Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199711 Turkey Greece 2

SATURDAY 15 NOVEMBER –  Barry sets about preparing the ingredients for the fondue but about 1 hour before they are due to arrive Cigdem phones to say Yavuz has to work until 11pm. This has happened a few times and Barry is none too happy but we settle down to enjoy the meal between the four of us. The fondue is excellent, a mixture of cheeses with mushrooms. Just as we are finishing the meal Cigdem phones to say Yavuz has arrived home and they are on the way over! This is one of the
things I would find hard to cope with if I lived in Turkey.



SUNDAY 16 NOVEMBER –  Wake up to a power cut due to the rain. Fortunately the power comes on late morning so the Sunday dinner goes ahead as planned. Barry has invited Alp, Gamze and Tunc to join us for a typical English Sunday dinner cooked by me.  As the smell wafts around the house we realise that we do miss some of the things in England.  Despite a lot of incorrect ingredients the Roast Beef, Potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and veg turn out well and the Apple Crumble soon disappears.  Alp, Gamze and Tunc leave late afternoon and we decide to doss English style whilst watching TV. or to be precise Fools and Horses on video. The viewing is short lived as the power soon goes off again. Perhaps this explains the population explosion in Turkey. 



MONDAY 17 NOVEMBER –  We leave Steve at home to await delivery of the U.P.S. parcel with the circuit board whilst we head into town to do a few jobs. Collect my computer and then pick up Cigdem to take her to the local hospital to have her in growing toenail treated. It is a private hospital and the service is quick . She hobbles out in pain after only half an hour and we drop her straight back at work. No such thing as time off work sick in Turkey. Barry takes his computer to another company
where we are made most welcome and share a gateau that is being handed round the office to
30th wedding anniversary. The office girl tells me she can’t understand anyone
being married so long and that 10 years is long enough after which time you should change partners –
she then mentions that it is her 10th anniversary this year! They work for over 2 hours working on Barry’s computer then refuse to accept any payment at all – what a contrast to the first firm who "nicked" part of his computer and charged him for the privilege. On the way back Cicek makes a left turn and is flagged down by the Police for ignoring the no left turn sign. The officer inspects her papers and gets his book out to record the offence and issue a  3.300.000T
L (£11) fixed fine. Cicek quickly asks Barry for some money and steps out of the car to have a quiet word mentioning she already has points on her license and doesn’t want any more. The deft palming of 1,000,OOOTL (£3.30) does the trick and the official notebook goes away and so do we!



TUESDAY 18 NOVEMBER –  Armed with the new generator circuit board we head to the garage to get it fixed. The board doesn’t solve the problem merely eliminates it from the equation so they start looking for other things. It seems to us that anyone who walks past the garage gets called in for an opinion as we have never seen so many people on the job. Time drags by and we are offered a kebab or doner for lunch. Cicek is with us and we ask for three doners but they refuse to take any money from us.  The man says it is his garage and insists we don’t pay. Ten minutes later there is a knock on the van door and a lad passes in a tray with three plates of doner meat in gravy, three plates of pitta bread, three Pepsi Colas and a plate full of salad – amazing. A little later we are pleased to find the problem has been found – back in Italy we had an oil and filter change on the generator and it transpires that they put the wrong oil in.  It was too viscose and has blocked the filter and the fuel pump causing the generator to cease up. A quick oil and filter change and it is working properly – the bad news being that although we can return the circuit board but have wasted about £40 in unnecessary postage. The good news is that the garage bill for is only 5,000,OOOT1 (£17) in total, that’s for 6 hours today plus the time on our previous visit.  We can’t believe it so Cicek tips a couple of the lads an extra 1,000,000TL (£3.30) each. We leave the bikes behind as one of the men at the garage has told us he can repair the puncture and fix the brakes for us to collect tomorrow. Slowly but surely we are getting things done but Barry’s car will have to wait till tomorrow as the garage were too busy to deal with it today.  A bad evening for Barry & Cicek with lots of phone calls from England about Barry’s Mum’s possible visit.



