2018/01/17 – Greece the birthplace of Democracy

GREECE – the birthplace of Democracy

Wednesday 17th January 2018

Ferry details: Grimaldi Lines – Brindisi, Italy to Igoumenitsa, Greece. Travel time 7.5 hours. Cost £200 approx (nearly $400 AUD).

Greece has a population of around 11 million people, the capital city being Athens and has been a member of the EU since 2001 – there are numerous Greek Islands, 227 of which are inhabited.

A new country, new language, new alphabet, new customs, new food, new driving regulations, new camping regulations, but the currency is still Euros thank heavens – when we first visited Greece in 1978 they still had Drachmas as their currency.

We loved that tour of Greece in 1978 and still talk about it regularly.

Not long after we returned to Australia the ABC ran a mini-series titled “Who Pays the Ferryman” which was based on the Greek Island of Crete. It was a great mini-series and brought back treasured memories.

The day after we saw the first episode we went out and bought the theme music (by Yannis Markopoulos, on vinyl of course). The TV series may be available on DVD and if you get a chance to watch it you will want to go out and book your tickets to Greece.

Arrived into the Port of Igoumenitsa just as it was getting light which made us happy as we do not like to travel in the dark. The only passport check was in Brindisi and that was by the ferry company to check if the ticket names matched the passports. No checks on arrival in Greece.

As soon as we entered Greece we felt much more relaxed after the frenetic pace of Italy.

Our campsite for tonight: Parking Ammoudia

It rained quite heavily along the way however the scenery was special and reminded us of some of the spectacular Fjord views in Norway.

Only travelled 40kms to here from the ferry port. A very small fishing town but the campsite is right on the beach and beyond that – the ocean. Fishing boats lined the small waterway beside the beach and were dancing about in the wind and swells. Crab pots are everywhere in the lagoon.

Our first day/night in Greece – a wild camping site on the beach front at Ammoudia

We had a beachfront uninterrupted view across to the Greek Islands and sat and watched surfers in full wet suits brave the cold for hours on end to tackle what we would call “inferior waves” back home.

Still drizzling and a very cold windy day but we took a short walk around this very small village. Lots of tavernas and hotels and accommodation to house the millions who would flock here in summer. Only one taverna that we saw was open.

We sat on the beachfront and enjoyed the view until nightfall. Around 9pm the wind became much stronger and being out in the open gave us cause for concern so packed down and headed for the protection of the village and nestled in amongst the houses for a peaceful night.

We had encountered a strange looking old man the day before – a Lieutenant Colombo look alike (a little fatter though) with his unkempt long hair and long flowing dark coat. He stood right beside Ziggy – just smiling. Rob got out and spoke with Lieutenant Colombo who turned out to be just a very lonely old man who loved to chat to everyone. He couldn’t speak English but his eyes lit up when my German speaking driver spoke to him in German and he responded in German and then I watched as between them, verbal diarrhoea took over. Apparently quite a few Greeks speak German – hopefully as we are really embarrassed as we can’t even say hello or thank you in Greek.

Thursday 18th January

Headed back to the beachfront and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while watching the surfers again. Lieutenant Colombo returned again and smiled and waved but this time did not stop to talk.

Our first choice for camp was called Parking Palaitos. Looked great in the photos. A beachfront campsite taking only 4 motorhomes. The little village looked really cosy with lots of tavernas in the Main Street. Just before we reached the street to the oceanfront, it became very narrow and with cars parked on both sides, we had no room to pass. We had to reverse back up the hill, do about a 7 point turn and then find a way back out again. Not much fun and expect this may happen over and over again in our travels. Sadly we moved on to our next chosen spot.

Campsite for tonight: Hotel- Restaurant Delphina, Mytikas

Our APP said it was closed but as we passed by it on the highway, the roadside sign said “open” so we followed the track down to the ocean.

Back of the Hotel/Restaurant looking towards the ocean and the islands. The hotel and restaurant completely close down for 5 months each year

The gates were open but once inside, there was no sign of life. All the deck chairs and umbrellas were stored in the foyer and verandas of the hotel. Everything was closed.

Nearby island

We decided to stay here in what would be a beautiful paradise setting in the summer months. Even now with no sun, the views were stunning. Had a very quiet and peaceful night here by ourselves again.

