Leaving Thassos

By , 12/08/2014 00:43
Φύγαμε από την Θάσο σήμερα το πρωί.

Φύγαμε από την Θάσο σήμερα το πρωί.

As the end of my ‘Grand Tour of Greece’ approaches, the journey back to Gloucestershire has started.

After breakfast we said our goodbyes at the hotel, got in the car and drove to Thassos Town / Limenas, and took the ferry back across to the mainland.

We’re now in to August and the ferry back was much busier than when we arrived – much busier than the ferry to Kavala on Saturday.

Arriving in Keramoti (Κεραμωτή), it took hours for the cars to empty off the ferry. By the time Dad had got the car off and parked up at the side of the road for us to get in, I had been to the kiosk and back, and finished topping up my Greek sim card!

Philippi / Φίλιπποι

Philippi / Φίλιπποι

From Keramoti to Thessaloniki is 192km, so it’s quite a drive. We stopped at Philippi (Φίλιπποι) on the way back for some lunch and a walk around the archaeological site. It was interesting, but we couldn’t stop for long, as we needed to get back on the road.

We arrived back in Thessaloniki not long after 17:15. The hotel we’ve got tonight is not too far from the airport – it’s the Ambassador Hotel, near Epanomi. From the hotel (up on a hill) we get some excellent views over the city. Even with the airport being between the hotel and the city, it doesn’t detract from the views. The hotel swimming po0l is great!

After a quick dip in the pool and a drink from the pool bar, I took the bus in to the city centre for some last minute shopping and a photo by the White Tower, which I did not manage to do when I was last in the city a couple of weeks ago.

In hindsight, it may have been better to go straight back to Thess/iki and then we could all have gone out in to the city for the evening (I would have liked to take them to one of the tavernas I enjoyed when I was here on my own last month). As it was, Mum, Dad and Corrie just wanted to stay in the hotel, and I went to the city on my own. In order to get the photo by the White Tower I was desparate to get, I stopped a Greek couple and used my best Greek to ask them to take my photo – just as I had to do before the rest of my family arrived.

White Tower of Thessaloniki / Ο Λευκός Πύργος Θεσσαλονίκης

White Tower of Thessaloniki / Ο Λευκός Πύργος Θεσσαλονίκης

Ξενοδοχείο Ambassador

Ξενοδοχείο Ambassador

For dinner we ate in the hotel restaurant – sitting at a table next to the swimming pool, which made it quite nice. The prices are higher than you’d get in tavernas, but the setting was lovely. Three of us enjoyed Spaghetti Bolonese while Mum enjoyed a rizotto.

And so my Grand Tour of Greece now has come to and end. Tomorrow, we drive to the Airport (5 minutes away), drop the car off at Departures at 09:15, check-in, and our flight back to the UK departs at 11:45.

I expect I shall write one more time on here once I am back in Gloucestershire – but for now… a message to everyone in it who I have met over the last 6 weeks – including the staff in all the hotels I’ve stayed in; the waiters in the tavernas, bars and restaurants; taxi drivers; Dimitris and his family in Leivadia; Antonis in Galissas; the family I met on the train to Kalambaka; to Kosta, Maria, Eleni and everyone else in Potos; and anyone who I’ve stopped in the street to ask for a photo to be taken…

Ευχαριστώ πάρα πολύ για την φιλοξενία σας εδώ στην Ελλάδα.

I’m off to bed.

Good night,


Sunset from Potos Harbour

By , 10/08/2014 08:15
The sunset from Potos Harbour / Το Ηλιοβασίλεμα από το λιμάνι Ποτού.

The sunset from Potos Harbour / Το Ηλιοβασίλεμα από το λιμάνι Ποτού.

After our day trip to Kavala last night we went in to town to watch the sunset from the harbour at the end of Potos beach. I have not watched the sunset since my first week in Greece, when I had brilliant views of the sunsets over Athens. The rest of my family, up until now, had yet to see one at all this holiday.

One observation: I am noticing the nights drawing in now. In Athens, the Sun dipped behind the mountain at precisely 21:01. At that point, I would get ready to go out to dinner. Here in Potos, a month and a half later, the Sun dips behind the mountain at 20:17. That’s nearly 45 minutes earlier.

I will get a big shock when I get back to the UK. Each year I find it is when we return home that I really notice the nights getting longer – and that’s after our normal two week holiday. This year I’m returning after 6 weeks out of the country!

In the evening we walked along to Pefkari (Πευκάρι) where we met up with Kosta from our hotel in the Pizza Top restaurant – opposite the Hotel Thassos – and shared two large pizzas together. We’ve never eaten there before – but if/when we come back to Thassos we certainly will do, as the pizzas were excellent.

It was nearly midnight by the time we left and took the 30 minute walk back in to the main village and to our hotel.

I’m off to the bakery now. Last full day on Thassos today.

Bye for now.


Day Trip to Kavala

By , 10/08/2014 01:04
Kavala - Καβάλα

Kavala – Καβάλα

It’s already after midnight here in Greece, so, on that basis…

Yesterday (Saturday), Mum, Corrie and I did a day trip to the city of Kavala / Καβάλα, on the mainland. After Thessaloniki, Kavala is the second largest city in the Makedonia region.

