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Author: Maria Zehentner / Translation: Elke Weninger
Beitrag vom: 20.02.2017

Myths, stories, Gods and mountains

 

 Hellas and its inhabitants have fascinated us!!

 

Greece, January 2017

Due to a quite unexpected onset of winter in Greece we were forced to change our route. The up to then planned crossing of borders near Bitola to get to Pisoderi, where we had intended to spend some days of skiing, was closed because of drifting snow. According to our information we were supposed to also be able to cross near Gevgeljia. We reached the border after driving for some hours on snow-covered roads. 'Where we were aiming at',was a question we were frequently asked at borders. However, when answering 'New Zealand' we left many puzzled custom officials behind us.

Dejan and his wife had advised us to visit Loutraki, as there were wonderful hot springs to be seen and experienced. So far I had only heard of hot springs, which made me very keen on really seeing them and going there. Night had already set in when we arrived in Loutraki and we were really hungry by then. What a great coincidence it was that just then we passed a restaurant. Immediately Leander jumped on the brakes while I was getting ready to leave Akela to try to find out if it was possible to pay by card as we had forgotten to withdraw cash. Unluckily we were told that paying by card was not possible as the machine was broken and Dimitris, owner of the restaurant, explained to us that we could come back the next day. But – we were hungry TODAY! I had already turned around to leave when he shouted after me, 'no, no, no problem – you eat today and pay tomorrow!' Had I really heard those words? Eat today, pay tomorrow? I ran to the truck, told the rest of my group the happy news and Leander looked as flabbergasted as I had looked a few moments before him.

The food was delicious and we promised Dimitris to come back to his restaurant and pay the next day, right after being at the hot springs.

The hot springs were a true adventure. We took off all our clothes at freezing -6°C – bear in mind - standing outside. Pampering warm changing rooms we were looking for in vain. Yet that wasn't the worst thing to think of. What was really horrible was the idea of leaving the wonderful warm water, about 37°C, in order to get back into the cold air. 

I was the first in row. Shaking with cold I quickly dried myself half-heartely and got dressed, still being a bit damp. While doing so I kept humming 'staying alive, staying alive...ah, ah, ah, ah...staying aliveeeeee......, by the Bee Gees, and it helped! I did stay alive!!!!!! The next one was Lennox and then Leander. The lads were less squeamish than I had been and just as we had promised, we went to Dimitris to settle our debts.

Unluckily the trip to the hot springs had left its traces. Lennox didn't feel well in the evening, had a bit of a temperature and swallowing caused pains. Drinking tea and resting did not help. As a precautionary measure we asked Dimitris, next to whose restaurant we had found a spot to stay, whether there was a doctor nearby. Dimitris replied that there was a hospital in Aridea, 10 kilometers away from our current location. To play safe, he scribbled the number of his mobile phone on a sheet of paper, gave it to us and emphatically said that his phone would be switched on in case of an emergency. We had to promise to get in touch with him the next day after Lennox had been at the doctor's. 

Lennox' state of health deterioated overnight. To be on the safe side, we decided to go to the hospital right away. After just a short time in the waiting area, a doctor examined Lennox. My fears were confirmed that he was suffering from a bacterial throat infection. Antibiotics! What a disaster! We showed our gratitude for their fast help and when asked how much we owed them, earned a puzzled and smiling face of one of the nurses. This is what it cost! Unbelievable, isn't it? 

Right after the hospital we shortly visited Dimitris in his Outdoorshop in Aridea to say good-bye. We enjoyed meeting his family, he gave us vitamins and a picture of Virgin Mary, hugged us, kissed us and only then were we allowed to leave Aridea. Beautiful, isn't it? The Greek people are amazing in many ways and just for the above mentioned moment it was well worth going there. 

Due to Lennox' state of health we had to change our plans to go skiing yet again. Once it had been a snow drift, now it was antibiotics and sports which do not go well together which stoppped us from skiing. Therefore, we spent time on a less funny past time activity – our independent vehicle heater, which still didn't run the required and wanted way. Not far from Loutraki, on our way there, we had spotted a Bosch servicecenter. Maybe they would find a solution to the problem and I would be able to use the time standing there to take care of Lennox, a time which would do him good. 

