Litochoro, the Olympus Mount and the Meteora – 4 days – 293 metres above sea level

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Once we crossed Thessaloniki, we reached the ruins of Dion city. We enjoyed a break with an espresso-fredo and a tzatziki before to discover the ruins. The Macedonian city was dedicated to Zeus. It was located at the bottom of the Olympus Mount, the highest summit of Greece at 2918 metres. This mythical mount was hidden by the clouds that day. We were able to see only its profile during a few seconds. 

The archeological stones were a bit sprinkled on the ground. During our visit, it was hard to get a picture of this amazing period of this small city. Temples, hotel of sacrifices and both theatres have lost their beauty. However, a few metres further, we enjoyed beautiful mosaics, public baths and a small odeon. 

The Isis temple was a bit further offering a peaceful and enjoyable atmosphere. Nowadays, there is water at the bottom of its column. Each space between the blocks of marble was filled up with greenery. 

10 kilometres further, we did a stop for the evening at Litochoro. We arrived at the end of the afternoon and, after taking possession of the rent house, we walked in the steep streets. Kids were playing soccer in the courtyard of the school. In the town centre, we crossed the main square decorated with a nice fountain. Next to this square, there was the little church of Saint Nicolas with a separated bell tower. 

The next morning was dedicated to a hiking session to reach the Zeus baths, on the first heights of the sacred mountain. We reached the extremity of the city and took a path on a little kilometre going to the Enipea canyon, shaped by the river of the same name. Thus, we entered in the domain of gods, the secret garden of the Greek mythology. At the extremity of the canyon, after crossing bridges along the cliff, we reached small water ponds with a beautiful emerald green colour. It was the natural bathroom of Zeus. However, bathing was forbidden. The water flowing like waterfalls was dedicated to the inhabitants consumption. 

After this step, we were back on the road. We rode along the Penejos river crossing the surrounding mountains up to Larissa. We got around this city to continue our itinerary towards Kolambaka, the city symbolising the entry gate of the Meteora region. Finally, we found a place to rent for a few days in the little village of Agiafyllo.

After a lie-on, we walked up in this peaceful village in the mountains. 

Once our batteries recharged, we headed to the monasteries after riding a steep road on the cliffs. 

There were already many buses of tourists but it didn’t disturb the breathtaking scenery in front of us. The 6 monasteries were divided on less than 5 km2 on top of rocks, with balconies for some of them.

We visited the oldest monastery, named Megalo Meteoro. To enter, we climbed up a few stairs and we needed to wear a long skirt hiding our legs. We discovered the different rooms of the monastery and got the picture of this tough daily life that monks knew and still know for some of them. By curiosity, we opened the door of the old cellar. We saw huge cooking pots and utensils in the ancient kitchen. The chapel was beautiful with walls decorated by painting frames of saints and bible stories. Gold was used a lot: on the icons, woodworks and candle sticks. It was raining during our visit, which gave a specific atmosphere to this mystical place. The feeling was a bit unbearable, probably the same feeling that the monks had during the rainy days. 

The monastery of Saint Etienne was the second one we visited. Its specificity was to welcome nuns. It was overlooking the nice view of the Kalambaka city. 

The day ended on the summit of one of the cliffs with a drink on a terrace overlooking the Meteora, in the little village of Vlachava. For diner, we enjoyed our first Moussaka in Kalambaka. 

The following day, after a lunch to finish the leftovers, we left Marie’s family to continue our trip towards North and the Albanian border. 

First, we reached the Ioannina city where we noticed a good wild camping spot, in a park on the heights of the city. But the firemen there, due to the storm planned in the evening, dissuaded us. Finally, a few kilometre further, we found a place to camp in the O Lofos inn, in the village of Voutsaras. The owner, a nice German woman, authorised us to pitch up the tent in her garden. She prepared a nice diner on her terrace, which didn’t have any other customers at this moment. But, around 9pm, all the locals arrived to seat around the available tables. Finally, the terrace was full. Our host was juggling with cooking and serving, going back and forth from the kitchen to the terrace. 

A last festive evening, before to reach the Albanian border and start a new step of our world trip!


OUR FAVOURITE PLACES 
Where to stop for a break ?

Ice cream shop “Ephessou”
Agiou Nikolaou , Litochoro

On the main square, this handmade ice-cream maker has many surprising tastes. Taste the sesame and apricot ice cream for example.

Where to eat ? 

“Meteora” Restaurant
Trikalon 3, Kalampaka

A very good restaurant with Greek specialities. Enjoyed the fried courgettes, feta in the oven, sagagnaki and moussaka. Plus, enjoyed its terrace located in the town centre of Kalampaka.

Sozopoli and Chalkidiki – 6 days – 0 metre above sea level

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We waited 2 hours in a queue to reach the border post, sweating due to our motorbike gear. However, as we were entering European Union, the paperwork was done in only 5 minutes. 

A few kilometres further, we did our first break in the port of Makri. Already, the traditions were different. There was tzatziki on the menu and the Sirtaki music was replaced by the Oriental notes of the Turkish music. 

We spent the evening on the Imeros beach, 50 kms further. No highlights on this beach but the swim in the clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea was great at the end of this hot day. Later, we enjoyed our first Ouzo which is an aniseed alcohol, a Greek speciality. 

