Blog Off #6

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21st September 2018
We visited Rila Monastery today. If you’ve read my previous blog about it, you’ll know how beautiful the UNESCO World Heritage site is.

We’ve been to the 10th century Monastery before, but upon entering it, I had forgotten how beautiful it was.
Hand painted pictures cover the facade of the building.
Because we’ve been here before, I’ll leave the link to my previous blog about the Monastery here…
https://adventurerintrainingblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/16/rila-monastry/

22nd September 2018
We set off from Camping Bor that morning, enroute to a campsite north of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.
The trip was rather short, and there’s not much to report besides the fact Sofia didn’t look particularly inviting, and that the trip was relatively simple.

Arriving at the campsite, we set up camp beside the river Isak, a the river that flows into the Danube. Despite what the reports say on the internet, Camping Ribkata is very nice. Despite the noise from the howling dogs, overflying planes, passing trains and nearby traffic, it’s almost complete silence. No, in all seriousness, it’s a nice place and not cold like the previous campsites, which turned out to be halfway up a mountain.

We go to Sofia, the capital, tomorrow, so that should be fun and there should be more to report…

If  your planning a camping trip in Bulgaria, here are some handy links:

Camping Kromidovo-

http://campingkromidovo.com/?reqp=1&reqr=nzcdYaEvLaE5pv5jLv5brN==

Camping Bor-

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/bulgaria/hotels/camping-bor/a/lod/0402fea7-b248-4fe8-934c-f305e82d0516/358731

Camping Ribkata-

https://en.camping.info/bulgaria/bulgaria/camping-ribkata-24724

All campsites in Bulgaria-

http://www.campings-in-bulgarije.com/2Bulgarije%20Engels.html

 

the last site has been an invaluable asset. Enjoy your trip!

 

 

 

 

Wild Camping In Bulgaria…

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…Blog Off #5…

18th September 2018
Our next stop was close by to the ski resort of Bansko.

The campsite I had chosen was located close to the summit of Mount Vihren….probably about 1,900 metres high!

We set off at around ten o’clock on the main road heading to Sofia. The drive was relatively short, but the landscape and scenery were beautiful…The valleys cliffs were high, and a fast flowing river ran alongside the road.
Bearing in mind this is one of the main roads heading from Southern Bulgaria/Greece to Bulgarias capital, Sofia, the road is single lane.
We have have spotted glimpses of a large motorway system being built.

As we neared our destination, we stopped for lunch.
After seeing the menu had black pudding, I jumped at the chance of having one, but when it came out, I was slightly disappointed that the black pudding was actually a sausage….come on Bulgaria, get with the Lancashire times!

Getting back on the road we drove through the skiing town of Bansko, stopping again for supplies, and set off once again…this time, upwards.

As the road gradually climbed, we had brilliant views over the Pirin mountain range. It was as we neared the top, the road started to disintegrate, parts of the barrier were gone, and mother began her usual session of screaming about how high it is, the sheer drops, and the fact you’d never get here skiing/climbing here….all of this, coming from a former guide of Ben Nevis.

As we stopped for the final time, we pitched camp. The supposed campsite was situated by a small restaurant, in a valley between two mountains.  Bearing in mind the place is advertised on the internet, it seemed more like wild camping, because, as night drew in, there was nobody else around…

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That night, Geoff barbecued his chicken, and we dined at the wonky wooden table, that sat beside our tents.

This is the highest we’ve been in a while, and bearing in mind it’s September, were not sure how hot/cold, wet/dry it’s going to be.

19th September 2018
FREEZING….
Or, at least for mum and Geoff. I on the other hand, was adequately Warmed in my thick winter sleeping bag. I heard mutterings from them saying about how cold they were and the fact they’ll get frostbite during the night, but as dawn broke, -(the sun didn’t come out until 10 o’clock because of the high mountains)-we all awoke unfrostbitten. They want to go to Bansko Old Town later, to get themselves a blanket…frankly, I believe there just being a bit overreactive. I’m surprised Geoff was even cold, bearing in mind he’s climbed Mount Everest 43 times

We packed our things into the car, leaving the tents to dry, and we drove further up the mountain pass. From the top, there was a pretty view of the valley going down between the mountains. We had planned on walking to a nearby lake, which was supposedly just over the hill, but we decided not to, since we didn’t have the right climbing/hiking gear with us at the time.

