We head for Preveza on the coast. It’s starting to get dark and we still have not found anywhere to pull up yet. After trying a few apartments and dealing with the language barriers, we eventually find a campsite where the owner makes us a traditional Greek salad with kebab skewers, which is good.
We leave the campsite at 12 and head south towards Delphi, driving through an under-sea tunnel. Past the tunnel, we are back in the mountains again where we pass a striking hilltop castle, perched by the side of a blue lagoon. As we drive into the Greek countryside, the temperatures hit 42 degrees and the land turns arid.
We stumble across a long, pebbly beach with clear cool waters, which is virtually deserted, and can’t resist a dip. If this beach was in Croatia, it would be packed with holiday makers. We seem to have reached a non-touristy area, which makes a nice change.
Carrying on down the coast, we stop at the Hotel Beach Delphi, which is blaring out cheesy Kylie Minogue tunes (Nicole seems to like it!) but has a nice pool side bar area where we take a break and catch up on some writing!
Delphi 21st August
As we head east towards Ancient Delphi, our route takes us through a mountainous landscape with gorgeous views over the Gulf of Corinth. We take the ancient road to Delphi, driving along a single track gravelly road surrounded by olive trees, which could probably tell a few stories! Just as we are imagining the Spartans marching down this very same path to reach the ancient city, a huge eagle with a massive wingspan flies in front of the car. As we follow it, it suddenly turns left and settles in a nearby tree, then flying off into the woods-wow!
We go through Amfissa, and get stuck behind a truck calling out via loudspeaker that he has chickens to sell (live ones packed in the back of his truck!)
At Delphi, there is a wealth of accommodation options and we opt for a small one which has great views of upper Delphi. We pay 45 euros for the room, including breakfast at Sunview Pension. It is a big but simple room and nothing to write home about. A two minute stroll into town down the road for dinner, we eat at a local tavern-souvlaki-meat on skewers, greek salad and moussaka for 10 euros each.
Stay at Fedriades Hotel-pay 40 euros; the room is basic but there is free wi-fi, which is a bonus. We choose a restaurant in town but once in, we realise everyone else is drinking, not eating. We order a veggie and a meat dish. 10 minutes later my dish is ready; the bad news is they don’t have Martin’s lamb. However, the waiter insists my dish is enough for two (could they not have told us before serving us one of the dishes?) It’s all Greek to me! Martin is obviously not too happy and makes it clear we are only paying for the drinks and leaves my dish on the table. Lesson learned- don’t eat in a restaurant where no-one else is eating if there is another choice!
We find a restaurant where most people seem to have congregated and decide to try out the traditional stuffed vine leaves of mince and rice, lamb and tzatzliki-a sour cream dip.
We visit ancient Delphi, including the 4th century BC temple of Apollo where the Delphic oracle once cast her prophecies, and which was the focal point of the entire sanctuary, where an eternal flame burned. The site is quite crowed, with hordes of school kids.
Built on the slopes of Mt. Parnassos, the ancient city had majestic views over the Gulf of Corinth. There is a steep climb to the top, where we find a 4th century BC theatre. This leads onto the stadium.
With temperatures reaching around 40C, we both are in desperate need of water; thankfully we see a tap but the bad news is there are about 200 school kids also after water!!
Further down the road we visit the sanctuary of Athena, containing the tholos-circular monument; its original 20 columns made of marble.
Today we stay at Hotel Trokadero Beach, a 3 star hotel but more like a 4 in Itea. Lovely big room, with a balcony overlooking the sea and a private beach. Nicest hotel we have stayed in so far.
We walk along the waterfront to find row upon row of open-aired restaurants, which look empty. We wonder to ourselves why there are so many restaurants with no one around, but 30 minutes later they are all full! We order the flamed chicken on the hour and a strange Greek style burger, more like a calzone, stuffed with cheese, bacon and peppers, but which is very tasty!