Although this is our fourth time on Thassos, we have never visited Kavala – and as we’ve always flown in to Kavala Airport (apart from this year), we felt we should pay the city a visit.

Ferries between Kavala and Thassos are not as regular as the ones between Keramoti and Thassos, but they are more regular at this time of year making a day trip possible. They leave from Skala Prinou / Σκάλα Πρίνου, and take approx. 1hr 15mins.

Arriving in Kavala by Sea gives you some great views of the city: of the castle and the old town up at the top, of the beaches in the city, of the new town along the sea front.

Summer Bazaar of Kavala - Καλοκαιρινό Παζάρι Καβάλας

Summer Bazaar of Kavala – Καλοκαιρινό Παζάρι Καβάλας

On leaving the passenger terminal at the port, we walked along the sea front to the Summer Bazaar – the market – which consisted mainly of clothes, shoes, socks, and other small items.

The most interesting part was the fruit and veg section, with local produce including potatoes, eggs, nectarines, peaches etc. Prices vary according to who you buy from, so shop around.

We slowly walked arount the market, before making our way back to the sea front and then wandering up to the castle up above the port, in the old town. Entry to the castle is not more than a couple of Euros per person, and there’s a café there serving a range of drinks and snacks: Ttheir milkshakes are particularly nice.

From the castle you get wonderful views over the port and over the rest of the city of Kavala – and that means plenty of photo opportunities.

Walking our way back down towards the port, we passed a tourist shop in the narrow streets of the old town from where I was able to buy some Kavala postcards. I like collecting Greek postcards when I come away to Greece, and as I’ve been all over the country this year the pile of postcards I have has grown in recent weeks. They will all be going in to a photo album when I get back to the UK.

As well as postcards we got some very nice paintings from the tourist shop; the shopkeeper paints them herself – there are paintings of Kavala, of Thessaloniki, and of other areas in Greece too: We left with quite a few, as the prices were very reasonable.

Skala Prinou - Σκάλα Πρίνου

Skala Prinou – Σκάλα Πρίνου

We took the 16:15 ferry back to Thasssos, and, hot after a day walking around the city, fell straight in to the sea. It felt a bit bizarre swimming right next to the ferry we’d been on a few minutes before. I can’t imagine doing the same at Dover, Southampton or Portsmouth!

Today (Sunday) is our last full day on Thassos. We leave to return to Thessaloniki tomorrow Monday and fly back to the UK on Tuesday. It will be strange to go back home after 6 weeks away!

It’s now after 1am. I’m off to bed.

Good night / Καληνύχτα.



By , 07/08/2014 20:47
Thymonia - Θυμωνιά

Thymonia – Θυμωνιά

The main beaches on Thassos – the likes of Aliki (Αλυκή) and Psili Ammos (Ψυλή Άμμος) are packed with people and sunbeds at this time of year.

So we gave gone “off the beaten track” a little bit in search of quieter beaches.

Thymonia (Θυμονιά), located on the South coast of the island, is one of those places. It’s only a short distance from the main road, with plenty of parking, but the lack of beach bars and tavernas makes it less attractive for families: and more attractive to us.

We stopped in Thymonia for a swim for a bit this evening. It’s a good beach – it does lose the Sun quite early though, as it dips behind the mountain shortly after 7.

Other beaches we’d like to try include Astris, and there’s one not too far from the ‘pool in the rocks’ at Giola.

Off out to dinner now though.

Bye for now.


Paradise Beach

By , 06/08/2014 08:18
Paradise Beach - Παραλία Παράδεισος

Paradise Beach – Παραλία Παράδεισος

We went to the East coast of Thassos yesterday, to Paradise Beach (Παραλία Παράδεισος). One of the most popular beaches on the island, it is reached by a dirt track going down the mountainside from the main road. We parked up at the top and walked down.

At this stage in August – now in the 2 weeks leading up to August 15 (one of the biggest religious holidays on the Greek Orthodox calendar), Thassos is at its busiest and the big beaches: Aliki, Psili Ammos, Paradise etc. are all packed with people. Paradise Beach has sunbeds all along it, and there was no space on the main beach.

Head to the far end – up to the rocks, and you can find space there: We first sat up on the  rocks themselves, then spotted a “mini beach” which we could have to ourselves, just the other side of the rocks.

Despite the storm we had the other day, which has left the water at beaches elsewhere on the island rather murky even four days after, the water at Paradise Beach was really rather clear, with not buch debris floating around. It’s shallow for quite a way out too, which is a good thing, as I don’t like not being able to stand up in the sea. I’m a strong swimmer…I just don’t like not being able to stand up or see the bottom! The sea water here is lovely and warm too. We almost forgot about the screaming crowds of people just the other side of the rocks.



In the evening we went for a pizza at the Aquarius Pizzaria/Fish Taverna, on the corner of the crossroads in Potos. Corrie had spaghetti bolognese, I had a 4-Cheese Pizza, while Mum and Dad shared a large cheese/ham/mushroom/parmezan pizza.

We’ve had pizza from there before, and it is great to sit and watch them making the pizzas. Shame we sat last night where we couldn’t see the kitchen! You can do takeaway from there, which we’ve done before: takeaway pizza from the restaurant with chips from the pool bar at the hotel. Great!

