27th June 2018 – 29th June 2018
It was with a heavy heart that we started to make our drive west back to Ingoumenitsa where our Greek odyssey first started. On the way inland we stopped a couple of days at Meteora, which had been on our list to visit in Greece. The Meteora Monasteries rise in the centre of Greece where the Pinios river emerges from the deep canyons of the Pindus range. These gigantic rocks etched by time in a variety of shapes; great stalagmites rising towards the sky. The Monasteries with their wooden galleries and corniced rooftops, crown the summits of these formidable pinnacles. They we built 600 years ago by Byzantine monks to worship God, how they were built on these virtually inaccessible rocks is amazing. We stayed in the nearest village Kalambaka and decided to cycle the next day to the Monasteries, YES I did say cycle ! Our main concern every time we do something is Chloe and leaving her in the van. Therefore we set our alarm for a 06.45am wake up. David said he couldn’t remember the last time we got up so early. We thought we would cycle to the largest and most important of the Monasteries first The Great Meteoron. In older days the ascent to the Monastery was made by joined ladders and nets of baskets. Luckily now, one goes up a flight of 115 steps albeit irregular stairs cut into the rock face. Part of the reason to go early other than our concern for Chloe was the hordes of Japanese tourists that we learnt descend on the Monasteries by the coach load. We set off with plenty of water and luckily a slightly cloudy sky, David navigating with google maps. Suddenly, we start riding on a track and I have this vision of a shut gate at the other end as in Spain. No shut gate but the track turned into a 1:10 and there was no cycling just pushing our bikes up through huge rocks. Sweat pouring off me by the time I reached the end of the track, David says ‘maybe we should stick to the roads from now on’ ! Thank God for that I thought. I was also gutted as I lost my ‘Fitbit’ on the track. Anyway, we continued our climb on the nice smooth road and reached the first Great Meteoron just before 08.30am. Not a Japanese tourist in sight. Happy days I thought, unfortunately, our happiness soon evaporated as we saw the first coach come up the road, followed by another, then another and so it went on. By the time The Great Meteoron opened at 9am, there were 5 coaches of tourists. We made our way up the steps to the Monastery changing into trousers and me covering my shoulders as per the dress code and made our way in. It is lovely inside with the many valuable works of art, fine frescoes, rare books and intricate twelve sided dome. But unfortunately there were just too many people which spoilt it for us. We visited one other of the Monasteries as David said I am only doing 2 ! But to be honest, their beauty to us was in the landscape that they sat in. By cycling, this gave us the perfect vista and for us the best of Meteora.
We then made our way to Parga, which was quite a shock for us. The holiday season was upon us and the area was busy with people on their annual holidays. It certainly made us feel how lucky we were. We caught the ferry around the bay into the town of Parga and had our first Gyros Pita and OMG it was delicious. A pitta type bread filled with shredded pork, yoghurt, healthy salad and chips ! We needed our afternoon quiet time after we had finished. It’s quite funny but in most campsites they have quiet time posters up saying no noise between 3-5pm and then after 11pm. Fine by us, always ready for a little snooze in the afternoon.
We wild camped for our last two night in Greece in a lovely spot by the sea. We just wanted to be by the sea again, so Chloe could have her last swim and for us to remember the beauty of Greece. Here I fed some stray dogs which bought tears to my eyes on how they ravished the food and I could have bought a litter of kittens back as well. We ate our last Greek meal looking out of the beautiful sea and then headed off to catch our ferry back to Bari Italy at 0.30am.
If you ever get the chance to visit mainland Greece you will not be disappointed. It is a beautiful country and unlike the Greek Islands which are geared up solely for tourists, you get the real Greece on the Mainland. It is beautiful, the Greek people are very welcoming, the sea is just the best for swimming in and we all loved it. Thank you Greece for such an amazing adventure.