One of the roads out of Fes the next day led us to the Roman ruins (seems there were not many countries the Romans didn’t get to!) at Volubilis south west of Fes. It was a Unesco site but was a bit unkempt compared to their Italian, Greek or Turkish sites.
We spent some time exploring the site and then headed for Meknes via Moulay Idriss a charming hillside town. All along the road men were
selling pomegranates, figs and grapes. Near the larger towns there were a lot of large,brand new car dealerships.

In Meknes we found a parking spot aided by a man in a high viz jacket. These men are not official parking people but for about 50cents they will help you get in and out of a parking spot and make sure the car is not interfered with. Well worth the money!
We picked a nice corner cafe (one of the scores in town) and most cafes seem to still be set up on their old French model with the chairs all facing the street and the waiters in black trousers, white shirts and a black apron. They serve tea in lovely little silver coloured teapots and a small glass and the “cafe au lait” comes out separately. Mostly the coffee is brought out first and then the waiter brings the hot milk and fills the cup according to how much milk you want. Water is usually supplied with the coffee. The price for coffee (depending on the area) ranged from 7dirhams ($1) to 14dirhams and it was like a real Italian coffee. Their version of a cortado was a moitier or cafe casse – strong coffee and a dash of milk. Every small town had a multitude of cafes with
good coffee machines. We had never seen so many cafes anywhere and nearly all were populated by men sitting watching the world go by. Maurice was always the object of curiosity with his white hair and hat.

The scenery on the drive up into the middle Atlas mountains on the secondary roads was beautiful and there was a great diversity of landscapes along the way with forests, orchards of apricots and apples and many crops.
There were many riders of donkeys in the country areas for the tranportation of themselves and other goods. We landed in the late afternoon in one of the best campsites that we had stayed in. It was near the town of Azrou and was extremely well kept and beautifully set out and they even gave us free fresh bread in the morning. Camping in Morocco was much cheaper than in Europe and even in the best campsite it only cost us $11 for the night including electricity.

I invested in a Maroc Telecom dongle for my computer but unfortunately the man who sold it to me omitted to give me back the card with the PUK and Code so another visit to another helpful man in Azrou and new PUK got me into the internet for $30 for 8GB unlimited time.

We had wanted to see the famous cedar trees which grew in the middle Atlas especially on the backroads around Ifrane and from Khenifra to Zaida. We found their famous Cedar Gourand which was an enormous tree. There were several Barbary Macaques or commonly known as Barbary Apes which I had thought were only made famous in Gibraltar however I later read that they were imported from Morocco and Algiers. They were supposed to be somewhat agressive so I only photographed them from the van although locals were more adventurous. There were many camps set up in the forests, some tented and some sturdier structures. They appeared to be like scout or school camps.

We found the fairly rough small road which crossed across the middle Atlas and through the majestic cedar forests. Some of the forest and valleys looked very European and we were both surprised at the amount of lush agricultural land. The first part of the drive was fairly easy through some wide valleys but as we got further into the mountains the road deteriorated to a very bumpy one. We hardly saw another car except for three men who had no water left in their radiator and one man was
walking towards us and asked us for some water. We luckily had five litres spare and he was grateful to not have to walk back many kilometres to fetch water. The extensivie cedar forests (thousands of hectares) were very beautiful and it was a lovely drive until the road petered out to
gravel, stones and hardened mud and much of it had disappeared due to many mudslides and rockslides from recent rain. That went on for about 60 kilometres with very steep drops to the valley below where the very narrow path had partially broken away. We didn’t speak much and I took no photos. We were very glad to get to the end and back to not so bad roads but having said that the views down and across the valleys and mountains were spectacular. Back on the highway to Midelt we saw a lot of iron ore and the mountains there reminded us of the north west of western Australia.

There were many people in the rural areas living a very subsistence way of life by their poor dwellings and clothing.
The children would shout and wave and I had bought some sweets in Spain so gave them out to the kids as they came up to the van. Most of the adults waved to us and the ones that stopped to say hello all wanted to shake our hand. Those who helped us in cafes and on the street were all interested in where we were from and gave us a lot of helpful information. This was mostly in French.
The hats that a lot of the rural people wore made them look more like Mexicans than Moroccans. The typical Moroccan dress with peaked hood was worn by both men and women although they had different fabrics and colours.

In our first week in Morocco we saw only one group of Spanish tourists but no large tour buses and very few individual foreign tourists even in cities like Fes. Several people told us that tourism was down for August and the ISIS threat had the military out in force and many police check points along the highways. They always just waved us on when they saw the GB numberplate and Maurice’s white hair. We were obviously not a threat to anyone.
Most public signs were still in French even in Maroc Telecom which was surprising. My school and University French really came in handy as most Moroccans everywhere spoke French which they learn at school.

We reached the city of Midelt with it’s beautifully planted gardens and many fountains, well kept buildings and streets and many new buildings under contruction. The municipal campsite was in the city but we were the only campers there and it was a very quiet location.

We found Mt Blanc cafe which had only been open for 5months and had a good morning coffee the next day before setting off for the high Atlas (Haut Atlas) mountains and through the Ziz gorge which was incredible with steep mountains on both sides and a river or sometimes river bed running through the centre. In Erachidia we stopped to buy some Moroccan bread and happened to meet a lovely moroccan who was on holiday from Spain where he lived. He then walked us to a good local restaurant where we had lunch and then he took us back to his mother’s house for some lovely Moroccan mint tea and for his brother Abdoul who also worked abroad in Holland to give us some tips about where to see the “real” Morocco and told us which roads were passable and which were more scenic. We also met his lovely sister who lived in Germany and another brother who worked in Spain. They were all on their Summer holidays back home. Abdul kindly drove us out of town. The road let us to Erfoud via the stunning Ziz Valley, a huge band of green oases with escarpments on either side. From there we went on to the start of the Sahara desert and the dunes at Merzouga.

There were many shops and stalls along the way selling fossils and pods of semi precious crystals in all colours.
We arrived at the service station where it was a dry 43 degrees and Lho met us and directed us into the Dune area of the Sahara at Merzouga where we stayed the night at “Haven La Chance” campsite which was a short walk from the dunes and was pretty with pool and many date palm trees where we
could eat the delicious fresh dates from the trees. We were again the only campers there.

The wind started to blow and the sand and dust went everywhere including every nook and cranny of us and the van. Oh well it was due for a good clean but we thought we would wait until we were out of the desert. Lho the Berber guide for the camp suggested a walk to a local village in the morning which was an interesting one via the water channel to the water collection well for the village and then through the village which had been flooded in 2006 with over 20houses lost. These had been rebuilt but we could see where the damage had been done. We walked via the Berber Depot (a craft bazaar) to the campsite having bought a couple of lovely bright throws. We saw some domesticated camels (there were no wild ones left in the desert)in a large pen with goats and some load baa-ing sheep. We asked Lho how people survived with little tourism in Summer but he told us that if the household is not connected to water or electricity they virtually have no costs. They all have a plot of land and are subsitence farmers. A lot of the time the land owner just builds a
mud wall around his plot of land and when he has money he constructs the house.

The 26th August was cooler at 38 degrees but we did not want another sand and dust storm that evening so we headed off via the black Sahara desert (remains of volcanic activity thousands of years ago) to Goulmima to the backroad which took us into the high Atlas mountains again.

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On the back road from Estepona to Algeciras where we were to take the ferry over to Morocco we saw a lot of cork trees and a large cork collection area. We had a bit of trouble locating “Voyages Normandie” the agent who would sell us our tickets and give us documentation for Morocco. Having found him and paid him 220euros for return tickets we made our way to the ferry which departed at 3.15pm (only 15minutes late). The crossing took about an hour and a half through the straits of Gibraltar. There were shorter crossings but they did not accommodate campervans. There was very little English spoken on board, mainly arabic and French.

The new ferry port in Tangier was very impressive only the custom’s agents let the place down. When they saw Maurice’s Irish passport they asked him to come with them and after explanations that Southern Ireland wasn’t part of England and three phone calls later they decided that he held a valid passport!

First impressions of the roads were excellent with good highways and good secondary roads. People we encountered were friendly and helpful.

Imui a new telephone company was set up on the road out of the port near the ATM’s giving away free sim cards with 100dirham 3gig 6hours of calls so we had one of those, used the ATM and were our way to Asilah about an hour away on the coast. There were many locals out enjoying the late afternoon and the beach area and the shopkeepers were starting to open their doors again about 5 o’clock in the Medina .

There was a strong police presence everywhere – on top of bridges at roundabouts and in the towns. We stopped to fill the tank with diesel or (gasoil as it is called here) for 535dirhams or 90cents a litre!

Luckily we reached our camping site in Moulay Bousselham just after sunset. A lively festival was going on outside the walls in preparation for a wedding the following day. There were few campers and most there were Moroccan. Moulay Bousselham was known for it’s wetlands and flamingoes but it was not the season for them to be there. The beach area was popular with the locals but there was
not a lot to see there and there was much rubbish lying around in the streets which they were starting to clean up the next morning.

I had a “Lavazza” coffee and the waiters were smart in their black trousers and white shirts with black aprons in the nicest looking cafe in town. We took the toll road for a small fee for a short while and then turned onto the secondary roads to see more of local life on the way to Fes. On the highway we could have been in Australia with thousands of gum trees lining both sides, some old trees and much new growth forest.

There was a lot of land dedicated to agriculture on the plains which gave way to rolling hills where grain and hay had been harvested recently. The patchwork of colours was beautiful. The villages mainly had one storey buildings and there were a lot of shanty type dwellings near the fields on the sides of the road.

The tourist office in Fes was unfortunately closed being a Saturday so we stopped and had a coffee (French was in use again)and a wander around the new city. There was a heavy military presence in the city and we felt safe wherever we travelled in Morocco. If asking directions people friendly and helpful and a lot asked where we came from and chatted to us (well me in French) or waved or raised their hands in greeting.
Camping International only 3kms from Fes wasn’t very international as there were three other campervans all from France. The facilities were basic to say the least although they had been recommended in our camping site book which was a few years old. We were warned by some of the campers that we had met previously not to expect too much from the Moroccan campsites. We were lucky that if facilities were too bad we could use our toilet and shower in the van. Most campsites had a mixture of squat and western toilets. The prices in Morocco for our campsites were much cheaper, costing around $11-$15 a night.

