Musings on Coronavirus travel.
Looking at the news back home in the UK and Ireland, we can see that people are excited to be be allowed travel and for the motorhomers among you get back on the road.
Looking back on our last four months we can say that coronavirus has changed the world of travel completely. When we arrived in Turkey on March 7th, we had heard of the Coronavirus but did not this it would affect us. Within two weeks we were locked down, for 10 weeks we were stationary at Sundance campsite, but as the lockdown ended in Turkey. We chose to stay in an apartment for two weeks to see how this would work out. When you are traveling you follow the news very closely for the countries you want to go to. The numbers in Turkey started to rise again and so we made a bolt for the one land border that was open and rapidly left Turkey to ensure their increasing numbers did not stop us entering Europe.
When we arrived in Bulgaria, we had to transit to Serbia as we were not allowed stay there. We spent a week in Serbia, a real surprise a truly lovely country, but their numbers started to increase rapidly. Croatia was to be our next country but they announced that anyone coming from Serbia had to quarantine for 14 days.
Karen and I made the decision to do a U turn and head back through Bulgaria and enter Greece, and we did so without any problems. Karen was tested for coronavirus on entry and we had to stay at a known location for two days in case they needed to contact us. Of our other friends who were also with us in Serbia. One went to Croatia and was going to quarantine there, the others headed to Hungary, as it turned out Croatia changed its mind about quarantine after three days, and they moved around happily in Croatia. Hungary presented no issues and all of us were on the move again.
As you can see things change very quickly so you must follow the news for the countries your are in and intend to go to all the time. For example, now in Greece, Serbians or people that have stayed in Serbia must quarantine for 14 days due to increased numbers of coronavirus in Serbia.
Our strategy for travelling during the pandemic.
- If we are in a coastal area where tourism is important, we will stay at a campsite, but predominantly use our own facilities in the van.
- If we go to a city, we will stay in a hotel to make sure we can isolate because we will not feel comfortable using public transport, to lower our risk.
- Lastly, if we are remote areas such as in the mountains or whatever, we can freedom camp and park where we like. And enjoy the scenery and the people and the sites without interference.
This has worked very well for us here in Greece, and it will be our plan going forward to ensure not only that we stay safe. But the local people recognise that we are thinking of them too. Face masks are an issue in some countries.
In Greece it has not been a requirement except in certain museums. Having been in Turkey where it was requirement when you were out on anywhere in public, so we are well used to wearing them. We have bought some nice reusable funky ones and carry them everywhere. Remembering that you wear a face mask to protect others, not yourself. We have got used to this and feel it’s a very good way of letting the locals know we are on side.
Lastly we need to research each country before we enter, as the rules are different and they have to be followed. Though it has not happened we feel that as a foreigner you will be looked at harshly if you do not follow the local rules.
We feel that you must be cautious and aware that certain local people will be nervous of you, especially as you come from the UK as our numbers are still very bad compared to mainland Europe so they will be nervous.
So there you are! My musings on what it will be like to travel during coronavirus if you decide to. Be careful, be aware of the locals. And follow the rules, keep up to date with news because it can change quickly. And you may find your return route or where you want to go restricted for whatever reason.
Back to our present adventure.
Greece continues to amaze, we travelled inland to see the waterfalls at Edessa the hometown of our advisor Maria at ‘Urban Pillow’ our hotel in Thessaloniki, they were beautiful and the restaurant she recommended was great too.
Moving on we travelled to Lake Vegoritida, our own idea as it seemed to be remote and have a good place to park up for the night. It turned out to be a great idea as it was cool at night and the views were exquisite. We could have stayed longer as it was tranquil and did have both a bar and a small supermarket nearby.
We now had booked our sailing to Italy so we had a schedule, so we moved on to our next destination Mount Olympus the seat of the Gods and it did not let us down.
Awesome, stunning all come to mind, there were lovely walks, these were well-marked and were beautiful, with, waterfalls, rivers, and towering mountain of course.