WEDNESDAY 19 NOVEMBER –  Last chance for tying up loose ends before leaving. Steve & I go off on our own to collect the bikes from the man at the generator repair shop. We are greeted like long lost friends and the man asks for our address in England before we leave (perhaps we have only paid a
deposit on the work and he is going to send us a bill
The bikes now have brakes that work and the
flat tyre has been fixed. The weather is definitely changing with drizzle and cold convincing us that
Crete must be warmer and we should press on. Steve’s back is still not 100% or maybe he has just got
to like his morning and evening back massage too much.  If you would like to send us a letter (the
AMEX offices can’t accept packages so save the goodies) you can write to us (listing the surname first and underlining it) at:

AMEX Iraklion (Crete): c/o Adamis Tours, Avgoustou 23, PO Box 1031. Crete. Greece.
We should be able to collect mail from there until 20th January.

We all go to Alps for an evening meal.



THURSDAY 20 NOVEMBER –  A quick departure from Barry’s. It would seem that there is a
spot of family trouble.
stayed with Barry’s parents in England when she was
studying and it seems that she returned to Turkey and was followed by Barry who didn’t
bother to tell anyone what was going on – as in not his wife, parents or family! His Mum
& Dad didn’t know where he was or that he was planning to marry Cicek. 
Dad has now
been in touch with them and paid for Barry’s Mum to fly over, and so we have been
evicted. The photos that
sent of Daniel have arrived today and he is growing fast –
can’t wait to see them all in January. It’s a miserable day, cold and rainy and very much
like England in November so it is def
nitely time for us to head to warmer climes. Leave
Istanbul around 11.30am but there’s a problem getting petrol along the motorway as all the
stations are Turk Petrol.  Their fuel is renowned for being dirty and we don’t want to risk putting it into our almost empty tank.  We finally have to stop and put the jerry can in,  then
turn off the motorway into a village where thankfully they are selling Total petrol. On to
the Turkish
Bulgarian border where we park overnight in no mans land.  It is
getting dark and we should get through the Bulgarian border quickly in the morning
before the queues build up.



FRIDAY 21 NOVEMBER –  Big mistake again staying in no mans land as the border doesn’t open until 8.00am and the first 4 foreign vehicles through are pulled to one side. We have to follow a Swiss,
Austrian and Hungarian car to a big workshop with inspection pits. The cars go in first and the contents are COMPLETELY emptied onto huge trolleys whilst men poke around between the doors skins and underneath the vehicles. My heart sinks at the thought of a couple of days stay here whilst we empty everything of ours out and load it back up. We move forward into the hanger and 4 customs men come on board whilst Steve has to open all the outside lockers for inspection.  Someone climbs on the roof whilst others look underneath. They are very reasonable and just look in all the cupboards, ask how much the van cost and have a general nosy. They ignore our excess duty free 2 litres
of Scotch and 2 litres of liqueurs (bought at the border duty free last night at ridiculously low prices) and it isn’t too long before we are on our way – but not before being escorted back to the passport
control so that we can drive past the booth to pay $4 vehicle disinfection and $ 1 road tax to enter BULGARIA. We tank up with fuel at around 20p a litre and stock up on reasonable wine at $1 and quality wine $1.50, Champagne $1, Baileys $2, Peach Schnapps $2, Large Beers 3 for $1 and a
king sized quilt with sheet and pillowcases for DM20 (£7.25). The quilt is for our
forthcoming visitors, the booze may not last that long! We drive through the local town
Svilengrad and on to the Bulgarian/
Greek border. Into GREECE following a quick border crossing and I make another mistake at a hole in the wall machines in the first Greek town. I already
have 10
1,000 drachma notes that I bought in England for £22 (about 450 drachma to
£1) so to draw £100 I need about 4 times this but will round it up to 50,000 drachma. My first attempt produces 5 notes that look like the ones I already have (giving me a total of £11) so I try again and go for the largest amount available (usually around £100). Back in the van I notice that
the notes I have drawn are the same size and almost the same colour as the 1,000
notes but are in fact 10,000 drachma each so I have now drawn nearly £600 worth – oops. Think
we had better pay for the ferry crossing in cash and not on the credit card. The roads are
noticeably better than all the Eastern European countries and we can drive a little faster
without being deafened by rattles or things falling out of cupboards. Our finally resting
stop for the night is West
of Alexandopoulis and Komotini
near a place called Lagos where there is a haven for rare birds in the lake nearby. A petrol station on the side
road has a parking sign and the owner confirms that we are welcome to stay overnight.



