We left Ancona on Wednesday afternoon and landed at Igoumenitsa at 8am Thursday morning, should have been 7am but hey ho, maybe there was a headwind. The crossing was smooth but unfortunately we shared the crossing with 6/7 coachloads of Italian teenagers on what appeared to be a school holiday trip which meant they ran up and down the corridors banging on doors all night. I felt a bit sorry for the lads, they showed the Juve-Real Madrid game on the TV in the lounge and the boys were ecstatic when 3-0 up only for Ronaldo to break their hearts in the 97th minute. That was hard for them.
A pleasant drive found us at Ioannina by mid morning and a car park, with a water tap, for €8/24hrs (N39.673072 E20.854670). We stopped at Ioannina a few years ago but didn’t do too much exploring but this time we wandered up to the town centre through a mix of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, international shops and old hardware stores and plenty of cafes and restaurants. I was on a mission to find a Greek Data SIM card, found just what I wanted in the Cosmote shop but didn’t have my passport with me which is a requirement in Greece. Back to the van and then back to the shop, fill out the forms, pay the money and I’m good to go. Except I wasn’t, when I got back to the van I couldn’t connect to t’interweb! Back to the shop and another hour whilst it was all sorted. Which meant I could watch Arsenal hang on and draw 2-2 with CSKA Moscow; Atlético Madrid awaits us.
The following morning we set off for the Old Citadel and the Silversmith Museum, the city is known for its silver craftsmanship and the museum was most interesting. We like Ioannina, the lake, the citadel, and the people.
We had visited Meteoro before, last time we were here we explored 4 of the monasteries in one day but this time we arrived in the late afternoon and thought we would just visit the Grand Meteoro this time. The massive pinnacles of smooth rock are breathtaking and the monasteries sat on their peaks are almost unbelievable. Mostly built in the 14th century the monasteries were initially only accessible via removable ladders or windlasses with baskets to carry the monks up and down. In the 1920’s steps were hewn into the rocks but access is still not an easy task, we climbed 27 floors and our calves knew it the next day. But it’s worth it. Apparently Meteoro is the most visited place in mainland Greece and if you’re all monastery’d out there are plenty of beautiful walks around the area. We stopped the night at Arsenis Guesthouse, it’s free if you buy a meal (N39.708436 E21.654706). It’s a bit like Fawlty Towers but without the humour. Basically you get a Greek salad and whatever Arsenis can find to throw on the barbecue providing there are enough folk who want to eat and make it worth his while to fire up the barby. Arsenis assures everyone that his Mum (who must be 80 if she’s a day) is a fantastic cook but basically she fries the chips. The dining room is a sombre affair to say the least until Arsenis’ son/brother/mum sits down and turns the TV on. Last time we were here there were a few other Motorhomers and Arsenis came round in the early evening shouting “Pork, Chicken?” and we indicated what we wanted him to barbecue for us. “ Seven O’clock you eat” he shouted. Four French Motorhomers turned up at half past seven and he refused to serve them because they were late. They explained that they had been for aperitifs but that wasn’t good enough. “You’re late, no food” he shouted as the chicken and pork caramelised on the barby.
So tonight we are parked up in a small car park next to a park and the river Peneios in Larissa just five minutes from the city centre (N39.642683 E22.411524). We were lucky to get in here, we took the last parking space that could accommodate us. It was a bit of a squeeze getting in and I suspect it will be even more of a squeeze reversing out tomorrow morning. Larissa isn’t a tourist town, there are no translations into English, German or Italian on the menus but it’s a great busy, bustling place. We wandered around for a few hours today and there must be, at least, 200 coffee bars here, probably more, and all of them full on Saturday lunchtime with families and young folk all enjoying the spring sunshine and enjoying their coffee. Although nearly all the places were licensed we didn’t see a single person drinking alcohol. Folk have been coming and going all day to the park and late this afternoon a couple of wedding parties arrived to have photos taken by the fountains.
It’s been 30 degrees here today and 35 in the van so tomorrow we’re setting off for Kato Gatzea on the coast about 50 miles south to a campsite where we can do some washing and other domestic chores and enjoy a sea breeze.
One of the wedding parties has just returned from having their photos taken. I went over and gave them a shiny pound and wished them wealth and happiness. I remember when Phil and I got married and on the train back down to London from Newcastle a lady came over and gave us the same token. Worked for us.