This morning, I think the plan is to go for a swim in the pool before breakfast, then enjoy a hot chocolate from the bar. It’s going to be hot and very humid today, particularly in the afternoon, so I think the plan is to find a beach somewhere and make sure we are in the water as much as possible.

I think now I should maybe go and wake everyone up.

Bye for now,


Skala Marion

By , 05/08/2014 08:56
Skala Marion

Skala Marion – Σκάλα Μαριών

It’s Tuesday today… I have been in Greece now for 5 weeks, the rest of my family for 6 nights. 1 week from now we’ll all be flying back to the UK from Thessaloniki. It’ll be strange being back in the UK after so long.

Mum drove abroad for the first time yesterday. Dad normally does all the driving in Greece! We went yesterday to the beach at Skala Marion (Σκάλα Μαριών), a small fishing village the other side of Limenaria.

Skala Marion has a nice big beach, but it is without the tourists of the other beaches on the island. It is mainly Greeks who use the beach there, and it’s therefore quieter in the afternoon during the siesta time. As Nikos at the Makedonia Hotel said the other day, the siesta in Greece is like a national religion.

The sea has been calmer the last couple of days but there’s still lots of debris floating about, left over from the storm we had on Friday night. It’s still swimable though, you just can’t see your feet when you’re standing knee-deep in the sea.

One change from last time: There are now sunbeds on Skala Marion’s beach; but it’s still much quieter than the beach at Potos; the sunbeds when we were there were half empty. As seems to be common in much of Greece now, sunbeds are free if you order a drink from the café. We took three of the sunbeds, and ordered our drinks.

For our remaining days on Thassos, we’re planning to do a day trip to Kavala one day. Kavala is the capital of the county we’re in at the moment, over on the mainland. Back on the island, there is an Olive Oil Museum which we’d like to visit… and to keep Dad and Corrie happy there will be plenty of beaches we’ll go to as well.

Not quite sure where we’ll go today, but I’m getting hungry, so I think my first stop is the village bakery. Fresh bread and maybe bougatsa (cream filled pie) for breakfast: delicious!

Bye for now,



By , 02/08/2014 07:48

We had quite a thunderstorm here in Potos-Ποτός last night. I had said during the day on the beach “looks like they’ve had some stormy weather on the mainland” – the sea conditions made it obvious. Late in the evening that stormy weather reached Thassos.

We first saw the lightning when we were standing in the harbour; it was off in the distance, over Limenaria-Λιμεναριά. By the time Dad and I got home it had started to rain, and while we were sitting out on the balcony the rain got heavier.

We got a very spectacular lightning show from the balcony, with forked lightning in all directions. We timed our return to the apartment well – Mum and Corrie were still out shopping, and got really rather wet.

We watched as the river (all dried up during the summer months and used as a car park) became a river once more. All the drivers got nervous and moved their cars – some earlier than others! It turned out to be a very sensible thing to do, as before too long the water flowing rather fast and a parked car could (probably) have been easily washed away.

At the peak of the storm – around midnight – there was so much lightning it was like having a police car with its lights on right outside the bedroom window. We had on average a flash of lightning every 3 seconds. When the forked lightning was visible from our apartment it really was very impressive, and lit up the whole sky. The thunder got very loud at times too.

It’s not the first thunderstorm I’ve had in Greece during this trip, but it’s the first one at night, with lightning, and Dad and I enjoyed sitting out to watch it on the balcony  – that made it much more fun – until Mum pointed out we were sitting on the top floor of the apartment block with metal railings and metal chairs.

It’s still overcast this morning, but according to the weather forecast the cloud is set to clear up within the next couple of hours, then it’ll be a sunny day.

By the way: Today is my 33rd day in Greece. I have 10 days left before I fly back to the UK.

This is only the start of the holiday for Mum, Dad and Corrie – but it’s the end of my holiday! 🙁

I’m off to the bakery in a bit, to get our breakfast/lunch supplies – fresh bread for breakfast, bread rolls for lunch.

Bye for now,


Update 13:51:
The storm has done quite a lot of damage!

It seems one driver didn’t manage to move his car. His car was found by the beach a few hours ago.

Several cafés have lost all their sunbeds, they were washed out to sea.

The police closed the main coastal road at one point during the night too.

Fires of August

By , 01/08/2014 09:46


The daytime yesterday was a swimming pool and beach day; the first few days of our family holidays we are usually very lazy. Naturally, I am tuned to Greek time more than they are, and I am up hours before the other Harts, and am tired in the evening when they are still wide awake.

In the evening yesterday we went along to Kalyvia (Καλύβια), a small village on the island, inland from Limenaria (Λιμενάρια), for the local Φωτιές του Αυγούστου (Fires of August) festival, organised by the local council.

It was a table for 13: We went with Kosta (the barman from our hotel) and a Greek/Russian family who live in Germany – and we were then later joined by another two couples, one from Slovakia, and one from somewhere, but I’m not sure where. I haven’t really spoken German since I left college in 2011.

My Greek is definitely better than my German, and it doesn’t help that I’ve forgotten the German verb endings, but know the Greek verb endings perfectly well. Unfortunately I don’t think «Mein Vater δεν sprechει Γερμανικά» is quite the way to communicate in two languages… It is gramatically correct to me, but you sort of need to know both languages well for this form of communication to work. Note to self: When asked a question in German, the answer is Ja, not Ναι.