We were advised to take an official guide to tour the medina in Fes which had over 1000 alleyways and we were glad we did. He picked us up as well as picking up his wife along the way and we sat and had coffee (Maurice had the popular Moroccan mint tea)at their local cafe. A lot of the pastries were the French kind with pain au chocolat and croissants. The bees (instead of wasps here) buzzed in and around the pastries but didn’t bother us. The couple gave us a lot of general information about Morocco and we chatted for nearly an hour. Mohammed worked as a journalist two days a week and as a guide another two days and his wife worked Monday to Friday in a bank. They both spoke Arabic and the local dialect,Arabic, French and English and he also spoke Spanish. They had two children at university which was free but after they graduated they had to then work for the government for two years which seemed reasonable. The king of Morocco wanted to build up tourism and the infrastructure of roads, bridges and highways was well underway (and a lot of it needed updating!)

Mohammed drove us up to the Merinid necropolis to get a view of the whole city. It was divided into three areas. The Medina or ancient city from the 8th century was Unesco listed and had a wall surrounding it. The middle aged city from the 14th century was near it and further away was the 20th century “new” city. Mohammed’s wife dropped the three of us off at one side of the medina for us to
explore. There were over 400,000 people living in the medina as well as countless small shops, schools, mosques and university. We visited the Abou Inania Medersa and the architecture and detail was stunning. Likewise the decorated fountains and mosques were beautifully decorated however we were not allowed to enter the mosques not being muslims. This is different from Turkey and many middle eastern countries who did allow us to see their mosques and unlike many Cristian churches there was no fee and in Oman we were even given dates and tea!
It is a great shame that most muslims who just lead an ordinary life are tarred with the brush of terrorism because of their faith. Mohammed and his wife were both muslim.

The alleyways were indeed narrow and winding and we had to watch out for the mules and men pushing small carts which was the only form of transport in the medina. We went to a carpet co-op where we bought a small Berber rug and then we went on to the tanneries which had just had a five month complete renovation compliments of Unesco.
There were very few dyes or hides in the vats but the smell was certainly there. I had wanted to buy a leather pouffe and we chose a neutral coloured camel leather one with Berber motifs. We had one given to us when I was a child from students from Iran to whom my mother taught English. They had every kind of leather goods for sale from pouffes to bags, shoes and clothing made from goat,sheep,cow and camel hides. We were picked up by Mohammed’s wife and deposited back to the campsite and our half day with Mohammed only cost us 200dirhams or $28.

In the morning we stopped for some supplies at the “Marjane” superstore (like a Lulu hypermarket) selling anything and everything. We bought some of the wonderful array of olives available and some fruit and vegetables. All the signage was in French and not in Arabic and there was a vast array of cheeses and other items from France.
The same applied in the Maroc Telecom sales office where I went to get a USB modem for my computer. All signage was in French and the transaction was conducted in French. Road signs were also in English.

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We headed on the Autostrada north west as we wanted to get into France and down to Spain fairly quickly. We later regretted the decision to take the Autostrada as we didn’t realize that to go through the Frejus-Mt Blanc 13kilometre tunnel would cost us 59euros and it took us an hour to get to the tunnel with all the traffic!
The 37degree heat in Pavia in the morning dropped to 19degrees through the Alps with torrential rain that had set in for the late afternoon and the first rain we had seen for a couple of months. We continued through Chambery and to the north of Grenoble to the campsite beside a lake called simply “Au Bord du Lac”. The rain started again in the night and continued in the morning so we took off for the long trip (about 7hours) down to the south of France to see Dieter the brother of my best friend who I hadn’t seen for about 30years.

We took the Freeway with several tolls and stopped at a large “Aire”- the wonderful rest stops all along the highway which are parks with picnic tables, toilets and many times include the service stations and cafe/restaurants. We unfortunately took the wrong entry to continue our journey and found ourselves going back towards Lyon and through the tolled tunnel again before we could turn around and resume our trip which lost us an hour. We covered a lot of the French regions in the day- first of all the Rhone-Alps,the Auvergne and through the Loire valley, Limousin, the Dordogne area and down to the Mid-Pyrenees region to the small town of Pampelonne north of Toulouse. We passed a lot of grazing and cultivated land as well as travelling through the heavily forested mountains and hills. We ended up putting on jumpers as the temperature stayed at about 17degrees all day and there was heavy cloud and some rain during the day and into the evening.

The Tom Tom led us unfortunately to another Pampelonne and when we discovered our mistake we had another 2hours to travel and got to
Dieter at 9pm so we had a late meal (luckily it was a cold collation). We spent a nice evening and the morning with Dieter and left France for the Spanish Pyrenees via Albi and Toulouse about 12noon.

Dieter was telling us that the dialect they spoke in the area he couldn’t understand as it was a mixture of Spanish,Catalan and Basque.

We enjoyed the beautiful mountain scenery of the Pyrenees and with luck on our side we arrived at Morillo de Tou just before 8pm, the time the office closed. We got the last spot in the camping
ground with no electricity but we were just glad to not have to drive further that day. The twilight helped and it did not get dark until after 9.30pm.

Diesel prices were more favourable in France at 1.13euros litre and in Spain at 1.09 euros almost 50 euro cents cheaper than in Italy.

A lot of French holiday makers were also going south and we avoided a turn off where a traffic jam was caused by a major accident with a car on it’s roof and many emergency vehicles at the scene.
People were being treated on the road – a sad start to their Sunday.

On the 11th August we left the Pyrenees and set off for Zaragoza (a city I had always wanted to visit) an hour and a half south of Morillo de Tou. The mountains gave way to vast plains with what
looked like piggerys and large cultivated land with fodder. There was very little traffic along the way and coming into Zaragoza parking was easy just across the river Ebro from the old part of the city. The Basilica del Pilar dominated the skyline and was a very opulent basilica which looked from the outside almost like a mosque with rounded turrets. Walking around that part of the city was comfortable with large pedestrian areas with more churches, museums, fountains, sculptures and lots of cafes and restaurants. We wandered the relatively empty old city for a few hours in the hot sunshine.

My very basic Spanish got a workout when we called a campsite to make a booking. We were surpised that no other language was spoken there but I got the message that there was no space so another
campsite purporting to be the highest in Spain had free spaces so we made for “Los Corralizos” set high up in a pine forest near Brancholes in the Sierra de Albarracin. The weather had returned to
hot and sunny although the nights were quite cool. We walked from the campsite up to the “Sierra Alta” at 1850metres and got a spectacular view of the surrounding area.

We had to get used to different hours as the Spanish don’t have lunch until about 2-3pm and dinner until about 10-12pm. If there was music this would sometimes go on until 1-2am and children were
usually running around until late. Mornings in the campsites were the quietest time with most people not rising early!

We left after two nights and drove through the mountains to Albarracin a fascinating town with buildings hugging a mountain on all sides. The only tourists we encountered in and around that area
were Spanish ones and we saw no tour buses. We drove on south via the vast orange orchards of Valencia and on to Santa Pola, south of Alicante for a few days which turned into a week. Santa Pola lies on salt flats which range from white to pink and there were thousands of flamingoes in the lakes of the surrounding wetlands. Nearby was a large shopping complex and it was very sad to see

it as most of the shops had either never opened or had closed because of the economic crisis.

Something strange was going on with the right side of my face – infection, teeth and wasn’t sure so made a dentist appointment which was difficult as August is standard holiday time in Spain. After a few trys got into one for Monday 16th August so we decided to just enjoy our time in Santa Pola from Thursday 13th. It was a warm 40 degrees with a hot wind when we arrived so the airconditioner went into action straight away. The campsite was enormous and we got one of the few remaining of the 500 odd sites. We were right at the top of the hill (quite a climb when walking back from town) which was pretty quiet thank goodness except for a loud Spanish party one night.

We walked down to “Merce China” a warehouse run by Chinese and full of everything you could every need and it was really well set out! The Chinese shops in Italy are more of a mish mash but here all the goods were very well displayed and categorised. The locals in both countries complain about the Chinese taking over but there are always lots of locals in their shops because of their prices.

We went to catch the bus but because of the big holiday in Spain (as well as Italy)on the 15th August, the services were reduced so we waited a while before finally one arrived to take us to Elche a non tourist city south of Alicante and a big centre for shopping unlike Santa Pola.

We had a long walk from the bus station and a lot of the shops were closed so we opted for a big lunch instead. We asked a local for a nice restaurant serving local specialities and were directed to “La Granaina” where we ate at a long bar with the locals. It was a very upmarket bar with Moet in ice buckets on the counter. The food was delicious and very well presented. The giant gin and tonic and large glass of Sangria went down a treat too.
We started with marinated almonds and three courses starting with gaspacho with shrimps,fried cod,pork belly and their special baked rice with sausage and chicken, drinks and coffee and at 71 euros we thought it was excellent value. A pity the Australian dollar was not doing well against the euro.

The bus took us to “El Cortes Ingles” a wonderful enormous multi storey department store more like a shopping complex which had a large hardware store “Brico” on a lower level and a very large
supermarket as part of the store.
The shop assistants and security guards were all so helpful and cheerful that it was a pleasure to shop there. One security guard phoned us a taxi and as we could not take our trolley out of the

building, she went and got our euro for us from the shopping cart.
We ended up with some useful things for the van – new good quality sheets and a new clothes airer.

It was a shopper’s paradise with such variety and many sale items.
We caught a taxi home as we had too much to carry back to the campsite from the bus stop. Two luxuries in one day – a wonderful meal and a taxi ride. Maurice liked being driven for a change.

