The drive to Ponteleimon was a very easy 85 miles to get to this very small coastal town. It definitely looks as though a lot of the residents rely on the tourist trade in one way or another. We are in need of cash, but the ATM only works in the tourist season. Elaine and I walked towards the castle at the end of the beach.
It doesn’t look real as it all looks too neat and tidy. We sat and had a drink at a bar and asked the bar man about the castle. Him and his friends all got their mobile phones out and came to tell us that it is genuine as it was built in the 12th century. We had a quiet evening and for once, quite an early night.
We temporarily said our goodbyes to Brian and Wendy and went off on a search for cash. This is another small town and we found a newly set up ATM, but it hadn’t been turned on. We drove past all the bars and tavernas and between the town and the small port we came across a convenient car park which became our stop for the night. Just as well I am not reliant on my fishing skills to put food in our mouths. I fished for a couple of hours without luck.
In the evening a tubby man kept walking up and down, staring at our motorhome. We weren’t worried about him, he probably just wanted a chat but was too shy to approach us. In the morning four pelicans came gliding across the bay and went right up to a fishing boat as if cadging for tasty tit bits from the fisherman. I got some nice pictures and their presence made that night’s stop very worthwhile.
29/04/2018 The Olympic Beach, Katerini
We drove back around 12 miles to go into a town to find a working cash machine. Right in the centre we were spoilt for choice and drew out some euros. We then followed the signs to get to the Olympic Beach. It is so called because snow covered Mount Olympus dominates the area.
We drove along beside the long, sandy beach and parked right beside a mini church.
Very convenient if either of us decide that we are in need of some spiritual guidance.
After walking around the restaurant area, we went back to the van and spent the afternoon sunbathing on the beautiful beach. Once again there were no other motorhomes around. During the very quiet night, Elaine was woken by a car stopping very close to us. She took a peak and all it was, was a couple of sinners (possibly) stopping to light candles in the church.
We headed inland and after 93 miles we arrived at a protected yard owned by a very enterprising Greek man. He had a tarmacked yard that for 7 euros ith electric you could park for the night. Vergina has recently become a tourist hot spot. As recently as 1977, archaeologists celebrated the most significant historic and archaeological event of the 20th century.
They started investigating a mound and now people come from around the world to see the gold and priceless artefacts discovered there. We were here to see the Ancient Cemetery of Aegae, known as The Royal Tombs. The experts say it is the tomb of Philip 11, the great Marshall and the King of Macedonia. He was assassinated and him, his favourite dogs, his best horses and everything he would need for the afterlife were put on the pyre and burnt. Apparently, his wife walked into the pyre voluntarily, so she could be with him. All his treasures were then sealed in the tomb with him.
We paid our euros and descended down into the tomb. The rule was no photography at all. As I was carrying my camera I was followed throughout by a very hefty looking lady, guard. The few pictures I show here were taking from a book we had to purchase which I presume is the reason for the rule.
The treasures we saw took our breath away.
1st and 2nd/05/2018 Nea Mondenia
The next morning, we left and headed off to catch up with the Aussies. We had to drive on the ring road around Thessaloniki. We pulled off the main road and parked up in a street and by chance we were only about ¾ of a mile from the centre. We walked down to the waterfront and then followed that along until we reached the famous White Tower.
The tower itself has had lots of names. When it was used as a prison and a place of execution it was called the Black Tower. A prisoner who was held there volunteered to paint it white to gain his freedom.
It was the Mayday public holiday, so the crowds were out, and the bars and restaurants were full. The beautiful warm sunny day meant that there were people promenading everywhere. One of the few shops that was open was the Nuts Factory.
What a great concept and what a colourful shop. The highlight of the short visit was the chap sitting at the water’s edge playing an accordion and then he picked up a trumpet and played that whilst still playing the accordion with his right hand.
The sound was magical. We put some money in his cap and he asked us where we were from. For us he did a fantastic rendition of “When the saints go marching in”.
We all know that Greece as a country is very impoverished. At the moment they are going through the process of going cap in hand for another huge loan to keep their economy afloat. By the look of the huge, magnificent bank building we saw in Thessaloniki the banks have plenty of money even if the rest of the country are struggling. Once we had had a good look round the water side of the city, we made our way back to the van to continue our journey.
We met up with Brian and Wendy and stayed at Nea Mondenia for two days. On the second day I did a tiny bit for the environment. I went snorkelling again and collected all the plastic I could see off the sea bed.
