Location: Kefalonia, Greece
We have just come back from our third day paddling.
To recap we were met at the airport by Pavlos, the leader of the tour and taken to our accomodation. David and I caught up on a bit of sleep, then went for a walk around the village. It was pretty small but had a quite a few restaurants. Our briefing was at 5pm so we headed up to meet our group. There are 5 Australians, 1 Greek, 1 Swiss , 1 Norwegian, 2 English and 2 welsh so quite a UN. They are all really nice with a few of my vintage. We then collected life jackets, spray decks, and dry bags. All our clothes that we needed had to be packed for our kayaks.
The first day we went about 15 km with stops for swimming and lunch. After lunch the wind came up which made the paddle fairly interesting. We stopped for the night in Assos.
The second day we paddled to Fiscardo about 20 km. the conditions were worse than the day befor e with enormous waves. We were glad that we had the spray decks or we would have been swamped. By the way I am paddling a red prion like Barry's and David has a white perception essence. We made it to Fiscardo and rewarded ourselves with a large draught beer.
Fiscardo is a pretty village famous for its visits by film stars. We didn't see any not that we cared.
Today was an easy day. This morning there was a big thunderstorm and for a while it looked like we wouldn't paddle. However by 10 am it had cleared so we packed our boats for a day trip. We went about 15 km. at lunch we stopped and Pavlos gave us some instruction on deep water re entries. I videod it so I can practice at home.
It has been a great trip so far.
Location: Rhodes, Greece
We spent three really great days in Rhodes. It is a truly majestic island and city. Our hotel was in the old town just off one of the main squares. The draw card for the Restaurants in the square were a number of tame macaws which would sit on your arm then the waiters would entice you into their restaurant. Very touristy but fun. The first night we were there was really noisy because of the soccer, but the manager of the hotel moved us to the back of the hotel for to he rest of our stay.
Day 1 we wandered the old city which is surrounded by city walls. Rhodes has a long history and a number of the buildings were built as a result of the crusades, led by St John. The archiological museum is housed in the hospital built at that time. We went there and also the grand marshals palace.
Day 2 we caught a boat to Lindos at the end of the island. There is another fort there built during the crusades and also a very nice beach. We swam and lay on deck chairs for most of the day. On the way back they stopped the boat near Anthony Quins beach and David went for a swim off the boat.
Day3 we took a tour bus around the island. While the east coast has all the beaches and resorts the west coast was the nicest. After lunch we went wine tasting. The White was OK, the red pretty ordinary. The best was the coffee ouzo and David liked the souma, which is basically grappa, or raki. We bought some of the coffee ouzo and also a bottle of the pomegranate ouzo.
Our plane left at 11 pm, but the manager let us have our room for the day so we were able to have a shower before going to the airport.
The connecting flight to Kefallonia left at 5.50am so we dozed and read our books at the airport. It was a long night!°
Location: Rhodes, Greece
Everyone we spoke to about our ferry rolled their eyes and said how slow it was. They were right it was slow but absolutely fantastic. We got on about 2.00 am and were taken to our cabin. It was surprisingly roomy with twin beds and a bathroom. It didn't take long for us to go to sleep. I woke earlier than .David so went to explore the ferry. There were comfy lounge areas, places for coffee and a dining area for lunch. The trip took about 16 hours but was much better than being on a plane. I would do it again. We also realised how easy it is to island hoop using the ferries if we come back again.
We now have three days in Rhodes. Our friends Barry and Gloria recommended it and I am so pleases that they did.
The old city is beautiful, with amazing history from over 3000 years. There are also large fortifications dating back to the crusades. I will write more in the next entry. At the moment we are sitting in the garden having a nice glass of local wine!
Location: Santorini , Greece
T he wind finally died down, so we went on a boat trip around the caldera. The boat left from the old port which can only be accessed by walking down about 700 steps, riding a donkey down or catching the cable car. We caught the cable car!
First stop on the boat was the volcano. David went up to the top but I stayed in the shade down near the water. David had a long chat to the local guide about geology and Eco houses and thoroughly enjoyed himself.
The next stop was the hot springs. To get to them you jumped off the boat and swam to the warm water. It was only about 40 meters so pretty easy. The idea was to float in the hot spring after smearing mud all over yourself. The next stop was Thrissia where we had lunch. This was the worst meal we have had in Greece, both the food and the service. But I suppose there had to be one meal!
We completed our trip by crossing to Oia, then along the coast back to the old port. Dinner at one of our favourite spots completed the day.
Next day we lazed around the hotel waiting for our ferry which was to leave at 2.30am.
Santorini is somewhere I would love to come back to. Of all the islands so far it has been the most beautiful.
I have said before that the food is fantastic. Favourites so far have been the lamb chops in Ioannina, the mushrooms in Zagoria, the moussaka in Athens, the prawn saganaki in Lefkas, and the tomato balls (like fritters) in Santorini.