The boss himself and Leander were working together for various hours on the appliance, yet he still wasn't able to find a malfunction. The heating was converted and improved and now the system, namely heating, should be working. When intending to settle the bill we were once again puzzled – as the work being done, the hours invested on repair work was regarded as Greek hospitality and didn't cost anything! He merely demanded some Euros for material used. Moreover, we were spoiled with coffee. 

To test if the heating was now in working condition we spent the night in a closed down factory site, not far from the Bosch servicecenter, just in case.

Our flat was warm in the morning, what an amazing feeling, and in bright spirits we left early in the morning in the direction of the Meteora Monasteries, which were about 300kilometers away. The Meteora Monasteries are located in the Pindus Mountains in the area of Thessaly. These monasteries are unique as they seem to float in the air in misty weather conditions. This is because those monasteries have been built on hight rocks which were difficult to access back then. First hermitages of Meteora were already founded in the 11th century. For the final 80kilometers when heading towards Kalambaka, we took along an Albanian hitchhiker. He was happy to get ahead some kilometers, we helped somebody and dropped him of when entering the village. On top of that, we found a good place to stay for the night on the car park of a restaurant.

When dawn was slowly breaking the next morning I was woken up by a sound I had in bad memory. Did I really hear the sound of a snowplow? I peeped out of the window and – YES! There really was snow! Snow seemed to crush the landscape, the road was no longer visible, neither bushes, trees...everything was white. Overnight it had been snowing about 50cm. What a sight and experience. We were in the middle of Greece and there was really snow around us. It had been a very wise decision to mount winter tyres (Goodyear Ultra Max 315 R80 22,5) on Akela. Without problems we could drive into the center of Kalambaka where we tried to get information regarding the road conditions up to the monasteries. We got diverse opinions and in the end trusted Akela and decided to hit the road. Meter by meter did our 10-ton vehicle climb up the road, which had not been cleared off the snow, to the monasteries. Once or twice Akela started shaking badly, yet was able to cope with this tough challenge and Leander was mighty proud of his truck. We were rewarded with a simply incredible, unbelievable spot for the night....I can hardly find the words ...

 

breathtaking
majestic
simply extraordinary

 

We were high up on the cliff top, surrounded by legendary mythical places, deeply covered in snow in a clear and starry night. It was mystical, overwhelming, quiet, and I was overcome by deep respect.

The next days turned out to be wonderful as well. We hiked to the monasteries, 2 of which we could visit, built an igloo, had snowball fights. Leander took pictures in the morning and evening time, with the camera and the drone. After three days I still couldn't get enough. I enjoyed the peace and quiet, only few tourists were strolling around, and quite a few mad photographers. Meteora  impressed us so much that we decided to return to this great place on our way back from the south of Greece heading to Turkey. Should the snow be gone by then we have planned to hike and climb up the uninhabited monasteries.

 

"This is Sparta!!"

 

The weather got warmer, the snow turned into huge water puddles and we set back on our journey towards Athens, where we arrived late at night after 200kilometers. We stoppped at the Thermopylae, and who was already parked there at the car park? Fabi Lentsch and the Snowmads' truck. What a small world we have at the end of the day!

This region around the Kalidromos mountains might be known and familiar to films lovers from Zack Snyder's Hollywood Blockbuster '300'. This legendary and multiday battle at the Thermopylae against the Persian army took place around 480 BC. 

Leonidas, King of Sparta, led an army of 300 brave people to the back then only 15meter wide Termophylae pass, a narrow passage between the mountain range and the Malian Gulf. This is where they encountered the Persian King Xerxes, whose warriors outnumberd the one of the Spartians many times. Due to a traitor from the own party, the Spartians were lured into an ambush where they kept fighting bravely and courageously even sacrificing their lives for a free Greece. Today this strait has increased to a few kilometers and somehow has developed into a suburb of the city of Thermopylae. Yet, with just a bit of imagination can the Spartian fighting spirit and the determination still be sensed and felt.

