We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

Which Greece hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Athens
Level Contributor
18,811 posts
85 reviews
Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

Hello all!!!

I have noticed that many wonderful Trip Reports get lost after a while in the numerous pages of our forums.

This is a sticky, where I’m kindly asking you to post the links to your Trip Reports. That way, all of them will be gathered in one place and future visitors will be able to refer to them when planning their anticipated trips.

When you post the link, please also post what the Trip Report is about.

Example: Athens/Amorgos/Astypalaia, Summer 2009

If you have posted photos (on Flickr or anywhere else) do post the link for them as well.

Any other detail that could be useful (trip with teens/kids, honeymoon etc) would be very welcome!

Thank you very much for helping us to make the forums better and more informative.

Happy travels,

Thalia

P.S. This sticky is not only for new reports. If you have reports from trips to Greece, do post them no matter how old they are!

354 replies to this topic
1. Re: Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This post has been removed at the author's request. The author may repost if desired.

Posts on the TripAdvisor forums may be edited for a short period of time. Once the edit period has expired, authors may update their posts by removing and reposting them.

To read more about editing your posts, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/help/how_to_edit_your_posts

Removed on: 10:31 am, September 09, 2014
 
Oslo, Norway
Destination Expert
for Oslo, Naxos, Norway
Level Contributor
18,163 posts
39 reviews
2. Re: Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

Here are some from the summer 2009:

Naxos overview

tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g189431-c116941/Nax…

Athens - Part 1

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189400-i194-k28…

Athens - Part 2

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189400-i194-k28…

Athens - Part 3

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189400-i194-k28…

Athens - Part 4

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189400-i194-k28…

Trip report 5 - Naxos

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189431-i1324-k2…

Trip report 6 - Naxos

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189431-i1324-k2…

Trip report 7 - Santorini

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189433-i245-k28…

Athens, Greece
Destination Expert
for Peloponnese, Stoupa, Finikounda, Petalidi, Athens
Level Contributor
6,303 posts
55 reviews
3. Re: Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

June 2009

3 days in Athens, incluing TA meeting,

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189398-i192-k28…

2 days in Santorini,

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189398-i192-k28…

Naxos 1st part,

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189398-i192-k28…

Delos & Mykonos,

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189398-i192-k28…

Naxos part 2,

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189398-i192-k28…

Philadelphia
Level Contributor
6,118 posts
3 reviews
4. Re: Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

Here's my 6-parter about my 28-day jaunt May-JUne 09 through the Peloponnese (Olympia-Gialova-Messenia- Nauplion), then Sifnos, Athens, Naxos & Syros - with lots of smartalec remarks:

PELOPS --- tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g189398-i192-k2887…

NAUPLION -- tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g189398-i192-k2888…

Jan_s_2009_Greek_a_Thon_Part_2_Nafplio-Greece.html

SIFNOS tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g189398-i192-k2889…

ATHENS - tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g189398-i192-k2889…

NAXOS - tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g189431-i1324-k289…

SYROS - tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g189398-i192-k2898…

5. Re: Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This post has been removed at the author's request. The author may repost if desired.

Posts on the TripAdvisor forums may be edited for a short period of time. Once the edit period has expired, authors may update their posts by removing and reposting them.

To read more about editing your posts, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/help/how_to_edit_your_posts

Removed on: 10:30 am, September 09, 2014
 
Ottawa
Level Contributor
2,161 posts
42 reviews
6. Re: Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

Here is a trip report for Samos, Patmos, Leros, June 2009.

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g189398-i192-k2898…

Devizes, United...
Level Contributor
39,274 posts
307 reviews
7. Re: Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

Ithaca - first visit, memories from 2003

Devizes, United...
Level Contributor
39,274 posts
307 reviews
8. Re: Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

PART ONE - the ferry ride across the straits

Any visit to Ithaca starts with the trip across Kefalonia to the east coast port of Sami. The trip can be made from Fiskardo in the far north but at 28km from Lassi, Sami is the closest option. The road skirts the eastern shore of the Koutavos Lagoon past the far end of the Drapano Bridge, crosses the foothills of the Mount Ainos range and takes a full hour to complete the drive. It’s essentially 14km up, then another 14km back down. The ferry route from Sami is the shortest, although it does deposit you at Agios Pisaeton, a remote west coast landing stage, rather than take you around the island to the larger town of Vathy.