One of the many fish farms near Mytikas

Friday 19th January

Woke up to a brisk 9 degrees inside Ziggy – brrrr! and turned the gas heater on while having breakfast.  We had passed snow capped mountains in the distance so expected this.

A car drove through the gates and we suspected it might be the owner. He was a lovely young man, who, together with his parents ran the hotel in the summer months and in the off season lived with his parents on a goat farm nearby. Evidently the “closed sign” blew off in the wind and he hadn’t replaced it. He had absolutely no problems with us being there and told us about his relations in Melbourne (you guessed it they run a fish and chip shop).

Still overcast but no rain when we headed off. The road was windy and uphill all the way but what it did was hug the oceanfront which rewarded us with the most stunning scenery across to the islands.

Fish farms were everywhere in every little bay and the fishermen in their little boats, tending to them. Such a shame the sun was not shining.

Toll roads are something we will have to endure here and are unavoidable in many cases. Today we encountered our first at €7.50 for only a short distance followed by €3.15 for a couple of kms before we turned off to our campsite. The cost for motorhomes is 2.5 times the price of cars but strangely a car and caravan is only double the price – can’t see the logic here.

Our campsite for tonight: Strandparking, Kryoneri

 This village is so like the villages we experienced in our last visit to Greece and still talk about now after all these years.  A very small village with just a few houses, some farms on the outskirts and this magic restaurant/taverna right across from the beach on the Patraikos Gulf).

There are 2 wild camping sites in Kryoneri – the photo is taken from one and looks across to the village and the other site on the other side of the village

There was a light on inside so ventured in with Mr Google in hand to ask if they were open tonight. Three people only inside sitting beside a blazing fire – what more could one ask for. The owner spoke English so didn’t need Mr Google’s help and soon set a date for 7pm tonight.

This is the second wild camping site under the sheer cliffs

This free campsite is within a metre of the waters edge and after scouting around found another spot the same distance to the waters edge but perched directly under a majestic rock face and with even a better view. The ocean was like a mill pond and for the first time today, the sun came out at day’s end giving us a magnificent sunset to capture on camera.

Drove Ziggy the short 100 metres to the restaurant – Captain del Mare (www.captaindelmare.gr) with the intention of parking in front for the night. Both campsites were quite isolated and with no one else there, thought this the best option for a peaceful and worry free night.

A couple of tables were already occupied and had taken the fireplace premium seats so we had to take second best. Even had a Greek Orthodox Priest here – food must be good.

Can only rave about dinner. For under €30 in total we had a huge plate of home made hommus (warm) to share with fresh bread, grilled octopus and the best seafood risotto plus their home made sweets- like a cheese cake with a honey base pastry and Greek coffee.  Included were a couple of 500 ml bottles of Greek FIX beer – nice. Highly recommended restaurant and 5 star service with a smile.

Saturday 20th January

Sadly left here but with the knowledge this would not be the last time to experience this Greek hospitality.

The landscape was not as interesting after leaving the mountains and again it was a wet and windy (had our half hour of sunshine yesterday!).

One of the sights on the coast road – great even in the rain

More tolls today with the first being €7.50 and the second €13.30 to go over the newly built bridge from Antirro to Patras and a furthers 16 or so kms. Magic looking bridge and is really the only option when travelling down the west coast.

Ruins near Preveza

To avoid these tolls, an option would be to take the ferry directly to Patras but if you do, you would miss out on Kryoneri and the magnificent scenery (and food) to get there.

Not a lot of options for campsites along here as many are closed for the winter or are so isolated and feel unsafe if we stayed there.

Wondered why we felt a little cool last night

Our campsite for tonight:  Parking Kyllini Beach, Kyllini

Interesting campsite which is located at a Port and Marina. The coordinates take you to the middle of the Marina fronting onto the Port but the pictures show the campsite on the adjoining beach. Parked Ziggy and walked around but could not find any signs allowing motorhome parking anywhere. The beach sign said parking only between 8am and 10pm – did not want to risk a fine, so went back to the Marina and parked in the front row along with twenty or so cars where the parking was free. Many cars did not move overnight so expect it is a holding car park for visitors to the islands. So interesting sitting in the Captains chairs in Ziggy, having a drink and watching the huge car ferries come and go.

The area was alive with many tavernas and restaurants open and was well lit so had no reservations about staying here and watching the ongoing activities around the Port.

The last ferry left at 9pm so had a beautifully quiet night after that and again only heard the beating of raindrops throughout the night.