The weather through Monty & Albania hasn’t been too bad. The occasional half day of rain, temps up around 20°c for the most part, a bit chilly first thing in the morning, all that was about to change. Crossing the border into Greece couldn’t be easier, no queue of traffic, we just rolled up to the passport office and handed in our passports, ‘thank-you…bye-bye’ and we were back into Europe, back where we know (or think we do) how things work. Our insurance, breakdown cover & EHIC card all become active again and a moment is taken for a small sigh of relief, on a beach, 10 miles inside Greece…Phew!
Running low on a few essentials, we call off at the old main-stay, Lidl first, then a quick gander around a Carrefour only to find there’s not too much choice on the shelves, they seem to keep the stocks pretty low in this store. A little farther down the beach, a fixed shower point, ie: free water, Charlie gets a full scrub and we top off the tank with our 7l watering can. Liking the freedom of a day at the beach, we head a little farther south to Ammaoudia, a well used Moho spot and join a mixture of 5 other French/Italian campers there too, more vans together than we’ve seen for at least 3 weeks! there’s safety in numbers in such an isolated spot or so we thought, by 10am next morning we once were again, alone.
The clouds gathered and rolled in, the waves were bashing into the pier, the rain battering on the roof, indoors we were struggling to hear each other speak. Having sat it out for another 24 hours, there was nothing for it than to admit defeat and head inland where the forecast looked better. First up, the ancient town of Ioannina, the place where despot and Albanian warlord Ali Pasha (Ali the ‘orrible) met his sticky end as he was chased onto the island in the middle of the lake (To Niisi) by the advancing and rather peeved Ottomans from Turkey. Here Ali was the be-headed and the decapitated head taken to Constantinople (now Istanbul) and paraded around the streets on the end of a pike. I’m thinking by the time they got it all the way back to Turkey, old Ali would be a deathly shade of green & unrecognisable, but it makes for an interesting image.
Heavy rain still a major factor, we didn’t get chance to get onto ‘Ali Pasha’s last stand island’, opting to take a circuit of the Byzantine city fortifications and nick-nack shops-a-plenty. We were hoping to call into Dodoni on-route to Ioannina, but the threatening clouds had other ideas. One night in a free car park and it’s time to tackle the Pindos mountains, home of the brown bear and grey wolf, on route to the monastery-topped rocks Meteora. The E90 snakes it’s way north-east through the Pindos, diving through umpteen tunnels and around snow-capped peaks. The climb seemed endless, with a return of sub 15 mpg for what seemed like hours, no sign of wolves or bears. Then, just short of the Macedonian border, the road turns sharp right and you slowly descend into a wide open valley easily 50 miles wide, clinging to the mountainsides all the way down…a stunning drive.
Another half an hour and out of the mist, pinnacles of smooth rock slowly appear, the weird structures more at home in a sci-fi movie than in real life. One of the most visited areas of Greece, it’s a strange and beautiful place at the same time. Monastery’s cap 26 of the pinnacles, built hundreds of years ago for monks requiring solitude and a refuge from the bloodthirsty invading Turks raping and pillaging below. Six of the Monasteries are still in use today, all 6 can be visited by tourists. At only €3 per person, per monastery, it can’t really be called a tourist trap, but the obligatory ‘souvenir’ stalls still cluster around the entranceway.
We pulled a sleep spot from a previous visitor, The Bumbles (great view-thanks) right on top of the hill overlooking two of the Monasteries, Moni Varlaam and Meteorou, the latter being the largest and most visited, both within walking distance of our car park.
Note to other Campers intent on using this spot: Although we were joined by another MoHo and a tent our first night, at around 5pm on the second day a nice bloke from the local mountain rangers informed us ‘You can not park here overnight-this is a restricted area’, so we left to find another spot about 15km towards Vlachava. We suspected he was sent to clear out the car parks for the weekend, as this was a Friday. Not too difficult to find a new parking place, but the timing could have been better, dinner was just about ready, Angie was in the shower and it was just getting dark…we got sorted soon enough and woke to another spot with a cracking view, not quiet as good as the one we’d had, but are we getting harder to please these days?
The Monasteries are now accessed by a few steps, gone are the days of hoisting monks up in rope nets and pulleys, a method still being used until around 1930, current monks now use a cable-car. A monk was once asked by a visitor, “how often do you replace the ropes?” the stock answer is “When God let’s one break”. Places of worship obviously not covered by the ‘Health & Safety at Work Act’ around these parts… just have a little faith brother!
We figured that most of the Monasteries would be much-of-a-muchness inside, so decided to visit the largest one, Moni Meteorou, early in the morning, long before the coaches disgorged their passengers into them. As it happens, we were right to. At 09:30 we seemed to be the only visitors in the place, by 11:30 (as we left) the place seemed full and there were several taxis, a handful of min-busses and 5 full length coaches in the car park, one all the way over Romania.
As usual, my pictures don’t do the area any justice, it’s one of those places you need to ‘be’, to take it all in. It’s a bit like the peak district on steroids! Well worth the extra half a tank of fuel we think. Now, back to the coast again.
n39.51419 e20.21507 Dreprano beach, just inside Greece, room for 50+ vans. Water from beach shower, WC at public block. Treat wild dogs with caution.FREE
n39.23627 e20.47968 Ammoudia room for 20+ vans. Water from beach shower. No WC. WiFi from cafe, FON account req. Wild dogs again, add flies & mozzie’s from marsh area too.FREE
A2 Motorway toll €6
n39.66890 e20.86050 Ioannina, tight (free) car park on the edge of the lake and old town. Busy during the day, Noisy at night. No services.FREE
A2 Motorway toll €6
n39.72565 e21.63242 Meteora, Moni Varlaam Monastery (overflow) car park. Wild dogs barked what seemed like all night. We also got moved on by an official. Moved to n39.76520 e21.66583 15km away, road-side clearing with great view, also much quieter.FREE
Have a great weekend. KIndest…Wayne X