We intended to stay two nights on the mountain near a monastery but on our second day, someone unfortunately abandoned their dog. It sat peacefully all day beside our van waiting and then as evening fell, he cried and barked for its master.
This is a side of Greece we did not like. The local monks from the monastery nearby told us they had called a local dog rescue centre and he would be picked up in the morning. We gave him some food and water. But we could not take its crying and its barking and sadness, so we left him with the monks and drove down from the top of Mount Olympus to the bottom in the dark, very scary indeed.
The next day we headed off to see Angelos, a Greek friend of ours from London who moved back home last year. It was a real pleasure to meet up with him and his family share some food and a coffee. It was great to hear that his return to Greece has been successful and the family business is thriving even with the pandemic.
We started to think that we had enjoyed the best northern Greece had to offer as we headed for the UNESCO site Mateora. We had heard great things about this Monastic area, but words can not convey just how beautiful it is. We visited a couple of the monasteries, which go back many centuries perched on the top of rock outcrops. We toured around the area on our e-bikes ideal for the hilly terrain, as you look at them they seem to become more surreal as you change angle moving along the road, each turn giving you another majestic view and is breath-taking. We would recommend anyone coming to Greece to visit a real highlight.
We were thinking we had run out of great things to see at this stage, but we moved on to a part of Greece called Vikos Gorge. Again another surprise, bear country and lots of forests and rivers. On top of that, the deepest narrowest gorge in Europe, if not the world, according to the Guinness Book of records.
On top of that the villages are very beautiful, and the scenery is almost alpine stunning. Quaint old bridges with views that make your eyes water. The roads were to say the least were challangeing for Buster with lots of hairpin bends, and very very narrow streets in the villages. The days were warm, and the nights cool. There were lovely walks and hikes, plus for those of you that would like to be more adventurous white river rafting and horse trekking is available, it was all very idyllic. Plus we again were able to park for free with great views.
The next day we moved on to Ioannina, this was the home of the Ali Pasha who ruled this part of Greece for the Turks in the late 1800’s. On a Lake of the same name in northern Greece, one of the most notable things to see here is a 3-kilometre-long Perama cave system found when the locals were looking for somewhere to hide from Nazi bombing. With Covid the tour was very good, as there were not many people, so you could get a real flavour of the complex. Well worth seeing if you are in the area.
The Kastro or castle in the Old Town is very beautiful and the Byzantine and Silversmith museum was worth seeing. Again, another free night as we were able to stay quietly on the edge of the lake, undisturbed.
Finally, as the week as the week ended, we headed to Parga on the west coast of Greece. Rated in Lonely Planet is one of the loveliest seaside resorts in Greece, and they certainly did have point. Picture postcard in every way, great food, the campsite was lovely, people are friendly.
The town was the busiest we have seen in Greece so far. That said it was not like a normal July / August. The locals strove hard to please and make you welcome. We visited, Paragaea Olive Oil Factory, which has been owned by the same family for years, though now closed, it is now historic museum and they also own a restaurant in the town and still produce olive oil elsewhere. All was fantastic and they were so friendly and good quality food to be eaten. We could heartily recommend visiting both if you come to Parga.
Now ends or second Greek adventure and we head back to Italy. We must be in the EU for 14 days continuously to be allowed going to another EU country. So, we are grateful for Greece for allowing us in, and now we are part of the system and we can travel through Europe cautiously now again.
Coronaviruses changed the world but that doesn’t make the world any less beautiful. Our desire to travel see new places meet new people is undiminished. Being in a motorhome gives you an opportunity to self-isolate, be safe and secure and see these places. Even in this ‘New Normal’ environment. We are lucky to have this great way of travel and see so many lovely places.
Italy now beckons, we will take the ferry at midnight tonight, a return for us having spent five days in Italy on the journey to Turkey. And hopefully we will spend maybe a week or two this time, where we do not know, that is the joy of travelling in a Motorhome, you can go anywhere. Below are all the places where we have stayed an night during the trip. each has a review and location.