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Back down at the tent, we quickly dismantled them, had an omelette, and set off down to Bansko old town, in search for the elusive moose skin blanket, which 43 time Mnt Everest climber Geoff so desperately needed.

The pretty alpine like town was a place you wouldn’t expect in Bulgaria. It was in fact, more of place you’d find in Switzerland or Austria, the only clues telling you it were not those countries, were the writing and the flags.

We were thinking that all hope was lost, but Upon finding a blanket, mum and Geoff ecstatically bought it and announced how excited they were to sleep in the snow, now!. Triumphantly, Geoffrey paraded around the new blanket like a weapon.

After a quick stop for lunch, we got back in the car and carried on driving. Our next stop was somewhere near the Seven Rila Lakes, in the Rila national park.

However…
Our accommodation in that area wasn’t what we were expecting, so, we turned around and headed back the way we had just come.
Our destination now was up besides Rila Monastery, a beautiful and secluded place which you can read about here. We may visit it again whilst we are here.

We eventually arrived at Camping Bor, a campsite sitting right beside a fast flowing river, upstream from the World Heritage Site of Rila Monastery. After a scramble to put the tents up before the sun set, we sat down in the tent, playing cards…

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20th September 2018
As we have now bore witness to just how badly the Bulgarians drive, it reminded me of an old blog and I’ve realised it needs updating…enjoy:

NOTES ON EUROPEAN DRIVING STYLES

TENERIFE driving styles.

First thing to remember, when on a motorway, if you want to turn off on a slip road, it’s essential to overtake the car infront first then cut across three lanes infront of the car, as close as possible and then join the slip road.
Note the lack of horn blowing at this dangerous manoeuvre, as it is common practise.
When approaching pedestrian crossings do not be too close behind a Canarian car.
IT WILL STOP!
This is the exact opposite of what you might be used to ( especially if, as we do, you live in Turkey where pedestrians are used as cannon fodder.
There are give way lines half way round roundabouts, which mean you give way half way round a roundabout and on slip roads (!!) onto the motorway: ( there is only one motorway! )
After you turn off in a slip road, there will be a pedestrian crossing, and Canarian cars WILL stop ( see notes above!)
The Tenerifians won’t build a slip road off in a straight line if they CAN put a hairpin bend into it, they will, and coach drivers in Tenerife will get a bus around these bends in one go. Quite awesome to watch.

SPANISH driving styles.

The Spanish appear to have beaten Google with the development of driverless cars, the Spanish smoke, windows are closed and no occupants can be seen inside.
Spanish cars do not come with indicators.

But they doo make a mean paella!

FRENCH driving styles.

The French have mastered the art of ” hands free ” driving. They are visible in the car as often the windows are down, so the Frenchman or women can clearly be seen smoking with one hand, whilst holding the mobile phone between ear and shoulder and gesticulating wildly with the other hand, ( and on occasion with the hand also holding the gauloise ) thus obviously steering with ones knees. This is important because two handed gesticulation is an essential part of French conversation and breeding.

ITALIAN driving styles.

The Italians crash!
Wherever you go in Italy the Italian cars will have at least 50 dents, each!
 Italian drivers do not respect traffic police, they speed past them, hoot and shake their fists, even when the police car is travelling at the maximum legal speed.

GERMAN driving styles.

German drivers follow the rules and take instruction. If, for example you we re in a building and want to go to the next floor, if you say to a German “take the stairs” they will dismantle them.
 Similarly if a German is on the road infront of you, he WILL be driving at the legal limit, no more, no less.
He WILL indicate both out and in as he overtakes or changes lanes.
He WILL wear his seatbelt at all appropriate times.
He WILL hold the steering wheel in the correct position with hands at “ten to two”.
German drivers are boring, they lack style, verve and panache – a bit like a Hungarian goulash, without chorizo in it – These drivers need a dash of the Italians ” va va voom “.