The long evenings were lovely but at 7pm it felt like 3pm, still warm and very light so we always seemed to eat later and later but never as late as the Spanish.
There were mainly Spanish family groups at the campsite. They explained that because they live in flats in cities close by and come to the campsite to get together where they can swim and be
together with much more space and the children can ride around on their bikes in a secure environment. They did a lot of communal cooking in enormous pans.

We thought we would replicate our great day from two days before but it was not to be. We to wait an hour in the sun for the bus so opted for a taxi after 45minutes to take us back to Elche. The restaurant we wanted to go back to was closed (a Monday) and both shoe repairers had gone on holiday. My good walking sandals had given up the ghost. We didn’t have too many days like that so
we cut our losses and went back to the campsite after my first dentist’s appointment where they discovered a wisdom tooth that needed extraction.

We had forgotten how many sets of twins we had seen in Spain the previous year until we saw four sets in two days?!

The tooth came out without much fuss on Wednesday leaving me with a sore face for a few days. Dr Orts did a great job and at 50 euros
for xrays and the extraction I couldn’t complain..
We took a mixture of the highway and small roads when we left Bahia de Santa Pola for Estepona, our last night’s stop on our way down to Algericas. The scenery was very varied with stark mountain ranges, gorges and valleys first full of citrus orchards and then olive trees from tiny new ones to very old trees on our way down through Andalucia. We didn’t think that Spain would ever run out of
olives.

We came across the strangest theme park called “Fort Bravo” with an enormous “Texas Hollywood” sign on the side of the hill. There was a large wild west town and we thought it might have also been used for spaghetti westerns.
It was lovely seeing the coast again near Marbella before we arrived at Estepona and the campsite.

It was a long day so we opted for a seafood paella at the camp restaurant for our last meal in Spain. It was delicious.

On the 21st August we drove down to Algericas to board the ferry to Tangier in Morocco.

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It had cooled down from 45 degrees in Turkey to 39degrees when we arrived at Mandra beach in Greece for the night. It was straight down to beach to cool off although the water was very shallow for 200metres so we had a bit of a walk before we could cool off. I was glad to find a freddo cappuccino after having had none in Turkey. There they have either Turkish coffee or Nescafe but most of the men sitting in the bars drink tea in the mornings.

It was about 500 kilometres to drive to Igoumenitsa with a scenic deviation through some beautiful mountains and mountain pass. The Kalami campsite at which we arrived was beautiful with lots of colourful bouganvillea, a stunning beach metres away and a very good restaurant where we ate nice fresh fish, good moussaka and Greek salad. The general standard of campsites is better in Greece with more facilities and the family run ones like Kalami beach were even better. The only drawback was that there was no regular bus service to the town. It was an hour and a half walk or a 7minute taxi ride for 15euros.

A housekeeping/cooking day with a couple of swims in the lovely clear water preceeded our day trip to Corfu. The ferry left at 9.30am for the 1 hour 45minutes trip over to the island. It was a Sunday and most of the shops were closed which made for a much quieter walk around the old town with few tourists in the 36degrees heat . The narrow passageways through the old town were very atmospheric and we then happened upon a little train which took us further around the bay. Corfu had a much more relaxed feel to it than Rhodes where there were more historical buildings but Rhodes was terribly crowded in the main old town. We found an excellent small cafe for some needed refreshments and some delicious thick Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts before walking back to the ferry for the trip back to Igoumenitsa.

Our last day in Greece was spent with a trip into town to buy from the “Illy coffee agent” some Freddo Cappuccino glasses and some good quality chocolate powder for Maurice who no longer drinks coffee. It was very humid in town so we went back to the campsite for some lunch at the restaurant and a last swim. We really appreciated the extra of our airconditioner especially at night. You could tell the campers who didn’t have any by their exhausted looks in the morning.

The ferry back to Italy and to the port city of Ancona was to leave at 11pm but was late and at first attempt at landing the ferry wasn’t quite in the right spot and had several attempts to straighten it up. It had put it’s ramp down a little early on one attempt and taken out a piece of the wharf’s concrete. The whole landing procedure didn’t exactly inspire us with confidence. Maybe it was a trainee captain. We eventually got away about 1am after having 5 hours on the dock some of it in the last heat of the day on the wharf before a breeze finally kicked in about 10pm.

We had such wonderful experiences in the past two months in Greece and Turkey and we hoped for more as we headed on to our next stage across Italy, France and Spain to Morocco.

Luckily the crossing (a 15hour one) to Ancona was smooth and everyone was quiet overnight. We landed about 4pm and drove straight to Gubbio. It was too late to have the technician look at the fridge so we settled at a campsite and was at his workshop first thing in the morning. He took a quick look and asked us to wait while he replaced a connection and had the fridge running within 10minutes. Such an easy fix after two weeks of searching for ice and trying to keep some food cold.

Relieved went back into Gubbio to see the old town before heading for Tuscany via Cortona another beautiful old walled town unfortunately very touristy so we didn’t spend long there and made for Greve in chianti and our friend Mary who at 91 lives in her beautiful old converted farmhouse. Mary is our role model. She still goes on holiday and drives. We had a couple of relaxing days there and left for Pavia and an overnight stop. It was nice to have some lovely Italian food and good bread again. There was something wonderful about the aromas and goods available in the service station shops and supermarkets in Italy.
We headed off the next morning for our trip over the Alps and into France.

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We had luckily decided to drive into the port area in Fethiye, park the van, have some breakfast and board the ferry to Rhodes for the day. Very little opens in Turkey before about 10 o’clock so we ended up at a rooftop breakfast area of a posh hotel overlooking the bay. The breakfast offering was an excellent buffet with many Turkish specialties of large bowls of preserved fruits, olives and spreads as well as fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese as well as normal breakfast fare. We made our way down to the passport control on the dock and boarded the boat and that is where the trouble started.

The customs man on the boat wanted to know where our vehicle was and said we needed to have paperwork done before we could leave. We luckily had about 20 minutes so one of the crew rushed us off and up the road to customs to have our passports and vehicle documents photocopied and a form filled out and then they wanted to sight the vehicle which was then supposed to be locked in their bond carpark. Maurice had to move the van and then there was no room for it so we were told to park it in the street again and luckily found the only parking spot still available.

When we entered Turkey the officials stamped Maurice’s passport and the stamp had a picture of a car on it – we didn’t realise this until someone told us about it later. Apparently we could not leave the country and come back again if we left our vehicle in Turkey without all this paperwork. The customs manager was a very bored chap and was not going to hurry whereas the crew member was trying to rush everything so as not to delay the boat. We made it with minutes to spare and we sat down relieved that we had actually brought the van into town instead of using public transport. It was a blessing in disguise that we had decided to leave the “sugar beach club” earlier than expected.

It was another very hot day and we opted for the hop off hop on bus to get our bearings. It drove around the new city and to the ancient stadium and the Acropolis which overlooked the port area. It dropped us off at the harbour area where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood and where today stands the statues of the Stag and doe stand on huge columns. From there we avoided the touristy market area and walked through the north gate of the old walled city and marvelled at the size of the old town and extent of preservation of the most of the buildings. We found on our map a walking trail through the back alleys where there were no tourists so we enjoyed the peace of it all before we headed with the masses back to the port area to buy our new found acquaintance Erhan (who had helped us the previous day source some ice)some duty free Jaegermeister of which he is fond before boarding the hydrofoil back to Fethiye and Turkey.

Fethiye had a lovely harbour/marina area but it’s main claim to fame were the Lycian tombs found just above the city and carved into the hills. We got back to Fethiye from Rhodes after 6pm and had about 20minutes to drive to Kayakoy – an abandoned village to the south east of Fethiye. We drove around the narrow streets below the town where there were many luxury villas and some guesthouses and we happened upon “Muzzy’s place” (short for Mustafa). Muzzy was third generation Greek and his grandparents had decided to stay in Turkey after 1924 when there was an exchange of Greek people to Greece and Turks to Turkey. Apparently the Turkish people could not settle in the town and moved to the coast until in 1950 when the entire town was abandoned. The pathway to the town was opposite our guesthouse and Muzzy was well set up with extensive bar/restaurant area, swimming pool and two storey stone house accommodation.

There was no camping site so For TL150 including breakfast we stayed the night there. it would have been nice to have a hot shower in the morning but very few places we have stayed have actually had hot water in the mornings. Apart from that the meal at night was excellent and Turkish breakfast was provided in the morning. We got up early and had a walk around the abandoned village and after breakfast we skyped a service centre in Italy to make an appointment to have the fridge looked at. It was becoming tiresome to find a fridge or ice wherever we went.
Muzzy’s claim to fame was that he supplied the cast and crew meals for the days that they were there for the filming of the “Water Diviner”, Russell Crowes movie about a father’s hunt for his son after the first world war and after losing two other sons in Gallipoli.

We had to drive back via Fethiye so we parked and walked up the many steps to see the Lycian tombs carved out of the rocks above the town. The view across the town and to the harbour and peninsula were wonderful. From there we went on to Denizle where we had a lovely encounter with some very friendly Turkish people. Firstly at the service station where one of the workers brought us out a cup of tea while the van was being filled and wouldn’t take any payment for the tea. We needed to buy more ice (I was still trying to keep the last of the food in the fridge cold) and they didn’t know of anywhere so I had a brainwave and asked where the fish market was. Thank goodness again for “maps ME” so that they could show us on the tablet where to find it. Maurice parked in a side street and I went around the corner to the fish market where one nice man told me to come with him and he walked me around to a few shops. He however thought I wanted to buy an esky even though I told him in Turkish that we had a broken down fridge and wanted ice! Something was lost in translation! When he twigged to what I wanted he walked me back to the fish market and instructed two of the stall holders to give me a bag of ice. I tried to tip him and pay for the ice but they wouldn’t have it and just wished me well – such lovely people.
Meanwhile back at the van…someone tried to get Maurice to move on as they wanted to unload some scrap metal. Maurice with sign language tried to explain that I was gone and if he moved I may not have found him again so instead he helped them unload the scrap metal while he waited for me to return.