As we sit under the stars, we order some ‘vin de Crete’ which is good! Walking back to the hotel we notice jellyfish by the shores of the harbour. As we walk along we pick up followers, two stay dogs; we cross the road, turn around, there’s nothing we can do, they just won’t leave us alone! We carry on desperately trying to pass the dogs on to someone else, but no luck. They have Nicole’s scent and won’t leave!! 10 minutes later just before reaching our hotel, the dogs finally run off into the darkness.
The bar at the hotel seems quiet, so I persuade Martin go back to the room and watch X-factor which was downloaded during the day!
Leptokarya 24th August
We decide to head north to Mount Olympus, 175 miles and 3 hours away, passing mountains with stone peaks slowly turning greener as we drive further north.
We stop off at a fast food joint-like McDonalds, but nicer with everything served on a plate (Goodys).
We eventually stop off at a camp-site in Leptokarya to do some washing and relax for the night. After finishing some work on the car, we take a stroll via the beach to find something to eat. After a 20 minute walk past quiet hotels and a long dark road, we are about to give up, but a few minutes later we are in town and find a long row of restaurants. We order chicken and pastisio-baked pasta with mince meat, mashed potato and cheese. The local wine with it is good. The portions are massive and enough for two! On the way back, we find an arcade and win a giraffe which is actually a cow (well, it has giraffe spots on it!). We come back the same way to find the gates locked, but walking down and around, find a path that leads us straight back in!
Martin wakes up early and starts working on the car. A couple of hours later, he is completely covered in oil and dirt from head to toe. We have a tidy up and then walk into town for a few drinks and play cards.
Have biftos pitta- a burger with herbs in pitta bread with feta cheese, tomato and chips –delicious and only 2 euros.
Later on, we walk down the strip and find a restaurant where we eat fried fish and chicken schnitzel-a local dish of chicken covered in breadcrumbs.
We head to a blue flagged beach, situated just beyond the camp-site. Long sandy beach with a few tipi-type umbrellas on it and not many people. I try out new mask and snorkel and swim underwater for the first time! See shoals of glittery fish and lots of jellyfish- probably why there are not too many people swimming today!
We drive out towards Mount Olympus and stop at an internet cafe, where I am charged 3.50 euros for water! (I should stick to the wine next time at these prices!)
We decide to stop for the night in a quiet car-park near the centre and head off into town for dinner. We find a restaurant but as the menu is all in Greek, we choose randomly and badly. We thought we were ordering roast lamb, however both get a mixture of sheep liver and fat (yuk!!)-the worst meal of our overland trip so far!
Mount Olympus 27th August
In the morning, we drive up Mount Olympus, home of the Gods. Our first sight is the large gorge at its entrance. We travel up to about 1500m where a pack of wild dogs cross our path, each one with a large patch of black around their eyes.
We spend the next couple of hours driving around, taking in the views.
Stopping at a local internet cafe for a rest, we listen to the Greek (mainly men) speaking enthusiastically to each other. It’s all Greek to me!!
We drive 60 miles to Thessaloniki where we stop to buy computer parts, and also treat ourselves to the cinema (we see Inception) some food and drink. We drive at night towards Halkidiki, where we find a small beach to sleep for the night.
Halkidiki 28th August
We stop at the second peninsula of Halkidiki and find a nice cove to go for a swim. However, there are lots of big jellyfish again! It doesn’t look like we are going to be able to enjoy a good swim around the coastline here! We decide to drive towards Alexandropli which takes us on some winding roads, though forests.
Pass through the towns of Kavala and Xanthi, we drive along with the sun setting behind us; there is an orange glow along the road.
Arriving late, we park up in a large car park by the docks where we decide to stay for the night. Once in town, we find a strip of modern open aired bars and outdoor cafes with crowds of people in them. Find one with internet and order some drinks. Along the strip there are numerous trucks selling big packs of nuts and other items along the side of the road.
In the morning, we start our journey to Turkey.
Martin & Nicole