03/05/2018 Nea Potida
We drove just a few miles down to stop at Nea Potida which is just over the bridge from the first finger. There are three fingers (three peninsulas) Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos. The first and second peninsulas are navigable but the third is uniquely different. It is an autonomous state ruled by 1,700 monks who live in the 20 monasteries that live there. Only men can visit Athos and even then, it is by invitation only. At the moment the waiting time to get a visit is over a year. I will write about Athos and the holy mountain of Mount Athos when I explain about the boat trip we took in a few days’ time.
Our time in Greece is running all too short so we spent the day driving around the first finger. We saw great bays and beautiful scenery. Now wish we had left more time to thoroughly explore these peninsulas. The highlight of the day was quite a strange one. We stopped by the side of the road outside quite a large building. The people came out and we thought they were going to tell us off for parking on their land. Far from it. The invited us in for coffee. The building used to be a chandlers which had been ran by the family for years. They were in the process in turning the whole place into holiday lets. We turned up, just as they were just discussing the brochure and internet advertising they had to do. What is the right English description for what they were going to be offering? At that moment two English vans arrive on their frontage. Hence the invitation. They seemed pleased with the wording we suggested after a tour of the very high-class conversion they were undertaking.
We completed the whole circuit of the first finger and returned to Nea Potida to wild camp there for the night. We went over to a taverna that evening and had a superb Greek meal. The owner’s son who was serving us told us where to go to get tickets for the boat trip to see the monasteries.
4th & 5th /05/2018 Vouvoura
We drove off to a local town to get our boat tickets for Saturday. Just up from the town Square was a very fancy church so, of course, I left the others in the travel shop, so I could get the picture I wanted.
We decided to stay at a campsite, so we had safe places to leave our vans whilst out all day on the boat the next day. What a beaut spot (sorry about that, I have been around the Australians too long). Vouvoura is in the Gulf of Agion Oros and is totally protected from the elements by the island that lays in front of it. A sand spit lays out into the bay and the water is crystal clear. Out came the snorkel and mask. Another swim was called for. We arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 8.30 the next morning.
We were nice and early at the port at Ormos Panagias.
It wasn’t very long before we were on board, so we headed upstairs. The brochure said the boat would take us across until level with the 6,660 ft holy Mount Athos and then take us back up alongside the peninsula so we could see the 10 monasteries on this side. So, as we were first on the boat we sat on the right had side of the boat to guarantee a great view. This was our second mistake that day.
The four of us have been so used to the beautiful warm weather that we didn’t think to take anything warm to wear. Almost as soon as the boat set off, the sun went behind clouds and people all around us started putting on their coats they had brought with them. It was freezing but we were loathed to go downstairs in case we lost our great seats. Elaine and Wendy went off and came back with blankets the crew had for idiots like us.Mistake two was that the contrary captain headed straight for the first monastery and the commentary would start there. Now we would be on the wrong side of the boat.
After a bit the sun emerged from the clouds and it started warming up. Then some dolphins came around the boat and the two hundred or so people all rushed over to our side of the boat and the boat leaned over alarmingly. You will see some of the pictures I took and the commentary told of the some of the riches held by each of the monasteries. We were told one had a piece of the actual cross that Jesus was crucified on.
On the way back the boat stopped at a small village for a break and all the shopkeepers and restaurant staff did their best to get us to come in and spend money in their establishment. We were thoroughly entertained by two girls doing Greek dancing accompanied by a chap playing a beautifully decorated bouzouki.
Of course, Elaine couldn’t stop herself from Joining in.
Once, before we started our travels, the campsite at Sutton Hargrave in North Yorkshire has always been one of our favourite peaceful retreats with great views. After a brilliant day we returned to yet another fabulous camping place to enjoy another swim and then an evening with some Dutch people who were parked just across from us. Where does that Yorkshire farm come in our list of memorable places to take our motor home.
Today we started around Sithonia, the second finger. Hard to describe really. Rugged landscape would have to be part of the description. Very narrow, often sand covered roads would take you down to fabulous sandy coves. We went into Sarti a small town, halfway down the east side. Just on we finally found our way down to an ideal sandy haven we spotted from the road above to enjoy the total peace and tranquillity we found there. So, we stopped there for the night.
7th & 8th /05/2018 Nikiti
We continued the circular journey and called into Sykia which is the only town not on the coast. Further on we followed yet another sandy road that finally got us onto a beach. Another small road took us down to a small harbour and there, as well as all the boats, we saw a memorial to four airman that were killed in a helicopter crash.
After a great day we pulled into Nikiti where we will prepare for our crossing over the border into Bulgaria.
More snorkelling and I have seen more fish during a swim than I have seen anywhere else. The evidence of the many sea urchins just shows how clean the water is here.
So tomorrow it will be good bye to Greece and hello to Bulgaria. We have a bit of a plan and we will end up at the resorts on the Dead Sea before crossing the next border into Romania.