Wednesday, December 30, 2015

For Your Eyes Only - Evia or Bust

We had to get a  move on, from the early morning  CorFew ferry to Igoumenitsa we had a country to cross, a mountain range or two to traverse and another ferry to catch, to arrive at Evia before sunset and mosquito oblivion.

Driving around the rather tatty Igoumenitsa port  one stumbles on a brand new but bent signpost indicating a new motorway heading east   Εγνατία Οδός -  Egnatia Odos to Constantinople (sort of). I fantasise that this is really the Byzantinium Parkway.

We carve through the Pindus mountains with all possible dispatch and join the (OLD) Greek National Road 6 at some gorge or other.  All a bit of a rush and worthy no doubt of a more sedate exploration later. Read this later ** says the teleprompter.

The motorway carries on east whilst we dip down south  to the Thessaly plain and Meteora and beyond
 A welcome sight and site - lunch:
"Anoixto" means open and this place always is apparently

Best to park in the shade
Peasant salad

Souvlaki and baked cheese with a smattering of yogurt and garlic sauce

Landing on the plain of Thessaly we soon spot Meteora, a film set built by Cubby Brocoli for the James Bond film "For your Eyes Only"

A lot of stuff here about wicker baskets lift systems and accommodating monks -----> HERE WE ARE

This is the best highway view...

..passing by at warp speed - see how the red pickup is subject to space-time contraction
The roads across the plain are hot, straight, free of traffic and boring. We don't quite know whether the ferry to Evia still exists at the port to which we are heading - Glifa.  We are visiting friends who will be leaving the next day from Evia.

Hard to stay awake 

After a spell on the National road we are guided to a winding track through olive groves

At the end of the road a ferry port is spotted.

A lovely local ferry arrives..

...A ticket to Apokampos later...

we are on the island of Evia

We are not too late for the leaving party.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Plane Spotting at Αερολιμένας "Ιωάννης Καποδίστρια"

The journey moves on  to a two day tour of the Ionian island of Corfu, or Core Few as the Brits call her.  the Greeks say Kerkyra or Κέρκυρα.  I had visted here 35 years ago. I also had a letter published in the Radio Times in 1969 which corrected Cliff Michelmore's pronounciation of Core Few.

Further to disgorgement from the high speed Cruise Olympia at the flourishing mainland Greek port of Igoumentitsa we proceded to Corfu on the ineptly named Kerkyra Express, a converted Japanese whaler by the smell of her.
The rainswept and grim local ferry port resembles Northwich-on-sea  market on a normal day
The ineptly named Kerkyra Express -  stately transport to the nearby island of Corfu
Apparently this leviathan 1,199 ton vessel was originally called the New Hiyama and possibly survived a tsunami - a disorder of mine is to see what former names have been painted out by the Greek owners who specialise in maritime salvage and reuse
Corfu venetian facade
I booked the Ariti Grand hotel near Corfu town with views over "the lagoon" and Mrs N's reaction are initially favourable until she peers through the triple glazed balcony door... see  the lagoon and international airport.
A little later we explore the town.
This is the first Greek town I know which has a cycle super highway - Boris please note. 

We were pretty shuttered after our long stroll

It's always vaguely amusing to to read Greek transliteration of English place names especially when they are in φαντασμένος πολτός

By now you have already read the wikipedia link provided above to dsicover the British influence in Corfew - in particular ginger beer and cricket.  This beer was proper however and quite good. The cricket square is now used mostly as a car park.

Cathedral square souvlaki restaurant - pretty decent value .

Wet stone pavements remind me of the Third Man
Other than the international airport  lagoon I did not recognise much of the town since my last visit 35 years ago. Consiserable touristic tarting up has taken place.  The next day Mrs N wants to search out the palace that Sisi built and I want to spot aircraft.

Achilleion (Greek: Αχίλλειο or Αχίλλειον) is a palace built in Gastouri, Corfu by Empress of Austria Elisabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sisi, after a suggestion by Austrian Consul Alexander von Fartberg. Elisabeth was a woman obsessed with beauty, and very powerful, but tragically vulnerable since the loss of her only son, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in the Mayerling Incident in 1889. A year later in 1890, she built a summer palace in the region of Gastouri (Γαστούρι), now the municipality of Achilleion, about ten kilometres to the south of the city of Corfu. The palace was designed with the mythical hero Achilles as its central theme. Later Phil the Greek of Buck House was born nearby at Mon Repos . Its uses include a casino and now it's a museum.

So here we are standing in a long line of cruise ship sail ins.

We stroll through the lush gardens looking for the souvenir shop and cafe

Time for a muse - Joy mirth and merriment
In the palace now (obviously)

Low hanging fruit

Cruise ship passengers - Why do they look so bored?
The views from the garden are something else.
Looking south towards Benitses village
and  north towards Corfu town
We drive to the Northwest of the island to visit my childhood haunt of


Somwehere is the mythical petrified ship of Odysseus.  This is no longer the quanit little village and bay from my childhood although the beach is ok and probably the raw sewage is dealt with better these days.

I remember my father ordering lobster here - we don't see it on the menu. We swim, eat chips and move on.

We trundle on behind a tour bus designed to fit perfectly through Corfiot villages

Views from the top of the island are fine
The olive trees are wild and not well looked after - tourism provides the income here

Trip Advisor Tip: The restaurant  at the Ariti Grand did not serve a la carte food catering mainly for Romanian package tours and screaming kids.  We ate our evening meal here and were looked after very well.

Early next morning we dodged a blockade of cruise ships in our local ferry to Igoumenitsa and then to resume our journey across the centre of Greece to the island of Evia on the east coast. I never mentioned the Durrell family...

With scenes redolent of the the Adriatic campaign of 1807 we navigate through the blockade
Britannia rules the waves

A room with a sea view? Mein Gott....
I have a pimple
Mrs N catches up on sleep away from the airport lagoon view.

Friday, December 11, 2015

September Travels - the Tunnel Rush

Following the Balkan adventure of 2014, we elected to try Minoan Lines, an Italian owned shipping company operating fast ferries down the Adriatic.

Days 1 and 2 - Wiesbaden to Ancona.

I enjoy drivng through the Alps in daylight so the plan was made to overnight half way at Belinzona Switzerland leaving Wiesbaden early afternoon.
mountains and lake - my dream is realised

All going well with eta at Belinzona  21:30 when sign spotted in Italian roughly translated to "St Gotthard Tunnel to close at 21:00" - trouble was overnight stop so thoughtfully planned is the other side...

We make the tunnel entrance 2 minutes before closure and emerge in Ticino to see much stau not going North...
Belinzona - thoughtfully provided public facilities and free to use too

A double room here at the converted Istituto Santa Maria with breakfast cost around €80 - not to bad for Switzerland.
Next day the slog past Milan to Ancona was undertaken with little incident.

Interesting cappuccino ginseng available on many italian autostrada

solar powered car parking shades - now that is a good idea

 However the ship was delayed some hours in arrival at Ancona so after check-in  we ventured into the town of Ancona to find gluten free pizza and some food.
water features everywhere

should be blowing air?
Meanwhile back at the port some late action eventually takes place.
The "Cruise Olympia" skulks into Ancona port 3 hours late

Following the chaotic unloading/loading process...
...we are safely installed.
The delay worked to our advantage as we arrived at Igoumenitsa at a more civilised time of the morning. Oh, and we booked a cabin this time!

on board amenities include bull dancing...
...followed by an expensive μπιφτέκι

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