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.