I arrive at Sami a good half-hour prior to the departure and see that the queue for the ferry is small: me, the jeep, two private cars, a coach, and a few foot passengers. The Agia Marina has already berthed and within 5 minutes we are being instructed to board. We are all required to reverse on, which means we can drive straight off at the other side.

The engines kick into life and almost imperceptibly we inch away from the jetty bang on time. It’s a beautiful morning, so I abandon the jeep and make my way up to the top deck, which affords me great views as Sami disappears into the distance. There is very little maritime traffic; a private yacht passes directly astern of us, bobbing gently on the ferry’s wash, and a rusted coaster passes in front, about 2 miles to our port side.

The Agia Marina does have a few facilities onboard, namely a snack bar that sells staggeringly strong coffee and doughnuts and toilets that look like the world dysentery championships have been held here very recently. I’ll wait till I get to Ithaca then…

There’s little more than a gentle sea breeze as we chug across the straits, the

eastern skyline dominated by the rugged, switchback topography of Ithaca.

Our destination hoves into view and I wonder where we actually intend berthing. Agios Pisaetos drifts into my sight and I see that it is no more than a remote landing stage situated at the bottom of an impossible incline. A couple of cars are awaiting the return ride, as is a local truck, having deposited its cargo on the island.

With a slight bump, we become one with Ithaca.The ramp lowers, I inch the jeep off and wonder if I’ll make it to the top of this ridiculously steep hill. My long awaited trip has begun...

PART TWO - The Monastery of Katharon

The first stop on my exploration of Ithaca is the monastery of Katharon. As the crow flies, this is no more than 5km from Agios Pisaetos, but the switchback road pushes the distance out to twice this distance. The monastery comes into view after the steep ascent from Hani and I pull the jeep up 20 meters from the old wooden gates, in front of which are a dozen or more obviously well-cared-for goats that have no intention of letting me drive any farther.

First call is the somewhat dilapidated bell tower positioned on a slight rise to the left of the church. The approach is rocky and replete with more goats who take sneaky nibbles of my shorts as I brush past them. The tower is 20m tall and a staircase leads up to the top, although visitors can only go halfway up. The tower affords stunning views across to Vathy and back across the straits towards Kefalonia.

The monastery is very rustic: white-washed dry stone walls, gnarled old olive trees, and an air of abandonment. The main gates take me to the inner courtyard, where I find a posse of cats, again, looking well-fed and seemingly the monastery’s "mousers." The interior of the church is wonderful: cobalt blue ceilings decorated with beautiful hand-painted icons; huge, ornate chandeliers hanging in the air like oversize, golden coronets; and walls painted with biblical scenes and frescos of local saints.

A sign in Greek proclaims that "photographs are allowed if a small donation is made," which seems a good deal to me. Many Greek churches forbid any photography at all, so this is a real bonus, but in reality probably points to the fragile economy of the place and is a reluctant trade-off with the sightseers.

The cats are all around but are nowhere near as omnivorous as the goats. Their master strolls into view, a weather-beaten man who looks around 65 but is in all likelihood in his early 50s. He tells me in stilted English that he has looked after the goats since his father died when he was 12. My God, what a lonely and thankless task. He is obviously camera shy, but I really want his picture, so I turn off the beeper on the camera and silently catch him as he strolls away. I sincerely hope he forgives me for the intrusion.

I wander around for another 10 minutes or so, snapping away at the exterior decorations, and notice a sign on the front door that reads, "will visitors please close the door behind them otherwise the goats will come in and are impossible to shift back out." Apparently, a couple of years ago, the goats made it inside and scoffed a couple of beautiful and irreplaceable woven frescoes before the priest noticed they were there. Honestly, have they no decorum?

The door creaks open and several folk enter the church. I am being selfish today and want to share these long-awaited experiences with no-one else so I depart and make my way back through the cats and goats to the jeep, stow the camera, take off my t-shirt to enjoy the wonderful sunshine, and start the engine ready to make for my next port-of-call.

PART THREE - Anogi

Leaving Moni Katharon behind, I continue for about three kilometers to the tiny medieval mountain village of Anogi which translates literally "above the ground". An apt name indeed for we are on the eight-hundred meter contour line here at thehighest part of the island.

