That was the week that was our mini break holiday, We had nearly a full week of glorious weather where we really did very little. The beach was a full six steps from the van door so our exercise was reasonably limited to popping in and out for drinks or food. Its been warm enough to sunbathe but not yet warm enough to feel the need to jump in the sea. For those at home shivering please do not envy us, for the last two days we have seen the tail end of a massive storm and some fairly torrential rain. The awning is out and we have made do with sitting on the step and looking at the sea through the rain :(.
Our total exclusive use of the campsite only lasted three days, then we were joined by a Dutch couple with a super de-mountable who we meet all over the place, this is the fourth time we have met them at various campsites. They are on their way home from Turkey, taking their time and stopping for a week here and there. We may meet up again as they will be in Bulgaria before heading North West into Serbia when we go North East into Romania.
the ace de-mountable
The village next to the campsite is Kato Gatzea, a tidly holiday village just about 40 minutes out of the city of Volos. As with most places in Greece its suffered horrendously with the financial crisis, there are literally hundreds of part built houses around the edge of the village and up into the hills. Work stopped when the money ran out 10 years ago, building materials are still where they were left, mountains of bricks, tiles etc never been touched since. To add to the woes here, this is a holiday area for Greeks and as they do not have the money to go on holiday then Kato Gatzea has seen numbers of visitors fall ten fold.
Despite all that it has a lovely atmosphere, there are several tavernas lining the beach and whilst none are busy they are open and doing some trade with day trippers from the city. The village also has a fabulous bakery and a great mini market, both of which brace themselves for the daily visit where I attempt to speak a bit Greek and they have pretty much no concept of most of what I mean. The mini-market owner is very tolerant of my attempts and resists speaking English depending on the length of queue waiting to be served; in the bakery we have established a small dialogue as I buy the same loaf and two cakes each day. Iain asked why we always buy six slices of cheese or meat – it’s because the only numbers I know the words for are ‘two’ and ‘six’ so we only buy in those multiples – simples really 🙂
Just 10 minutes walk in the other direction is another village, Kato Nera, similar to Gatzea just scaled up with many more tavernas. At the end of the promenade in Nera is what appears to be a very well-kept 1950’s Butlins. On approach the “no photograph” signs and the armed solder give it away as actually being a holiday camp for Greek soldiers. Everything is painted blue and white, the chalets, the fences, the ice-cream kiosk, even the stones around the trees. All very patriotic but seemingly very outdated, its never going to a place they send them to let their hair down, more Clacton than Corfu.
Hellas International Campsite really has gone to the top of our list as one of our favourites, a combination of the site itself, the owners and the village. Add on the beach and the glorious weather (for the first 6 days) and it’s really been a whats not to like. In 2016 they are doing an Olive Harvest month from October to November – not sure they are offering you anything for the work but sounds fun and if we were able would be here for it. We have both said Greece will be a one-off visit for us as its so far to travel to get here, then again we said that the first time we went to Portugal(!) Greece has really taken a hold of us both and I am not so sure we wont be back at some stage and if we are then Kato Gatzea would be very high on the list of choices for a long-term winter stay.
We haven’t been totally idle all week, most of it yes but we did get out and explore a bit too. The Pelion peninsula is a very lush area where there are literally millions of olive trees. It forms the shape of a hook between the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea, so from where we are it looks like a ginormous lake. We took a walk into the hills high above the village, using what we thought was a footpath. In places it was dug out, in others just a worn path and then surprisingly every so often a ton or so of concrete had been dumped. As we climbed the path passed houses and shacks, a good number of which had cars outside. For the life of us have no idea how they drive up this type of track, it would be akin to driving cars up the steepest bridle paths you have seen, some of the paths were barely wide enough for us to walk up.
As planned, we have avoided any forms of cultural tourism this week. I did give Iain a choice on Friday of visiting an attraction of some sort or food shopping – he chose the latter! Me thinks he is over the whole ancient Greece thing in a big way if Lidl is winning out. As our nod to tourism we walked up to the station in the hills for the Pelion Narrow Gauge railway, both of us are quite partial to a narrow gauge so we were fancying a day out, alas the train doesn’t start running until mid April, another fail in the planning department by us 🙂 but a plus in we didn’t spend a cent on touristy stuff for the first week in ages.
We have passed another milestone, exactly one-third of our trip completed as of today. When we first planned this trip we were very aware we didn’t want to get to half way and then it was all about turning round and heading back. So, to avoid this our destination is Belgium and we are taking the long route to get there. We will need to head for home only once we hit Brussels, until then its all about the outward leg not the return trip. It may all be in the mind but it works for us :).
We are away from here tomorrow, next stop is the amazing monastery at Meteroa, it’s a place that has been recommended by several people and looks brilliant. From there its a pit-stop at Thessaloniki and then onto our last stop in Greece – Alexandroupolis.
yes indeed that is a bit of a suntan there 🙂