19 February 2021 13:44
28 February 2021 08:35
While many places in Europe are subject to cloudy skies and minus temperatures, we can report sunshine and 17 degrees Celsius. And where is weather like that possible at this time of year? In Greece! As we still hadn’t been able to travel into Turkey, we decided to leave Bulgaria and head directly to this south-eastern EU country.
This was on condition that we had valid, negative covid tests. So we drove to Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital and looked for a large hospital. While we had to wait the 24 hours for our results, we camped somewhere on the outskirts of the city. At one time we used to make the effort to find nice places to stay overnight wherever we were. Now we know that that is not always possible. For example, when you’re in the commuter belt of a large city like Sofia in bad weather. Then it’s best to park somewhere where it’s allowed and it’s reasonably bearable.
The test results arrived the next day: negative! We had hardly received the official, stamped document and we were already on the road, heading in the direction of the only border to Greece open to tourists at the time, near the village of Kulata. As you never know how long it will take to cross the border and what to expect there, we prefer to tackle the problem early in the morning and stay overnight close to the border beforehand.
Several other travellers had advised us to go and visit the hot springs at Rupite not far away. We spent the evening in simple pools, dug into the ground – all with water at different temperatures – until we were all wrinkled. What a luxury! The next morning we filled our water and diesel tanks and ate something. You’re much more relaxed with a full stomach.
We were still a little nervous though. Because some Swiss friends who are also travelling in a truck were refused entry to Greece although they had fulfilled all the conditions. However everything was very easy and proceeded correctly. We had to do another rapid covid-19 test which was also negative – and were allowed to cross the border.
Greece has been in lockdown since November. You can only travel beyond a certain radius with permission and for an important reason. As a result the main roads are empty and most of the villages are eerily quiet. We are very selective when changing location and think twice about whether shopping is really necessary. We always have our permit with us in paper form. As the police are usually to be found at road junctions.
At the moment almost all of the tourist sights like the Acropolis or Delphi are closed. As are the Meteora monasteries. But, you can still marvel at the more than 20 sites from the outside. They are located at the centre of the Greek mainland and even the journey there was an adventure. We drove along narrow roads over snowy passes and through villages in which Mike had to manoeuvre our Axor very precisely between balconies and past parked cars.
However the Meteora monasteries far outshone this tour. They were built hundreds of years ago on top of sandstone formations of varying height. They are a fascinating sight – and it’s no wonder that they are one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. And as has often been the case on this tour, we were lucky enough to have the whole place to ourselves.
The same applies to another place further on in the north-eastern part of the Sithonia peninsula. The big difference to the monasteries: even in “normal” times hardly a soul goes there. Clearly, we had discovered another lost place! It is a huge area on which the construction of a housing estate started in the 1980s, but which was then abandoned because of problems with building regulations.
That is why there are only roads there and the basic infrastructure for electricity and water – and everything is slowly falling to ruin again. Only a few shepherds use the area for their goats. We navigated to the end of a road, taking the greatest care to drive around eroded and collapsed sections.
We spent a few days at this area, walking through the abandoned labyrinth of roads – and explored the coast close by. Quite a few spots were difficult for our dog Aimée to walk over. Mike had to carry her over the large crevices in the rock. Luckily she trusts him and stayed quite still.
In the coming weeks in which many tourist sights will probably remain closed, we want to above all explore the Greek coast and its nature. Our next destination is the Peloponnese peninsula. There is a lot to explore there – and we can continue to keep an eye on how the options for our travel itinerary develop. From Greece there are several options for travelling further by ferry. More on that subject next time, perhaps.
A one-of-a-kind journey.
For eleven months, Andrea and Mike Kammermann were on the “4‑Xtremes” tour with their Axor. Now they are on an even greater adventure. The pair from Switzerland will be on the road for three years and the RoadStars community will again be joining them on the trip! Always be up-to-date and don’t miss any of the breathtaking destinations that our adventurous couple are heading for.
You can find all the parts from the “4-Xtremes – The World Tour” series here.