I find that again, unfortunately, the coach party has beaten me to it but it seems thatthe local lothario, a craggy faced man called Philipos is waiting for the coach where he personally greets all the women of child-bearing age with a hug, two kisses and a sprig of wild sage as he’s apparently done since Ithaca became a day trip location. Anogi is little more than a narrow street with a church, kafenion, shop and bakery but the entire population have turned out for the visitors. They speak no English and I speak virtually no Greek, but goodwill is a common language and these are genuinely

friendly folk.

My next sight is of a canvas-covered 4x4 containing three beautiful hunting dogs in theback. These are specially bred here to cover the rocky terrain and will outrun anything including hares and deer. Their masters are standing close by with rifles draped across their shoulders, it looks like the hunting expedition is shortly to begin.

I saunter down the narrow main street to the church which, as in all Greek communities is the most important building in the village. The church here is dedicated to the Panayia or Virgin Mary. The door is open and again, pictures are allowed for a small donation. Judging by the condition of the roof, I could see why. The church has a separate campanile dating from Venetian times although it too looks in

need of some serious restoration.The inside is simply decorated with wooden panelling and a beautiful, carved iconstasis depicting Christ and local saints. Before this are two small tables, one witha bottle of olive oil, the other a bottle of local wine, simple offerings from god-fearing folk.

The main street has no more than a dozen or so stone house, some rendered withbright stucco, the rest asnature intended. I peer inside the kafenion, where severalsun-baked gents are conducting a heated debate over strong coffee, even stronger liquor and evil smelling cigarettes that have turned the air inside into a thick, blue fug. It appears the kafenion also offers a limited grocery range with it’s back shelvesadorned with toilet rolls, chocolate bars, fizzy drinks and a higgledy-piggledy pile of cigarette packets, all of life’s necessities . One must diversify these days…….

Anogi was at one time second only to Vathy in terms of importance on the island buttoday it is almost deserted save for Philipos and his friends in the kafenion. The word “rustic” is insufficient to describe Anogi; it has a well-worn charm with most local buildings needing a certain level of repair, mainly to the roofs but it’ll be dry here for another couple of months so I expect few will worry about the leaking tiles till the first gales and rains of the autumn.

Having seen what Anogi has to offer, I return to the Jeep and fire up the engine for the next part of the trip

PART FOUR - Kioni

Kioni certainly rivals anywhere for its beauty and tranquillity. It is situated fifteen kilometers north-east of Anogi on the coast and at the end of the line for the road which terminates in the village. It was established in the sixteenth century when villagers from Anogi felt it safe to move down from the hills after marauding coastal raids by pirates .

As I descend the steep hill, I’m rewarded with a panoramic view of the village, all white-washed houses with red pan-tiled roofs, assembled around three sides of a pretty but deep harbour with a cluttering of yachts and a few fishing boats tied up

along the harbour walls. The surrounding hillsides are as green as I’ve seen anywhere in springtime Britain and it’s only the addition of exotic hibiscus, frangipani and bougainvilleae that actually tell me I’m in Greece rather than south Devon or Cornwall.

The most immediately striking thing about Kioni is its uniquely shaped church bell-tower; ovoid and beautifully cared for, it really is the focal point of the village and ispartly painted in warm ochre hues.

I leave the jeep under an obliging tree and stroll leisurely down to the harbour, noting that I’ve beaten the coach to it this time. Kioni seems to be in a time warp; a harbourof azure water laps softly at the sides of the boats as they wallow on the gentle swell, a couple of old fisherman sit there singing as they fix the holes in the nets, oblivious

to everything save for the task in hand, another elderly gent saunters past with a politekalispera for me and then raises his battered cap to a young lady just leaving her tiny dwelling behind me.

Further along the quay I spy a perfect photo opportunity; a stone balcony draped with huge fishing ropes and gilded with a pot of overflowing hibiscus that has entwined itselfaround the iron handrail. Simple but effective, I think.

I pause for fifteen minutes at a small taverna and take a long needed cool drink as I watch the fisherman complete their task in the warm afternoon sunshine. I guess thatlife could be tough here, particularly in the winter months but today, from an outsider’s point of view, it looks just idyllic.

