the beach camping capital of Europe. What else can you do but pull up on an open
isolated Aegean beach as the sun goes down, have a few beers, dinner, a good
sleep and get up to a clear blue sky and 20C. We have done it for the last 2
nights. So what the heck - we are doing it again tonight just outside
are pulling their nets in beside the van so we had better get up. It is 8.00am
after all - don't these people have lives?
On the way
to the bin with the morning's rubbish drop, Paul nodded and chatted with the
local fishermen as one does on any beach anywhere in the world.
really believe the Americans landed on the moon or was it just an elaborate
television hoax?" one fisherman said (or just as well could have).
do enjoy fishing. At home it is one of my favourite pastimes!" Paul
casually replied. Smiles and wise nods were exchanged and all went about their business
unnecessary phobia about language seems to exist among travelers - particularly
English -speaking travellers. The simple fact is that 80% of the world speaks
some English and probably 50% of Europeans speak it well enough to achieve a
mutually beneficial outcome. Add to this a small dose of travellers' German and
a few words of the local lingo (we always learn the word for "Thank
you"), a bit of creative mime and a lot of pointing and the most
complicated exchanges become easily achievable. The answer is confidence!
in some countries is a powerful teacher of language. Last night we watched
'While You were Sleeping' in English on Greek television. In smaller markets
like Greece, Holland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, all programs are telecast
in their original language with local sub-titles, just as on SBS at home. With
this exposure from childhood and the teaching of English in most school systems,
it is relatively easy for people to acquire fairly advanced language expertise.
The obvious draw back of this process is the American accent that infects most
English. The one exception to this rule seems to be in Greece where the
infecting inflection is often Australian, due to the large number of returned
immigrants and 'six monthers' - people
with dual citizenship who follow the seasons or the work from Australia to
about the village of Kalambaka last night, just watching the locals. The town is
a major tourist centre 'in season' as the closest town to the monasteries of
Meteora.. But now the citizens of Kalambaka have their town back to themselves
for a few short months.
As we sipped
our Amstels on the footpath beside the town square, the kids were out in force.
Buzzing around the small square on their tiny mopeds, playing football on the
lawn (in the dark) and chatting in groups. It was about 7.00pm and it seemed as
though this was the usual pre-dinner 'run in the yard'. As we wandered back to
the camping grounds the kids were already moving off and leaving the square.
morning the guard had changed. The village 'oldies' were enjoying the
strong morning sun and the square was theirs.
the exception of the passing waves of Japanese bus tours, the town and the
monasteries were ours. A couple of American rock climbers and a German couple in
a caravan were our only company, seemingly in the whole town. The Americans are
on a 12 month trip moving from rock to rock. They are off to Turkey next to
climb Cappadocian rocks and were interested in our experiences. The Germans are
habitual travellers and are off to Australia and New Zealand next European
Part of the
thrill of this sort of travel is the people you meet!
are just outside Delphi - ancient home of the famed oracle - camped on the slopes of Mount Parnassos looking down on the
Gulf of Corinth. It's a talent - we just seem to pick the bestest places to wake
driving is getting to be a breeze! Having enjoyed a fine warm morning (20C+)
wandering amongst the ruins of Delfoi (local spelling) we hit the road for
side excursion to Marathon went a bit astray, but on the positive side we saw a
number of village back streets up close!
Athens is a
little smaller than Sydney with a population of about 3.5 million. After
Istanbul, driving here was a doddle. The traffic and the driving habits of the
locals don't cause us problems now. Hell - we drive like locals! One nano-second
delay at the lights elicits a polite beep. One second requires a more severe
response. The practiced use of the 'flash' and the 'engine rev' are all part of
the sophisticated system of traffic survival on big city European roads. What is
a hassle is not knowing where one is or where one is going!
these difficulties we have yet again found the needle in the haystack that is
'Camping Athens'. We stayed here 13 years ago and on driving through the gates
we recognised it immediately. What has changed however is the quality of the
facilities. Three out of the last five nights we have stayed in parks as opposed
to 'on the beach'. The facilities in all three were four star! Twelve years ago
you were lucky to have a rubbish bin. Now..... ever so nice...even given the
fact that Greek sanitary systems don't accommodate toilet paper, therefore you
use and then drop into a waste bin which is emptied.... sometime. Details,
opens a new Metro Station which is on our way into town tomorrow. What a
challenge. First day in a Greek Metro Station??