It developed into another 43 degree day after we left Fethiye so we stopped for refreshments and to buy some towels in Mugla before crossing over the mountains to Pamukkale where an area called the Travertines are found. I had always wanted to visit these since seeing them in a brochure many years ago. We got to Beydil campsite right opposite the travertines on dusk so got up early the next morning and were standing at the entrance for the 8am opening time. Shoes are not allowed to be worn when walking on the travertines but they cool to walk on and were not slippery. Water flowed over some of the formations.

We had been advised to get there early so as to avoid the huge crowds later in the day. We didn’t realize that it comprised a vast area including Hierapolis (ancient ruins, gardens and pools and a hot 36degree thermal pool which by paying TL32 allowed you one entry. We stayed in the thermal pool for over an hour and there were few people in it then. Many tour groups started to arrive so after drying off in the lovely garden area we took a long walk around the travertines and found another pool at the north end of the complex near some of the Hierapolis ruins where there were only two other people. We made it to the top of the amphitheatre before heading around and back to the thermal pool area (where many more tourists had gathered) for refreshing drinks before fighting our way through the huge crowds who were now all around the travertine pools. It was a wonderful day out because we could relax in the shade or in the “free” pool between the walks around the ruins and the travertines. Getting there early made all the difference.

There was a large pool and a bit of an aquapark as part of the campsite as well as a few chickens and a rooster walking around the lawn area and a large restaurant upstairs overlooking the travertines – a strange mixture. We overnighted there
again and drove on over the mountains where orchards of olives and fig trees grew on steep slopes. The wide valleys with very tall corn fields led us into the city of Nizilli where we needed to buy a new electrical plug for our power cord as the previous night our old one nearly burnt out. The Tom Tom took us into the city in front of a service station where Maurice plug in hand enquired about an electrician.

As it happened right opposite was an electrician who motioned us to wait, hopped on his scooter and ten minutes later he was back with a new plug and he proceeded to fit the plug and soldered the ends which took another ten minutes. When we asked how much it would be he said TL5 or $2.50! He chatted to Maurice in Turkish and Maurice back in English but they understood each other. We tried to give him 10 lira but he just would not have it and just wished us well in Turkish. Such a lovely man. When we left all the workers in the service station waved us off.

Stopping at Birgi which I had read about in the morning we visited a huge wooden mansion built by a wealthy merchant in the 1830’s. Birgi is also known for the attractive stone and wood cottages all over the town. A woman was cooking Gozleme – potato pancakes so we stopped and ate them and then went across the square to buy what they called “snow” which was shaved ice with grape syrup poured over it. That was delicious, not very sweet and very refreshing on a hot day.
On the road some of the stall holders selling food have a large hose pouring out water near the road as a means of attracting customers. We saw this several times and thought it was such a waste of water!

We headed further over the mountains and down to a plain where there was an abundance of apricot and peach orchards and roadside sellers of fruit and vegetables. I really wanted some watermelon but not a whole one so they kindly cut one in half for us and I also bought 2eggplant, 6 small capsicum, a kilo of potatoes and four large tomatoes all for TL5.50 or $2.70! The stall holders were very friendly although their English was limited to Hello and Bye Bye.

We saw a couple of brides and grooms on their wedding day – one lot in Pamukkale wanted to have their photo taken with us. We also saw a large set up for outdoor seating for a wedding amongst the olive groves out of town. No need to worry about what the weather would do at that time of year.

It was like old home week when we arrived at the campsite Derile in Pamucak (the closest campsite to Ephesus) where we met up with Polish, German and Dutch campers that we had met at several previous campsites. It was nice to see the same faces again
and have a chat with fellow campers. We parked between Spaniards and Italians and Hungarians. This campsite was a real league of nations that we hadn’t much encountered in Turkey. Of course everyone again assumed with the “GB” plates that we were British and they were always surprised to hear we were Australian.

Ephasus was an amazing ancient site where a lot of reconstruction is taking place under an 11 million dollar roof to protect
the ancient Roman terrace houses. We were advised to get there early so we caught the “Dolmus” local small bus to Efes (Ephesus) and got in the gate before 8.30am. The site covers a large area and to see the layout of an entire ancient city and walk it’s marble paths was wonderful. The tour buses arrived one after the other and we had luckily seen everything that we wanted to see so made our way through the seething masses to the local bus to Selcuk, a modern town ten minutes away. There many storks and their young in their nests on top of the reconstructed aquaduct. We had a delicious Meze lunch and walked in the 43degrees to see the museum before heading back to the campsite for a swim.

We travelled via Izmir,Turkey’s 3rd largest city with a lovely promenade around part of the bay to have lunch in Foca, a lovely little seaside village and onto a lovely neat “Altin” campsite on the sea at Burnahiye. It was the most well run campsite that we had found in Turkey and the only downside was hitting a tree stump as we left the next day which pushed our electric step sideways and made it unusable. Another job for the man in Italy!

We soldiered on the next day to Cannakale and across on the ferry to the Gallipoli peninsula landing at Eceabat. We saw a memorial for the Turkish soldiers and drove up to see the town of Gelibolu. We decided to drive back down through the unpaved roads of the centre to our Kum camping site. It is a beautiful peninsula and a shame that it is only known for the Dardanelles campaign and it’s ANZAC connection.

There was a huge amount of agriculture on the peninsula – sunflowers, grains, fruit and vegetables and the tastiest tomatoes and best peaches that I had tasted since my childhood. There were many roadside stalls selling these and a very popular backberry or mulbeerry jam and good honey. We visited ANZAC cove and the next day drove up the coastal side of the peninsula towards the border to Greece. It was a hot 45degree when we left Turkey on the 30th July. We found a nice new little restaurant and delicatessen next to their cheese factory for lunch where the chef came out and tried to explain the Turkish menu. We ended up with a delicious fresh pasta meal. I took the waitress and showed her our fridge as she didn’t understand that we wanted ice. Her face lit up and she disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a bag of ice. Another lovely memory of our last stop in Turkey before getting to the border town of Ipsala.

Turkey was one of our favourite countries with friendly, helpful people in general,spectacular and varied scenery, nice little towns,interesting ancient ruins, nice hot weather, good and very reasonably priced food and good infrastructure for the locals with modern appartment blocks, leafy parks, shopping centres and childrens’ playgrounds. Some of the campsites had fairly basic facilities,however was made up for by their beautiful seaside locations. When we looked at the distance we had covered it was quite an area but we feel we just scratched the surface of the country. We deliberately stayed away from anywhere near the border of Syria. we were a little apprehensive before visiting Turkey because of it’s proximity to Syria and also the impression of their conservatism but this was soon dispelled when we arrived in the country.

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Leaving Kaya camping we headed to Uchisar to peruse two carpets that we had seen two days before. We told them that we would be back and to keep them aside. The downstairs room was like a bomb site when we arrived with renovations and all of the 3,000 odd carpets thrown in a heap. Of course the ones we wanted were nowhere to be seen so three of them set to work to move about half of the carpets before they found the ones we wanted. After all that they gave us a discount and
we set off with our bag of carpets. We chanced upon a market around the corner and we stocked up with very fresh fruit and vegetables. We bought more of the very plump and delicious cherries for 2 Turkish Lira a kilo – about a dollar!

The toll roads and highways were avoided as we made the longer trip via Eregli. Our map showed a caravanserai there and we set about asking a few people for directions in sign language and showing them the map. Everyone was very helpful and they all shook Maurice’s hand. After much toing and froing we abandoned the search because we could not find a parking spot and as we had about another seven hour’s drive that day we continued along the plains full of sunflowers, corn and other crops and towards the hills and valleys covered with many poplar trees. We went further up into the mountains towards Konya where many more factories and seas of appartments suddenly appeared. Konya was a city of over a million inhabitants. We drove further over higher mountains covered with pine forests to find the caravanserai that Maurice had read about. It had been restored but much of it dated from 1206. It was a very atmospheric place and we could imagine the caravans stopping there with their horses or camels for rest and supplies for their further journey on the silk road so many centuries ago.

Maurice found the Turkish drivers (apart from the tour coach drivers) to be polite and people in general were most helpful even if we couldn’t communicate verbally. Open and closed hand movements were very successful for traffic lights and holding
up fingers for how many sets we should drive through worked as well. We stopped in Beysehir for some supplies at a very neat little supermarket and the whole shopful of assistants combined their efforts to assist us. Most people asked us if we were
American and when we told them we were Australian they usually raised their eyebrows and were very enthusiastic towards us.

We must have passed at least fifteen roadside sellers of honey on the opposite side of the road and not one on our side so Maurice stopped and I ran across the road to get a large jar. The road down the mountains to the coast was quite steep in
places with a few hairpin bends but there was little traffic.

It was a long day, about 11hours by the time we got to Osay Camping at Kizilot near Manavgat on the coast but it was so much nicer taking the secondary but still good roads down to the coast. The cool evenings that we had had in Cappadocia were no
longer with nighttime temperatures of 22-24degrees and daytime up to 35degrees. We were glad that we had bought the extra of an air conditioner when we bought the van and luckily all the campsites so far had ample electrical ability to run it. Osay
camping was nestled next to one of the many huge hotel resort complexes along the south coast. There seemed to be many Russian and German tourists there and the shopkeepers in the local stalls and shops were more versed in German than English.

Our campsite was very quiet with only three other campers and had lovely open huts with tables, chairs and tablecloths where we could eat our meals if we wanted to. The two older men who ran the place had no English but while we sat there one of
them brought us some melon and tea and they wouldn’t take any payment. Two more lots of Australians from Queensland turned up the next day at the campsite.

Kizilot was about an hour from Antalya so we decided to take the van the next day instead of using public transport. Maurice made a slight error with the time so we were up at 5.30am instead of 6.30am. We parked the van in the enormous parking area of the Migros cinema complex and shopping centre and caught the bus into the centre of Antalya where we overlooked the old port full of fishing vessels.
There were only a few things of historical interest to see in Antalya which was just as well as the temperature got up to 43degrees but at least it was a dry heat. We found Hadrian’s Gate, the clock tower and the restored old town. That part of
town was very pretty but overrun with small hotels, restaurants and shops. The dogs and cats in town are tagged and fed by the local population and there was also a booth was manned by a Turk and his dog (who jumped in and walked around the
fountain to keep cool). He collected of 2euros in order to feed the cities homeless dogs and cats who all looked in very good condition.