Having finished the drink, I wander slowly back up through the village, past the bakery where the aroma indicates that possibly an extra batch of bread has just been taken from the oven and will soon be on the shelves inside for sale.

As I approach the jeep, two small local children run past me, laughing uncontrollably with huge smiles on their young, sun-tanned faces, no doubt on their way home or tosee an adoring aunt or grandmother elsewhere in the village.

Goodness me, but it’s hot. I can usually estimate the temperature fairly accurately and I reckon it must be pushing 40c. Unusually for a coastal village, there is little or no breeze as the harbour is totally surrounded by hills on three sides. Being on the east coast also protects it from the predominantly westerly or northwesterly winds that prevail in the Ionians.

Kioni depicts all that is lovely about Greece, an unhurried way of life and people with nothing more to fret about other than getting to the bakery before it sells out. A beautiful place that should be on everyone’s list to see if they venture to Ithaca. Thetour coach looms over the brow of the hill as it starts it’s descent into the village so

it’s time to leave. I just wish Caroline were here to experience the beauty of this idyllic

place.....

PART FIVE - Stavros

To reach Vathy, it is necessary to retrace the route to Hani, which takes me to the thriving large village of Stavros, second only to Vathy in terms of importance on the island and the administrative centre for the north. I am somewhat amazed to find that once again, the tour bus has reached the town before me, but Stavros is large enoughto explore without tripping over everyone else.

I leave the jeep in the wide main square and walk across to the adjacent church, certainly the grandest I’ve seen on Ithaca, reflecting the town’s prosperity. It is locked,however, meaning it’s treasures can only be hankered after. Opposite the church is a

grand statue of Odysseus, for indeed this is the island of his birth. This is, in fact, thesole memorial to him anywhere in the Ionians.

The main street is bordered with tavernas and restaurants, another indication of the town’s importance, and I see that most of them are busy with locals and some of the coach party who obviously fancy a snack. Shops abound selling all manner of wares, most of which are geared towards the coach tours that wind their way up here several

times a day in high season.

With Vathy still to see and time running a little short, I have to curtail my visit toStavros before having the opportunity to explore fully. There is a Homeric site on Pelikata Hill just a couple of kilometres away with walls, roads, and other remains, aswell as the town’s own archaeological museum, situated 500m from the town square.

Stavros does have the distinction of producing the best bread on the island, and I overhear the English-speaking Greek tour guide telling the coach passengers that they will be stopping off at a particular bakery to buy bread for themselves. That, of course, gets everyone’s gastric juices flowing, and I hear several of the party ask if they can buy some bread there, too.

Stavros’ only other claim to fame is that of the only real road junction on the island soI climb aboard the jeep and head along the coast road this time rather than take the torturous mountain route. This affords me a stunning maritime vista towards Kefalonia as I travel south on the three-hundred meter contour line through Lefki, the only place

of any size on the west coast of Ithaca as I head towards Vathy.

PART SIX - Vathy, history and mythology

Vathy is compact enough that you can walk to anywhere in the town within 10 minutes. With this in mind, I leave the jeep and set about finding the hidden delights that lurk within Vathy’s alleys and streets.

The first object to be found is the small statue of Penelope, a graceful carving situatedon the north side of the harbour. Penelope was, of course, the wife of Odysseus, and a very faithful one at that, waiting as she did for a full 10 years for her husband toreturn from the Trojan wars to her and their son, Telemachos.

Close by is the archaeological museum, set in Kallinikou, one street back from the harbourside in a rather bland, single-storey building. Admission is free, and inside is a fine collection of pottery, personal effects, tools, and household implements, manyrelated to the Odyssey myth. Photography is strictly frowned upon, although I don’t realise this on entering. I do manage to fire one off before deciding to keep the camera under wraps after a security guard kindly points out the error of my ways.

I stroll back to the harbourside and the large anchor mounted on a plinth, which I believe to be the local maritime memorial. The anchor is suffering from the ravages of time and the salty air. Close to the church of Agios Nikolaos is the Patriots Memorial,dedicated not just to the fallen soldiers of the two world wars, but also to the fighters

against domestic repression throughout Greece’s turbulent history.

