Posted on September 1, 2012 by vicki
Tags: greece, tour

Day 36 24/8/12 Edessa to Thessaloniki 112km Our first full day riding in northern Greece was on terrain that we had not expected - flat. From Edessa to Thessaloniki stretched a huge agricultural plain, which we crossed mainly using quiet roads that ran through small villages.

We got into Thessaloniki on a highway and cycled along the port before eventually finding our hostel in the old neighbourhood of cobbled streets high on the hill. The city itself is a crazy network of one way streets, difficult to negotiate on a bike. We spent a couple of days there, got some bike repairs and enjoyed looking at the old ruins, of which there are many. Apparently the entire ancient city of Thassalonica is buried under the newer city.



We also hired a car and visited the monasteries of Meteora. It was a three hour drive either way, and Rodney managed the windy roads like a local. The monasteries are all perched high on rocks, built by Byzantine monks seeking refuge from the Ottomans. They really have to be seen to be believed. People used to be lifted up in nets, but now there are stone steps that make them more accessiblt, though there is quite a lot of climbing. We visited the six open to the public - they are all beautifully constructed out of stone with intricately decorated churches, beautiful gardens and courtyards and spectacular views. Definitely worth seeing.

Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Meteora Monastery Megalou, Meteora Monastery of the Holy Trinity coutryard Old hook for lifting people in nets Meteora Monastery garden Day 37 28/8/12 Thessaloniki to Asprovalta 96km We had tried to leave Thessaloniki and ride this route the previous way but were thwarted. After climbing a fairly steep mountain out of the city, we were riding along the pass at the top and were stopped and turned back by firemen, as they were closing the road due to the fire risk created by the strong winds (the whole area was pine forest). So we rode back down the hill and spent an additional night in Thessaloniki, planning to ride again the next day.

With help from the hostel we found out that the road would be closed for the next two weeks, as well as several other roads that included every route we could take out of Thessaloniki that didn’t involve a motorway. So we thought we’d be clever and got up at 4am, to cycle the road in the dark before the wind picked up and before the firemen woke up and set up the blockade. Turned out they were blocking the road along with the police around the clock, but they were able to tell us of a slightly longer and hillier route running through the town of Lagina that was still open and would avoid the motorways.

We had a pre-dawn tour of the back streets of Thessaloniki to find the road out to Lagine, then stopped for a coffee to wait for the sun to come up. After a good climb to get over the hills, we dropped down into another plain that contained several lakes and ran all the way to a small gap between the hills on the coast near Asprovalta. At Asprovalta, we camped next to the beach (so nice to be camping again!) and had a swim.

Early morning on the plain Riding through the plain Sunset in Asprovalta Day 38 29/8/12 Asprovalta to Nea Karvali 102km This day was a really nice ride along the coast. In the morning we were on a quite road right next to the water with almost no traffic, passing nice little beaches and traditional blue and white painted Greek houses. It got busier around the city of Kavala, with quite a few hills.

Quiet beach road Stone lion at roadside

We were planning to get a ferry from Kavala to the island of Thassos, however the last one for the day had already left at 2pm. There have been cuts to the ferry system and the new timetable is quite complicated with different times for each day according to a colour-coded key. Once we’d figured it out, we decided to get a ferry from Keramoti instead, which was about 35km further east. It was a bit far to go in the same day, so we rode to the next town and camped next to the beach and had another swim.

Day 39 30/8/12 Nea Karvali to Skala Prinou 53km We packed our tent up in the dark and rode the 28km to Keramoti in time for the 8:15 ferry to Thassos. Once there, we looked around Thassos town for a while, it has a nice harbour and some Roman ruins. We rode out in a westerly direction over quite a few hills and found a campsite in the town of Skala Prinou. It is a nice camping, also on the beach.

Ferry to Thassos Ruins in Thassos town

We have spent the last two days here on Thassos. Yesterday we cycled a lap of the main road that runs around the perimeter of the entire island, making a circuit of about 100km. It was hot and extremely hilly, but very nice to ride without the weight of panniers and not having to wonder if we were on the right road or not.

This seems like the perfect time of year to come to a Greek island. It is the end of the season so most of the tourists are gone, but the weather is still fantastic.

Breakfast Riding around Thassos Quiet cove where we ate our lunch Monastery Archangelos

We have found in Greece that no-one accepts cards for payment, not even chemists or post offices. It is strictly cash only. Also, we couldn’t find a single post office open after 2pm on a weekday. The people are all very welcoming and seem to really enjoy life - the cafes are filled from morning to late at night and everyone drinks frappe. Rodney tried the retsina, but isn’t such a fan. But he had to try it twice to be sure!

Sunset in Skala Prinou

Sunset in Skala Prinou