Many people waiting for a bus helped us with the direction of the bus back to the shopping centre and after walking a couple of kilometres we finally boarded the bus and dived into the nicely airconditioned centre where we had lunch and cooled down.
We left about 3pm before rush hour started for the hour’s trip back to the campsite. Unfortunately a problem with our fridge had us emptying it and putting all the food from it and the freezer into one of the campsite’s fridges. It had cooled then to about 35degrees and there was a pleasant breeze blowing from the sea.

There were many very large hotel/resort complexes in the neighbourhood and one was right next door. Stangely it was directly in front of a cemetary and we thought it odd that such a place could be built there. All in the name of progress!
We went in there for a drink and they had great trouble finding change for us as it all works on a band around the wrist.

There were many of these very opulent or garish (depending what you liked) dotted all along the coast from Manavgat to Antalya. There were many shops selling mainly Turkish produced clothing and footwear and I happened on a nice red leather
jacket and sandals which could be made to measure in 24hours. It was unfortunately not the colour that was chosen by me when it turned up the following day so a Turkish “Arthur Daley” took us at 10pm to his main store ten minutes away to chose another
model. In the end I was happier with the second choice. Everyone was looking for a sale and bemoaning the fact that business was down 40 percent on the previous year.

We had made plans the following day to return to the shopping centre so we especially got up early so as to visit Side (pronounced Cday) on the way. The ruins there were fascinating as there was so many of the ancient buildings still partially standing and many columns were dotted along the road in the town. Apollo’s temple which had been rebuilt was in a beautiful location overlooking the water. The old town was full of shops, restaurants and cafes and was a bit too touristy for our liking so we had a coffee and headed towards Antalya again. The traffic lights on the highway were back to being two sets (flashing orange lights about 100metres from the actual traffic lights) and most on the main roads had a box with the number of seconds to wait until the lights changed. The only problem with the Turkish drivers was that they always made three lanes out of two lanes and two out of one so Maurice had to keep his wits about him all the time. We did see an accident on the way to Antalya. There were so many old cars as well as new on the road in Turkey which we had not encountered in Greece.

We got to the shopping centre at midday ready to have a nice lunch and found it closed and not to open until 2pm because of the end of Ramadan. It was a nice warm 38degrees by then and we took the road around the coast trying to find a picnic place to stop the van and have lunch. We tried three off ramps with no luck so settled on the side of the road next to a large resort and went on to Kumluca where everything bar a cafe and supermarket were open so we had a walk and a coffee and left town for Kas. The road meandered around the mountains and down to the sea where we followed the coast road or Turkish Riviera as it is called to Kas.

There had been very few people at any of the campsites we had visited in Turkey until we came to Kas (pronounced Cash).
We had sent the preferred campsite an email a few days before but when we arrived on the 17th July they said they were full.
Luckily the “Olympus MoCamp” a couple of kilometres out of town had space available and was in a prime position. We had just to cross the road to the beach where we could have free sun lounges and umbrellas and could order food or drinks from the
restaurant on site. The water was a wonderful temperature and so clear. We spent four nights here and three days swimming and mainly lazing by the beach. A bus right outside took us into town in seven minutes. There were thousands of people in town, mainly Turkish enjoying four days Eid Mubarak holiday (the end of Ramadan or Ramazan as they call it in Turkey). Apart from a German family we were the only non Turks at the campsite.

Kas was a very attractive town (quite touristy) with a peninsula and harbour and directly behind it was Meis as Kastellorizo was known in Turkey. Many of the Greek community in Perth come from this tiny Greek island which is only about a kilometre off the coast of Turkey. We found Turkey a very westernized country in general. The muslim presence was only felt by the calls to prayer in the morning and evenings and by some of the women in traditional dress with long sleeves or coats and headscarves. Otherwise we did not find it as conservative as we thought even in the inland towns. No one looks if you wear a sleeveless top and shorts and many of the local women dressed as they wanted to.

I wanted to have a Turkish breakfast so we went across the road to the camp’s restaurant. It was a variety of small dishes with savoury and sweet foods. Pekmez, a tahini and grape molasses mix and cheese cigars (cheese filled fried rolls), olives, tomato and cucumber and tasty caramelized mulberries. We walked in to see the town later. Many of the buildings had been restored with their covered alcove balconies but most shops were full of souvenirs and the town was crammed full of bars, cafes and restaurants. Men advertising boat day trips covered the small harbour. We caught the local bus escaped back to the campsite. After another relaxing day swimming and lazing we went back to one of the restaurants in town as our fridge had given up the ghost and we had to buy blocks of ice to keep what food we had in there cold.

Leaving Mocamp Kas on the 21st July we set off for Oludeniz via Tlos.. Tlos ruins date from the 4th Century BC. They cover a wide area below the mountains and we climbed around the ruins in the 34degree heat for a couple of hours and
stopped at a cafe there for cold apple tea and complimentary Turkish delight. I bought some homemade pommegranate sauce which the locals use mixed with garlic on fish and alone in salads. It was only another 30 odd kilometres to Fethiye which
was much more of a local town with good fruit and vegetable market and many cafes. There were many more “normal shops” selling all sorts of goods as well as the tourist market which we avoided. We found a parking spot near the marina and a
local who spoke good English (with a Midlands accent) helped us to source some ice for the fridge which we could not get fixed until we landed in Italy two weeks later. Our campsite “Sugar Beach club” was about 25minutes away and on an estuary. We met up with a Polish/German couple who we had met at a couple of campsites but they had to move on as that camp would not allow pets. It also had no drinking water or hot water showers so we decided to move on the next day.

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I had a lovely birthday as we travelled from Ankara to Goreme via Nevsehir. We stopped for a coffee and ended up having a
wonderful lunch and being spoilt by the chef at the cafe next to the Shell service station who spoke reasonable English. He had worked in
a restaurant on the coast of Turkey for 27years. A strange place for a birthday lunch but it was the best we had had in Turkey. Sometimes the most unlikely places to eat have turned out to be the best.

We had 300 odd kilometres to drive to Goreme and it was a nice leisurely pace on the secondary roads via an enormous salt lake where some tourists were sitting on chairs in the lake. We passed through Nevsehir which was a large town and on to Goreme which is a very touristy town full of carpet and souvenir shops and incredible rock formations and what they call fairy chimneys in and around the town.

Kaya camping gave us a wonderful spot overlooking a canyon like landscape and a vineyard our friendly Adelaide couple just happened to
come back to the same campsite that night so we had a bit of a chat before they left the next morning for the north eastern part of Turkey. At 5am the next morning we could hear the hot balloons firing up above us so I got up, took some photos and retreated back to bed. Goreme is the hot ballooning capital of Turkey with over half a million tourists in a year taking the flights. Scores of companies were ready to let one part with between 175-250 euros for a one hour’s ride. I had always wanted to take a balloon ride so that was my birthday present. We could only get a booking for the 13th July and we understood why when we saw the number of tourists around the town, mostly Chinese and a few Italian tour groups. The previous day the balloons had been cancelled due to high winds.
Maurice chose Royal Balloons who were well recommended and the pilots were trained by Australians so considered to be the safest bet.

Many walking trails were located near the camp which was on top of a hill so we set off for a ten kilometre walk through the interesting rock formations and valleys which were planted with fruit trees and small market gardens. We visited the open air museum with it’s many ancient carved out cave churches from the 11th century.

A steep cobbled road took us into the town where we chatted to many shop owners and had many carpets thrown out in front of us. The Turks are very good salesmen, just chatting and showing you things without any pressure. We asked the last one we visited to call us a taxi as we couldn’t face the steep long walk back and he straight away got one of his guys to take us back to the camping site even though we bought nothing from him.

I had a second birthady dinner at Top Deck Cave restaurant where the Turkish chef and his South African wife served up delicious food.

Maurice was using his stick only if his ankle felt a bit weak and it proved very useful. We were waiting for the normal bus to town when a tour operator’s bus obviously took pity on Maurice and picked us up and deposited us in town and wouldn’t accept any payment. It happened on the return later in the day which was very opportune as we had done a lot of walking. Another day we took the bus to Uchisar and spent a few hours there walking to the up the hill castle and finding a particular carpet shop which was recommended to us. After looking at hundreds of carpets in a few shops we settled on a runner for the hallway and another colourful Sumac carpet.

Our hot air ballooning day started at 3.30am with a pick up time of 4am for firstly a substantial buffet breakfast for the 147 people before being transported in small buses to the take off site. We scored the chief pilot with Royal Balloons and it was an experience of a lifetime. We floated over the amazing rock formations sometimes very close and sometimes much higher and it was such a peaceful sensation with no noise, drifting with the wind except for the occasional rush of gas into the balloon. There were about a hundred balloons in the air and it was a fascinating sight. We were given champagne, caps and they kindly gave me a birthday cake after we landed.

The chief pilot told us that 21years ago when he started flying there were four balloons in Cappadocia and they carried 100 passengers a year. Now there are 200 balloons. He also told us that Cappadocia has 3 million tourists visiting in a year.

We later caught the bus to Urgup for me to visit the Hamam for a scrub and polish, have lunch at a nice little cafe and was the only one there and the it was a maseur this time but he was very discreet and gave me a great massage. I felt squeaky clean.

Maurice needed a haircut and we found a modern hairdresser’s salon (or saloon as it is usually written here) who also cut and treated my hair but the three young people there spoke no English so it was up to google translate again which won the day. It is very useful and we have found
it invaluable on certain occasions. Some things you can get away with sign language but not everything.

The bus took us back into Goreme where we bought a lamp and had the best coffees and cold chocolate at the Oze coffee house.
I guessed because of the 100th year anniversary there were more Aussies in Turkey and the shopkeepers confirmed this.
We had another nice treat before we left the next day with many hot air balloons flying very near the campsite again.