There are other sights worthy of mention at Vathy. Unfortunately, my schedule does not allow me time to see them today. Of note are the Municipal Library, which housesa collection of editions of Homer and the Folklore & Nautical Museum containing traditional dress, embroidery, musical instruments, workshop tools, etchings, and relics. Entrance here is just one Euro.

I now walk north, past the main area of the town towards the far side of the harbour, for it is here that the most imposing houses and mansions are to be found. Many clingprecariously to the hillsides, for flat building land has always been at a premium here

on Ithaca. Although all were rebuilt after the ravages of 1953, it is hard to tell, such isthe sympathetic reconstruction. Italian Art Deco is the style here, and the splendid houses are painted in vibrant shades of pink, blue, yellow, and even orange, with gun-metal-black ironwork and railings.

Their gardens are resplendent with exotic flowers and shrubs, flourishing here courtesy of the protection from the elements that the mountains provide along with theshelter of the bay. What an idyllic place to reside to be sure.

Ithacans are renowned the world over for their love of their island and the burning desire to return to their homelands should their lives take then away from Ithaca, atenet initially instigated by Odysseus during his voyages.

Looking at this beautiful little town, I can fully understand why.

PART SEVEN - Vathy, harbour and beaches

Vathy is built around a deep, sheltered bay which has been identified as being the Homeric harbour of Phorkys. The harbour sits inside a wider inlet which in turn sits inside a wide, horseshoe shaped bay. This gives the town wonderful protection from high seas and of course from sea-faring attacks in centuries past.

The harbour is guarded by the picturesque Lazaretto islet which is just large enough to site a church and a gaol. The name Lazaretto is derived from "lazaret" or quarantinehouse so it would seem that possibly lepers or sufferers of other highly contagious diseases were at one time billeted here as they were at the much larger Spinalonga

Island on the east coast of Crete.

Looking out to the left and right of the outer harbour, it is just possible to spot the remains of the two forts that guarded Vathy from maritime attack, on either side of thetwo rugged headlands. Little still stands although stone-walls and crumblingreinforcements are just visible.

The harbour-side is lined with neo-classical buildings, all rebuilt sympathetically afterthe town was destroyed in the 1953 earthquake, resplendent in their warm hues of yellows, pinks and blues. Restaurants also take their space, with many offering freshly caught fish, courtesy of Vathy’s resident fishing fleet of privately owned, small

craft.

The water here is deep enough ( “Vathy” = “deep”) to permit large freighters to berth although fortunately, this is a very rare occurrence. The most famous visitors to the harbour were Charles and Diana who stayed here for a few nights during their

honeymoon in 1981. Nowadays, Vathy's harbour plays host to pleasure craft whose owners come to marvel at the beauty of this small, tucked-away town.

With Ithaca being such a rugged island, beaches are few and far between althoughVathy is fortunate to be blessed with four good examples, three of which are within fifteen minutes walk of the town around the bay.The biggest is Dexa on the western side of the bay. This is a pebble beach offering avariety of watersports and dining options. It is signposted as "Forkinas Bay" and is said to be the beach where the Phaeacians deposited the sleeping Odysseus.

On the other side of the bay is Loutsa, a small, uncluttered beach with some remains of Venetian fortifications still visible. There is a taverna here but the size of the beach plus the strenuous walk to reach it precludes it from most visitors’ itineraries. The twoothers are to be found at Sarakiniko Bay which is an hour’s trek over the hills that form the backdrop to the town and Skinos Bay, a fine, light pebbled beach just beforeyou get to Loutsa.

PART EIGHT - Vathy, churches and "pardon monsieur, ou est le clef?"

Vathy is blessed with several churches so I decide to find the three that are listed as

the most worthwhile to visit. The nearest one to me from my chair at the Kantouni Bar is Agios Nikoloas, a five-minute stroll away in Kallinkou, just past the archaeological museum.

Agios Nikolaos sits in a quiet back-street, away from the high season hubbub on the

harbour-side. It has recently undergone extensive renovation and is positioned behind

iron railings. It has an integral bell-tower, unlike most in the Ionians, with two bells

housed within. Just in front of the church is a statue depicting Eugenios Karabias. My

poor Greek tells me that some of the inscription beneath relates to "Constantinople"

and events that occurred on "10th April 1821". I have searched the web without joy to

find who this person is. Any help at identification would be appreciated.