The tavernas were very busy – the road was closed off and all the tables were out in the middle of the road. For the early part of the evening we sat and had our drinks at the taverna, while in the small square there was traditional music from all over Greece and traditional Thassos dancing, by local school children. Λουκουμάδες (donuts in syrup) were being given away on the street and we all had some.

Φωτιές του Αυγούστου, Καλύβια Θάσου.

Φωτιές του Αυγούστου, Καλύβια Θάσου.

Later in the evening, the hay bales in the middle of the road were lit and everyone jumped over the fires. We returned to our table, where we then had rather a lot of food – souvlaki, gyro meat, chicken, bread, tzatziki, feta cheese, beef burger etc – and we all tucked in to our evening meal – the whole thing accompanied by live bouzouki music from the taverna.

By the time we got in the taxi to head back to Potos, it was well after midnight, and Dad had maybe had one too many ouzos. Or four too many.

Today: Beach and pool again during the day I think.

Bye for now,


Back to Thassos

By , 31/07/2014 08:19

Leaving Keramoti

It is 8 years since we last managed to get here; but I am pleased to say that as I write this morning I am sitting on the balcony in exactly the same apartment we had during our first stay in this particular hotel/our second stay on Thassos. Thassos (Θάσος) is the most Northerly of all the Greek islands, and it lies just under 230km from Thessaloniki.

I met Mum, Dad and Corrie in the arrivals hall at Thessaloniki Airport, and once our car rental was sorted the journey from Thessaloniki to Thassos was really quite simple: Take the Thessaloniki Ring Road until the Egnatia Odos (Εγνατία Οδός), then follow that motorway until you get to the sign labelled KERAMOTI – THASSOS – ΚΕΡΑΜΩΤΗ – ΘΑΣΟΣ. There are 2 toll booths along the route: It’s €2,40 each time for a car.

From the motorway junction, the road goes down to Kavala Airport and on to the ferry at Keramoti – it’s about 10 miles. The crossing to Thassos takes about 45 minutes, with ferries leaving almost constantly throughout the day. It’s €3 per person and €16 for a car. They’re drive on-drive off ferries: you don’t need to reverse on as you do for some ferries. From Thassos Town it was just a case of taking the coastal road down to Potos (Ποτός); a journey which took us about 45 minutes.

It is brilliant that even after 8 years, the hotel staff still reconise us. Potos has changed slightly since the last time we were here: the number of English tourists has dropped dramatically, and in their place lots of tourists from Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Serbia. No one bring UKIP here! The result is that a lot of the tavernas/restaurants don’t have their signs in English now – they use Romanian, Bulgarian, Turkish or Serbian.

In a way, I am almost disappointed that I’m in a touristy area – everywhere else I’ve been, I’ve effectively manage to avoid tourists completely: I’ve managed to find places catering for Greeks and Greek tourists. The village seems very small (much smaller than I remember): but I think that’s just because I’ve been used to life in Athens and Thessaloniki.

I’m off to the bakery to go and get some breakfast, then I think I need a swim, as I haven’t had a swim since I was on Syros a week ago.

Bye for now,


Radio Thessaloniki

By , 30/07/2014 09:00

Yesterday was my last day on my own in Greece. As I write this morning, Mum, Dad and Corrie have already taken off from Gatwick (I’m watching the LGW departure boards online), and will arrive at the Airport on the other side of the bay in just over two hours’ time.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon learning a bit about Greek radio, with a visit to the studios of Radio Thessaloniki (Ράδιο Θεσσαλονίκη), based just outside Neo Risio (Νέο Ρύσιο), overlooking the motorway down to Halkidiki (Χαλκιδική).

I took the #8 bus from Aristotelous, changed at Α.Σ. ΙΚΕΑ, from where I was able to take the #87 Neo Risio – Souroti – Vassilika route to the studios.

In the Radio Thessaloniki studio.

In the Radio Thessaloniki studio.

On arrival I was greeted by the station’s secretary and introdued to newsreader/journalist Dimitris and technician/producer Pavlos. During the ad break at the top of the hour I was able to go in to the studio, and I sat in on the second hour of their afternoon sports show. I couldn’t understand every word, but I could work out they were talking about football, basketball and touched a little I think on handball.

The 4pm news marked the end of that programme; but I was invited to stay for longer and sit in on the show presented by Κατερίνα Χέλμη. Her show had more music content in it giving us time to talk while the mic was switched off, so I sat in on that for almost 90 minutes, and we talked a little about the differences between Greek and UK radio, and about my studies at uni in the UK. My Greek wasn’t good enough to do the whole thing in Greek, but I tried my best! It felt a bit strange having the studio setup explained to me in Greek. I’ve learned a few new words from that.

I returned to the city centre and in the evening I headed for a pizza at one of the restaurants on the sea front, not far from the White Tower.

I’m off to quickly do the White Tower Museum now, then I’m off to get my stuff and get the bus to the Airport, ready to meet my family in the Arrivals hall when they land at 11:10. Then we’re off to Thassos!

Bye for now,


Thessaloniki War Museum

By , 28/07/2014 11:26


It never takes me long to settle in to a daily routine. I am a creature of habit!