SWISS driving styles.

The Swiss drivers, like their Italian cousins, like to crash. Especially when there is no skiing or equally no tunnel building to be done. One could say it’s a relatively favourite pastime, after fondues.
The Swiss like to look sophisticated and to look at their mountains, as they drive. The government found the best way was to hide the mountains, so they built tunnels through them in order to prevent their kins folk staring at them as they drove. This was an attempt to curtail the number of crashes the locals were having whilst staring at their mountains. It didn’t work. Unfortunately the tunnels are comparatively no go areas, as they are invariably blocked by crashes.

TURKISH driving style:
Like I said previously, the Turks do not think that they should stop at a pedestrian crossing. Instead, they believe in the “Size Matters” rule. For instance-
A pedestrian gives way to everything
A cyclist gives way to everything besides pedestrians
A moped gives way to everything besides cyclists and pedestrians
A car gives way to everything besides mopeds, cyclist and pedestrians
This continues until you have either a tank, or an HGV, which dominate the roads

The Turks, like the French, have also mastered the smoking and texting whilst driving technique.

GREEK driving style:

The Greeks seem the most sensible in the area.  They are not crazy drivers like the Turkish or Bulgarians, but they do have their moments.  With a crepe clenched in one fist and a cigarette between their teeth they will wave and honk at everyone they pass and frequently stop in the middle of the road, blocking the traffic, to have a chat with Stavros or Stavroula.
BULGARIAN driving style:

The Bulgarians drive in a very similar style to their Turkish counterparts…( but don’t tell them that, or that their language sounds a bit similar, don’t tell them that either! ) similar to the Turkish, but a little more crazy!  Overtaking a car at 60 mph around a hairpin bend whilst going up a hill…is one of the many things that Bulgarian drivers excell at.

Another strange and worrying thing you see in Bulgarian villages is when the men are driving whilst making a phone call they are often giving a driving lesson to their small ( average age about 6 or 7 I’ ld say ) child who will be sitting on his fathers lap…steering the dilapidated car wearing a wide toothless smile.

They actually do obey the narrow bridge priority rule, it’s quite interesting bearing in mind they don’t follow any of the others at all.

Actually, saying that, they do follow the headlights rule too.  Apparently, all cars/trucks have to have their headlights on at all times…and if you don’t, you get fined.

UK driving style:
For those who do not come from the United Kingdom, the first thing you need to recognise is that we drive on the correct side of the road, which is the right side.-(there’s enough posters of this at Heathrow airport, since the Americans cannot understand that they drive on the wrong side)- To add on, we also use the correct speed measurement…Miles per hour, not this stupid kilometres PH, which is purely for Europeans .

You also need to understand that we the British are probably the best drivers around. We are not dull like the Germans, incapable like the Americans, flamboyant like the Italians, eccentric ( some may call crazy) like the Turks, or “hands free” like the French…no, we are a race apart, sensible, yet fast, since everyone knows that on a UK motorway, where the speedlimit is 70 miles per hour, you need to drive at least 85…

NOTE:
This list is completely unbiased.

Later that day, we walked with the dogs through the woods. We crossed a bridge too…and mum accidentally knocked Vodka the 2.5 kilo dog off the 15 foot bridge…she seems fine, but we’ll see.

 

Adventures Around Southern Bulgaria…

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…Blog Off #4…

16th September 2018
Today, we left our tents at Camping Kromidovo and drove the short distance to the nearby village of Melnik. The village is renown for its traditional architecture, classical culture, and the infamous Melnik wine…

Despite the general perception that Bulgarian wine isn’t very nice, Melnik wine is made of a special grape only found in the area around southern Bulgaria.

Upon parking in Melnik, the surrounding scenery reminded us of Cappadocia, primarily the sandstone fairy chimneys!