Had a quick
look at the new Metro but after an equally quick look at the map it was clear
that we could easily walk everywhere we wanted to go in the city. Today we
decided to just walk about, do a bit of shopping and not play tourist.
habits die hard however and we managed to wander past most of the city sites
with the intentional exception of the Acropolis.
the streets of so many large cities in many different countries in the past
couple of months it is becoming clear that with the obvious differences of the
main sights, big cities have fairly common characteristics. One starts to wonder
whether a big city is more characterised by its 'big cityness' than its national
character. How often have we heard people say, " Paris is not France or
Rome is not Italy or Istanbul is not Turkey or....... ?? At times Athens fells
like Sydney, London, Paris, or any number of other large cities. The traffic,
the hustle, the dirt, the pollution, the attitudes of the people seem to have
more in common with 'big cities' than with the rest of Greece. And this is
probably true of many 'big cities'.
at 'Camping Athens' early in the afternoon we have had an opportunity to clean
and wash much as we did at this same park 13 years ago.
dinner with a young couple from Salisbury (Brisbane) who are doing much the same
trip as us but in reverse. We were able to share horror stories and some good
information that should be useful to us all - a very late night!
happenings on the streets of Athens today. There was some agitation yesterday
from what we thought was the Greek communist party. Heavily armed police were on
the streets, but all we saw was a street march by some very 'dangerous' looking
pensioners protesting against social security cuts! Today however there were
riot squads on almost every corner. After we had visited the Acropolis we
checked out the markets and headed back up town. More police had taken up
position and many streets were closed. In the distance we saw and heard a large
crowd on the move. We headed for the bus stop and home.
We have been
unable to work out what happened (if anything?) from the news, but with the
exception of some aggravation amongst the crowd at the bus stop (because the bus
was 15 seconds late!) everything seemed calm.
In the last
couple of months we have become more and more grateful for the laws put in place
by most Western countries aimed at limiting pollution. In Eastern Europe
particularly, but also in Turkey and Greece, the pollution is palpable - in your
eyes throat and nose, in the van's curtains and cupboards - and, more
importantly for us, in our perception of what we see -- or can't see. It is a
- 19 November
than half the trip to go! (like a glass half full!)
are on the Blue Star 2 (Not the White Star line!) on the Adriatic between Greece
and Italy. One day people will fly like this. Camping on the deck is the 'In
thing' on the Italy - Greece voyages these days. We are in our van on the open
lower deck with a view of the sea - including the necessary sunset over the
water (can't get enough of them), electricity connection, water connection and
toilets. On top of this we have the full facilities of the ship for the 20 hour
trip, restaurant, cinema, casino, shops and disco!...
did a loop through the Peloponnesian Peninsula: Corinth for the canal
(astounding for its sheer unexpectedness), Epidaurus for the theatre and Mycenae
for the Lion's Gate: wonders of the old and new world! -
spending the night for free (almost) at a camping grounds in Mycenae. The
camping was closed, but we had full use of all the facilities for the cost of
the electricity (AUS$5).
drive today to Patras for the Ferry. Now! Many of those who know us well would
have heard our horror story of our last ferry trip from Patras to Bari... Well
we were prepared for the worst, but all that went wrong was that we drove
through a storm on the way to Patras. Yes, rain. After 9 weeks we had real rain
for an hour or so.
into an agent, prepared to be told that the next ferry was in two days.. But,
dare we say it? Luck was again with us. It was 12.30pm and the brand new Blue
Star 2 that we could see from the store window was due to leave at 1.00pm. A
quick phone call, tickets issued, off to the company office on the wharf for a
boarding pass, to customs - no checks required, watched a stowaway being
apprehended from under a truck, and on
board inside 40 mins of walking into the agent's office! Modern Greek efficiency
- a far cry from 13 years ago!
If you are
expecting anything to go badly wrong given the fact that this IS a Greek ferry;
forget it. All has gone well - so far! We have had a nice lunch at the very
flash cafeteria, watched a movie, (Philadelphia!! with the exciting prospect of
Crocodile Dundee to come!!!) lost the obligatory thousands of DRS at the casino
and are getting ready for dinner. The ship docks in Brindisi about 10.00pm and
then on to Ancona where we are scheduled to arrive at 9.00am tomorrow morning
following a long sleep in our own bed! (even if it does roll from side to side!)
How cool is that?