The hotel I’m staying at here in Thessaloniki is the only one I’m staying in which doesn’t provide breakfast; so for the last two mornings I’ve gone to Starbucks. There is one opposite my hotel; there is one in Aristotelous Sq. and there is one by the White Tower. I am using the one by the White Tower. Hot chocolate and a cheese/ham roll for breakfast, while I sit in an air conditioned room with a view of the sea. I am making the most of the air conditioning – my hotel room doesn’t have air con!

Here, I get free wifi (the username and password printed on my reciept, along with the door code for the loos). The wifi here is much better than the wifi in the hotel. The great thing about this country is that it is perfectly acceptable, considered normal even, to buy a drink, take 5-10 minutes to drink it, and then still be sitting down an  hour later, surfing the net. There’s no need to rush about in this country: it’s too hot for that! I can also charge my laptop here: there’s only one socket in my hotel room, and I’m using that for the fan.

I had lunch yesterday at the Goody’s restaurant too; sitting upstairs there is a brilliant sea view – and there’s free wifi there too; I just follow the instructions (all in Greek) to log in: basically, I type in my Greek mobile number, and it sends me an access code, which is valid for a year. Again, no need to rush there either.

Yesterday morning I went to the Thessaloniki War Museum (Πολεμικό Μουσείο Θεσσαλονίκης). I’d read about it on the Internet and thought it looked interesting. It took me a while to find it: it was further away than I thought, and wasn’t particularly well signed. But I found it in the end.

Interesting, it certainly was! When I walked in the entrance, the army officer running it greeted me, and we chatted in Greek for a few minutes, as he asked me how I’d heard about the museum (my response: «Διάβασα στο Ίντερνετ, στο Trip Advisor»); he asked me how I know Greek and about my studies at university, and then told me a bit about the museum, and the best route to take through the museum. The entrance fee is €3, or €1,50 for students at Greek universities.

Thessaloniki War Museum

Ελληνική Εθνική Αντίσταση (Hellenic National Resistance): 1941-1944

I learned quite a lot about the recent history of Greece; the 1821 revolution, the Balkan Wars, and about Greece’s involvement in the Α’ Παγκόσμικο Πόλεμο and the Β’ Παγκόσμικο Πόλεμο (WW1 and WW2). Some items were only labelled in Greek; I took quite a lot of photos of these labels, and was then able to consult Google after returning to my hotel room, to find out what they meant.

The museum is also home to one of the largest collections of Greek army medals on public display in Greece: medals from as recently as the 1980s, going back to the 1820s. Throughout the time I was in the museum, there was not another visitor in sight: I think I must have been the only visitor there – this surprised me, given the number of reviews on Trip Advisor saying how great it was.

I managed to pick up quite a few leaflets before I left the War Museum, giving me some ideas of other things to do in Thessaloniki. The White Tower I need to do at some point, but it’s only open for a limited time each day, and not on Mondays – so tomorrow will be my only opportunity, as I’m off to meet my family at the Airport on Wednesday.

After lunch at Goody’s, I headed back to my hotel room. I had only intended to pick up my city map and leave my leaflets in the room… but I sat down for a couple of minutes and ended up sleeping for almost 5 hours, waking up just before 8pm. Clearly, all the walking I’d done in the morning had tired me out.

That is the main difference between Athens and Thessaloniki: In Athens, the Underground was a very convenient and cheap way of travelling the city; in Thessaloniki there are only busses, and I’ve not used any of them yet, I’ve preferred exploring on foot. That said, there are roadworks all over the city: the Underground network for Thessaloniki is now under construction. The disadvantage of walking around by foot is that I haven’t got a clue which district I’m in/where I am on the map. No train announcements or stations to tell me where I am!

In the evening, after doing a Google search for places to go and eat in Thessaloniki (the bars along the sea front didn’t really appeal to me much, I wanted the more traditional tavernas), I headed for Navarinous Square (Πλατεία Ναυαρίνου), where there was a taverna which good reviews online. The Liopesi restaurant (Εστιατόριο Λιόπεσι) was the one I was heading for and I was not disappointed.

He had his menu on the wall outside – only in Greek. This prompted the waiter to ask me «Ελληνάς είσαι;» (“You are Greek?”) Another opportunity for me to explain that I learn Greek in the UK… and about my travels in Greece. It is a conversation I am having on a daily basis, but my script changes as each day passes. More and more of what I have done goes in to the past tense, and I use the future tense less and less. When talking about what I do in England, I hate that my life at university is all now entirely in the past tense: «Φοιτητής ήμουνα. Σπούδασα το ραδιόφωνο στο πανεπιστήμιο στην Αγγλία, και τελείωσα τις σπουδές μου 6 εβδομάδες πριν. Θέλω να γίνω δημοσιογράφος». If they are impressed that I can speak Greek at all, they are usually even more impressed that I know the Greek word for ‘journalist’ or ‘radio producer’.

Unlike English people, the Greeks are genuinely surprised, and pleased, to find foreigners able to speak their language, even more so to find a foreigner able to read their alphabet: It is a brilliant conversation starter, and my ability to speak in their own language often results in me being treated as a friend, rather than as ‘just another English tourist’.

Κεφτεδάκια Λιόπεσι

Κεφτεδάκια Λιόπεσι

The meal I enjoyed at the Liopesi was κεφτεδάκι (meatballs) – his signature dish… «Το σπεσιάλ μας είναι». Served with potatoes, and some onion on the side. Plus a drink (Fanta orange), a bottle of water, and some bread… cost €10,50. The meatballs really were very tasty.

