As we sit on this Tuesday evening on a campsite in Halkidiki, with the smells of Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria meat fest food cooking all around us we wonder whether we are in Greece. Then our food baby bellies rumble from the lovely fresh fish-dorado and calamari, Greek salad and tzatziki we had for lunch along with the beautiful azure blue waters and we know we are very firmly back in Greece, at long last.
In fact we have been here for over a week now and we have well and truly made up for it on the food front. We have eaten our weight in Greek salads (there are salads available) and are once again experts on the finer points of tzatziki. Fresh fish, souvlaki and gyros have overtaken our taken daily food itinerary with any remaining vegetables from life before Greece going very mouldy in the fridge.
Crossing the border last Monday was nerve racking, no more so than as we clocked up the miles was the thought that we could be driving back over them again the next day. The queues were as we expected, and the usual border chaos was the same for whatever reason that is, but with a quick flick through our passports and the Serbian stamp, not looking at the longer Turkish one they waved us through.
We both breathed a sigh of relief which was short-lived as an official then stood in front of us and pointed towards us and backwards. Having no idea what he meant exactly, but with the view he seemed to be pointing more at me than David or the van I got out. He quickly gestured towards the health officials behind me and for me to go there. We knew there was random testing, so really it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that we might be tested. The swab down the back of the throat was bit of a shock but survivable and not long after we were heading off on the road to the northern shores of Kavala.
Kavala is the hopping off point for the island of Thassos, the first Greek island I ever went to and we loved it so much that we went there four or maybe five times-certainly four. Unfortunately, the last time I was there it ended badly for my close friend Billy and I, well to be honest it could have ended worse. With many of the gang from those days gone and including the more recent passing of dear Billy I really wanted to re-visit the island and the fond memories made from there.
Of course, no place stays the same and certainly Thassos and Kavala haven’t, the wheels of tourism have certainly moved in these places. When we were there back in the day, the main tourists were the Scandiwegians, but there was no evidence of them at all, just huge amounts of Romanian, Serbian and Bulgarian cars all around us wherever we went. But of course, despite Covid, why not, all are very easy drivable distances away. We know we have just done them as well and of course the longing for beautiful warm blue waters certainly win over then thoughts of Covid for us and them.
With the absence of our very close friends who were due to meet us in Thassos (cancelled for Covid) we tried to make new memories and cycled many a kilometre around the island and again had the most lovely fresh, light food and felt the warmth not only of the sun but of the Greek hospitality, with either small starters to help us make our choices or fresh fruit, ice-cream and pastries to fill any gaps we might have had after. There was one very poignant moment that did bring back not so fond memories, when after enquiring about a cash point, the waitress said “Yes there is a bank near the police station In Limeraria”. Yes, I knew that for sure, only steps away in fact when you are being escorted from one to the other, a cold shiver run down my spine. We left Thassos island on the Saturday, not at high speed in a police car thankfully, and we will return again next year most likely with Patsy, Debs and Dave and I will revisit all the places from the Blackheath gang of Eight days and shed a tear for those no longer with us. I will of course also not attempt any acts of forgery or fraud as without my gang of 8 how could I possibly pull it off!!
Onto Thessaloniki for a weekend break in a hotel. Buster being too big to park anywhere near the central areas and with it way too hot to try and randomly park, we engaged the help of Urban Pillow and parked Buster up and headed for the delights of the metropolis that is Thessaloniki.
The stay was undoubtedly made all the better by the staff of Urban Pillow, especially Maria who guided us through the days and especially the culinary highlights of the city, from restaurants to patisseries and ice-cream parlours and not one of them was a bad steer. We should and could have done more culturally, but to be honest we were happy just wandering, sitting and taking in the vibe of a busy, trendy young city.
We of course shopped and David did his usual stock up of M&S pants going this time for not a spotty variety but a lovely shade of pink to add to his collection. I remained firm in my at home view of “this shop is over-rated and overpriced” but did succumb to a hat which I added onto David’s bill. Who can resist a piece of home? Unfortunately, the piece of home we could resist and brought back many memories was that of the begging and the homeless that goes hand in hand with a city, and although we have of course seen this as we have moved along on our travels it was none more evident than here in this city, bring with it the sadness of life’s that are so easily lost.
As we parted from Urban Pillow and Thessaloniki, Maria had another top tip for us (seriously we don’t know how she stays so slim, but loves these restaurants and places) go to Aristos Taverna at Ormos Panagias, it’s on the way and the food is amazing-she said. So, what could we do, other than stick the chilli back in the fridge and head there for lunch? Bum steer, no. Unfortunately, not quite a wonderfully blue-sky day to get the colours in the sea known in this peninsula, but a wonderful location and terrific food to give us the food baby bellies we have at the moment.
We leave Greece on the 20th July and during that time we might actually do some cooking in Buster -we need to budget wise! or we might just give up the ghost and continue to stuff ourselves full of fish and pork, oh and plus ice-cream!
A Postcard from Greece!
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