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We had a tranquil drive from Alexandroupolis to Ipsala in Turkey. The border crossing in Ipsala went smoothly and we passed through much land devoted to agriculture especially sunflowers which then gave way to expansive pine forests. As we approached Istanbul from the east we passed seas of appartment buildings, many of them new. We were advised to buy a vignette for the toll roads at a Shell service station so we stopped after five stations that either did not have them or had none left. Each one said we should go on a further 25kilometres to the next service station. As it was we only had to go through an underpass at the first toll station and buy the thing for about 40 Turkish lira which we attached to centre of the windscreen.
We joined into Istanbul’s freeway system that we were forced to take to reach our destination and it turned into a nightmare journey with hundreds of trucks and thousands of cars at rush hour along Istanbul’s various freeways to our campsite. We saw one accident and many potential ones with many drivers ducking and weaving and much squeeling of tyres on the many interconnecting freeways. The brakes needed to be applied suddenly on many occasions. Istanbul and it’s surrounding suburbs and towns are very attractive given that there are between 14-15 million people living there.
There were fast growing housing areas in the surrounding hills and in the countryside near large industrial estates and there was a real push on greening the land with thousands of new trees planted everywhere and re-aforestation of many of the hills. There were many large magnolia trees in the towns as well and many other varieties being planted. Many beautiful hydrangeas were predominant in the towns.
The last time we were in Istanbul about three years ago we flew in and took the airport bus into the city which takes a very scenic and calm route around the bay of Marmara. This time it was very different. The area in which we stayed was on the edge of a forest and the undulating hills were interspersed with a lot of upmarket two storey houses and appartment blocks.
There was no rubbish on the highways or in the towns. There were many black rubbish bags on the side of the highway ready for collection. Everywhere was clean and tidy.
We managed to finally get off the chaotic highways and made our way through the many towns along the way and up some very steep roads to “Mistik Camping” in Kilyos a small town right on the Black Sea about 35kms away from the city where an old Turkish couple were sitting inside the gate together with a large dog on a chain. This was the closest and only one of two camping sites near Istanbul.
They unfortunately spoke no English (like most of the Turkish people young and old to whom we spoke apart from those in the hotels and restaurants and that was quite limited) but we managed with sign language. I always asked if anyone spoke German but no one seemed to know that either. I supposed with a population of 83 million Turks there was little need to speak anything else!
We decided to rewarded ourselves with a fresh fish meal in one of the many seaside restaurants. I was in no state to cook after my navigational skills and Maurice’s driving skills had been stretched to the limit.
The roads in Turkey were similar to ones in Greece with most secondary roads in excellent condition. Smaller roads in the towns were a bit bumpy but nothing excessive. Greece has a good feature of flashing orange lights before the actual traffic lights to let you know when the lights will change. In Turkey the actual traffic lights flash orange for a very short time before turning red.
We opted for public transport to get back into Istanbul. We took the bus to the closest and northern most metro station which took about 45 minutes. The bus drivers were excellent and a lot of the roads from the hills were one way so they travelled at break neck speed. They took a very scenic route along the Bosphorus past nice little towns and seaside areas. The metro then took another 20 or so minutes to get into the centre of the city.
We made the mistake of not getting the official bus but a private bus to the metro station to take us into the old city. The small private buses were a great idea as they took their passengers to wherever they wanted to go along their designated route. Our only problem was no common language so we were dropped off in Sariyer, a nice town where we had coffee but didn’t know where we were in relation to where we should be going. Luckily the shop owner understood where we wanted to go so he stopped another private bus and put us on. He told the driver to drop us at a metro station which he did and we found our way into the old city. The bus driver was multi talented. He drove with his left hand while taking money with his right hand and giving the passenger change!
We thought that the Italian drivers the worst for parking anywhere they found a spot but when we were having coffee we saw a driver stop his car at a green traffic light, come into the coffee shop, buy something and calmly go back to his car and drive away . I thought had this happened in Australia, he would have been lynched but the motorists just drove around the car without without a bother.
In Greece there are many large dogs and cats living on the street and most of the dogs have collars and were ear tagged. It appeared to be the same here in Turkey. They all seemed to be well fed with locals leaving food and water out for them and patting them.
Smoking is prevalent in both Greece and Turkey as cigarettes are very cheap with many of the smokers older men and women. Smoking was allowed in the al fresco areas of both cafes and restaurants.
Many Turkish women wore traditional dress of long skirts or trousers with long sleeved blouses,long topcoats and a headscarf. There were quite a number of women dressed like that in Istanbul city and also in smaller towns but there were also a big percentage of young and older women in sleeveless tops and jeans.
The infrastructure in the city especially for public transport was excellent with very modern trams, trains and buses for the millions of inhabitants and tourists alike. The metro was also nicely decorated with murals and mosaics and the service was very frequent (every few minutes). As soon as some saw Maurice’s white hair, there was no hesitation, they immediately gave up their seats. We also found this the case in China.
We had missed seeing “Hagia Sofia” on our previous visit because of extra long queues and were pleasantly surprised that we did not have to wait to buy our tickets and see the museum which consisted mainly of a large mosque which had been a Catholic church centuries before. We found our way to a restaurant overlooking the sea of Marmara to which we had previously been but were disappointed with the food and service but at least the view was good. Leaving there we walked a long way around the bay of the Sea of Marmara to a tram stop and continued up into Sultanahmet and to the Grand Bazaar. It was teeming with tourists so we made a quick exit, had coffee and cake and a much needed rest and then walked to the nearest metro station which took us to the bus station and back to Kilyos with the help of a young man at the bus station who did speak good English. He luckily warned us that many of the buses did not have their numbers displayed so he kindly asked for us and put us on the correct bus. It took us about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get by metro and bus from the old city to the campsite but we were definately not going to take Van Mauriceson near the city again.
We wanted to go across the “Golden Horn” (a horn-shaped estuary that joins Bosphorus Strait at the point where the strait meets the Sea of Marmara) to Beyoglu, an area we liked very much the last time we visited Istanbul so we took the light rail across the bridge to the last tram stop and back to near the Galata Tower to wander around the suburb with it’s many art galleries and shops. An art gallery owner proudly told us that Cate Blanchett had bought something from his gallery. We walked up to the Galata Tower and then onto the main shopping street where we took the old tramway for a distance before getting out and walking back to the light rail stop. On the way we saw a protest which was in aid of the Uyghurs but luckily it was a peaceful one but just in case the riot police were out in force with a water canon and tear gas guns.
We got back to the campsite after 7pm and I cooked a meal for ourselves and a friendly couple from Adelaide who were staying in the campsite. It was nice to have a conversation in English and we learnt that they had shipped their 4wd vehicle to London and were on their way to Australia via Tajikistan, Iran, Pakistan, India and across to China and then down through Asia. They were in the process of sorting out all the visas required which was taking some time.
We were up early to take the 8am bus into Sariyer where we stopped for a pastry and tea and then caught the bus/metro and a taxi down to the ferry terminal. We were going to take the six hour local ferry at 10.30am up the Bosphorus but it had started to rain (luckily it wasn’t cold)so we opted for a shorter two hour ferry ride which took us along one side of the Bosphorus and up to a second bridge taking traffic from European Turkey to Asian Turkey and back again to the ferry port. It was interesting to see Istanbul from the sea and the sun eventually came out but at least it wasn’t cold.
People were very kind and just used their travel cards on the buses a couple of times when we had run out of credit and could not get to a machine to top up ours. I was able to do the same for a girl who just caught the bus in time but had run out of credit. The vending and top up card machines were not always handy. This seemed to be a common practice as we witnessed it a few times. Usually the offered coins were rejected.
We left Kilyos on the 6th July after having the van washed in the local car wash. Maurice used his google translate to talk to the cleaner who did a good job for 20 Turkish Lira or about $10. We did give him a tip but he didn’t at first want to accept it. We stopped for a coffee as we had done in the previous days in Sariyer (a nice seaside town) and found a manned parking area where they charged us three times that of a car so it cost us $10 for an hour. It was an expensive cup of coffee.
We took the northernmost bridge over the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Turkey. We saw a new bridge and freeway that was in the process of being built and which was much closer to the Black sea but it had not yet been completed. Travelling on the Asian side on the way to Ankara We passed many modern, new housing areas and vast numbers of new appartment blocks which were interspersed with large areas of pine forests. We avoided the tolled freeways and saw on the secondary roads an enormous amount of industry with huge factories and and an incredible number of new warehouses and commercial buildings. International companies like “Barilla” were also there. This industry continued along the 300 odd kilometres to Ankara where there were again large groups of new appartment buildings dotted around the surrounding hills and within the city area.
It looked to us like Turkey was the country of the future with a booming economy everywhere. Unlike in Greece and in Italy we saw practically no vacant or abandoned buildings or houses, only ones that were due for demolition and reconstruction.
Our camping place out of Ankara was an interesting one, being in the parking area of the “Esenboga Airport hotel” where power and water were supplied and we had the use one of the rooms for showering in their very ornately decorated hotel. It was very pleasant to have a bathroom to ourselves for a few days.
On the property were two families of mother cats with four cute kittens each. One adventurous little black and white kitten visited us and was very playful. The staff at the hotel fed the cats every day but I did give them a couple of tins of sardines and tuna to supplement the left overs that they were given.
There were many and various shaped mosques in Turkey in many different colours. Some had shops incorporated into the base of their buildings which we thought was a very practical idea. We didn’t really appreciate the two mosques who competed with each other at 3.30am with high pitched and loud wailing near the hotel on one night. They were much quieter the other nights. The arriving aircraft were by comparison a pleasure to hear.
Ankara was in complete contrast to Istanbul when it came to tourist information. We could find no tourist centre when we arrived in the city which on the private bus only took twenty minutes. The fare was only 2 Turkish lira each and very good value. The private buses are only small but very practical and there are hundreds of them. We walked around and found only people who spoke Turkish so we had a brainwave and went into the Radisson hotel near the bus station and they spoke some English and were very helpful giving us a map and printing out another map so that we could see the major attractions that Ankara had to offer. They also plotted the metro stops for us which was very kind of them.
We caught the metro with a transfer to the Ataturk museum and mausoleum about 20 minutes away. It was such an interesting museum and was located in a high position overlooking the city. We were lucky enough to see the changing of the guard and spent a couple of hours in the museum which gave a great insight into the man who not only was a clever military tactician but who transformed Turkey with his innovations for a common Turkish language, education, industry and most aspects of Turkish life.
We found the food in cafes and drink selections to be fairly limited. They had a good variety of baked breads which were very tasty with cheese, spinach or potato fillings or plain circular breads. They had a speciality of layered pancakes with a small amount of filling in between the very fine layers . Nearly all the breads are covered with sesame seeds or some with blackened sesame seeds. The bakeries have a limited range of breads with the round Turkish breads or Pides more common.
The apple tea was delicious however a cappuccino was more a Turkish coffee without the grinds with a dash of foam on top. All hot drinks were served practically at boiling point so you had to be prepared to sit and wait to be able to drink it. I did try the Turkish coffee but it tasted very earthy and thick so I stuck to apple tea most of the time.
There were scores of new unlicenced cars just sitting outside the hotel and down the road in an open area with no security or fencing. The nursery down the road had no space left inside so many trees in pots were just sitting outside it’s fence.
Our last day was spent walking up hundreds of steps again, this time to Ankara Castle. The surrounding park was very green and peaceful. The castle or citadel was only quite small but was a good viewing point for all of Ankara city. It was surrounded by many houses, some ramshackle and some beautifully restored. The path once we got to the top had no signposts and a small boy pointed the way between the houses and washing lines to the castle. We found a very pleasant man from whom we bought a tablecloth and who spoke good English and excellent German as he had lived in Cologne for many years. He told us that the municipality was demolishing all the old derelict houses around the castle and rebuilding the houses in the old style at no expense to the owners.
Other old and crumbling houses on the neighbouring hill were also due for demolition and the inhabitants were going to be rehoused also free of charge. He recommended a restaurant for lunch nearby and it was a beautifully restored three storey house with many antiques and traditional Turkish items decorating the walls. We had lunch overlooking the city and the food was delicious and reasonably priced. Thick yoghurt with a cress like green, fried eggplant with tomatoes and large layered pasta pancakes with eggplant and potato filling.
A trip to the museum was next and it was located in an old trading post for Angora wool, famous in Turkey. This was then transformed into the present museum and was a beautifully restored old series of buildings. The museum was full of artifacts, brass, carved stone, pottery and wood from many centuries BC and was extremely well laid out with good lighting and all descriptions in Turkish and English.
A wander through the local markets on the way back to the bus had us stocking up on fresh fruit and vegetables and some very inexpensive delicious Turkish delight. I unfortunately made the mistake of showing our hotel card at the bus station and they obviously thought we wanted to go to the airport (the hotel was called the Esenboga Airport hotel but was some distance from the airport) and sent us walking with our shopping a couple of kilometres down the road and across the busy freeway. When we discovered that it was not the airport bus that we wanted we had to walk all the way back to the bus station and then get the correct information and wait for the bus. Then the bus driver missed our stop and we had to walk another couple of kilometres back to the hotel so we were well and truly exhausted by this time with slightly bruised peaches and plums.
In our few days in Ankara we only saw about another dozen foreign tourists which was in direct contrast to the thousands in Istanbul. Ankara does however need to improve their information service for foreign tourists, that is if they want them.

