Greece: Land of the rain gods

Let me start by saying this – in no other country we got soaked and froze as much as in Greece until now.
The Albanian border official waves us through. “Albania good?” we raise our thumbs. He laughs and pats us on the back. “Have a good trip my friend” and so we leave a really great country with the friendliest border official so far. The Greek side is unspectacular, the Germans are waved through, the poor Albanians are shaked down.

After a few kilometers of motorway our Garmin gps commands us to leave it and we turn into Pindus National Park. A small mountain road slowly leads us above the timber line. It is getting uncomfortably cold again and clouds are gathering. However, it can hardly rain because the wind is so strong, that it almost blows us off our motorcycle. At the highest point there is still snow. We have to start using our down jackets on top of the motorcycle clothing again, but at least the wind slackens on the other side of the mountain and there are trees again. A few kilometers further we see a sign “Attention bears”. Cool they have bears here? We saw that before in Albania and Croatia. Obviously, Germany is one of the few European countries that immediately shoots all bears as soon as they cross the border, the other european countries seem to be getting along with them.

The landscape here is really wild and the rough temperature with the lack of traffic make the surroundings look even wilder. At some point we urgently need to fill up. Our replacement canisters are left empty, since the Internet says they are prohibited in Greece. In a small village I ask for petrol in a pub with a few locals. Five questioning faces stare at me as if I were Marty Mc Fly from “Back to the Future”. So I start waving my limbs, make motorcycle motions and noises and try to point towards the motorcycle tank. It takes a while, but luckily a lady finally understands what I want. Thankfully a petrol station is very near.

A few kilometers later our road turns into gravel, herding dogs want to snap at us and it starts to rain again. What’s wrong with the weather this spring? After another hour we reach a larger road and roll the remaining kilometers to Meteora. The sky just opens up slightly while we roll into town. So we ride up to the monasteries for “sunset”, since tomorrow’s weather doesn’t look very promissing either. The next morning, while we are still sipping our coffee, the first ten!! tour buses drive pass us. The weather is rainy as announced, but we still decide to visit at least one monastery, before we continue southwards to Delphi in hope of better weather.

The campsite in Delphi is great – quite expensive, but you almost feel like you are in the USA. The sun finally shines a bit and we treat ourselves with a beer, while looking forward to the highly acclaimed Delphi the next morning.
Delphi is indescribably full. Even busier than Meteora and although it’s still in low season, queues of coaches line up in front of the actual parking lot. It seems to be something like the “day of student trips” because countless school classes, from all over Europe, are tormented by their teachers through the archaeological park. We honestly feel sorry for them, as they stop and chat at every little piece of ruin – and there are many of them.
In search for the impressive temple complex, we also pass these cluttered stones very quickly. After a while Miri suspects, that there might be no temple anymore – and she finally is right. A little bit disappointed we still squeeze ourselves through the included museum and finally leave this place again.

However – now without wanting to tread on anyone’s toes – the remains of the ruins are a joke, most of them are cordoned off and it’s so crowded that it is difficult to see the last remaining chunks of ruins anyway. Some people, that are very into greek history, might fall into a devotional mood. Other people just see a landscape, that could be very beautiful without thousands of people. Nevertheless there are some interesting exhibits in the museum, but overall we were rather disappointed.

Escaping the hustle and bustle we make our way to a tiny village close to Patras, where Johannes and Patricia have invited us. They own a beautiful house between vineyards and a nice view over the sea. We can pitch our tent in the garden of their friend and neighbour Georgios. It is very idyllic and finally the weather looks a bit better, too. We are warmly welcomed with Frappe (Greek cold coffee) and in the evening we have a delicious barbecue. Johannes even had some spare seals for our gasoline stove and could fix it again – thanks a million for that!
On their recommendation, we go for a hike to Zachlorou the next day. It’s a small village which can be reached by a cog railway through a gorge. Afterwards you can follow the rail tracks back by foot. The whole hike is 14km (8,7mi) and pretty cool – also because you are actually completely alone. In the evening there is delicious grilled meat waiting for us and we end the evening with our incredibly nice hosts. Thank you Johannes, Patricia and Georgios for the invitation – we really had a great time!

After breakfast we continue to Corinth to make it further north again. A large part of the road runs right next to the turquoise blue sea. Unfortunately it is too cold for us to take a bath. In Corinth we drive briefly to the fortress to enjoy the view, take a glimpse into the Corinth Canal and drive on small mountain roads until just before Lamia, where we pitch our tent directly on the beach of a bay.

The morning sun hits the tent early and it even gets a bit warm. We head towards Mount Olympus, which is unfortunately covered by clouds. Since the weather is so cold, we want to reach a hot spring near Thessaloniki on the same day. We found this place as an insider tip. So our target of the day was to sit in the hot spring this evening. Shortly after Thessaloniki the sky turns black again and it starts to rain terribly. Unfortunately we are riding on the highway and can’t really stop for now. So we have to continue till a small construction site where we can stop on the hard shoulder to put on rain clothes, before we are completely soaked. We have to freeze awfully again. “Oh you land of the rain gods why are we punished so hard? Did we kiss too few crosses in Meteora? Were we not devout enough in Delphi? Or was it because we spurned your divine super sausage in Lidl?” Nothing helped, we had to hope for the hot spring.

It was already getting dark and we were completely frozen, when we finally arrived at the desired location. The place was probably a pretty chic health resort before, but now only the remaining ruins indicate that. A couple of friendly street dogs whiz around and want to be petted. There is no admission fee and no opening times – awesome – so head straight into the pools and warm up. A few locals are already sitting in there and they tell us, that we could set up our tent a few meters further down the river. It is quiet, hidden and there is another hot spring flowing into the cold stream. Great! We quickly munch a few tortellini with pesto and enjoy the hotspring with a beer in perfect moonlight for the rest of the night. This place is really awesome. If only the ugly ruins (that serve as toilets) and all the garbage that is scattered all over the place wouldn’t be there…
The next morning we start with another mineral bath, before we set off to Turkey.

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