Feeling Good!

201 nights : 7,388 miles travelled :  countries visited: 14

Birds flying high you know how I feel, sun in the sky you know how I feel, breeze drifting on by you know I feel.     Newley & Bricusse

Greece is sunny and laid back which is helping us master the art of snailing. We have often had to force ourselves to move on, or even to do very much at all. Therefore this post covers four weeks of our trail across Northern and Central Greece.

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Kali mera!

Our first nights were in Alexandroupoli, just across the border from Turkey, recovering from the frustration of observing border rules unnecessarily. We found ourselves surrounded by jogging geriatrics. Despite being the youngest old people for miles, they made us feel like sloths so we left before the urge to join them overwhelmed us.

We parked overnight at the nature reserve in Fanari, enticed by the prospect of seeing pelicans and flamingos. We saw only swans and empty storks nests but loved sleeping on a narrow bar of land with a freshwater lagoon on one side of us and a sandy beach on the other.

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Beach life suits Kipper. He loves the space to run and adores playing in the sea. We joined David and Carol at Epanomi  near Thessaloniki and spent a blissful week adjusting to the gentle rhythm of life on a quiet beach in Greece.

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The view from Brian
Patamos Beach Epanomi (Greece). Kipper at work
David managed to capture Kipper doing his flying fish impression
Patamos Beach Epanomi (Greece). Kipper at work
He never tires of swimming for sticks and diving like an otter for stones
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Graham’s beach kitchen
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Stunning sunsets looking towards Mount Olympus
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Last night in the beach taverna that had generously given us water for the motorhome in exchange for us buying their wine. A good deal!!!!
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Before we say goodbye, Brian gives Felix the kiss of life to get him moving again!

There is so much more to Greece than beach life and we tore ourselves away to explore inland. Vergina is a relatively young village having been created in the 1920’s to accommodate Greeks from Turkey. They were made homeless in a population exchange in the aftermath of World War I. Only afterwards was it discovered that the village was built on the site of Aigai, the first capital of Macedon. An amazing museum has been created underground by the royal tombs, including that of Phillip II, the father of Alexander the Great. He was assassinated here in 336 BC at the wedding of his daughter.

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The earth mound housing the tombs and the museum. Sadly no photography was allowed of the treasures inside
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The tunnel entrance into the mound

We felt that we had carried autumn with us for weeks since driving south from Hungary. It was in full force in Northern Greece as we moved from flame coloured peach trees around Vergina to copper plated beech in the Pindos mountains.

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Lunch stop in the Pindos mountains
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A few miles from this gorge is the Aheloos River, controversially dammed. Aheloos is god of the river in Greek mythology and locals say his mother Tethys is crying at the shame of it

Meteora is quite unlike anywhere else with monasteries and ruins perched on dramatic pinnacles of smooth rock. From the 11th century hermit monks inhabited caves in this landscape and from the 14th century monasteries offered a haven to monks escaping Turkish incursions.

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Camping in Kastraki near Meteora
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Moni Agiou Nikolau Anapafsa was closest to us but we aimed for the top
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The monasteries are now linked by roads but we walked on the old paths or monopati

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A dramatic view of Moni Agiou Nikolau Anapafsa from the side

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Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou
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Moni Varlaam. You can see the windlass being used above the footbridge to hoist supplies up. This was the original method of transporting people too! The cable in the foreground is supplying electricity to our destination, Moni  Megalou Meteorou behind us.

 

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Moni Megalou Meteorou is built on the highest rock. After climbing for so long with it above us, here we  could look down onto Moni Varlaam

 

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Despite being willing to wear a skirt, Kipper was not allowed to enter
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The verandah is modestly decorated compared to the church
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The katholikon or main church has a twelve sided dome and striking frescoes depicting the matyrdom of saints

We zigzagged east again to the busy port of Volos. This is ancient Iolkos from where the mythological Jason and the Argonauts set sail on their quest for the Golden Fleece. Just beyond is the Pelion Peninsula with mountains along it’s spine, narrow beaches around the fringe and seemingly entirely coated with trees bearing olives, nuts and citrus fruits. Our campsite was in an olive grove a few metres from the beach. This seemed wonderful until late on the first evening, the weather changed and with it, the sea. I didn’t sleep much as the boy’s snoring was drowned out by the waves and I felt I had to remain on Canute duty. I insisted we move further back the next day!

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The calm before the storm
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Our beach is vanishing!
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The village nearby was battered

In mythology, Zeus released two eagles at opposite ends of the earth and they met over Delphi so in Ancient Greece, this was considered the centre of the world. It has an imposing position high on Mount Parnassos looking out towards the Bay of Corinth and it is easy to imagine why so much spiritual significance was placed upon the city. The Sacred Way winds up through the site and is lined with the remains of monuments, treasuries and statues given by city states in thanks to Apollo for help in winning battles or other blessings.

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The Sanctuary of Athena
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The 4th century BC dome has been partially rebuilt
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The Sanctuary of Apollo
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The Temple and it’s gold statue of Apollo dominated the sanctuary
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The Athenian Treasury has been reconstructed
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The theatre gives fantastic views over the valley filled with olive trees
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The stadium is so well preserved there are still etched stone starting blocks
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The Castalian Spring, where pilgrims cleansed themselves before consulting the oracle, has been diverted to a fountain. Oracles were most often women in their 50s who would inhale vapours, talk gibberish and tell people what to do. I think I should apply for the job!
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The museum houses breathtaking exhibits like this Sphinx which would have stood on a column 12.5 m high. An offering to the Apollo of Delphi by the island of Naxos.
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The Gods are depicted fighting to subdue the Giants. The Gods win, symbolising the triumph of order and civilisation over savagery and anarchy. So much exquisite art to see everywhere.
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The Charioteer of Delphi. This life sized bronze statue dates from 470 BC and gave me goose bumps. Graham feels the reconstruction of the pieces  in the display behind is “a leap of faith!”

We briefly met Ali and Hendrik in Thessaloniki and then bumped into them again at Delphi. Like David and Carol, they are really experienced travellers, we feel we learn more from them over a cup of coffee than in days of researching the internet.

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Hendrik built Blac himself recycling highway signs!

Moni Osios Loukas is in an idyllic isolated setting that feels light years away from the modern world. The main church has some of the best preserved Byzantine frescoes but it was the beautiful mosaics that caught my eye. SAM_9182SAM_9213SAM_9210

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The simplicity of the monastic complex contrasts with the richly decorated church

We were heading for an important rendezvous with our daughter Holly in Athens but on the way pitched at Psatha near Porto Germano. The road down to the sea was one of the steepest and most twisted  we have encountered but Ali and Hendrik were there once again and had been watching dolphins play in the Bay! We only caught the very end of the display but we had just enough time to open a bottle of wine and once again watch the weather and the sea change before our eyes.

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It is now six months since we moved into the motorhome and so far the trail has exceeded our hopes, confounded our fears and is feeling good.

M & G x

Treat of the week: All our time in Greece has been a treat but the gifts of wine, flowers and fruit received from the old gentleman at the taverna on Potamas beach represents the warmth and generosity of everyone we have encountered.SAM_8824

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