We have been to Kassandra for 2 days, one of the 3 peninsulas that run into the sea from the mainland of Chalkidiki to the south, and now we are going to explore Sithonia, the middle peninsula, for 2 days. In the north we make a first stop in Nikiti, and it is immediately clear that this is a very popular seaside resort in Chalkidiki. There is an elongated beach on the south side of the town and we see many more tourists than we have seen so far. But on the terraces there is still enough space for us to drink a cup of coffee.
After this first break we go to the remains of the basilica of Bishop Sofronios, his name was found at least during excavations. It is one of the oldest churches found in the area, from the beginning of the 5th century. Restoration work is currently being carried out and we can not get very close. The whole is already covered to protect especially the beautiful mosaics against the weather.
Slightly south of Nikiti we see a quieter beach where workmen are busy putting fences around a part of the beach. Probably there will be created a large tourist complex here as we often encounter them. Completed compounds for the average mass tourist with a private beach. It is certainly good for employment but it totally spoils the characteristic atmosphere of Greece. Some of the beaches have already formed entire neighborhoods of campers that sometimes stand there for a long period of time, as can be seen in the distribution of household goods around them.
We walk a bit further and then arrive at a beautiful and almost empty sandy beach. But we are not there for very long when a shepherd comes along with his herd of several hundred goats. At first they limit themselves to the low grass behind the beach but soon they start to spread over the beach itself. That is the signal for us to go further, we will probably find more beaches.
Sithonia is a green island, full of pine trees but also olive and vineyards. There is a fairly good ring road that follows the coastline but there are also whole areas where no paved road runs through. Besides the tourist complexes, there are fortunately enough ancient and authentic Greek villages, along the sea or against the slopes of the mountain. And here too, the aftermath of the economic crisis is sometimes very visible in the form of unfinished houses or even entire hotels that are left as they were when the money run out.
In the picture on the right you can see such a tourist complex in the distance, somewhere near Neos Marmaras on the west coast of the island. It is Porto Carras, a large and luxurious resort that was announced on signs a dozen kilometers earlier. As a non-guest you do not just enter the grounds, everything is fenced off with barbed wire and there is even security walking around. Nothing at all for us, but it is a shame that this way a piece of Greece has become unreachable for the traveling tourist.
But on Sithonia you can find a lot of small beaches in inlets and creeks where almost no tourist comes, you just have to search for it. We drive further south to the village of Toroni along the west coast and we see quite a lot of them. Then we head back, because we still have to drive quite a bit. And on the way back, near the tavern Der Pirat (fixed by a German), we go for an hour to one of those beaches that we have seen before. Here we dive into the water for a second time today. There are a few coves next to each other and we feel like having a private beach. Only when you go far enough into the water, you see that people are lying on the other beaches as well.
Wednesday 01 June 2016, more of Sitohnia
The next day we drive to Sithonia, first the same road until Toroni and then we arrive at Porto Koufos where we see a helicopter. It turns out to be a memorial for a helicopter crash that took place in the neighborhood where, next to 16 other people, the Egyptian patriarch of the Orthodox church was killed. They were on their way to Athos, the third peninsula of Chalkidiki and a semi-autonomous state within Greece. It is an area full of monasteries where only men are allowed since 1046 AD.
When we arrive at the eastern side of Sithonia we can clearly see Mount Athos dominating the peninsula that is named after the mountain. The strange thing is that the statement of a woman would have ensured that no women should come: Mary, the mother of Jesus would have washed up here after a storm and said that this was her garden from then on and that no other women could ever put a foot in it. More likely, however, is the explanation that men are rather distracted by women and can not cope with them so well. And what do you then do as a 'pious' man: blame the women and forbid them anything and everything. Or even let them wear covering clothes.What is the problem of all those religions with women? The western world has been ruled by men in the past 2000 (and perhaps much longer) and the church has been for a great part responsible for the way women are judged in all those centuries. For that reason alone I have no desire to go to Athos, a kind of one-man boycott against the really weak sex, namely men, who do not admit their own weaknesses but like to blame others. A religion that shows a lot of respect for Maria but cannot see women as equals for man does not have my respect.
Along the east coast we drive all the way north again and stop in Vourvouri for some food. We have encountered a few beautiful beaches and of course have also spent a while on one of them and swam in the sea. But we have not seen everything yet, so we have to come back here. It is a beautiful peninsula with a lot of untouched nature. We did not know this side of Greece yet and we are glad that this time we have chosen this part to discover. And next week we will go even further to the east.It is almost dark when we are back in our own village and we go to a beach tent along the sea where an Austrian with her Greek husband is running the business and before we know we are talking German instead of English. After that we have a cup of coffee in our own hotel with the owners and we are happy when we can finally relax on our own balcony. It has been another beautiful day.