SATURDAY 22 NOVEMBER –  A much warmer and quieter night than at the border and we
awake refreshed and to a bit of sunshine. Drive into the next town
of Xanthi
for the
Saturday market but can’t park so stop at a shop for bread etc and then drive on to
Halkidiki peninsula and to a small village called Ouranopoli near Mount Athos.
This is
an area of monasteries for men only and even all the farm animals are
male. I have read that we can take a boat trip from Ouranopoli around the peninsula to
get glimpses of most of the buildings but as this is out of season we have to wait until
tomorrow to see if a tour booked for 10.30 turns up so that we can join them. We park
on a dirt track at the top of the cliff with wonderful views out to sea and across to some
small islands – as good as a 5 star hotel view any day. Walking around the village we are
tempted to stop for Steve to have a beer and me to sample
(a famous very dry
Greek wine flavoured with pine) from the barrel. Prices are much higher than we have
been used to, a large beer 600dr (£1.35) and wine 700dr (£1.55) but the owner only wants
1000dr (£2.20) in total when we come to pay. The village is geared for German tourists and this
could explain the higher than expected prices. My German has had to resurface to
replace Turkish as our Greek is very poor. We are finding their language very confusing,  to say yes
you nod your head side to side and say
and for No you bob your head up and down
and say
I am beginning to look like a nodding dog already as I have to keep
changing the action.



SUNDAY 23 NOVEMBER –  A boat leaves at 9.30 with about 50 men bound to the
Monasteries for a stay of up to 4 days. They are only allowed to stay for one night at any
place and it’s often a full days walk to the next one. Steve is still tempted by
the chance of beautiful scenery and no women for 4 days – can’t think why. We head down to the port but the trip does not arrive at 10.30 nor 11.00 and we are just about
to give up when at 12.00 a
coach load
of 50 Germans roll up. Well worth waiting for as
we get to view a number of the monasteries on Mount Athos. The Russian monastery has
the second largest bell in the world and many of the others have special features and all
look spectacular in their mountainside settings. A much better trip than the ones we took
in Turkey in terms of views.



MONDAY 24 NOVEMBER –  We drive to Thessalonika and are stunned to see not only a
parked in the Exhibition Centre car park but an English one at that.
Malcolm and
left England in October and plan to travel around Greece and then
head to
(the northern most point of Norway where you can see the midnight
sun) for 25 June next year. They have previously had a 16-month trip around Europe but returned to teaching.  Malcolm has since been medically retired so now they travel for most of the year.  The car park is heaving but we park nearby and on their recommendation join them to visit the Mount Athos exhibition 2000dr (£4). It is great for us as it shows the treasures from the monasteries of Athos and having visited the area yesterday is more meaningful. Obviously not meaningful enough as we view all the exhibition in just over 1 hour, then visit the Archaeology Museum 1500dr (£3), walk through the town and check out ferries at the Port before returning to the van.  Claire and Malcolm return after over 6 hours at the Mount Athos exhibition and still haven’t seen it all.  By evening the car park is almost empty and it’s easy for us to get on.  We invite them for a drink in the evening and spend a pleasant few hours exchanging travel tips.



