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Published: December 23rd 2017
In the middle of October we went on a road trip around mainland Greece. We hadn’t been in Athens since we were young backpackers and all of our other destinations were first time visits. We thought it might be a bit late in the year for the mountains but as it happened the weather was excellent everywhere. Never ending summers are great for tourists like us but it does bother me that autumn and spring are so hot in most places now. The weather is changing so fast, I wonder if these beautiful places will still be there in a few years.
We spent the first two days in Athens. I won’t name the place we stayed in. We are budget travelers but this was bad even by our standards. Micha was convinced that the one good review we read among about a hundred terrible ones was the trustworthy review. He was wrong. The place was empty (for some reason) and it was rather creepy. There were no amenities to speak of, but there was an antique TV, probably among the first TVs ever manufactured. The location was brilliant. There, that’s all I will say.
I loved Athens, it
was such fun. The restaurants, cafes and bars were packed with Greeks celebrating at all times of the day and night. Lots of graffiti to keep me entertained. Athens is like an open air museum. We visited the Acropolis on our first day and the Roman Agora. We walked through the Plaka and Monastiraki and a hell of a lot more besides. We left the house at 9.30 and at 5.30 we were on the top of Mount Lycabettus with views over the whole of Athens, the Acropolis, all the way to the coast. After about 5 minutes Micha wanted to leave – it takes him a few days to get into holiday mode – but I said I wasn’t moving and we stayed until the sunset.
I had my first and best spinach slice for breakfast in Athens at a place near the Acropolis museum. Athens is the bakery capital of the world. There is a bakery on every corner. It all looked tempting but I was hooked on the spinach and cheese pie and had one nearly every day. All the walking nearly made up for it, nearly. We also really enjoyed wandering around the little alleys
of Anafiotika, behind the Plaka. It is the closest thing in Athens to an island village. The workers who lived there built it to resemble their island homes.
After two days in Athens we picked up our rental car and headed off to Meteora. We stayed in a big tourist hotel right in front of the mountains. We only spent the afternoon and the night and then we hurried on to the next place – mildly annoyed about that because I wanted to stay another day but really everything was good so I didn’t mind too much. Micha has a horror of crowds. At sunset at the main viewpoints it was unbelievably crowded with tour busses disgorging hundreds of people, big herds of goats being herded by fierce dogs coming down the mountains, tourists balancing on the edge of sheer drops, people tottering around with only a small space separating them and certain death. Before the tourists arrived for the sunset, there were many brides and grooms being photographed – they too were balancing on rocks, I could hardly bare to look.
But apart from the sunset there weren’t too many tourists and it’s an amazing
place, well worth a stop of a day or two. We ate in a taverna in Kalabaka with live music and a night cap of the Greek drink Tsipouro. We carried on the next morning to Zagoria with a stop on the way at Metsovo, a very nice mountain village. We stayed two nights in Monodendri in this cozy little mountain room surrounded by forest bursting with the colors of autumn. There is a nice walk to the Agia Paraskevi monastery that has a balcony with a view of the Vikos Gorge. You go out on to the balcony through a little door at the back of one of the rooms. We didn’t find it at first and continued walking past the monastery on an overgrown goat path along the mountain, not a good idea. A couple from the hotel saw us from afar and later told us they couldn’t believe we were walking up there. We eventually realized our mistake, went back to the monastery, found the right door and the fantastic view of the Vikos Gorge.
We visited the stone forest and a bit further along that road was another nice view of the Vikos Gorge. Our
next stop was Aristi and after a walk around the little streets we went a bit further and had a nice walk through the forest along the river. After that we continued to Megalo Papingo and Mikro Papingo, stopping for lunch at a vine covered restaurant with their own organic gardens and fresh fish. Beautiful scenery, stark mountains jutting out of dense forests, stone mountain villages, old bridges, meandering pathways, lazy rivers with clear blue pools, autumn colors, fresh air – wonderful day. We enjoyed the two days we spent there and then drove down from the mountains to visit pretty Parga on the coast.
