Wow... OK, as usual I'm a little out of order, and this time I'm taken back quite a number of pages (more than a hundred!) in my trusty Moleskin before I get to the start of my Greek adventure.
And what an adventure! Hold onto your hats, this is a long one... Greece will be released in a four part series so I can post - and you can read - smaller bits at a time!
I crossed the border into Greece on September 16 before 9am after getting an early start on continuing my trek from Croatia, and escape from Albania... a beautiful start to an amazing part of my trip. I loved Greece, which is probably why I ended up staying for just shy of a full month!
Coming in from the north-west the first thing I noticed was how beautiful the roads were - especially compared with Albania(!) - and secondly, how much of mainland Greece is wet! I guess I was just near a big lake (and if I was actually online as I type, I would look it up... feel free to do so and let me know!), but it did take me by surprise. I decided to take the scenic route, and travelled through the mountains, right up to a couple of skiing villages, avoiding the motorway at the same time. They were some fun roads, but it was so cold up that high that I had to put on my winter gear - annoying though, because as I came back down only 20 or so minutes later and arrived in Kalambaka, the temperature was about 35ºC. Off with the winter gear!
After a brief stop in Kalambaka to gawk at the amazing Meteora - which are some truly amazing stone mountains up to 400m tall with monasteries perched atop a handful of them - I circle the town on my trusty Michelin map, and make a note to absolutely come back, then continue on riding through the gorgeous Greek weather, stop for the first of many beautiful Greek meals - the food in Greece has been my favourite of the whole trip - and then get going again toward the days destination on the east coast, where I had planned to meet and travel some more with Jamie.
I met Jamie briefly in Volos where we agreed to head down the coast and stop in a small Greek holiday village called Nea Anchialos - a place where the Greeks come to holiday! We ended up staying here for only one night, but two full days before we headed to Athens - but not before an interesting few hours spent with Vasillis, the owner of the hotel we stayed at, and a lovely guy who actually let me leave my bike out the front of his hotel whilst I travelled as a regular backpacker for a while! Before leaving, we headed to a restaurant Vasillis had recommended where they serve an ouzo style spirit called Tsipouro. The traditional way to experience this drink is to enjoy it whilst being served a different plate of food with each 50ml bottle you get. Similar to Spanish tapas in concept I guess. As we were enjoying our second serving, Vasillis came and joined us for the rest of the night and helped us with ordering - many, many, many bottles of the potent drink! It wasn't long before he felt comfortable with us, and started to express amongst other things, his open sexuality... in just a matter of minutes it seemed, Vasillis had covered everything from life and love, to dick-pumps and masturbation - certainly enough to make both Jamie and I cringe a little with embarrassment (for both us and him I think!)... a great night was had though, and before we knew it, we were on the overnight bus to Athens, with a view to heading straight for the islands. It was quite a pleasant surprise for us to actually be on the bus, as we literally had to flag it down off the main highway at one in the morning and we weren't so sure how successful we would be!
The trip to Athens was pretty quick and painless, and we arrived before we knew it. Unfortunately, the trip from the bus station to the ferry port wasn't quite so painless and we ended up missing the only ferry to Santorini (the first island we planned to visit) until 5pm that day, so spontaneous as we have been able to be (and as the quieter time of year allows for), we decided to head to the destination that the next ferry was going. We ended up in Syros, not one of the well known Greek islands amongst tourists, but well known amongst Greeks apparently - it's one they visit for their holidays to get away from the tourists! It was awesome too. We found some nice accommodation on the quiet side of the island, and spent most of our 3 days there, chilling at the beach, and just generally soaking up the Greek sunshine, hospitality, and food! We hired 50cc scooters for a day too and buzzed around the small island on those - awesome fun! We headed off just a few days later, this time aboard the ferry we wanted initially - off to Santorini!