The next church I visit it that of Agios Spirodon, just a short walk from the last. This is

certainly the prettiest and most simple church in the town, painted as it is pure,

brilliant white with a pale blue underside to the entrance portico and positioned in well

maintained gardens. Like Agios Nikolaos, it is locked. I do knock on a couple of

adjacent doors to see if anyone knows who the key-holder is but to no avail. It

probably doesn’t help that the neighbours have no English and asking for the address

of the key-holder in Greek is currently beyond my linguistic talents.

I then have a flash of brilliant inspiration and resort to "parlez-vous Francais?" Rather

unsurprisingly, I receive a couple of astonished and bemused looks.

Never mind, at least I can see the outside which has a typically Ionian separate

campanilewhich is every bit as pretty as the principal building. I saunter on by and

head now for Agios Ioannis (St John) which looks like a stiff climb up the hillside on

the southern end of the town.

Hopefully, the church and the view will be worth it. I let my mind wander off for a

moment and suddenly find myself saying out loud how bloody stupid it is to ask a

Greek in a small, island town if he speaks French. I start sniggering to myself and the

next thing I know, two elderly Greek chaps stroll past me, pause, then burst out

laughing themselves. My God, I hope they’re not related to the folks I’ve just asked for

directions from or I’ll be on the next boat to the local asylum or worse still, to

Lazaretto Island.

It is indeed a stiff climb up to Agios Ioannis but the views from the pathway are worth

the effort. Small, well-cared for houses, their tiny gardens festooned with citrus trees

line the way, some of which is steep steps, some just dirt track. The church comes

into sight and again, it is protected by a high stone- wall, the gate of which is padlocked. There are no houses this far up so reluctantly, I have to accept that using my French to ask for the key will not be an option up here.

The church is painted very similarly to the stunning example at Kioni on the north side of the island and seems to be built in a similar style, with an open, separate campanile. I can’t get in though so I have to concede defeat. Vathy obviously doesn’t want people roaming around in her churches.

But being the optimist I am, I look on the bright side. I’ve had a good walk, seen some great views, practised my French and convinced the local population that all Brits should be certified.

Time to get back to Agios Pisaetos for the ferry will quite happily sail without me. Fortunately, it's just a short if scenic hop back to the landing stage where my adventure started earlier today. I am so happy, I have realised one of my greatest ambitions, albeit in a fairly hurried manner which is not befitting such a laid back island but one thing's for sure, like Odysseus, I will be back....

Devizes, United...
Level Contributor
39,274 posts
307 reviews
9. Re: Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

For photos of Ithaca go to

www.flickr.com/photos/brownieboy27 and click on the Ithaca photoset

Molaoi, Greece
Destination Expert
for Naxos, Peloponnese
Level Contributor
3,003 posts
23 reviews
10. Re: Memories from Greece? Please post them here!

A MACEDONIAN ODYSSEY

Ioannis Mourahedis, owner of To Dendro taverna in Konitsa emerged from his kitchen and sat at our table with a mischievous look in his eye. He was wondering what brought an English family to his restaurant in a village in the Pindos mountains. The only foreign customers who make their way to his premises are hikers or water sports enthusiasts who do battle with the Aoos river that rushes through the gorge to the plains below.

“Where are you going,” he wanted to know. We told him that we were heading for Kastoria and the Prespa Lakes. His eyes lit up at mention of the Prespas. “Go and stay with my friend Lazarus Christianopoulos in Psarades. He will look after you. I will ring and tell him you are coming. But there is nothing to do there. You will be bored. One night is all you need.”

He looked at me. Did I have a daughter? “Yes, I do. She is 20 and studying Town Planning at University.” Was she good looking? “Of course. She is tall and slim with long red hair.”

“ I have a son who is 21 and wants to live in England. He needs a good wife and your daughter sounds perfect.”

Having resolved our children’s futures, Ioannis gave us an excellent meal of pestrofa – smoked trout from the river – goat stifado, an excellent local salad and a carafe of local wine before we continued our journey to Kastoria. We arrived there in the late afternoon after an exhilarating mountain drive and after finding somewhere to stay, set out to explore.

