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Published: November 9th 2015
After a few days enjoying the wonderful hospitality of Atsuko's old friends in Bulgaria doing nothing more than drinking too much home-made wine and rakia, and overeating delicious local food it was time to move on again.
First stop in Greece was Thessaloniki. Our first impression from the walk between the bus station and hotel was that the economy was in better shape than we'd expected, sure there were a lot of empty shops – like almost everywhere these days, but the streets weren't lined with homeless children, nurses turned hookers, or abandoned Porsche's.
Our only full day here turned out to be a public holiday, surely one of the strangest. October 28 is 'Οχι Day (όχι translates to no) which celebrates the refusal of the Greek government on October 28 1940 to allow Italian and German troops to occupy parts of Greece. All well and good but by April 1941 they'd surrendered and been occupied anyway. It all seemed a bit pointless, rather like celebrating not having wine with lunch then getting shitfaced on whiskey in the evening. Perhaps the stereotype is right, they just like holidays and parades.
For dinner we went to a place close
by the hotel that has something like 10 or 12 restaurants set around a small courtyard. We were a bit early but by the time we left there wasn't a single free table in any of them. From what we saw this corner of Greece isn't suffering too much economic hardship.
Meteora was the real reason for crossing northern Greece, and what a reason it turned out to be. Along our way we've seen a few natural spectacles, the geology at Meteora is definitely spectacular, but what makes it really worth coming here is what people have done. The monasteries and nunneries built in seemingly impossible places before the days of mechanisation are an awe inspiring sight, but in addition to the buildings themselves the interiors have stunning hundreds of years old frescoes painted onto walls and ceilings, collections of beautifully illustrated and hand written books and bibles dating back as far as the 11th
century, and embroideries that have such vivid colours it's hard to believe they are centuries old. Amazing. No photo's allowed of course. The last monastery we visited closes for lunch between 1pm and 3pm, a detail we'd overlooked when we arrived slap bang in
the middle at 2pm. While we sat waiting a tour bus full of Koreans arrived about 15 minutes before re-opening time. They all got off the bus, took photo's, stood around and then, just as the gates opened, got back on their bus and buggered off !!! Strange.
Our original plan had been to travel up through Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia but not wanting me to be confused for a migrant – so far I've been mistaken for Uzbek, Iranian, Turkish, and Spanish amongst others, we've decided instead to take a ferry and head to southern Italy. Next stop Brindisi.
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