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We left Athens after lunch on another bright blue sky day and took the backroads through the mountains and around the coast of the Korinthiokos Kolpos which was an enormous body of water of the inner Mediterranean which stretched from the bay of Corinth to the eastern bay of Patras.

We stopped at the lovely town of Itea and then wound our way up the mountain to Delphi which we reached about 4.30pm. It was an easy two hour drive. We went straight to the archeological ruins to see the Temple, the amphitheatre and Sanctuary of Apollo which stretched up the mountain side and across the road and further down the valley. There were few tourists there as we had decided to leave sightseeing until late in the afternoon when most of the tour buses had left for the day. In Greece most of the sites and museums are open from 8am until 8pm in Summer which gave us plenty of time take it easy in the morning.

We had probably the best view from the campsite (which was more like a resort) in all of Delphi with views down to Itea and to the bay and to the other surrounding towns. It was particularly beautiful at night with all the lights glistening below. A lovely pool and bar/restaurant area overlooked the amazing view and we made the most of it having dinner and breakfast outside.
The mosquitoes had been a problem previously as we had both got bitten so we made sure we had mosquito coils lit before nightfall. There were few campers at the site which was curious given the view and the facilities and at only 16euros a night it was a steal.

The next morning so we stopped at a quaint little town of Amfissa which had at least twenty bar/cafes and all with someone having their morning coffee or beer!
I dispensed with the Tom Tom which wanted to take either on the motorway or down goat tracks. We had to back out of a couple of them so I reverted to “ME maps” on the tablet and the paper map which proved more successful.

The spectacular scenery continued as we drove up into the mountains and it felt like being on top of the world. The wide There were vast crops of corn, tomatoes and other greens stretching for kilometres in the wide valleys as well as vast areas of olive plantations. We continued towards Volos and on to our next campsite of “Hellas Camping” at Kato Gatzea, another idyllic place right on the beach. The owners welcomed us with a handshake (the first we had had from a campsite) and showed us to a place a couple of metres from the water – bliss for the next three nights. The weather was perfect – around 30degrees and dry. There were quite a lot of people the day we arrived but by 9.30pm when it started to get dark all was quiet.

We had a lay day and just walked into the town about five minutes away to have a drink and then for some exercise in the other direction to the town of Kala Nera about fifteen minutes away which was far more touristy so we went back to our campsite by the beach to have a Greek salad (they all serve it with a slab of feta cheese on top)a large fresh cod, boiled potatoes and broccoli which was all delicious and with 250ml of red wine came to 29euros.

Following was another lazy day spent trying to sort of “wordpress” imaging problems and getting coffees from the restaurant. A bit of rain kept everyone indoors until late afternoon afternoon when the sun came out and people started getting into the It rained a little in the morning but by the afternoon the sun was out again. I bought some good red homemade wine for a couple of euros from the local small supermarket where we stocked up on peaches and nectarines that were very cheap,smelt wonderful and tasted delicious.

We made our way north past Volos and along yet another very scenic mountain road from Larisa which passed to the west of Mt Olympus and on to Thessaloniki. We saw no traffic for a couple of hours and being a Sunday no one was on the road before about 11am. There was much land devoted to agriculture and all the crops looked very green and lush.
Our most expensive toll highway which we took for ten minutes cost us ten euros, five times more than that for a car.

It was quiet driving through Thessaloniki on the Sunday as all the shops were closed as were all the large supermarkets like “Lidl” and “Carrefour” along the way. The only queues we saw were at a couple of ATM’s where people were lining up to get some cash. We tried about four different ones on the way into theh city until we found one with some money. The government closed the banks the following day for a week and limited residents to 60euros a day for the following week. They then advised that they would open the banks on Wednesday only for pensioners and those that did not have ATM cards. Foreigners were not affected by the restriction at the ATMs.

The campsite of Akti Retziki was in another prime location on the beach on the south east bay of Thessaloniki and which also happened to be the closest beach to the city. We arrived on a hot Sunday afternoon and the place was overrun with cars and holiday makers. The following morning the whole place was deserted and we virtually had the campsite to ourselves bar a couple of other campers. Monday was spent at the beach and doing the washing and cooking. I made stuffed eggplants with a rice mixture.

There was no bus yet (1st July it started) from the campsite to Thessaloniki so we drove the half hour to the enormous Ikea store where we could park the van and take the bus from the bus station next door. Diesel in Greece ranged from 1.13euros to 1.27euros a litre, much cheaper than the rest of Europe. It took us another half hour to get into the centre of town where we decided against the hop on hop off bus and opted to walk for a few hours and get the feel of the city. There were again hundreds of cafe/bars and restaurants in leafy side streets and a lovely wide promenade by the harbour.

It was a coolish, cloudy day, unsusual for the time of year (nearly July). There were several Greek Orthodox churches and a fewnew large ones being built. Some of the architecture of the old appartment buildings was beautiful but there were also many derelict and vacant shops in one section near the port. There were many interesting food and specialty shops in another area and the usual Zara and H & M stores as well as the Marks and Spencers in the main street.

we stopped to share a slice of spanakopita (spinach and feta pie) at a local shop where we used sign language. There were groups of locals in most of the cafes. We had several discussions with locals in cafes and on the bus about the crisis that the Greeks were experiencing.
We didn’t find too many shop owners that spoke English and then we would come across one who when we asked if they spoke English said “Of course” so we enlightened her that “of course” was not always the case. No one that we asked in the north seemed to speak any other language either except in the campsites. We caught the bus back to Ikea and the huge storm that had been brewing broke and the thunder,lightning and torrential rain continued for half an hour taking out a lot of traffic lights on the highway which made for hestiant driving. There was a lot of water on the road so we made our way slowly back to the campsite where by the beach where it had barely rained at all.

The 1st July saw us making our way east via Kavala to Alexandropouli. It was a cool and rainy morning with a lot of mist and low cloud in the mountains and clear but dull and overcast by the sea. Driving by the sea there were a group of archeologists excavating right next to the highway and across the road from the sea.
All over Greece there were many unfinished buildings – commercial and residential amongst the established houses and flash new two storey ones. A lot of houses had solar panels on their rooves and there were many in the fields although almost no wind turbines unlike in Italy.