TUESDAY 25 NOVEMBER – Exercise in the form of a walk around the ancient walls of
Thessalonika and with special permission from the Turkish embassy to view inside


the house where Ataturk was born. We stumble upon a monastery, which is very
new and modern followed shortly by one down some back alleys that is tiny and ancient.
Next stop the local cathedral, the largest in Greece and unusual in that it has
been destroyed many times but the rebuild has always retained any of the remaining
features. The square further along is being excavated for ancient ruins and it seems that
eath the town there are many more but they are unable to get to them as there are
buildings over the top, meanwhile all open land is being inspected. The 38th International film
festival is on at the moment and we want watch the 3.30pm film.  The kill time we take a slow Chinese meal.  The food is excellent and unusually the restaurant has an open kitchen where you can see your meal being prepared.  The firm is very unusual and we find it strange to hear everyone clapping at the end. We muck in together to prepare an evening meal to share with Malcolm and
Claire’s in their motorhome.  We leave with tentative plans to meet up either on Crete or in Norway next midsummer!



WEDNESDAY 26 NOVEMBER – Leave the car park at 8am before we get blocked in.  Try to find LPG in Thessalonica but with no success and we get quite lost.  Eventually find our way out and head west to the village of Edhessa, famous for its streams and waterfalls. Spend a very pleasant hour just wandering around the town and taking in the sights before driving along side Lake Vegoritoha and over the mountains to Kastoria. This is the main centre for fur coat making with skins shipped in from Canada. The town is on a peninsula going into Lake Kastoria and from the shores you can see many rare birds.  We park on the lakeshore and await the morning viewing.



THURSDAY 27 NOVEMBER – Driving around the lakeside we do see lots and lots of birds.  Shortly after we are flagged down by Father Gabriel who invites us to look at his
church and monastery.  He invites us in to his kitchen along with a local
fisherman. We are served typical Greek coffee – extremely strong and with lots of coffee grinds in the bottom.  It’s very hard to drink as the grinds get stuck in your throat.  Fortunately the fisherman spots our plights and reminds Father Gabriel that he has forgotten to provide us with a glass of water to wash it down.  Father Gabriel tells us we could have camped by the church last night as he provides free parking and electricity to campers in summer but is actually open all year round. The
Kastoria local folklore museum is excellent and housed in an old mansion. The door opening
rings a bell and an old guy comes out and asks us where we are from and then takes a
paper with information in our language. He shows us round and reads the phonetic
details from his sheet. It is one of the nicest museums we have been to, very friendly,
quiet, with a fascinating guide and interesting displays. Our drive south takes us over yet more
mountain passes to the area of the
Meteora monasteries. This is a little like
in Turkey with strange rock formation but even bigger rocks with the buildings perched
precariously on top. We visit
Roussanou and Megalou Meteorou
the latter being the best.
The frescoes in the church are very strange with violent scenes of grisly martyrdom’s.
Boiling alive, beheading, spearing and other forms of torture predominate.  There is a
chattel with all the skulls of previous monks on the shelves and exhibits in the other
.  We planned to stay overnight on the car park but by 5pm
the mist is
rolling in and it is very cold so we drive back down the mountain then stop on a side road just west
of Trikala.



FRIDAY 28 NOVEMBER – We’ve had enough cool weather so make a beeline for Athens and the ferry to Crete. Stop to look at the ancient sit of Glas but it is virtually non-existent.  The road to Athens is good but traffic heavy.  The final approach to Pireas harbour through Athens is quite hair raising with locals thinking nothing of stopping on the dual carriageway (in the traffic lane) and jumping out for a wee.  The traffic is horrendous and there is no real ring road around Athens so we plough on finding almost no signs for the port.  Make it to the port at about 4pm.  We shop around for ferry prices and end up on the 8.00pm Anek lines ferry to Chania. 4300dr pp (£8.60) + 40,000dr (£80) for the motorhome.  The ferry is very nice and we choose airline type seats and try get some sleep on the 10-hour crossing – no chance.  Greeks seem unable to whisper and all conversations are shouted.  The ones who sleep snore loudly and the room is too hot for comfort. 