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As we walked along the cobbled streets, which sat between the traditional houses and gently flowing river, we browsed the shops which were stocked with the usual tacky souvenirs. One thing which I did appreciate though were the gourds, which had been painted on and decorated beautifully.

As we stopped for breakfast in the late morning sun, we continued to admire the small village.

After breakfast, we continued uphill, were we eventually came upon Kordopulos house. This magnificent building was built in a Bulgarian/Ottoman/Venetian style. It was built in 1754 specifically for wine production and was bought by the rich and reknown Greek merchant Manolis Kordopulos. The cellar in the house could hold up to 300 tons of wine, with the largest cask being able to take 12.5 tons.

Mother was very jealous of the house, which had many rooms which had lots of loveliness…cushions, blankets,curtains, flowers, carpets… walls!
The house was great though. The rooms were decorated in an Ottoman and Venetian style, which somehow blended in with Balkan style decoration. An interesting thing I learned from the rooms was that at all times the sun could enter through the many stained glass windows the room and keep it warm.

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There was a small information sheet hanging up in the main room, which I thought gave an interesting insight into the life of merchants and Kordopulos in the late 19th, early 20th century:

“High at the border between present day Melnik and erstwhile Melenikon, among fig trees and wild vines, lies the imposing citadel, home of the Kordopul. He has spent has spent fair amounts of gold for the iron gates, the hard oak staircase, the itches, the bathroom, the grand parade room, the yard and the hideout, masked behind a cupboard. Impressive with its grandeur, it’s varied bay windows, the citadel lies on top of the longest cellar, where the wine rests in giant vats-sealed and scarlet up to 25 years-until its colour turns dark cherry, like the lips of Melnik women, and as mesmerising as their gaze”

“Suddenly, bells are heard in the quiet Melnik morning. The caravans are returning! Camels, coming from Thessaloniki, carry the items that Melnik women dream to have-damasks and velvet, silk carpets, ivory trinkets, laces, henna, middle-eastern goods. The camel herders, handsome Bulgarian men, loudly command their camels, hoping to impress the women. The camels know the home of the master. His are the goods that Venice is selling him for Melnik wine, Rakiya, wool and cocoons. The kordupul has heard the bells. He knows their noise, which fills his soul with joy…and here he is-tall, elegantly dressed, with a silk jacket that tails between his feet, the tall Kordoplu looks through the fenced window onto the gate. Wearing Venetian slippers, he impatiently waits, tumbling about worry beads in his hands. As soon as the last and youngest camel herder arrives, the Melnik gaffer accepts the goods. And so every month the caravans come and go, but this rich man is smart, benevolent and generous-qualities which have helped him stand out in his time. His heart and full coin purse are open to the sufferings of the poor, both Greek and Bulgarian.”

“At the curb of the road, the smell of wormwood wine leads you to the old gate. The iron hammer, in the shape of a women’s hand, invite you to knock. Clear noise fills the silence. You enter, and don’t know where to go….take the stairs or go down to the wine-filled vats.”

“The cellar and the vats tell the story of the richest Melnik family.”

An awesome piece of writing which this is merely a sample.
We then continued for another 30 metres along a dirt track to another winery…

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This winery, named after the fact that the owner and his descendants had six fingers has been around for a similar time as the Kordopulos, but we found their wine tasted much better.

After a long day, we headed back to the campsite.
We are loving it here. The owners, Sarah and John have made it incredible eco-friendly. The campsite is close by to another winery, which makes it even better!

That evening, we sat around socialising with the owners…we are loving Bulgaria so far!
17th September 2018

Petrich is the second largest city in the vicinity of the Pirin Mountain range. It sits on both banks of the Luda Mara river, only a few miles north of the Greek Border and and a few miles east of the border with Macedonian. It is named after the successor of the Thracian city, known as Petra, Petrich is now renown for being the home of the clairvoyant Baba Vanga.

Baba Vanga was a blind herbalist, naturalist, clairvoyant and prophet. She became blind when she was six when a freak tornado lifted her up and threw her to the ground. After a long search, she was discovered. Her blindness was caused since the sand and grit swirling around from the tornado had damaged her eyes. Since her family were quite poor, they could only partially pay for surgery.