The following day, we woke up at 5am to drive with the fresh temperatures. We used a little path in the countryside before to take the highway to reach the Keramoti city. Our project was to reach Thassos, the touristic island reachable by ferry. But the ferry prices were very expensive. We changed our mind and preferred to discover the Kavala city. 

We parked on the heights of the city and went down, towards the port and the fortified city. We walked on a slope of 3.5 kilometres in narrow and quiet streets, with no one around. It was a Sunday, and only the end of the mass was stoping this peacefulness. 

On the port, the fishing boats were ready. The hulls were perfectly painted. On one of the boats, the crew was checking the nets. Above, there was the historic town centre. Its peninsula along the sea was perfect for a throwback. The architecture of the old city was made of coloured houses, wooden balconies and flowery courtyards. We went up to the fortress by the little paved roads under the ancient Roman aqueduct. During this quiet trip, only grandmas were stopping the peacefulness of the streets. They were chatting loudly in front of their houses, just after the mass. On one of the squares, in front of the white lighthouse symbolising the entry of the port, there was the statue of Mohamed Ali riding his loyal horse in front of his nice and old childhood house. This man was not famous for boxing but for battles that he lead in Egypt after the troops of Napoleon left. In the little streets, there were many watchtowers offering breathtaking viewpoints over the turquoise-colour of the Aegean Sea and the coast. 

We went back to our sidecars mid-afternoon and went back on the road to reach a wild camping spot located in a cove, just a few kilometres before the Olympiada city. 

The following day, we went towards the Ouranoupoli city. It was the last city before the border of the Athos Mount. Indeed, around twenty monasteries have been built on this peninsula. Around 2,000 orthodox priests live on this territory considered as independent. This area is prohibited for women ans its hard to enter for men who need to justify a pilgrimage to enter. 

Motivated to see this part of the peninsula, we walked towards the first monastery. This building was in ruins and located just before the border, kept by the local authorities. No other choice than going back, these monasteries were definitely unreachable. By a path going along the seaside, we arrived in Ouranoupoli. We passed by an old building of Pyrgos before to sat on a terrace to enjoy Spanakopita (puff pastry with spinach and feta) served with a tzatziki.  

We continued our itinerary by going up in the mountains to reach Arnea city. There were ancient houses from the beginning of the 20th century along the streets. In the respect of the traditional Macedonian architecture, the front of the houses were coloured with wide wooden balconies, perfectly refurbished. 

After a night of wild camping on a hill nearby the village, we woke up with the first rays of the sun lighting the bean fields where we pitched up the tents. After breakfast, we headed to Sozopoli, a little seaside city located 50 kilometres at the South-East of  Thessaloniki which will be our residency place for the 3 next days. 

Upon our arrival, we took place in our Airbnb where we have been welcomed warmly by three sisters, owners of this little house built around its garden. For welcoming us, they offered us an espresso fredo and a delicious slice of a marble cake. For this first day in this house, we enjoyed all the pleasures of the comfort of an house. Showering was energising after a week of wild camping, the washing machine never stopped and we did some DIY to fix shoes and trousers. 

At the end of the afternoon, we went to the Thessaloniki airport with our Ural sidecars to pick up Dominique and Daniel, Marie’s mum and brother, joining us for a week. For the end of the day, we enjoyed the garden and the terrace for a BBQ (with the noise of the washing machine in the background). 

This break in Sozopoli was also the time for recharging the batteries after the early morning of the previous days. It was great to enjoy the pleasure of the rythm of holidays with lie on and hearty breakfasts with the French specialities brought by Dominique: salted caramel spread, “andouille” (chitterlings sausages) and chestnut cream.

Once the laundry done, we left to discover the middle peninsula of the Chalkidiki region, and specifically the Armenistis cove. To reach it, the road was winding along the coast. The little beach in the cove was full of tourists from Eastern Europe. We noticed licence plates from Roumanie, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Belarus. The water was transparent. On the beach, each family was in the shadow of a beach umbrella. Without one, we enjoyed the shadow from a tree. In front of us, the Athos Mount was piercing the blue sky. After bathing, we left the peninsula to reach the historic centre. We walked in the old streets of the centre, before enjoying a break in the shadow of the terrace of the Platanos restaurant. 

At the end of the day, back to Sozopoli, we discovered the Retsina, a local white wine with notes of pine resin. It was time to enjoy a nice barbecue, but a violent storm arrived on the city. A sudden thunderbolt lit up the area which convinced us to shelter the sidecars and to finish our sausages in the living room. 

In the morning, no major damages. Just some branches from the trees and the terrace to clean up. Plus, no electricity and no water as the electric pump of the well was not able to work. The rest of the village was also impacted. The street along the sea was flooded. Temporary toilets from a building site ended sadly on the sand. 

An “end of the world” atmosphere which didn’t stop us for workout. We had a swim and did a few lengths between the buoys. I continued with a running session along the sea, up to the port of Nea Plagia. I swam again and considered it as a shower due to the missing water at home. Finally, at 10:30pm, the electricity was back. In the neighbourhood, it was like the victory of the Euro 2004, everyone was celebrating! 

The following day, after breakfast, it was time for cleaning and sorting out our belongings to leave this little house. With the sidecars, we avoided Thessaloniki and headed to the Olympus Mount to continue our trip. 


OUR FAVOURITE PLACES 
Where to eat ?  

Restaurant “Kantinara”
Kountouriotou 16, 65302 Kavala

Greek sandwiches savoured in the street, with a nice deco. Each one can take place around an old bike considered as a table.