Friday, 26 September 2014

Greece on my birthday. Thessaloniki, Meteora, Halkidiki

Mermaid carved on the rocks. Kavourotripes, Halkidiki
Kavourotripes, Halkidiki, second leg

I have always hated my birthdays!

Last year I was on a sailboat, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between Panama and French Polynesia, sailing with another 6 on board but none of them knew it was my birthday. No internet, no cell phones, no way anyone could contact me. And I loved it, I figured that’s the only chance in life I could have a birthday like that.
The wedding
This year I had to go to a wedding in Bulgaria in June (I was a bridesmaid) and it was a great excuse to leave a bit earlier and avoid all of the birthday hassle. Instead of getting a flight straight to Bulgaria, I did what I do best. Got a flight to Greece and had no idea how I´m gonna get to the north-east Bulgaria for the wedding but had a week to figure it out. 
Surprisingly, my best friend Tania decided to come down to Greece and celebrate it with me. I can’t remember the last time we were travelling together and that made me extremely happy. Two other friends came along with her and we had a full car for the weekend!  It was one of my favourite birthdays so far actually! Simple and with favourite people!

Our hostel in Thessaloniki - Studio Arabas
I landed in THESSALONIKI on June 13th! I’m pretty good at finding cheap flights (years of experience) and can proudly say that that one cost me the modest amount of 29 euros, Barcelona to Thessaloniki. Bus #78 takes you from the airport to the center for only 1€ but if it is exteremely packed while it is extremely hot you don´t have to pay it – that´s what a Greek guy Stefanus I met on the bus told me. So the bus was free (I couldn´t get to the driver and buy a ticket anywas, was so packed!). Got off at Aristotelus, the main square in town and went to Stefanus´friends house for a drink and to get some tips where to go, what´s less touristic and worth to visit. Got quite a lot of insight info about the beaches and campsites in Halkidiki where we were planning to go anyways. And they also invited me to join them at his firend´s beach house after my friends are gone.

Stefanos kept me company all the way to the hostel “STUDIO ARABAS”. It was almost 1am but typically in a Greek style the room wasn´t ready. I was dead. You save money on those cheap Ryanair flights but they could be are pretty exhausting, especially if you have to get up at 4am! Although people at the hostel were nice and friendly. I took a nap and went for a walk until my friends arrive. 

Lots of little cafes and tavernas everywhere in town
Couldn´t resist (I love stop signs)

Even found a concert near the sea

They love their graffiti here

The hilly streets leading to the hostels 

Spectacularly perched atop rocky pinnacles in Thessaly, the Meteora monasteries are among the most striking sights in Greece. Built on sandstone megaliths that rise up to 550 m from the valley floor, the first of these dates to the 14th century. Now accessible by road and bridge, earlier monks and pilgrims had to rely on ladders and baskets raised by winches to reach the top.

The name Meteora (Μετεωρα) is Greek for "suspended in the air," which perfectly describes them. Out of all the 24 monasteries, only 6 remain today. Of these six, four are inhabited by men, and two by women. 

Thessaloniki to Meteora is about 300 km, we took the coastal road and it took us a bit longer than the way back. Kalampaka, the village nested just below Meteora looked pretty nice and only if my friends didnt have to work on Monday we would have stayed at least one night...Meteora, 6 of them are open for visitors. We went to the biggest and most visited one Great Meteoro.
Virst glimse at the Monasteries
Photos photos photos
You can already see them in the distance

Sourse: Keytours
Made famous by James Bond, this is perhaps the most dramatically positioned Meteora monastery. It is perched atop a slender pinnacle and accessible only by 140 steep steps
Agia Triada Monastery

Great Meteoron Monastery

After Meteora we drove back to Thessaloniki and  Halkidiki (probbaly another 400 km). Shaped like Poseidon’s trident and sticking out into the Aegean Sea, Halkidiki is quite visited in summer but it was early June so we were hoping it wasn´t that bad yet.
Stefanus recommened some free campsites that are not as touristic as the others and when he showed me the photo of the mermaid carved on the rocks...I was sold! Stefanus´instructions were: Halkidiki, second leg, campsite Kavourotrypes, 10 min drive after Zografu beach or 2 min after Armenistis camping you will get to an open space, rubbish bins and some cars, so there...And we found it! And it looked amazing! Great present for my birthday!
Kavourotrypes beach
Went for some drinks at the bar right behind me. No one else there. Felt like I had this beautiful beach all for myself!
In the  morning
Kavourotripes beach, Halkidiki

Pretty impressive rock carving

...and more...

Later on the beach got crowded but still nice

Sarti. Another place in Halkidiki
The beach in Sarti
Me, Tanya and a massive bottle of olive oil

So... my friends left, I guess some people work...I couldn´t have had a better birthday, so happy they came over. They dropped me off in Thessaloniki before heading back to Bulgaria. 
Time for Plan B. Got in touch with Stefanus and I stayed the night at their place in Thessaloniki and next "morning" we left to Anestis house in Metamorfosis, Halkidiki. 
Stefanus, Marius, Anestis in Thessaloniki
Apparently they drink in the park. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Getting into the house
I had an amazing time with those guys. It was 4 of them and me. All we did is to sleep till late, go to the beach and back to the house when the football matches start, around 7ish. It was the World cup so I offered to cook while they watch the matches...No one complained. The ping pong table and Foosball in the basement were quite entertaining too. Don't wanna mention that I kicked everyone's ass at both!
The house was amazing!
And the biggest surprise was the basement:
I was in heaven!
Beach day #1 with Greek friends

Beach day #1
Beach day #2
Arrived. Beach Day # 3
Another beach just for us! Water was pretty clear for spear fishing but....
The only creature my Greek friends managed to spear :)) We had a bottle of cold Bulgarian "Menta" at least!
Saying goodbye to them
Tired after all that spear fishing :)
My train
As much as I liked being on the beach, it was time to go if I wanted to make it for the wedding. Left my Greek friends exactly the way they look on the photo above and hitch hiked to Thessaloniki (only 100 km). It was fast and easy. I stayed again in Studio Arabas. 

Took the train to Sofia, leaves at 6.55 am and gets to Sofia at 2pm, costs 17€, it is pretty comfortable and clean, slept all the way through.
Train station in Thessaloniki. Plenty of graffiti again

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