Baba Vanga is incredibly well known in not only Bulgaria, but throughout the world for her predictions. For example, she predicted 9/11, Brexit, The fall of the Soviet Union, and WW3.

She has been so popular, that the likes of Bulgarian Premiers, and even Leonid Brezhnev have paid visits to her.

We wanted to visit the house, so we could get an insight into Baba Vangas life.

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Her house, located close to the centre of the town, has been turned into a museum to remember her. It displays gifts from those who have pilgrimed to see her, and is still a site of pilgrimage and homage today.

The grey facade of her house and beautiful garden are incredible striking…a nice change from the Soviet era apartment blocks which adorn the outskirts of most towns.

Inside, we wandered about, passing from her prayer room to her small indoor garden, living room and the three bedrooms. The museum, ran by a happy Bulgarian man who enthusiastically showed us around the house.

Upon leaving, the happy Bulgarian man gifted us with a bunch of fresh grapes from Baba Vargas vine…

We then drove onto her place of birth. The small village of Rupite gives a much more traditional insight into Bulgaria.

We then visited Heraclia Sintica, a small archlogical site known as the city of Macedonian Kings. The rather unspectacular ruins were….well, unspectacular, but I believe that may be because they are still excavating it.

We then drove to the extinct volcano crater near to Baba Vagnas monastery, called St Petak. The crater is now a mineral hot spring, with water temperatures reaching 75 degrees centigrade….ouch!

We left and drove back to the campsite, looking forward to the change Of scenery tomorrow , and the mountains northwards.

Blog Off #3

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14th September 2018
Tommorow, we start our Romania/Bulgaria trip with the first leg from Porto Lagos, in Greece, to our campsite just south of Melnik, in Bulgaria.

However, before we could leave, we needed to pack all our bags ready for the trip.
Usually, when we pack for a roadtrip, it’s always infuriating since we have to condense on things from our already condensed collection of clothes, book, etc…

Thankfully, we did manage to pack the back of the truck-(with some room left over in it). Very excited now…

15th September 2018
Today has been incredibly busy. To start the day, we finished packing our bags with the last things like toothpaste, soap etc…and then mum and Geoff moved the boat to the boat-lift where she was going to be brought out of the water and lifted onto stilts.

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It’s a scary sight seeing your home being lifted out from the water and being suspended above the concrete ground, but thankfully, the boat was put down safely onto the stilts.

After a check of the underside of the yacht, we set off from Porto Lagos and joined the main road on route for the Bulgarian border via Kavala.

The reason for going via Kavala is because we ran out of dog food the night before, and Kavala seems the best place to stop onroute and find a pet shop, since it’s quite a big city. This, unfortunately always happens when we set of on a roadtrip.

I say always happens, what actually happens Is the day before we set off from a place, Geoff will go to a pet shop and by 28 million tins of dog food as well as a massive great bag of dog biscuits too. Now, your probably wondering where all of this is going to go….Did I mention that we had space in the car for once….oh.
You know what, in all seriousness this time Geoff hasn’t gone completely crazy with dog food….And we still have space in the truck, which is a bonus, and also a surprise!

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After leaving Kavala, I realised that that was probably going to be our last time seeing the sea for six months….

After just under an hour, we approached the Greek-Bulgarian border. Since Bulgaria isn’t part of the Schengen zone, it is one of the only countries in the European Union that still runs a border between its fellow EU neighbouring countries.

However, to say the borders are very heavily controlled would be a lie. All we had to do was drive up to a toll, pay the Greeks, continue driving to the next toll and drive straight through it and then you were over into Bulgaria.  The only difference that was noticeable at first was the fact the writing on shop windows was completely different, and the fact in Bulgaria, cars need a vignette-(a small sticker to put on the front window)-to drive on the road.