SATURDAY 29 NOVEMBER – Dock on CRETE in Chania at 6am in the middle of a bad storm with thunder and lightening.  Fortunately we drive off the ferry and immediately find a place to park in the docks.  After a couple of hours sleep we head west through Chania town to Galatas and find one of only two LPG stations on the island.  Continuing west through Kastelli we pass some superb beaches and also the ancient town of Falasarna, which is in the process of being excavated.  The guidebook recommends a driving circuit round the west coast and back inland.  The views are spectacular and the mountain passes likewise.  The local olive trees fill the hillsides with mesh underneath to catch the crops.  There are huge banks of standpipes with hoses running off in all directions.  We pass through many “invisible” villages where we see the start and end of village signs but no houses only to turn a hair pin bend and look back to see the houses below the road clinging precariously to the rock sides.  The road gets very narrow through the villages until finally in the village of Kefali we cannot proceed because lorries are parked up blocking the road.  They are being loaded with fertiliser and it looks like a long job so we decided to park up for the night.  There is space by the local restaurant where the owner offers us electricity.  Steve is a happy bunny as this means he can watch the live Everton V Tottenham match on TV.  He’s even happier still when he hears that Wolves beat QPR and Stoke lose (Dave Spooner will not be amused).  In the restaurant the beers are more reasonable at 300drs (60p) but we spend the same amount and drink twice the quantity.  We also eat at the restaurant and have the same dish that the owner and his wife are eating.  The village shop sells used plastic pop bottles filled with local spirit or wine and we buy some to try. 



SUNDAY 30 NOVEMBER – We are quite shocked when the restaurant man charges us £4.50 for the electricity.  Having never paid more than £1 anywhere for electric and spent £4 for a full campsite with electric and showers in Turkey we are non-too pleased.  Especially annoying as we made a point of eating and drinking in the restaurant when we needn’t have.  We don’t normally ask the price before hand as it makes us seem a bit rude and inhospitable but maybe in Greece we should be doing.  Complete the circuit drive and find a good car park behind a beach just west of Chania.  Spend some time on the beach debating whether to join a few locals swimming in the sea but the decisions is made for us when it clouds over.  We move on to another good spot by the walls of the ancient city of Chania and with a view over the ocean.  Our exploratory stroll takes us past an old English ambulance that has been roughly converted into a camper van.  The owner looks pretty scruffy but introduces himself as Thomas McGrath from Ireland.  We chat a bit and invite him to join us in our van for a drink in the evening.  Continue our walk around the harbour, which is very pretty with busy pavement cafes surrounding it .  A nearby archaeological museum is open and has free admission on Sunday so we take a look.  Down a back street we find a launderette and not only that but it is open so we return to the van and I dispatch Steve with two backs full of dirty washing.  Just after Steve leaves the car park is invited by a coach load of very smart marines.  They climb off the bus then sit around smoking and chatting until a jeep arrives with an army band.  They proceed to line up in formation then parade along the sea front.  Steve gets back just before Thomas drives up in his ambulance having been moved to make way for the parade.  He comes over clutching cans of beer and a homemade wooden miniature chest of drawers type storage box. He makes these boxes and “tries” to sell them but the carpentry leaves a lot to be desired.  He’s brought one over as a Christmas present for us, what a lovely gesture.  Spend a delightful evening listening to his life story, often very sad as his girlfriend was blown up and killed outside his house.  He was working undercover for the British forces and eventually had to leave.  He then worked in the Middle East and had a job walking backwards guiding a tarmac machine (for which he had to be drunk each day to pluck up he courage to do the job as one slip and he would have been run over).  He has us in fits of laughter when he sys a mate grabbed his “water” flask for a drink but spat it out when he realised it was alcohol, the liquid went towards the fire and produced a flame thrower effect.  What a wonderful character. 





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