Aware that I have been sitting here now for almost 2 hours, I’m off to find something to do for the day. I’m going to the ticket office to buy a 24 hour bus pass, then I’m going to see if I can  get to visit Radio Thessaloniki; I e-mailed them a few weeks back and they have said they’d love me to visit. So my challenge for today is to get the right bus to there. I think it’s in the Thermi direction.

There has also been talk of maybe meeting up with my Greek friend Rafael who lives in the city, but he’s only around for a short while as he’s off abroad soon. If that is going to happen, today is really our only chance.

Bye for now,


First Night in Thessaloniki

By , 27/07/2014 08:25

I left from Kalambaka-Καλαμπάκα yesterday at 15:15, on the bus from Kalambaka to Trikala-Τρίκαλα. At Trikala I (quite literally) hopped from one bus to another, and 5 minutes later we reversed out of the bus station and started the journey to Greece’s second city: Thessaloniki (Θεσσαλονική).

From Trikala to Thess/iki the journey took just under 3 hours; once we got to Larisa it was motorway (toll road) all the way; not the interesting views you get from the trains, but I didn’t want the hassle of waiting almost 90 minutes at a station in the middle of nowhere in order to change trains. I just wanted to get to Thessaloniki.

I slept a bit on the bus, but woke up as we got to within 50km of the city. I thought it rather amusing that from the motorway as we approached the city there were signs for ΣΚΟΠΙΑ (Skopje), ΒΟΥΛΓΑΡΙΑ (Bulgaria) and ΤΟΥΡΚΙΑ (Turkey). I saw plenty of signs for Kavala as well. This got me excited, because it is a reminder that I am not far at all from Thassos, where I will be heading on Wednesday with my family!

After checking-in at my hotel, I went for a walk in the city; I found Aristotelous Square, and the White Tower. There was an orchestra playing underneath the White Tower – Zorba the Greek played by a live orchestra sounds brilliant, as does the Pirates of the Carribean theme tune.

260720142440I returned to the hotel and changed for dinner; I have to admit, I don’t know Thessaloniki well but I found a pedestrianised street with lots of tavernas a few minutes from my hotel, and ate dinner there. The waitress gave me the Greek-only version of the menu which I was rather pleased with. Not once did they suspect that I wasn’t Greek! I chose to have chicken filet on the grill for my dinner – which was served with some fresh (and still warm) bread rolls. Cost – including a Fanta Orange and a bottle of water: €11,10.

The hotel I’m staying at here is the Hotel Kastoria/Ξενοδοχείο Καστοριά. At €20 per night, it’s the cheapest place I’m staying in during the tour (it’s €2 per night cheaper than the Neos Olymbos in Athens, and €5 per night cheaper than Zozas Rooms in Kastraki).

Although only a few Euros cheaper, the standard of accommodation is rather low. This really is just a place to leave my stuff. The other guests seem to be of the student type, and with some of the doors (the balcony doors) being a bit dodgy, I’ve decided it best to take my valuables with me when I go out during the day. Even on the packed ferries to/from Syros, I felt comfortable leaving my stuff unattended for a couple of minutes while I went to buy some food and drink! But then, the other passengers were all in the same boat. (Excuse the pun).

When I say “a bit dodgy”, I mean that the balcony doors don’t shut properly: the shutters shut only partially, and as it’s a shared balcony if someone wanted to they could put their hand through the gap between the doors and lift the latch to open them fully. The glass doors also don’t shut. There’s no air con, only a fan, only one plug (maybe I should go to the shop and buy a double plug), and the doors to the shared toilets don’t lock properly – so I’m using the public toilets by the White Tower, which are much better, even if they are a good 15 minute walk away! There’s no TV either, so I can’t watch the news in the morning.

By contrast – in Athens, some of the room doors weren’t perfect, but the other guests (families and couples) were trustworthy enough that I didn’t need to worry: and with the hotel reception desk manned 24/7 (staff challenging anyone they didn’t recognise), I was comfortable leaving my belongings in the hotel while I went out in to the city.

Still, it’s only for 4 nights: I’ve got all day Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. Then on Wednesday morning I’m aiming to get to the airport no later than 11:00, ready to meet my parents and sister when they arrive. Maybe I should stand in the arrivals hall with their names written on a piece of paper! Better not, it might confuse the car rental person, who will presumably be doing the same! After that, we’re driving to Thassos, for our first visit to the island in 8 years.

Now: There’s no breakfast at this hotel, so I think I’m going to pack my things, go in search of breakfast, then maybe try the War Museum today. How does that sound?

Bye for now,


The Meteora

By , 26/07/2014 13:44


For those who don’t know, the main attraction of Kalambaka and Kastraki is the Meteora (Μετέωρα). There are 6 monastries built on rocks on the egde of the Plain of Thessaly.

This is one of the largest and one of the most important grouping of Eastern Orthodox monastries – only Mt. Athos is more important. The Meteora is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This morning I got the bus from the hotel and went to explore the  monastries – there are great views over the region from the tops of the mountains!