Bulgaria also uses a different currency….as the photo below shows, mother was very happy with the exchange from 400 Euros…

After buying a vignette,we continued onwards for another twenty minutes to that’s nights stop, Camping Kromidovo. We plan on going to the nearby town of Melnik Tommorow, so keep an eye out…

Blog Off #2

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12th September 2018
We set off from Porto Koufo at five o’clock that morning. The trip today was going to be very long…12 hours as it turned out, to the south eastern side of Thassos.

Since we left so early, the sun wasn’t up.  At night, sailing can be quite difficult since with no lights, you can’t see where you are going-(go figure!)-.   The reason for not having lights on is because it ruins your night vision. Thankfully we have a chart plotter, so ,as Geoff steered, I watched the plotter and guided him out of the bay and around the cape of Sithonia.

After rounding the end of Sithonia, the sky was lit up with the first signs of the sun, and in the distance some 20 miles, Mount Athos could be seen.

The 2,033 meter tall Mount Athos is situated at the end of the third finger of Halkidiki also called Athos. The finger is a very religious site, and for this reason, only men are allowed to visit its peninsula, which has around 20 monasteries on it.
This bizarre rule has been in force for hundred of years, meaning women, female animals and children are not allowed anywhere near.  The place is so devoutly religious, it is known as the ‘Holy Mountain’.

The Holy Mountain acts as a self-administered Greek state that comes under the Greek Foriegn Ministry and religiously to the jurisdiction of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople.

After the sun had risen, I slept, and woke again this time, right beside the 2,000 metre mountain.

The rest of the trip was rather bouncy, and when we eventually reached Thassos, Geoff and I were both shattered. It was a rather tiresome birthday, similar to my 12th birthday, when we went out in a stormy 45 knots of wind and a truck off the motorway in Kas almost landed in the marina.

13th September 2018
What we saw of Thassos, was that it seemed scorched by fire.

The small town of Alika was very quaint.

 

We set of from the bay at ten o’clock, out onto a bumpy and confused sea.

Funnily, these few days have shown us that the boat does need a service-(and a rest!).

For example, the wind gauge broke, the rev counter had a blip, the throttle feels wrong and the bottom of the boat needs cleaning…again!

There isn’t really much to write about for today’s trip, so instead I will tell you about our next trip.

As soon as we get to Porto Lagos, we will pack up our summer clothes and unpack our winter clothes, and then set of North into Bulgaria and Romania.

The roadtrip should take around 6 weeks, and in that time we will visit many interesting places such as Sofia, Cluj-Napoca, Vidin, Transylvania and also many undiscovered parts of these countries.

We are planning on leaving on the 15th of September, so I’ll have a blog up about our first day back out roadtripping!

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Upon arriving at Porto Lagos, the small village seemed quite, besides the two cargo ships loading on bird feed. After parking, we caught up with what mum had gotten up too, and spoke about the soon coming roadtrip.

I’m very excited now, so a blog should be up in the next few days…….watch this space…

Blog Off #1

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10th September 2018

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we are in the Greek city of Thessaloniki.
We’ve been here for the past three weeks but now we have to continue our adventure and leave.
Our next stop-(the place where we set off from for our Bulgaria/Romania roadtrip)- is Porto Lagos, some 100 miles east of our current position.

The plan is mum will take the dogs and drive there in our car, whilst Geoff and I sail the yacht and meet up with her there. We plan on stopping at three places, meaning the trip should take a total of four days.

Our first trip, from Thessaloniki to a Harbour on the first finger of Halkidiki, called Nea Skioni, is some 12 hours. So this morning we kicked mum off at six o’clock, and made our way-(passing a massive great American warship)-towards the exit of Thessaloniki bay and back out into the open ocean, under a glaring, rising sun.

 

The next 12 hours were spent sleeping and motoring down the coast-Not at the same time!!
However pretty Halkidiki is, it lacks wind. This does make a nice difference to the rest of Greece though, where the only thing there is wind!

We met mum that afternoon in Skioni and wandered around the town. Compared to the last time we came here, on route to Thessaloniki, the small town was fully alive with tourists. This time however, the hub was just about awake!
Nea Skioni sits on the western coast of the first finger Kassandra, and like its counterparts on the second finger, (Nea Mamaras and Sarti) it acts as the main hub for tourists, the main group of people’s whom come to this area and town are from Eastern Europe(Romania, Bulgaria,Macedonia, Albania, Moldova) and Russia.