The town is in a beautiful setting, straddling an isthmus which projects into Lake Orestiada. Everywhere there are fur shops with signs in Greek and Cyrillic script – most of their customers seem to be visiting Russians wanting to flaunt their new found wealth. We strolled along the lakeside promenade which is lined with mansions built by wealthy fur traders in the 18th century. Many were being restored to their former glory but some looked sad as if waiting for new owners to bring them back to life. Lively cafes and restaurants were at the waters’ edge and we enjoyed a meal watching the lake changing colour with the approach of night. Afterwards, away from the lakefront, we found a bright cheerful town where new buildings contrasted with old Byzantine churches.

The following day, we drove to the town of Edessa situated on the edge of the Pindos escarpment looking down over the fertile plains of Thessaly.

Edessa is famous for its waterfalls and the restful sound of rushing water seems to be everywhere. We wandered into the park where the streams come together in two mighty waterfalls which thundered over the cliff hundreds of feet to the plain below. They were an impressive sight after all the Spring rain and the spray from them ensured that we were thoroughly soaked.

Edessa can be done in a day, so next morning we headed west for the Prespas. The road passes lakes and poppy fields but the real highlight is the approach to the lakes where the scenery is Alpine. We stopped for lunch in the tiny village of Pisoderi which sits in a lush green valley between the mountains. A cheerful fire blazed in an open hearth casting a pleasant glow in the taverna where we received a warm welcome from the friendly owners. We ate a simple but delicious meal of fasolada and salad followed by chamomile tea before continuing our journey.

Suddenly, we topped a rise in the road and the lakes came into view gleaming in the distance. As we crossed the causeway dividing the two lakes, the mountains of FYROM reflected their mirror images on the still water of Megali Prespa.

Soon we arrived in Psarades which sits peacefully on an inlet in the lake. We found Lazarus in the last building in the village right by the lakeside. He had received a call from Ioannis and had two rooms waiting for us. They were simple and clean with small balconies looking across the water to the west – perfect for the evening sun which bathed the mountains and lake with a dramatic rosy hue. The setting was idyllic and even the constant cacophony of frogs croaking couldn’t disturb the peace.

A rare breed of miniature cattle inhabits the surrounding meadows and that evening we saw the strange sight of dozens of them wandering through the village to drink from the lake circumnavigating restaurant tables on the way. The cattle and people dining at tables by the water ignored each other in what was clearly a daily event.

In ancient times, the lake was a magnet for monks seeking solitude and remains of old chapels dot the rim of the lake. The area is also a haven for birds and supports the rare Dalmation pelican, egrets, cormorants and many other species.

Next day, Lazarus took us on the lake in his motor boat causing the pelicans to take to the air in alarm – clearly not the first time they had been disturbed in this way. We spent a leisurely morning exploring the lakeside and clambered up to a remarkably well preserved old Byzantine church in a cave. From the cave was a superb view across the lake to the mountains of FYROM, still snowcapped in the late Spring.

The following day, we visited Mikri Prespa, the smaller of the two lakes which is situated almost entirely in Greece. The lake contains the islet of Agios Achillios, possibly the most unusual inhabited Geek island. Until recently, the only way to get to the lake was to signal from the shore and wait for the family who live there to send a boat across. A long pontoon bridge now spans the water which is convenient for visitors but deprived the family of much needed cash. Such is progress.

We crossed the bridge and began to explore. We passed ruins of a Byzantine basilica centuries old. The land eventually rises steeply to the peak of a hill on which stands a large white cross. From this high vantage point, we could see both lakes surrounded by mountains in every direction. The silence was broken only by the murmuring of bees and other insects feeding on the carpet of wild flowers.

We were so enchanted with the area that we decided to stay longer but needed more cash. Our guide book optimistically stated that travellers cheques could be changed at the post office in Agios Germanos. The owner of the post office thought otherwise and directed us to the nearest bank – 50 miles away in Kastoria.

Lazarus was disappointed when we told him we would have to leave and insisted that we should stay. He would only charge us for one room and we could take the money to his bank in Kastoria as we passed through on our way south. How could we refuse such typical Filoxenia

Reply to: Memories from Greece? Please post them here!
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted