Greece Part 1 (Feb-Jun 2020)

 

When we did research for our trip through Greece we mainly read about nice beaches, Meteora or Santorin. But for us Greece had so much more to offer: mountains, lonely countryside, deep canyons, turquoise waterfalls, beautiful rivers (if not dried-out) and lush green landscapes. 

We escaped the first big Corona wave in northern Italy just by a couple of days by crossing over to Greece by ferry… but in the end it overran whole Europe anyway.

We arrived in the port city Igoumenitsa from where we drove to Ioannina. There we got our glow plugs replaced (with an old car there is always something to be fixed) and continued to the Tzoumerka mountains afterwards. Even though there was no water in the waterfall we did a very nice mountain hike. Unfortunately the weather forecast in the north-west of Greece was not very good at that time so we decided to skip the northern part and come back later. While crossing the mountains eastwards towards Meteora we had to turn around twice because of too much snow on the road. 

hiking in the Tzoumerka mountains

Meteora is famous for the monasteries built on top of fascinating high rock pillars. Monks (or visitors) shouldn’t be afraid of heights here! The monasteries feel a bit like a drive-in tourist attraction but on the second day we also found a very nice, lonely hike to a hidden monastery built right into the rocks. 

Rousánou Monastery

When we arrived in the area around Volos Covid-19 got more and more serious in Europe. After the first cases occurred in the country the Greek government acted really fast and well with rather strong restrictions. It was obvious for us that it was only a matter of time until a lockdown was coming so we prepared for it and moved into an apartment on 20th March. Luckily we chose really well because as it turned out we would need to stay in this apartment for 2 months. We basically only left it to go to the supermarket. 

We found a very good place to stay in a really well equipped apartment with a lush green garden and a young, very active and lovely dog to play with each day 🙂 The incredibly kind, caring and hospitable landlords and Jimmy (the dog) got us through this difficult and challenging time really well. 

Jimmy eager to play some more 🙂

On 4th May the restrictions got lifted a bit. From then on we were allowed to leave the house without movement permit and we were happy to explore the close surroundings. As our physical fitness had suffered a lot in the past weeks we were happy to be walking again or ride the bikes from our landlords. 

after six week of lockdown people were allowed to move within their district without movement permit. From that date onwards we explored the close surroundings by foot or bike.

Two weeks later the restrictions were eased even further and we were allowed to travel mainland Greece again. With one sad and one happy eye – we really got to love our landlords, their dog and the surroundings – we left Argalasti for new adventures 🙂

As outdoor archeological sites also reopened one of our first stop was Delphi. It was an amazing feeling to walk through one of the most famous archeological site in Greece and have the whole place just for us!

theater of the archeological site of Delphi

We discussed several times if we should visit Athens or not but in the end we decided that the city would be not the same during Corona. We think a city needs people for the atmosphere. So we decided to go to Peloponnese.

We spent almost two weeks on Peloponnese peninsula. There we visited two more historical places – Epidavros and Mystras – both empty again 🙂 We spent some time on very nice and rather lonely beaches and drove through the mountains the rest of the time. As the temperatures were slowly rising we were happy to find very nice waterfalls with pools to refresh in. We did several hikes along gorges, through forests and hilly landscape and further north we hiked some high mountain peaks as well. 

Mystras
Lousios valley with monastery

In the middle of June temperatures started to cross the 30°C mark. From then on we were basically trying to drive from water spot to water spot so we could cool down when we wanted to. 

one of our favorite spots at the sea

We will have to see how the Corona situation continues and how it will further affect our trip. Right now, our options to go further east are rather limited. 

With our van life and staying in lonely nature we have very little contact with people. We avoid cities as we still feel that the atmosphere is not the same as without Corona and we only get in contact with a small amount of people in the supermarket now and then. 

Then again, we are also aware of that we miss out on culture and hospitality when we try not to meet too many people. Our biggest fear isn’t to get the Corona virus ourselves but to spread it unknowingly in small, remote mountain villages.
We are in good spirit and health (touch wood).

We loved Greece – a country we before rather thought of as a transit country on our way to the east but then surprised and enchanted us with its beauty.

 

NOTES & ANECDOTES

 

there must be at least ten thousand chapels in Greece. At least 5000 of them are called “Prophet Ilias”.

For indicating an upcoming descent or ascent of a road it seems like they only have one road sign saying “10%” no matter what the actual inclination is

for us, Greece is the country of Pickups and red cars

They are crazy about their iced coffees. They even have “Coffee to go delivery” by motorbike.

Greece must be the main producer of European honey 😉 we have never seen so many beehives

in the mountains there are often wonderful smells around us: thyme, mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, oregano

Traveling the world by car means that when you are walking or cycling and you see a washer (German: Unterlegscheibe) or nut or screw that you may need, you stop or turn around and pick it up

irony is when the door lock of the car breaks while you are at the mechanic (oil change). Although we have to add that the mechanic neither had anything to do with it nor had a benefit of it

once again we are very happy about our small and narrow car – the roads through small mountain towns often were extremely windy and narrow

 

NUMBERS for our entire stay in Greece

 

we stayed almost 5 months in Greece

we wild camped 79 nights and stayed in an AirBnB 64 nights – of which 58 were during lockdown

average diesel price was 1,27€ before Corona and 1,04€ after the Corona price-drop

we spent 11,50 Euro per person per day. Excluding fixed costs like car insurance + taxes and travel health insurance.

we went to a mechanic 2 times. Once to fix our glow plugs and once to get our oil changed.

road condition: ranging from 5 to 8 (out of 10 points); from good tarmac to rather bad roads

driving style / manners: respectful, friendly driving and mild overtaking.


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