrrgghh!! My nervous disposition just trebled! Fortunately I didn’t run him over but he still couldn’t identify the problem. We managed another 200K with crunching first gear but ok on cruise. We turned off the highway at Iaonini & drove into town to look for a garage.As we stopped at traffic lights I noticed an internet cafe on the right, with parking & a large forecourt. We pulled in. What a find that turned out to be! We ordered food first while we regrouped our thoughts (Delicious oven baked lamb with potatoes, feta salad). The young man didn’t speak English, but a young lady came to attend who spoke beautiful English. We thought she was a waitress, but we subsequently learned she was on holiday there with her boyfriend! She worked at the university in Athens, but this was the town in which she grew up & the cafe was owned by a family member. We explained to Alexandra what had happened. She introduced us to Nikos , her Uncle who was sitting in the forecourt. They couldn’t have been more helpful. There was a garage just next door, & they went with Rick to speak to the mechanics. They took Benny in & started to investigate. This took the biggest part of the morning/afternoon, but fortunately we were sat in the shade, had food & drink, & Wifi! Not all bad then.I even spoke to my friend Sandra on Skype. Nothing like a gossip when you’re broken down in a strange country! It transpired the problem was a wheel drive shaft, which was worn & not connecting to the 4 wheel drive. If it worsened, we would have no drive at all! Unfortunately, Benny is a Japanese import, & after dozens of phone calls they announced this part could not be found anywhere in Greece!
At no point though, did we experience that sharp intake of breath we see so often in the UK. ‘Whhosh sorry mate, 3 weeks on Tuesday if yer lucky, & it’ll cost yer.’ They said they would sort it, but it might take a day or two & in the meantime they would find us a hotel. I started to feel a bit alarmed. What sort of hotel? Something decent, or a B&B with no aircon & no facilities? Nikos patted my shoulder reassuringly. ‘It is my Uncle hotel, very nice, swimming pool, you’ll like it darling, donna worry!’ ‘ It is 50 Euros a night with breakfast, we get it for you for 30.’ He was one of those exuberant characters that are endlessly cheerful & make you laugh.
With that we went back to the garage, took our overnight bags & they were loaded into someone else’s car & he drove us to the hotel, about 15 mins away. We would never have found it, but oh my! It was lovely! Outdoor pool, & a really classy bedroom/bathroom. The nicest place we have seen for a while. The young woman who checked us in also served drinks by the pool, but there was no restaurant operating , & no food available. Another example of the failing Greek economy. By the time evening fell she disappeared & a fully stocked bar had no staff to serve. We had to settle for a sandwich from the garage next door & the boiled egg rations! ah haa! Knew they’d come in handy. We were ok. We wouldn’t starve. Jack Daniels was with us & our music, books & Wifi. I dare say if my boys had been with us they would have helped themselves from the bar & paid in the morning!
A few business men had checked in late afternoon & we joined them for breakfast the next morning. Another unusual selection of sliced meats, cheeses, bread & jam, cheese puff rolls, marble cake, custard slices & chocolate brownies. But who cares? Its food, & hey, we are the people who eat Pad Krapow with a fried egg for breakfast in other climes. We have no idea how long finding the part & fixing is going to take, so we change our French ferry booking to 24 hours later. We lounge by the pool & wait. Actually the weather has changed here. It is not as warm as we have been used to, & the skies a little overcast. A bit of a shock to be honest after the heat of Turkey. We had no calls, no contact from the garage until suddenly, mid afternoon, the guy from the garage appears from the car park- with Benny- fixed! I had to restrain myself from kissing him! 400 E for the part & a spare, plus 50 E for the work. They had found an alternative part & given us a spare, should the other side go.
Many apologies for not completing my blog of our return trip from Bodrum to Manchester.
I kind of lost the will after we had been home a while ( I’m not a disciplined writer ), & other trips got in the way. But i have regretted it, as some of that journey was the most interesting & amusing for us.
I have been asked by a few people what happened next & it seems one or two are interested. I still have my notes, so I will endeavor to continue & hope that you find the time to read. You probably have a few days to catch up where we left off, if you so wish.
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 t 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!
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.
So yes, now we’re in Turkey it feels a breeze. We’ve been here many times, though not in this part of the country it has to be said. We even know a few words!
First job, fill up with diesel.Ha ha we know how to ask for that in Turkish & oh so clever I get the money out to pay. Guy looks at currency. No, no, Lira ! I’d given him Euros. Smiles all round. Grub around in the purse again & hand over more notes. NO No ! Lira Lira! He’s stopped smiling. Why I’ve tried to pay in Thai Bhat I have no idea. Must sort out my currency.
Our aim was to reach Eceabet by late afternoon. A good 8 hour drive at least. The town is a district of Cannakale & crosses the Bosphorous. Only a half hour car ferry but removing the need to drive via Istanbul. We knew the ferry was around 4.30 pm so had to the hit the road hard!
Just for your information, Esceabet is the nearest town to the World War 1 campaign battlefields of 1915. The Battle of Gallipoli also know as the Dordonelles campaign was one of the greatest Ottoman victories, & was a major Allied failure. The battle defined Turkish history & laid the ground for the Turkish war of Independence & the founding of the Republic of Turkey under General Mustafa Kemel Ataturk who’s influence remains today.
Cemeteries & memorials to more than 120,000 soldiers fallen from Turkey, UK, France, Australia & New Zealand dot the landscape.
We arrived at the ferry port with half an hour to spare & squeezed along the queue. Why do people in front stop to purchase tat from the road side vendors holding up the entire queue? It appeared you bought your ticket from the kiosk just by the boat. ‘How much?’ I asked. ’38 Euros ‘ he replied. As we were searching for the money he smiling told us it was actually 15! We would have paid it! We were the last car on much to our relief. That’s like squeezing the last sardine into the tin in this situation but we didn’t care we were on, & no time wasted.
On the other side in Cannakale we were feeling excited. Listening the our Drive Time music & enjoying the ever changing scenery. We headed for Menemen then Izmir & it was a LONG way. What was noticable was the quality of the Turkish roads. Sorry friends & family, but one word. Starts with s & ends with t. We had encountered so many different roads en route, & none of them this bone shakery.
Once we’d reached Izmir it was getting dark & I was getting scared. A trip from Izmir in the past , back to the villa had taken us 7 hours instead of the usual 4 & I desperately wanted to get through & out of there. We made it though! Dark, rain, traffic, the lot, but once through we didn’t want to stop. We should have, but by then we felt so far yet so near, & we’d heard about Mikes back problem which turned out to be a prolapsed disc! He’d been lying on the floor for 4 days in agony & unable to do a thing, so we had a sense of urgency to get there .
Rick as the driver was fine. I know it sounds ridiculous to drive for so long, but he was alert & comfortable, not yawning, topped up with mars bars, & we didn’t feel like another stop over when we were so close, We arrived at the villa at 1.30 am after a 21 hour drive!