We spent two nights in Parga. As we were driving into the hotel we drove over some metal on the curb corner and got a flat tire. Somebody came to change it for us the next day but we didn’t drive while we were there. We did a lot of walking up the steep streets to the castle, down to the beach on the other side, back up to the castle, it was a real workout. We did this several times. We were there on the last weekend of the season so the restaurants
were still open. The weather was beautiful, you could see Corfu in the distance, the water is very blue and there are little coves and an island, the castle looks out over it all, very pretty.
Before going back to Athens we spent three days in Galaxidi on the Corinth Canal. This was our favorite place of the trip. We stayed right on the water, in a very cheap and very small basic room with a balcony overlooking the cafes and yachts below. We just loved this place. Galaxidi is very well cared for, one of the most photogenic places I have ever been in. The friendly people on the yachts in the marina and the nice town’s people make for a very pleasant, relaxed atmosphere. I couldn’t stop taking photos. We walked along the coast, around the harbors and through the back streets several times, in the morning, in the afternoon, the colors kept changing and I kept clicking.
We went on a day trip to Delphi, on the mountain in front of Galaxidi, on the other side of the Gulf of Corinth. I was a bit underwhelmed. We went there after visiting Arachova, a nice mountain
village and ski resort and Moni Osios Loukas, so perhaps we’d had enough for the day. Osios Loukas is an 11th
century monastery, founded by a hermit, known as “Holy Luke”. It’s a big restored Baroque complex set amongst rolling hills and olive trees, on the slopes of Mt. Helicon. The remains of Holy Luke are buried in a crypt and there is a glass coffin roped off but when I walked around the side I could see into it and I saw a shriveled, black hand. Gave me a bit of a fright, I don’t know if it was attached to anything or if it was just a hand, I didn’t hang around. I also don’t know if it was Holy Luke’s hand or from somebody else.
Feeling in need of some fresh air we walked to the small church of Agia Panagia, passing through pretty gardens with rosemary bushes blooming and white butterflies fluttering about. The hills were covered with wild yellow flowers. We stopped for a rest above the monks’ vegetable gardens and chicken coops. Micha sat on a wooden bench and I sat on a low stone wall. After about 10 minutes I had a
feeling that I was not alone, somebody else had come to warm themselves in the sun. About two meters from me was a rather big snake. We got up to have a closer look and take his photo but he didn’t care for that and slithered off into a small hole in the rocks.
After Holy Luke and the shriveled hand and the snake, we arrived in Delphi and it was nice but couldn’t possibly compete with all that excitement. Don’t miss Osios Loukas if you are in the area.
One more nice relaxing day in lovely Galaxidi and then it was time to return to Athens for another night before our flight home. This time we stayed in a very nice little hotel right in the middle of everything. There was a big restaurant and bar underneath our room. No tourists while we were there, just Greeks eating huge portions of food at cheap prices. The bar was really noisy and even though I would usually be bothered by the loud music, after a day of walking around Athens, I fell into a heavy sleep and didn’t hear anything. The next day we ate lunch at the
restaurant. I couldn’t finish mine – oven baked potatoes and chicken. I saw the Greek people had their leftovers wrapped up to take home – so I wasn’t the only one that couldn’t finish their meal. I declined the doggy bag but for some reason decided to have one last Tsipouro and as I usually have just one drink, while on holiday, somewhere near bedtime, it went straight to my head and I only drank about half of a small serving (although small is relative in Greece). I still had to pack and get myself to the airport. Left Athens with a bang.
Our taxi driver on the way to the airport drove at breakneck speed, all the while shouting at us in broken English about communists, conspiracies, Putin, Cuba, America. Have no clue what he was talking about, he kept it up for about 40 minutes non-stop. Like a machine gun, without the bullets. He was nice though, like all the Greeks we met, quite a character. Very memorable holiday, great fun and also delicious. There are so many places to visit and so much to do and see in Greece that I expect we will
be back again, and I look forward to more great holidays there in the future.
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