Location: Santorini , Greece
From Syros we travelled by ferry to Mykonos. We were sad to leave Syros as we really enjoyed the island. Mykonos was totally different to Syros. The town centre was interesting with a maze of little shops. On the second day we caught a ferry to Delos. Delos is the centre of the Cyclades Islands and was considered by the ancient Greeks as the birthplace of civilisation. Apparently it was the birthplace of Apollo and his lesser known twin, Artemis. We wandered the ruins of the ancient town before visiting the archiological museum. It was amazing to see how much has survived for over 2000years. The ferry ride back took about 30 minutes but the ferry was crowded and we had to sit inside unfortunately. On our return we wandered the streets before having lunch at a local restaurant. There is a pelican called Petros who wanders the town and he too was having lunch at our restaurant. He was the biggest pelican I have ever seen!
In the afternoon we caught a bus to one of the beaches called Super Paradise. This was totally different to the one at Syros. Two deck chairs and umbrella cost 12 euros, about $15. The piña colada I had was also expensive but worth it! The beach was really busy with loud dance music blaring. Mykonos tries really hard to have a good time!
The next day we caught a late afternoon speed ferry to Santorini . The boat was late in leaving as the weather was really windy and the sea was rough. It was a good thing that both of us are good sailors, not so for a lot of other passengers.
Santorini is beautiful. Touristy but not as desperate as Mykonos.
Yesterday we wandered the shops , ate yet more delicious Greek food and drank a bit more local wine. Late in the afternoon we went to the village of Oia to watch the sun set over the sea. Hundreds of othe people did the same and when the sun set every one applauded!
Dinner was at a local restaurant with traditional food. We fare welled our group and our tour leader and had a final very late night drink.
Today is very windy, so we are having a quiet morning in the hotel before heading out.
Location: Syros, Greece
We met our new group for the rest of our trip then went for dinner. The meals here are enormous, enough for two people most of the time.
Yesterday we left the hotel at 6 am for the ferry to Syros . The ferry took 4 hours and a couple of our group were not the best sailors. Both of us were fine!
For classic scholars Syros is mentioned in Homers Odyssey. The town was built on a hill as a protection against pirates. The island has been invaded at different times by Cretans, Ionians, Athenians, Romans, venetians and Turks. The islands is now the administrative centre for the Cyclades.
Our first impression of the island was not the most favourable, but as we walked through the town and onto the waterfront we changed our mind. The waterfront was beautiful. After lunch we caught a local bus to the beach, Kina beach where we sat and enjoyed a drink. Last night Greece was playing Costa Rica in the World Cup so we sat at one of the waterfront bars to watch the game. Sad they lost!
Today we walked up the hill to a Catholic Church overlooking the town. It took over 2 .5 hours as there were hundreds of steps up the hill through the town. This afternoon was spent lazing at the beach and swimming in the Aegean Sea.
Tomorrow we go to Mykonnos .
Location: Athens, Greece
Since our last entry we have spent 2 days in Levkas. This is an island in the Ionian Sea connected to the mainland by a cause way and a floating bridge. Our time there was very restful just what we needed after long travel days and many museum visits. We strolled around the waterfront and tried some of the local draft beer. Specialities at the restaurants seemed to be seafood, so I tried the prawns saganaki, which were delicious. Also bought a couple of dresses as it is so hot here.
We travelled from Levkas to Athens yesterday. By public bus. It took about 5 hours by the time we got to our hotel. The temperature in Athens yesterday was 44degrees and not much cooler today. We went for a bit of a walk but it was just too hot. Our hotel has a rooftop bar and garden so we went up there . The bar also has a spectacular view of the Parthenon. Our dinner was the last with our original group with many of them going on to Istanbul . After dinner we went back to the roof bar and had a couple of ouzos gazing at the lit up Parthenon.
Today David and I caught a hop on bus and travelled around Athens. We decided to visit the Parthenon before it got too hot. It is absolutely amazing. There is a lot of restoration work going on with great care to preserve as much as possible. After the Parthenon we hopped back on the bus again for a circuit of the city. It gave us a good idea of what we can visit when we come back to Athens in a couple of weeks time.
Lunch was at a local restaurant where we at last found some slow cooked lamb and potatoes. Just like Diethenes!
At 6 we meet our new travelling companions for the last week of our trip. And it's off to Syros in the morning by ferry.
Location: Ioannina, Greece
We left Macedonia yesterday after a great breakfast of home made bread, home made jam and Greek coffee. This is the same as Turkish coffee but Greek. The bus trip took us a bit over 4 hours. We arrived in Ioannina about 2 pm went to the hotel and then lunch. As we are now in Greece , David had moussaka and I had lamb chops! They were voted as the best meal on the table. After lunch we went on a walk around the city, which is on a lake. Most of the shops were closed as it was monad or they were on a siesta. Greece is a bit like Spain with long lunch breaks then late at night everyone comes out again. We had a bit of a rest in the hotel then after 8 we found a bar with the soccer. When you buy a drink they bring complimentary food. Only with alcohol. We had slow cooked lamb, meatballs and a fairly large serve of souvlaki , chips and tsatziki. We certainly didn't need any dinner.