11th September 2018
This morning, we got ready to leave Nea Skioni.
It was a shorter trip today. Nea Skioni to Porto Koufo, on the second finger of eastern neighboring Sithonia.
We refer to Koufo as Jellyfish bay, since blooms of jellyfish called Cotylorhiza Tuberculata get driven into the bay because of the current, despite the fact the C.Tuberculata is one of the only jellyfish that can move itself, meaning it technically “Swims”, they still get washed in too! Blurgh!

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This Jellyfish is known as the Fried Egg Jellyfish, and it has little effect on human health, since it’s sting is so weak.
In fact, the only bad effect the Cotylorhiza Tuberculata has on humans is that because of the sheer amount of them that live in blooms, it frightens people from swimming, effecting that places economy.

Porto Koufo sits on the bottom of Sithonia, and acts as the first stop and gateway for yachts traveling from the islands south of Halkidiki such as Skopelos, Skiathos and Kira Panagia, the latter being uninhabited.

We are leaving the Halkidiki area tomorrow, aiming for our first Greek island that we have visited in a while –  Thassos – but it’s going to be another long, arduous day since we leave at five o’clock in the morning, because the trip is a 12 hour sail.

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Exploring Thessaloniki and Halkidiki.

IMG_9326North Greece.

The past three months have been a hectic few. We’ve traveled, from Fethiye, stopping at many Greek islands, and, as I write this, we are currently in the Greek city of Thessaloniki.

The Greek city has been our home for the past three weeks, and in those three weeks we have experienced and explored the ‘Paris of Greece’.

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Our time here has also taken us in the car to the nearby and world renown Halkidiki.
The reason for coming this far north “and in Greece” is long and complicated, but we thought that if we collected our guests in Thessaloniki we could sail to the nearby Halkidiki. After much deliberation, we decided it was problematic, since journey times from Thessaloniki to the best places for bays in Halkidiki, were far.  The same went for harbours and marinas.

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We consequently thought we might be able to give our guests a city holiday, but after a wander around town, we found the city to be made up of apartments, and museums…not something you want to do for your summer break.

So, we had to come up with a plan.

As I said, we had also visited the the close-by region of Halkidiki.
The Halkidiki is made up of three peninsulas, known as ‘the three fingers’. They are the bustling Kassandra, the beachy Sithonia, and the religious Athos, namesake for having the 2,033 metre high Mount Athos at the end of the peninsular. This region is also good for sailing, but the people coming out to visit us are sailing novices, so a 12 hour trip for first timers wouldn’t be suitable.

This gave mum an idea. Why not camp….or even better, Glamp.

After a quick google search, we found Armenistis…

Before I continue, I have to explain something. When mum and I were doing some reasearch on what were the best things to do in the area, we discovered that Sithonia is a paradise for beach lovers…like us.

Not so great for my visiting Grandmother, who doesn’t like beaches.

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The wonderfully clean, white sanded beaches which sit sandwiched between the beautiful turquoise waters and the fertile green forests would be a nice change for us, since the beaches in Turkey are either made from dust and dirts, imported, or made from Argos play sand.

So, that’s the reason why we are out here, now, let me explain what we have experienced here in Halkidiki that makes it a brilliant place for anyone to visit…

When grandma arrived in Thessaloniki, we spent the afternoon relaxing for her sake, bearing in mind she hadn’t slept all night and morning due to an early scheduled flight.

The first day we went in to visit Thessaloniki city.

Parking underneath the Cultural Center we walked around the streets of tall apartment buildings and high street shops. Thessaloniki, as it turns out, isn’t the most attractive city and is in fact very crowded, with tourists fromGreece and all around the world, hot, bustling and clammy.
As I subsequently found out, after the Second World War and the Greek Civil war, the city was rapidly rebuilt by friendly Americans as part of the Marshall Plan.
This may be the reason that I imagine Thessaloniki to be similar in design to smaller American cities.

