Looking at the overall map of Greece it has come as a surprise to calculate that in just over 2 weeks we have clocked up nearly 1000 miles. It’s been such an easy trip.
Some days we haven’t moved an inch, other days we might have driven less than 20 miles further down the coast and found another idyllic bay. Greece has been a bit of an eye opener – we weren’t sure what to expect really. The outside media portrays a country in deep recession with a population struggling to make ends meet. Our own memories are of cruising the busy but barren Greek islands in the 80’s. Outwardly life goes on here quite normally.
|Fish restaurant in Cherefto|
|Fishing nets at Makri|
We have been captivated by the beautiful lush countryside, the picturesque coastline, the spotlessly clean sea, the miles of sandy beaches and the friendliness of the people. We were worried by the ‘Wild camping is forbidden’ notices and expected it to be a problem as we hit high season but the country is huge, the population well dispersed and there’s very little in the way of mass tourism on the mainland.
|Sarti - Halkidiki|
|Lambinou cove on Pelion Peninsula|
|Lush gorges on Penion Peninsula|
The weather has thrown a few curve balls with some spectacular storms, the occasional overcast and rainy days and some very high temperatures, all adding variety to the trip.
|Storm watching from Agiokampos beach|
|Sunset at Porto Germeno|
It’s quirky and different to other countries we’ve been through to date, wanting to be modern but still hanging onto its traditions.
|Evening stroll in Alexandroupoli|
It’s very much a cash society - credit and debit cards are rarely seen or used. Whenever I have tried to pay by card for shopping it means me having to traipse over to the supervisors desk and plenty of head scratching whilst they try and remember how to use the EPOS machine. Can you imagine that in Sainsbury’s on a busy Saturday morning? There are notices everywhere saying you don’t have to pay unless you get a receipt! And don’t even think about trying to buy petrol on a card. I handed the attendant a €50 note which he added to a huge wad in his pocket – I’m guessing he had about €3000 in cash all neatly folded up and in the correct denomination order. I got no receipt from him strangely!
The only thing that has been a disappointment has been the ancient ruins – over priced, over protected and mostly underwhelming. Some are just foundations, some are predominantly concrete reconstructions and some are closed for renovations that have stalled. We’ve been spoilt in Turkey.
|Foundations at ancient Olynthos|
Driving around has been challenging – although we think we have now worked out how to avoid the motorways. The road signs are in Greek lettering first and Roman lettering second, normally right on the junction you need to turn off at resulting in lots of ‘U’ turns. Most road signs are completely illegible anyway with graffiti being a huge problem everywhere on buildings and signposts – most of it ugly with a few exceptions.
|Derelict buildings in Volos|
|Graffiti in Nea Anchilos|
We’ve found plenty to laugh about including the van overloaded with topiary trees, the beach sellers in Asprovalta and the lazy cricket hitching a ride on the wiper blade. In a tiny village on the Pelion Peninsula we had to stop for about 10 minutes whilst two old boys, the driver of a bashed up vehicle and a local, chatted in the middle of the narrow road. A polite toot from Dave after 5 minutes waiting brought glances but no movement. The driver then got out of his pick-up, staggered to the bakery to get some bread, gave us a look and drove off. A modern country with a twist just like the topiary trees!
Tomorrow we cross the Corinth Canal and see what the Peloponnese has to offer.