We listened to a bit of Greek music on our radio but we could only take the bouzoukia for so long. A lot of the songs sounded almost Arabic.
We stopped at a large Carrefour supermarket and bought some “pink lady” apples from Chile under licence to Australia. They were as good as the ones from home.
The temperature rose from 16 degrees in the morning to 29 degrees in the afternoon although the day stayed cloudy. Spain and France were getting the temperatures that Greece should have been experiencing at this time of year.
Taking our time took us about seven hours to get to Alexandroupoli and our last campsite in Greece for a while. Off to Turkey the following day.

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Greece (like Oman) has many spellings for it’s towns and islands – Aegina or Egina and Piraeus or Pireus or Pireas, Oia or Ia and on top of that all signs in the Greek alphabet. It made it difficult when looking at the Tom Tom which didn’t recognise the spelling we used. Google translate is also good but not for English to Greek as it only translates to the Greek alphabet!

We left the Peloponnese on the 13th of June for the ferry port of Piraeus, taking the van over to the island of Aegina, one of the closest islands to Athens in the Saronic Gulf of the Mediterranean for a couple of days. The slow ferry only took an hour and ten minutes. Friends of our friend Ruth in Lubeck own a hotel close to Agia Marina and they were happy for us to leave the van there while we took the ferry back to Piraeus, bus to the airport and then flew over on Aegean airlines to Santorini for a few days. The buses and ferrys were very clean and ran very smoothly and were a pleasant surprise after hearing many stories of ferries being cancelled and long delays. We experienced none of that.

Aegina is a picturesque island with pine and olive trees and is renown for it’s pistacchio nuts. We passed many groves of the trees on our way across the island to Kavos Bay. The Kavos Bay hotel was about a 20minute walk from Agia Marina on the north east coast of the island and was on it’s own at the tip of the island. It was a very relaxing spot and the rooms and restaurant overlooked the very blue water of the Mediterranean. A rocky path took us down to the clear water for a swim although it was a bit tricky getting into the water because of all the rocks. Access to the water was much easier nearer Agia Marina.

We were very pleased that we didn’t take the van to Santorini as the traffic was bumper to bumper for most of the day with quad vehicles and hire cars driven by tourists who couldn’t drive. This coupled with local traffic, delivery vehicles and the huge coaches taking tourists from one end of the island to the other and coaches taking the thousands of tourists from the cruise ships around the island made driving a nightmare.

We were lucky that we could avoid the crowds by walking around early in the morning or later in the day (it didn’t get dark until about ten o’clock) once the cruise ships had left. One day five cruise ships and between 10-15,000 tourists were on the island, making their way around the caldera with many older people staggering up and down the steep steps. Cable cars brought most people up the mountain while a few hardier ones used the steps or rode the donkeys who were led down to the base of the cliffs every morning. At least they looked well fed when we saw their keeper take them up our street (a little way off the hectic part of town)in the morning and down again at night.

Santorini was so much busier than when I first went there about thirty years ago. There were a few shops selling carved items of olive wood or glass souvenirs but most of them sold the very boring cheap and nasty ones with Santorini written all over them. A lot of the ceramic items were no longer glazed. It was however still a magical island especially at night with a wonderful atmosphere sitting overlooking the sea, the volcano and the caldera way below at a superb restaurant with wonderful food and service or having a cocktail and watching the sunset which was not until about 8.45pm. The restaurants we chose – La Maison, Salt and Pepper and Melitini were all excellent with very varied food and no Mousaka or Pastitso to be found which was fine as most restaurants we had been to in Greece in the past three weeks offered a limited range of traditional Greek food. I had cooked most of our meals in the van with fresh produce especially the blood red delicious tomatoes. We especially enjoyed the “Fava” boiled split peas pureed and eaten with chopped onions and olives.

La Maison in Imerovigli had a delicious variety of beautifully presented foods while Salt and Pepper in Fira Stefani had very fresh fish and seafood and Melitini in Oia offered innovative Greek tapas. The cocktails at Palia Kameni and the service at all of the restaurants was exceptionally good and prices were surprisingly reasonable given their position overlooking the caldera.

The Fira (Thira)side of the island was very rugged with whitewashed appartments, hotels,bars and restaurants down towards the sea. Along some of the roads we even found some gum trees. We took the bus (a very frequent and good bus serviced the island) to Oia (Ia). The other side of the island to Thira was not so rocky and more graduated down to the sea with vineyards and various crops.

The architecture of Oia although also on a series of cliffs was somewhat different and it seemed more of an upmarket residential area amongst the restaurants,hotels and appartments. We did go to Oia to see the sunset but it was not a very special one that night. We arrived at Melitini too early (about 7pm) when it was still very humid and very hot sitting in the sun for the first hour or so.

We had decided to take the 4 1/2 hours ferry back to Piraeus the next morning and then transfer onto another ferry back to Aegina. We met two English girls Mattea and Anya on the bus down to the ferry port so they came and sat with us in our VIP section of the boat which was very pleasant and it made the journey seem very quick. It rained slightly on the way back but had cleared up by the time we arrived in Pireaus. We couldn’t change our tickets for the ferry back to Aegina for an earlier one so we bought new ones at 13euros each and left within the hour. The fast ferry only took 40minutes so when we arrived we ate dinner at Droumaki on the seafront before getting a taxi back to the Kavos Bay hotel for a couple of nights.

We walked into town from the hotel the following day, had lunch overlooking the small port of Agia Marina and relaxed for the rest of day ready for our departure at 2pm the following day back to Athens. The Tom Tom took us down impossibly narrow streets again so that I had to get out and guide Van Mauriceson away from the walls in Aegina old town before we parked. We again stopped at Droumaki and had lunch and bought some fresh fruit and vegetables before heading for the ferry where there was virtually no one else on board as it was a Saturday lunchtime.

It was an easy drive through Athens to “Camping Athens” a small but very well appointed campsite. A major highway was directly outside but that was the only downside. The receptionist was very helpful and highlighted how we were to get to the centre of Athens via a bus right opposite the campsite and then a quick metro ride to the centre of the city. We landed at Syntagma square where we saw the changing of the guard in all their regalia with pom poms on their shoes which looked very cute. We were there quite early so we went into Amalia National park adjacent to the parliament building. Amalia was the German wife of the first (German) king of Greece. She developed the park and it had a mini zoo with mountain goats, rabbits,geese,ducks and many types of birds.

By the time we made our way back with half an hour to go to watch the changing of the guard there were thousands of people already lined up in the blazing sun. To beat the crowds we left once the change had taken place and walked through Syntagma square and down to the Monastiraki and the Plaka area which was also teeming with people. We walked around for about five hours with a short lunch break and then caught the metro and bus back to the campsite.

We opted the following day for the free walking tour of Athens. It was spitting with rain for a short while before the day improved to a warm one although not very sunny. Maria had studied art history and was well informed about all aspects of Greek history, culture and economics. She was a very interested and interesting guide for the 14 of us that opted for this walk. Athens was very easy to get around on foot and there was much to see and hear about in the three hours. Many of the archaeological sights are in the central part of the city and in the Plaka (the hotel and restaurant area) and in the Monastiraki which is full of gold and souvenir shops. There are many parks and the feeling was one a very leafy green centre. Athens viewed from the water is a sea of white buildings spreading up the many hills around the city. It was only supposed to be a temporary capital and therefore was planned for between 40 and 60,000 people and then the capital was going to be moved to Istanbul. This never happened and what Athens has today is a burgeoning sprawling city of about over 600,000 people and greater Athens wirh over 4 million inhabitants not taking into account maybe another million illegal immigrants.

Many of the shop owners in the Monastiraki spoke an Ozzie English as they had lived for some or many years in Australia or had relations there. Melbourne has the largest Greek community outside of Greece so that wasn’t a surprise.
Part of the tour was walking through the Syntagma metro station. There was a lot of controversy about the construction of the metro given there were many archeological ruins and remains (parts had been cemeteries) so when they built it they retained or recontructed the layers of what was there including an open stone coffin with a skeleton. There were also artifacts in glass cabinets in some of the stations as well as modern sculptures which made them an interesting part of the city.
We had a vegetarian pitta in one of the more modern establishments and after buying a kilo of cherries for 1.69euros and a nice gold ring for me and a leather wallet for Maurice made our way back with sore feet to the campsite.

There were a few newly arrived camping cars – one with a friendly dog and one with a friendly cat Junior pronounced (shunior) He was French. Again the animals were well behaved and not a sound from them until they went on their walks out of the campsite. I attempted to replicate the “Fava” (yellow split peas, boiled, pureed and eaten with chopped onions, capers and olives) that we had eaten on Aegina after getting the recipe from the waiter but it didn’t quite taste the same. I since found another recipe online that I will try. The large Aegina tomatoes and yellow capsicum stuffed with a rice mixture we enjoyed on a number of occassions. We bought many peaches and nectarines which were extremely tasty.

The Acropolis and archaeological museum were left for our last day in Athens as well as the old cemetery area of Keramicos at the confines of the old city. It was about a twenty minute hike up to the Acropolis which was covered in scaffolding with a massive reconstruction underway. In order to differentiate the original from the new, they are now using a lighter coloured material in the columns and building structures. We walked from the top of the Acropolis down through the ancient Roman Agora or market to see the Stoa of Attalos an enormous two storey structure which has been totally reconstructed. Behind that is the Monastiraki area and beyond that the Keramikos ancient cemetery. Our feet had had enough for a while so we stopped at a nice little cafe where we must have looked hot as the owner came rushing over with complimentary water for us. There are many very upmarket cafes and patisseries also in the suburbs which we discovered on our way out of town.
The Thesseion metro station was nearby so we caught it and left it at Omonia square where we walked another twenty minutes up to the National Archaeological museum which was interesting with many artifacts, statues and marble steles in various states ranging from parts of a leg to some complete and beautiful statues from the period 100 to 500BC. We saw a gathering for a demonstration against the proposals put forward by the government. I’m sure there will be many more.

Our legs and feet had really had it by then so we caught the metro and bus back to the campsite which only took half an hour.
We thoroughly enjoyed our four nights in Athens and the friendly, welcoming and helpful nature of it’s inhabitants. We found the city, trains and buses to be very clean and tidy although there was much graffiti everywhere like in other major cities.

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