Day two, we ventured to the campsite and on route stopped at the Petralona Cave system.  The only other cave system I’ve been to was in Alanya.

The cave was discovered in 1959 when a shepherd was looking for a spring for his herd. What made the cave world reknown was the fact that the skull of an ancient hominid was found there. This man had been speared by a stalagmite and it’s finding was an incredibly important paleontological discovery, especially since it was one of a kind in Europe.

The cave is incredibly lighted, showing the hundreds of stalactites and stalagmites.
Along with the mites and tites, the small neighboring museum has bones of ancient animals that used the cave system as shelter.

Unfortunately, for would be visitors here you have to explore the cave with a guide from the reception here, and you are not allowed to take photographs when inside the system!

Over the course of the next seven days, we’d switch between lounging at the beach at the Armenistis camp site, and venturing off around Sithonia exploring the undiscovered villages. Below, find details about the villages we visited.

The village of Ouranoupli is on the top of the third finger. It was founded in 1922, when approximately 50 families, Greek refugees from Turkey, arrived under the orders of the newly founded League of Nations looking for a new home. The land was provided by the monks on Mount Athos and each family were given a one bedroom house, an arid plot of land and ten sheep.

Without a road to connect it to the rest of the world the village remained isolated and life was hard. In 1947 the locals took shovels and spades and cut a crude dirt-track road which ended the isolation and brought the very first adventurous tourists to the village.
The oldest building in the village actually dates from the 12th century. Ouranoupli tower, also known as the Tower of Prosforio, was built in the medieval times by monks on Mount Athos so they could protect the area from enemy raids

Nea Rhoda, located just north of Ouranoupli is a small village which, when we went, was half asleep. The village today is populated by the descendants of immigrants from Roda (now Narlı), and people from various other villages who were forced to leave during the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1922.

Partheneos is a wonderful and picturesque village, situated 300 meters above water level.
The village was actually abandoned in the 1970’s, but the Greek government rebuilt most of the houses and asked the former locals to move back in.
The folklore museum gives an interesting insight into the life of a Greek villager living here, starting from the 1870’s, to the modern day settler.

Nea Marmaras and its opposite coast counterpart, Sarti, are the main touristy places on Sithonia. They are the main hubs of activity for the holidaying Serbs, Bulgarians and Romanians, along with other nationalities. From both places boats trips are scheduled regularly, and the usual tourist shops can be found.

Porto Koufo is the last settlement on Sithonia. It is at the very top of the peninsular, and is a large, calm bay. Although the bay is large, the town is relatively small, mainly made up of a large hotel complex, and some tavernas.

To end the week of the glamping visit in Sithonia, we came back to Thessaloniki and the yacht and on the last day of grandmas holiday we treated her to a visit to the Thessaloniki Science Museum.

The best science museum I’ve been to was on our visit to Konya to Aksaray ⬅️Read about it here and here ➡️Konya, so it was going to to be tough competition…but in retrospect they’re probably equally as good.
The museum is located on the road to the airport, opposite the Mediterranean Cosmos shopping center. The museum is split into three areas.
One hall has a collection of classic cars, the other has an activities hall, and the last is an exhibition hall about Ancient Greek science and technology. Plus, the museum has planetariums and 3D movie theatres and stuff!

To conclude, as our three week ‘break’ in Thessaloniki and the Halkidiki area comes to an end, I must say that everything we have done here has been thoroughly enjoyable and fun.

But, the traveling for this year is by no means over!

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Tomorrow I embark upon a sailing trip East where I become second mate aboard for the very first time.

Mother and I are about to begin a ” Blog Off “. Where she will blog about her solo roadtrip East and I detail you with the sailing journey there.

When we meet at the boatyard where we will store the boat for two months, we will all head off together again aiming for Bulgaria, Romania and new adventures in new Countries……. Watch this space!

 

Leave a like on this blog if you enjoyed it, and don’t forget to share this website. So sorry to have been away for so long- and- Thanks for having me back!

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