Signs at the entrance to each monastry state “No Entry to: Men wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Women wearing trousers, shorts and short sleaved shirts”. In reality, as long as your knees are covered they don’t mind. Skirts are provided for the women who need them!

It really is very picturesque round here, and not surprisingly, it is very touristy. I was disappointed there were no Greeks to take my photo for me… I asked a Bulgarian tourist instead; and then I took one of him and his wife using his camera.

Pictures aren’t allowed inside the monastries, but here’s a photo of me from on the top of one of them…


Now, I need to pay the hotel bill, then, I’m taking the bus to Thessaloniki (changing at Trikala).

Bye for now,


The Traditional Village of Kastraki

By , 25/07/2014 23:10


“Welcome in the Traditional Village of Kastraki” reads the sign on the outskirts of the village.

Kastraki (Καστράκι) is a very nice village. Kalambaka is a big town, but Kastraki has, I think, more character to it and offers better views of the Meteora than Kalambaka.

My accommodation – Zozas Rooms – is on the outskirts of the village. I’ve got a double room here, TV, air con and a fridge – and a continental breakfast included. I’ve got a map and a copy of the bus timetable, so tomorrow I will go and visit the monastries.

I headed out for a little walk around the village this afternoon – there are a selection of tavernas, two bakeries, small supermarkets and a few cafes.

I walked in to Kalambaka itself too; there is a cashpoint there, and I went in to the tourist office to get the bus timetable…and then to the bus station to buy my ticket to Thessaloniki for tomorrow (cost €20). Kalambaka isn’t far, it takes about 15-20 minutes to walk to the centre from my hotel.

250720142410For dinner tonight I went to one of the ‘roof garden’ tavernas, it was very quiet there: all the tourists were in the one opposite, which had live Greek music (read as: Zorba the Greek). I enjoyed my meal of σουτζοκάκια με ρίζι (meatballs and rice) – plus of course bread and a drink… at a cost of €8,50.

Tomorrow morning, breakfast is 07:30 to 09:30: I’ll be going down at about 07:30. Then I will check out of my room and leave my luggage in the hotel, and I will get the 09:00 bus to the monastries of the Meteora.

I’m off to bed now.

Good night,


The Train to Kalambaka

By , 25/07/2014 16:07


After a five-and-a-half hour train journey from Athens, I have arrived at the Meteora (Μετέωρα).

From the railway station in Kalambaka (Καλαμπάκα) I paid €5 for a taxi to Kastraki (Καστράκι), the next village, where I have double room with wonderful views over the Meteora. I shall write more about the Meteora once I’ve had a proper chance to visit it tomorrow.

Travelling first class on the train was probably the best thing I’ve ever done. The first class carriage is divided in to compartments of no more than 6 seats, with climate control, light control, bigger seats than 2nd class, and the door to each compartment can be closed.

I was sharing the compartment with a Greek family – a couple and their daughter, roughly the same age as me – who I spoke to in Greek quite a lot… they pointed out to me all the key points of interest as the journey progressed; I talked about my tour of Greece, they told me about their friends in England: my favourite line being “Brighton is by the sea but it has lots of gay people”. Now I know the Greek word for “gay”…

Also included in my €14,70 first class ticket was a free meal: so for breakfast (I had it at around 11, with the family) I had a cheese pie, a sort of melba toast with cherry jam to spread on it, a couple of chocolate bars, and a drink.

I will be doing the monastries of the Meteora properly tomorrow morning, Zozas has given me a map and written down the times of the busses. I can have breakfast at 07:30, then get the bus at 9 to the monastries. I’ll be able to leave my luggage securely in the hotel, then collect it when I get back before I head on up to Thessaloniki.

More on Kastraki to follow later.

Bye for now,


Meal in Plaka

By , 24/07/2014 23:34


240720142376For my evening meal, I found the area of Plaka (Πλάκα) I was looking for on Monday night but missed; I went to the Gouvetsakia (Γιουβετσάκια) taverna, on one of the narrow pedestrianised streets, where I enjoyed a brilliant (you’ve guessed it) veal giouvetsi/γιοβέτσι.

The Giouvetsakia taverna is one I had walked past not long ago and thought it looked quite nice. IIt was actually one of the best meals I’ve had in Athens. the taverna is in fact one of the oldest in Plaka, going back to the 1950s. It has excellent reviews online. The ingredients are all locally sourced – the bread even comes from one of Athens’ best bakeries!

The waiter there couldn’t quite believe it when I spoke to him in Greek – he had to double check…
Σ: «Εγγλέζος είσαι;» (AreyouanEnglishman?)
Φ: «Ναι».
Σ: «Όλοι Εγγλέζος;» (AllEnglishman?)
Φ: «Ναι!»
Σ: «Και μιλάς Ελληνικά!»
Φ: «Ναι, προσπαθώ. Έχω μία δασκάλα στην Αγγλία που έμεινε στην Ελλάδα.»

Needless to say, he was more than happy to take a photo of me standing in front of his restaurant. Of all the meals I’ve had in Athens, tonight’s giouvetsi I enjoyed the most. It may have been a bit on the pricey side, but that’s what you should expect when you eat in the tourist districts in Athens, as opposed to nearer my hotel.

