As the last few days of frantic windup, packing for departure ended, beautiful Seda dropped by to take a few plants. Seda offered the best hope for the survival of Therese’s (Evan’s mother) autumn crocus which had been smuggled in from Australia after Therese died in 2014. The final panic of departure caused us to forget a couple of things, principally, Therese's croci which I had planned to distribute to friends and rellies across Europe so that her spirit might live on – later! Leaving mid-morning we took the recently completed Eurasia Tunnel, a great new exit point from Asia to the European side of the city. The traffic was not bad so we ignored the GPS and we found our own way easily through the mid-morning turmoil of Istanbul. Finally, we were on the road for our latest adventure! We drove contentedly through the beautiful spring country side, green and yellow fields stretching forever, surrounded as usual by the odd Turkish assortment of tip-trucks, freight semis and a few cars. In just over three hours we reached Ipsala on the Turkey/Greek border. As we arrived the customs chap welcomed me by name as we drove
up to the booth, having already read our number plate, the system had me on the screen by the time we had stopped. The rain started as we moved into Greece and so we had to forego the planned late lunch in Alexandropouli and roadside coffee break and we pressed on to our supposedly pre-booked accommodation on a rural property at Korifoudi – on Lake Kerkini. The countryside was beautiful, glimmering in late spring colours particularly once we escaped the highway and took to the back roads. And everywhere, endlessly, the breathtaking red of wild poppies. As we drove we tried to remember the booking details and more importantly the name of the hotel. We had forgotten to write the information down and were having trouble remembering whether we had received a confirmation email as we rushed out the door in Kadikoy. We lost our phone data access as we crossed the border from Turkey and doubts were rising. Oh, how dependent we have become on easy access to data! Our memories and our GPS, Peg (named after our friend Jenny's mother) helped locate the place. We arrived at a very quiet horse-riding bunkhouse/motel with only cats
to welcome us. It was late when we arrived and our calls of “Yasos” were met with silence, so we decided to move on and try our luck elsewhere. We stopped to buy a few provisions as the light began to fade - retsina, feta, sausage and cured fish. As darkness fell, we asked Peg to find a hotel nearby and she led us to the singularly uninspiring Konstantina Hotel. It looked like a million roadside hotels that you could find anywhere in the world. We all know the style - an “early Trump” plastic palace. It was not for us! Darkness and weariness, as well as a little mild panic, descended and we jokingly discussed prospects of setting up the tent and sleeping on the ground. We gave Peg one last chance and she led us to through a little Greek hillside village to the Nastou View Hotel. We tentatively knocked on the door to what again looked like a deserted hotel and were welcomed by a charmingly mild-manner lone Greek. Yorgis showed us to a room with a balcony view that looked out across an expansive valley twinkling with the lights of dozens of small villages.
After retrieving our night’s provisions (clothing and food) from the car Yorgis had second thoughts and showed us to a room on the top floor with an even more spectacular view. The room’s balcony proved the perfect place to enjoy our late evening snack of retsina, Evan’s home-made bread, feta and sausage on the balcony. In the morning we had a chance to take in the Nastou View décor, crowded with bric-a-brac, Greek folk art, original art works, hundreds of orchids, and a huge variety of indoor plants. The garden was a flowering delight and from the terrace we enjoyed our surprisingly delicious Greek breakfast as well as the birds-eye view over a magnificently fertile river valley and Lake Kerkini. We sat and chatted with our host who held an unflattering view of the Turks – historically, he said, they were Mongolians who had stolen all the beautiful women from Greece and surrounding countries greatly enhancing their own beauty! Before leaving we cunningly booked a hotel near Vranje in southern Sebia for that night.
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