This place remains in my memory mainly because of the hot springs. Hot sulphorus water springs, after shooting into the air built big natural pools. We went to the hot springs in the mornings, at lunchtime, in the evening, at night in mild temeperatures. Lennox loved such varieties, and obviously so did we. 

On the third way we packed our gear 'with cobs between our fingers' and drove towards Athens on the motorway. Fabi Lentsch, looking for powder snow, who was touring Greece with his Snowmads as well, gave us the great recommendation where to stay in Athens for the night. We lodged in the center, on a car park in the first row right in front of the acropolis. What a truly remarkable place to stay! Had we stayed in a hotel room with the same view, we would have paid a great amount of money. The more so as Greece is by no means cheap. Just the opposite is true – diesel, food, tobacco...all of these were even a bit more expensive than we were used from Austria. 

Leander and I knew Athens from an extended weekend before Lennox had been born and so we could omit doing things which tourists usually do. We did not go up to the acropols, did not drink overpriced coffee in the center and going shopping was out of the question anyways. Instead we carried all of our dirty laundry to a laundry shop and were washing three full machines at the same time while Leander used free Wlan in the neighbouring coffe shop to get work done. We also went into a travel agency to get information on ferry boats taking us to our next desired point of interest – the isle of Crete.

The capital itself was busy, bustling and modern, just like many other capitals which we had visited on our earlier journeys. It was stunning to wander about on the hills and surroundings of the acropolis and frolicking around there. Thanks to our photographer we could enjoy the changing atmosphere of the antic and ancient building in the morning light, sunset, at night when everything was lit...and each time the acropolis showed us yet another “face”, looked different! 

Our final task to be completed in Athens led us to a business partner of the company 'Eberspächer', yes, our independent vehicle heater yet again. How dearly would we have liked to tick off this tiresome topic for good.

Same procedure as each single time before: unload everything in the back of Akela to reach the broken heating. Then it was tested, screwed, yet unluckily no solution to the problem could be found. By now we've had enough, our desire was gone. Our travel budget was again left untouched – the Greek man doing the job merely smiled and waved off when asked how much we owed him. On top of that we also received another Greek coffee, even though it's not really our cup of tea. But, hey, as you know – never look a gift horse in the mouth.

It was already late in the afternoon when we were leaving Athens behind us. We went about 30 kilometers out of the city and stopped on the car park of Attica Zoo. Lennox had been a lovely and good boy throughout the last days and we wanted to treat him with a visit to the zoo. We stayed overnight in the area of the zoo and already waited at the entrance of it at punctually 9 o'clock in the morning. The rising sun warmed our bodies and we enjoyed a brilliant day. After this joyful visit to the zoo with various animals we hit the road at about 4 o'clock pm to drive to Piraeus, the harbour of Athens, from which we were sailing to Heraklion/Crete at 9o'clock pm.

Comments (3)

  1. Maria Briedl
    Maria Briedl at 21.02.2017
    Hallo Maria!
    Hab gerade die neuesten Berichte und Fotos angeschaut - unglaublich - was ihr alles erlebt. Die Fotos - ganz toll!! Ich freue mich schon auf die nächsten.
    Wünsche euch weiterhin freundliche Helfer, wenn es Probleme gibt und recht viel Glück. Bleibt gesund und versorgt uns mit neuen Berichten und Fotos.

    Liebe Grüße aus der Heimat
    Maria
  2. Maria Zehentner
    Maria Zehentner at 21.02.2017
    Hi Mary,
    freut mich, dass du so eine treue Leserin bist. Ja Griechenland hat uns in seinen Bann gezogen.
    Wir werden noch ein wenig skifahren gehen, in thessaloniki Freunde treffen, und dann weiter Richtung Türkei fahren.
    bis jetzt verläuft alles halbwegs ok. bis bald, und liebe grüße an alle
    Maria
  3. Teresa Sedlar
    Teresa Sedlar at 22.02.2017
    Liebe Maria,
    Lese gerade Deine Blogs - super, als wie wenn man selbst etwas dabei ist. Freut mich zu hören, dass es Euch gut geht und alle wohlauf sind. Wusst gar nicht dass es heisse Quellen in Griechenland gibt. Sicher eine sehr willkommene Abwechslung zu den winterlichen Temperaturen

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