We have been in Greece for almost a week, time has been flying fast? We did not do much, mostly short trips to the beach, have good food and drinks on terraces and restaurants, a real relaxed holiday. Even I, who always want to plan the days full with excursions and visits, enjoy doing nothing. Would it be the age that slowly cheanges me? I can even lie on the beach for hours, something that I had not thought possible a few years ago. But today we are on the road again, to the Pelion Mountains.
It is not very far, about a 4 hours drive, so we take all the time to drink coffee with our friends Michael and Kiki and say goodbye to the various Russian acquaintances that we will undoubtedly encounter again next year. Because Greece is a wonderful holiday destination with all possibilities to be active, to visit things, but also to do nothing. And of course I want to come back here every year now I have started to learn the language better. I will miss the lessons from Kiki, but we promise that we will come back a few days at the end of our holiday.
Past Thessaloniki we take the toll road to the south, towards Athens. The toll roads are very good and often very quiet, but that will be partly due to the tariffs. You usually do not pay much, a few euros (and often only cash is accepted) but before you know it you are at the next toll booth and you lose a few euros again. We did not keep count but from Thessaloniki to Athens you pay at least € 25 using the highways.On the way we stop at Olympiaki Alti, a very touristic coastal village where we stayed a few days last year to explore the area around Mount Olympus. But it has a nice center and a perfect place for a short stop to drink coffee.
At the big city of Volos we leave the highway and drive around the city, into the mountains. Volos is about halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki. In Upper Volos we stop to take some pictures of the area, we are already quite high and have a nice view over the city that surrounds the bay of Volos. It is a city about the size of Groningen where we live. On the east side of it is a peninsula that faces south into the Aegean Sea.
Last year we went more to the southwest, now we go to the northeast side, to Agios Dimitrios. In the mountains above Volos, villages are built everywhere against the wooded slopes and the villages are simply picturesque. And a lot cooler than at sea level. There is relatively very little tourism on this peninsula which is also a beautiful hiking area, although not gor us because I have a sore left knee, since our visit to Zakynthos last year and it still hasn't heald. But all in all this a very nice region of Greece.
In the north of this peninsula lie the Pilio Mountains although the entire peninsula is very mountainous. We only have 40 kilometers to go but according to the navigation, that will take another hour and a half and we know from last year that we could not make much progress on the roads in this area. The mountain roads are not always very good and there are a lot of hairpin bends, so you slowly progress. And the higher we get the darker the sky becomes and at the highest point (almost 1,500 meters) we pass a real ski center, the oldest in Greece.
When we arrive at our hotel I am lucky: the owner speaks almost no English so I can try my best Greek again and I have a lot of fun trying it. There are also a few Macedonian women who speak some Greek but they make it clear that we have to be very careful here using the word Macedonia, that is very sensitive to the Greeks who claim to be the only heirs to the cultural and historical background and heritage of the ancient Macedonians and not the inhabitants of Skopia or FYROM like Macedonia is called by the Greeks.At the moment, after intensive discussions, an agreement has been made that will be ratified by the minister-presidents of both countries tomorrow (17 June 2018). Macedonia will be called the Republic of North Macedonia but the President of Macedonia has already announced that he will not approve a bill for this. There is also a lot of opposition in both countries themselves: many Greeks think that the whole concept of Macedonia is only their legacy and many Macedonians believe that with a change of name they betray their own identity.
Unfortunately, we know from the past, that people in the Balkans (and in Greece) are not so good at making compromises, but that is really the only way to live together peacefully. The current governments have at least done their best. And all because the current government of Macedonia would like to join the EU and NATO which has been prevented by Greece so far, only because of the use of the name Macedonia
When we arrive the sun shows itself again but it does not take long before the clouds become thicker and darker. According to the owner, a lot of rain is expected in the coming days. She brings us Greek coffee (strong and with the coffee sediment at the bottom of the cup so you have to gently slurp) and we can sit outside for a while but from our balcony we see mostly the lush garden full of vineyards of the hotel and very little of the environment.
There is a large terrace and we have a small balcony. I prefer to stay outside as long as possible but in the end the rain also chases me inside. We only have a small room so that's a bit of a problem. It takes some getting used to this change in weather, it is also a lot cooler than the last few days. Hopefully it will be mostly dry tomorrow during the day because driving on the winding mountain roads with bad weather is not really fun, also because you see a lot less and do not stop so often to look around.