Tomorrow, I leave Athens for the final time: It is almost like it is the beginning of the end now, as for my final two and a half weeks in Greece I’m up in the North of Greece. I’m heading to Kalambaka tomorrow, then continuing on to Thessaloniki on Saturday, before Mum, Dad and Corrie arrive on Wednesday and we head to Thassos.

I’m off to bed.

Good night.

From Syros to Athens: Final Night in Athens

By , 24/07/2014 21:42


Arriving back in Athens following the four hour ferry journey from Syros felt a bit like arriving at Gatwick after a flight. It was that “I’m home from holiday” feeling.

My time from Syros was, if you like, a “holiday within a holiday”; it did make me feel rather Greek to jump on a ferry and go to an island for a two day visit, then jump back on the ferry and return to the mainland.

After checking out of my room this morning, I headed to Galissas Beach for a final swim; spent so long in the water my hands aged by about 50 years… but then, my hands only need 5 minutes in water before they start to go wrinkly.

Later, I popped to the office where Yannis of Galissas Studios works; that was where we stayed last year, and Mum has already suggested that we may go back independently in the future – so I called in to get his contact details so we can look at it properly.

The time then came for me to pay my bill, say goodbye to Antonis, and get the bus in to Ermoupoli.

From Ermoupoli, I took the 16:00 ferry (on the Blue Star Naxos / Μπλου Σταρ Νάξος boat) back to Piraeus – I stood at the back of the boat for about 50 minutes as we sailed along the coast of Syros, before turning and then seeing the island Syros fade away in to the distance.

The journey back was rather pleasant – as I found a spare seat on the sundeck, and sat there as we sailed past island after island… and whenever we were close enough to land to get a 3G mobile signal, I’d quickly boot up my laptop and do my e-mails. The on-board wifi was a bit too expensive for me.

Arriving back in Piraeus, we had some excellent views of the city as we approached – I could clearly see the Acropolis and Lykavittos Hill. As a sign that my Greek is definitely coming along nicely during this trip, I was able to understand every word of the stream of tannoy announcements as we docked in Piraeus, and didn’t need to listen when they were translated in to English afterwards.

On arrival in Piraeus I headed for the Metro station, got a 24 hour travel pass, and went back to my hotel in Metaxourgeio; changing trains at Omonoia, the journey took about 40 minutes.

Tonight really is my final night in Athens: and it occurred to me that after 24 days in Greece, I was back in the hotel where it all started – in the room next door to the one I had during the first week.

Arriving Back in Athens

By , 24/07/2014 20:00

For a good half hour before we docked in Piraeus, we enjoyed some excellent views over the city of Athens. The Acropolis and Lykavittos Hill were clearly visible, though the photos here don’t really do it justice




Above: The car port at the back beginning to open as we reverse in to the dock.

Below: Docked in Piraeus!


Below: The ferry I was on – Blue Star Naxos.



Leaving Syros

By , 24/07/2014 16:51

After two excellent days on Syros, the time has come for me to get on the ferry and return to Athens. It took about an hour before Syros disappeared completely from view; plenty of time for photos as the island faded in to the distance.


Above: View of Ermoupoli from the ferry.

Below: And we’re off! Next stop Piraeus.



Below: I used my very best Greek to ask someone to take a photo of me…. «Μπορείτε να κάνετε φωτογραφία μου; Να στέλνω στη Μαμά μου στην Αγγλία».



Above and Below: The Northern tip of Syros, starting to fade in to the distance.



Above: Syros continuing to fade in to the distance – look, I can see Kini (below the clouds).

Below: Almost gone…


Morning at the Beach, Afternoon in Ermoupoli

By , 23/07/2014 22:51


I made the most of today as it is the only day between now and Saturday that I am not travelling.

I’ve spent the day enjoying my (very short) stay on Syros. Breakfast was included in the room rate, and of all the breakfasts I’ve had so far in Greece, the continental breakfast provided here has by far been the best: cheese & ham toastie, a croissant with butter and cherry jam, a hard boiled egg, and a drink: which I was able to take up to my room to enjoy.

In the morning I headed for a nice swim at Galissas Beach – it’s quite quiet at 10am! I spent quite a bit of time there, floating about on the surface of the water, before I returned to my room to have some lunch.

This afternoon I got the bus in to Ermoupoli, where I wandered the streets for a bit. I went to find the t-shirt place where I got my shirt made last year, but had forgotten it closes in the afternoons. Will try and go tomorrow if I have time, if not I’ll find somewhere in Thessaloniki to make a personalised Greek t-shirt for me.

I got some postcards and some stamps – some postcards for my collection (I’ll be putting a photo album together with my postcard, photos, tickets and other things I’ve collected); and some to send to friends and family in the UK. I sat in one of Ermoupoli’s many cafés with a drink and an ice cream while I wrote the postcards.

This evening for dinner it was back to Ταβέρνα Σάββας (Taverna Savvas) – one of our favourites in Galissas from last year – where I enjoyed my μοσχαράκι (beef). Savvas was, as usual, very busy: I had to sit inside, but didn’t mind this at all.

So tomorrow, I go back to Athens. The ferry’s not until 4, so I’ve got time to do things during the morning; I’ll probably get the bus at about 2:15 to make sure I’m at the port in enough time. The 3:15 bus would probably get me in on time but I’d be at the back of a very long queue, especially if it is five or ten minutes late, as it sometimes is.

I’m off to bed now.

Good night,


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