We were wild-camping on a very quiet beach just north of the busy resort town of Paralia, heaving with oiled up bodies, bustling café’s and numerous redundant (in this heat) fur shops. A couple of Polish registered camper vans travelling together pulled in and parked up really close to our van. Having travelled thousands of miles out-of-season and used to being all alone we haven’t quite understood the need of some campervanners to be so closely corralled together. Safety in numbers maybe?
The driver of one of the vehicles approached us and asked, in very broken English, if it was OK to park up here. We’re always careful about not upsetting anyone when we park up and haven’t been moved on anywhere by the police yet, so we smiled sweetly and nodded. His wife then appeared, anxious to find out if we were staying the night making ‘tilted head on pillow hands’ gesticulations. We nodded again. She was happy to hear this as she scanned the horizon and babbled a sentence in Polish which included the word ‘bandits’. We’re not sure how safe touring is in Poland but the only dodgy characters in this neck of the woods seem to be the crew on the Pirate Ship day-trips running from Paralia.
Having said that we have been the victims of highway robbery here in Greece courtesy of the Aegean Motorway S.A. We aren’t in a hurry to get anywhere so have generally taken the slower, more scenic routes on our travels and have managed to completely avoid the toll motorways of France, Italy, Switzerland and Turkey. We intended doing so in Greece too. In Slovenia we made the decision to pay to save time and diesel, and in Hungary the compulsory vignette covers their motorway system and cost us €9 for 10 days.
Greece has adopted a very different approach to collecting obviously much needed revenue. Stealth motorways. On arrival at the border you have no option but to follow the motorway, it doesn’t go far and ends very abruptly but thankfully it was free. There are other toll-free motorways around but they conveniently don’t seem to make any distinction between these and the ones with tolls. All our maps show each of the motorways as one continuous stretch when in reality they stop and restart to catch out the unsuspecting. We have been driving along innocently on what we thought was a normal blue sign ‘A’ type road only for it to ‘turn’ into a green signed motorway with no means of escape before the toll booths. Caught out once we were peeved, caught out twice we resolved to be more careful, caught out a third time we were incensed!
|Minor road running parallel to the motorway|
|What to do....???|
The poor girl at the cash booth felt the full force of our wrath – as we had a real Victor Meldrew moment….”and another thing…..” we continued with our barrage of complaints. Lots of shoulder shrugging and eyebrow raising ensued. “ I shall call my boss” she then announced as a queue built up behind us but not before extracting another €5 for the measly 10km we had just travelled. A young man arrived with a well used complaint book and pen in hand – Dave explained our issues while I filled in the form. Our gripes were -
- Campervans are charged the same price as a 70 seater bus. It’s calculated on height so a car towing a caravan is the standard price – around €2 per section - peanuts. Anything over 2.2m high is charged full whack - €5 in this case. There are another 8 sections on this particular motorway heading towards Athens which would set us back about €50 in total.
- They conveniently have no maps or leaflets available explaining how it all works. We suspect the locals know how/where to avoid the toll booths leaving us muppets to fund the system.
- There is no advance notice of the charges.
- Most annoying is that there is no clear sign to say you are about to enter a paying section of the road.
From the triplicate book we were given the pink copy of the form, a flashback to life in the real world of work, and he kept the white and yellow copies. We drove off wondering what, if anything, they will do about our complaint.