Today we visited 3 museums. The first was the archeological museum which has just opened. It was amazing and well worth the visit. The second was the Bysantine museum . Again interesting. The last was on an island in the middle of the lake. We went there by ferry.
Tonight we meet again for dinner. I probably will have some more lamb and some local wine. New photos are on page.
Location: Bitola, Macedonia
As the weather has improved, so has the amount of walking we have been starting to do. Skopje is a beautiful with many sculptures of famous Macedonians including Alexander the Great, his father, his mother, past rulers and writers, painters and poets.There are so many statues in Macedonia that at recent set of awards they were going to give wooden statuettes instead of bronze because it was claimed that Macedonia had used up all of the bronze in Europe.
We did see the Museum of Macedonian Struggle, the Holocaust Museum and the Macedonian museum during our free day in Skopje, as well as the Turkish Bazaar and some modern shopping malls to compare. We set out about 0900 and got back to the hotel around 6 that evening. Put our feet up for an hour before going out for an interesting dinner which ended up being something of a lucky dip as the English was poor and they didn't have many things on the menu.
We left Skopje yesterday for a "3.5" hour bus trip to Bitola. Ivan, our Tour Leader, has a shocking sense of time when it comes to how long we are on a bus for. We are staying in a little village 7 km outside Bitola. The village is called Dihovo, population 200 and we are staying in a beautiful stone cottage for the night. Went on a walk to see a waterfall when we arrived and spent our time on the way back cleaning up rubbish. It's a pity the locals and other visitors don't have a greater appreciation of the environment in this National Park (Pelister). Finished the walk then had a wine tasting of home made wines. They included a wine that no one can pin point its provenance. Smells likes burnt caramel or strawberries but tastes like citric and malic acid combined. Dinner straight after and then a walk up to the hill to our villa.
Breakfast is soon and then we head off for Greece. The time is flying.
Location: Ocrhrid, Macedonia
Left Tirana yesterday and caught a private bus across the border to Macedonia. The weather was its normal self, wet, windy and hailing. We arrived in Ochrid about 1:30 pm and checked into a lovely guesthouse about 1 - 1.5 km out of town. Went to get money and then went for lunch before a tour of the town.
Ochrid produces pearls out of fish scales and is quite famous as it is the only place that does this. It is on a fresh water lake, apparently the oldest freshwater lake in Europe. It's food speciality is trout as a result. Spent the afternoon looking around the town before going for a lovely meal in the town about 2000 hrs. Watched Australia in the Soccer before we ate. This country (as are most in the region) is mad about football so it is possible to keep track of what is going on as you walk down the street by listening to the TV screens in the bars.
This morning promise a lot with the sun making a breakthrough but by the time it cam for our boat trip, it had closed in again to the point our Captain ran for shelter to ride out the storm. He made coffee for us and provide us with rakija to distract us. A good motor around the lake (Lake Ochrid) brought us back in time for lunch and then a shopping trip through the town. Waiting for dinner now and will take a public bus tomorrow for Skopje for 2 days.
This hotel has the most unbelievable shower - lights, music, massage as well as a normal shower function, the owners are very friendly as have almost everyone so far on the trip.
We left Dubrovnik or otherwise known as Kings Landing after one of the worst thunder storms that I have been in. It started at 4.30am and was right over our hotel. I have put up a photo taken by one of the newspapers that shows the lightening. We have had rain and storms ever since but it has cleared up enough to still see everything . We travelled in the rain to Kotor, which is in Montenegro. It also has an old wall city, but not as big as Dubrovnik. Our hotel was great. Very modern and comfortable. We. Had a tour of the old city followed by lunch. David and I then wandered along some of the walls before returning to the hotel. That night we went for a very nice meal where we tried a bit of the local wine. The next morning we got on the bus and travelled to Tirana. Tirana is the capital of Albania. We are now in our third country for this trip.
We walked around the city. The city itself is not very old ,mostly built in the 20th century. There is some Italian influence as some of the buildings were designed by Mussilini's architect. The Albanians have also gone all out to claim Mother Theresa who was born in Macedonia but whose mother was Albanian. They have named their airport after her and also the main university square, and a hospital.
We also saw a piece of the Berlin Wall. See the photo.
Tirana also has one of the ugliest buildings, designed by the daughter of Hoxa, the communist dictator before 1990. It was designed as his mausoleum, and is now pretty derelict. It was never used.
Very late lunch or very early dinner followed our walk. Meals here are cheap and enormous. Local specialities seem to have a lot of cheese. David and I finished the night with a couple of drinks watching the soccer.
Today we went to the old capital Kruja, and toured two museums. The history of Albania is very interesting, as they were the country that stopped the Ottoman advance in 15th century.
Coffee is better in Albania. It was truly awful in Croatia, a bit better in Montenegro.
We are now waiting to go to dinner and try another of the local dishes. I have put up some new photos.