We chose to fly into Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, as we had never before visited any part of north eastern Greece, and had been given assurances the region is the most beautiful, and greenest, part of the country – information which proved most reliable, certainly as far as greenery. We drove some eighty kilometres to the south, into the Province of Halkidiki, to the beautiful and picturesque village of Afitos, on the Kassandra Peninsula, sited on cliffs above the sea, and its stone houses with red roofs nestling between spreading palm trees and lush foliage.
The greater part of the village is set back from the main access road running down to the tip of the peninsula, and remains a friendly old working community which has somehow retained the vast bulk of its charms. The centre is partially vehicle free – partially in that vehicle access is limited by day and shut out by night. Perched on the cliffs, overlooking the gulf below, and the distant sister peninsula, are a minor plethora of thoroughly pleasant eateries offering a wide variety of menus, each with a most reasonably priced selection, in a truly appealing and alluring setting. Here the distant vistas compete with people watching during an enjoyable and unhurried meal, slowly washed down with all manner of thirst quenching refreshments, from multi-national beers to local wines, ouzo, coffee and lemonades.
The village centre, apart from its timeless aesthetic appeal, provides a wide variety of tourist orientated shops which succeed in catering for far more than just the simple needs of the average traveller. In addition there are more restaurants and a relatively large number of properties offering accommodation, from those with little more than a modest room or two in private dwellings, all the way through to small hotels. Despite this, due to the absence of ugly, monolithic, purpose built ‘luxury’ hotels, there remains the very real feel of an unspoilt village about the place. Small well stocked supermarkets, seamlessly blending into their surroundings, fully supply the needs of those self-catering with food, drink, post cards, books and magazines in various European languages, all the way through to children’s inflatable crocodiles and buckets and spades.
Those walking to the shore will find golden sand, much of it laid out with sun-loungers and small sun shades. A warm and tranquil lapping sea, approached from a gently sloping beach, free of currents and undertow, is safe for adults and children alike. At various points along the shoreline a number of small tavernas provide drinks and menus, albeit somewhat more limited than those on the cliffs above. Regrettably one to the southern end of the beach area can spoil the general serenity with the unpleasant sound of raucous, grating disco noise. Pedaloes can be hired by the energetic, and high powered boats will tow adventure seekers around the waters of the area at speeds high enough to send occupants bouncing across the wake in their Ringo’s. From the village above arrangements can be made for all manner of entertaining waterborne excursions and day trips.
Venus finished her insane gallop across the night sky and the first red tinge of the new day appeared over the hills of the distant shoreline, the twinkling lights of the settlements across the vast bay diming as the sun began to climb, still hidden behind the clear profile of the far away hills. The wind, which had been rustling the palm fronds all night, continued to blow gently, bringing a much needed movement to the air of an unusually warm night. A cockerel, divine ruler of all he surveyed, kept up his seemingly relentless call, a natural and timeless sound which seemed to somehow compliment the sounds created by the breeze. The discordant, harsh, sound of man broke the spell as refuse collection began, the low murmur of a well muffled diesel-engined truck emphasised by the clash and bang of heavy steel bins thoughtlessly rammed against the rear of the vehicle before its hydraulic winching system lifted and tipped the bottles, cans and the general waste produced by the previous night’s revelry into its cavernous interior.
Still the cockerel kept up his calling, angry that this mere machine should interrupt his solitary rights. A single minuscule and insignificant cloud lazily drifted across the now pale eggshell blue sky in the near distance as its larger and more formidable cousins trudged across the distant hills, the darkness of their puffy mass somehow enhanced as the new sun played about their edges neatly trimming them with burnished gold. The first rays appeared, the clouds glowing and turning to silver as the sun rose magnificently between two peaks, within seconds making it impossible to continue to watch it as a rich golden halo radiated around its orange red body. Seconds later the colour had turned to a bright orange and then altered yet again to golden yellow, and heat began to spread, a slight but discernible increase in temperature as the daily climb continued. A small flight of birds sped overhead as they rapidly made their way to their morning hunting ground, followed moments later by a far larger group, all intent on plundering the rich food stocks of insects caught out and away from their hiding places by the suns sudden appearance.
The cockerel finally ceased his relentless crowing, defeated by the sun and the ever increasing sounds of other bird’s calls but, outraged at the effrontery, valiantly made one last desperate attempt to claim the new day as his own, happy he had successfully scared off the noisy machine. More birds arrived. Fat pigeons and slighter doves momentarily pitched on rooftops and wires as smaller far faster fork-tailed varieties took their fill of insects on the wing, circling and diving in beautifully managed high speed turns. Cheeky little sparrows flew by chirping in flight, and chaffinch like birds conducted an early morning airborne mating ritual. In the distance a skein of geese flew their predetermined course almost lazily in an age old ragged formation. The sun had now climbed well clear of the shelter of the land to become an almost white glowing orb in the morning sky, lighting all around as the life giving warmth this marvel of nature produced spread in every direction. The heat in the very air itself climbed in direct correlation as she rose, causing the breeze to decrease in strength as a result.
All around signs of life continued to increase, mostly human. The hotel owner cleaning the pool finished his work and within seconds a paying guest appeared, the first sun worshipper, spreading towels across neatly rearranged sun-loungers. A white vested man ambled past with a large russet brown dog on a short lead and a young woman drove cautiously up the slight rise in her car, presumably on her way to an early morning job. Shutters were cast open followed by the windows behind them, and further movement of vehicles in the distance produced a minor cacophony of sound. The sun continued to grow in strength, the heat given off now easily warming hitherto cool flesh, already, within a few minutes of rising, capable of burning those with fairer skins. The sun worshipper squeezed a generous bead of sun-cream from a large tube along his lower thigh and down to the ankle of each leg then proceeded to rub a protective layer of the lotion onto the surrounding flesh.
A wood pigeon started to call, slowly but relentlessly, in the hope of attracting a mate. In the distance a dog barked as several doves began cooing. The electric motor of the swimming pools pump could just be heard above the tinkling sound of running water as it forced water through a filtration system. A motor cycle passed, a ferocious bark of sound against an altogether gentler background. A second distant dog took up the cry of the first, surrendering to the new day after one long baying howl. More human movement began. The sound of small children’s voices carried on the now almost unnoticeable breeze, their hidden location a mystery. Adult voices took over, and somewhere a coffee grinder began its unremitting chore. Slowly, all but imperceptibly, the world gradually came to life, the incredible beauty and splendour of the new day lost to the general acceptance that everywhere life was unfolding as it should.
Another day in Afitos had begun.
I got the impression all rooms were of the same standard. There is no restaurant on site, and one is...
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