Greece – Mountains, Sea and a lot of History
Greece was not on my travel plans at first. Because actually I wanted to drive through Turkey. And from there via Bulgaria to the north. Because an entry into Turkey was not possible, I had decided to visit Greece instead.
I’ve always wanted to go there by car. The first time after my high school graduation. But that wasn’t possible at that time, because I was not yet of legal age. And later on there was simply no time for a longer car trip there. So now the side trip fitted very well.
The headline of this post is Greece. But after my arrival in Europe I first spent three days in Bulgaria.
Three days in Burgas / Bulgaria
The passport control still on the ferry was done in two minutes. Because I have an EU passport. Then I had to park the Landcruiser on a customs area. And to organize the import of the Landcruiser into the European Union in the customs office.
I had unbelievable luck. Because the customs officer spoke German. His parents had probably immigrated from Austria. So I could explain to him without any language difficulties why I came here with a car registered in Australia.
He then asked me if I wanted to pay tax and customs for the car right there. Or only later in Germany.
I have decided for Germany. Because I didn’t want to take the risk that the tax paid in Bulgaria would not be accepted in Germany later.
The license plate and the car were entered into the computer and a short inspection of the car took place. Without an accurate control of the interior.
Then I was allowed to drive into the city. And there I should also take care of a border insurance. There were no insurance offices on the port area.
Problems to get a liability insurance for my car
I got cash at an ATM. A SIM card in a phone store. Also the purchase of a motorway toll sticker was quickly done at a gas station.
But the vehicle liability insurance for the European Union for my Landcruiser was difficult. The next day I went to at least five insurance offices. Bulgarian and international ones. But none wanted to insure the Landcruiser. Everywhere they said to me that they did not have that type of insurance in their offer. At a land border it would have been easier.
After all, a helpful employee of an insurance company was on the phone for quite a long time. And finally sent me to the insurance office of the Bulgarian Automobile Club.
There they wanted to issue me a liability insurance policy for the EU. In the meantime, they wanted me to get some cash.
The currency was now called Lew, in plural Lewa. And 1 Lew is 100 Stotinki. 200 Lewa should the insurance cost for a 3 months period, so about 120 US dollars. If I had known that it would later be three times as expensive in Germany, I would have taken out insurance for 6 months in Bulgaria.
But anyway, after a few hours I finally had a green insurance card. Valid for all countries of the European Union. And my trip could continue.
Jassas Ellas – Hello Greece
It was about time. Because the weather in Burgas was getting worse day by day. While the sun was still shining on the day of my arrival, two days later it was raining incessantly. And it was foggy as well. So it was no longer fun to walk around outside.
So I got into the car and drove towards Greece. First over a highway. But later it turned into a country road. After 300 km I reached the Bulgarian-Greek border. In the middle of the mountains. Rainy and foggy. I once hoped that this weather would change at the latest at the coast.
The passport control was done in two minutes. I was inside the European Union. And nobody asked me about my car registration. There was also no customs control.
So I drove on towards the coast. And I had booked a guesthouse for one night in the small town Kavala 150 km from Thessaloniki. Because I did not want to drive into the big city.
The guesthouse was quickly found. But empty and closed like the one in Gori/Georgia. But this time there was no friendly neighbor to be seen. Because the streets were empty. It had probably rained a lot here shortly before.
In a bad mood, I called the number given on the website of the hotel booking engine in Frankfurt. And after half an hour I got an upgrade in a hotel, 5 km away. During the phone call it turned out that the guesthouse had already closed. Without the accommodation in the hotel portal having logged off.
The next morning I got first a SIM card in Kavala and then I went on to Athens. I didn’t need to exchange money here, in Greece the currency is Euro.
During the drive I noticed for the first time how good motorhways in Greece are. All newly created or expanded. Likewise the many tunnels. Perfect, and much better and emptier than in Germany!
Sure, there is a motorway toll. Every 30 – 80 km you have to pay a small amount at a toll station. Between 1,80 and 4,00 US dollars. Depending on the distance you drove. This may be a bit annoying for someone in a hurry. But I had time. And after all, these toll booths also mean jobs. And frequent drivers can probably also pay electronically.
The weather towards Athens got better. And I passed the highest mountain in Greece, the Mount Olympus. 2,900 m high and in ancient times the seat of the Greek gods.
I didn’t want to drive the entire 700 km to the capital of Greece in one day. Therefore I stayed in Lamia for one more night. Also a small coastal town.
In the afternoon of the following day I reached Athens. That means, actually, I just drove past it at first. I had consciously looked for an accommodation outside the city. Because with the Landcruiser I didn’t want to drive through the narrow streets of the Greek capital. And there would hardly be any parking spaces for the vehicle either.
Accommodation in Mati
A right decision, as I have seen later. So I stayed for a few nights in Mati, a coastal town 40 km east of Athens. Here I had unsuspectingly booked a hotel online on the way. Because there were outdoor parking spaces shown in the booking engine. And there was a subway station a few kilometres away where you could park your car as well to take the subway into the inner city.
When I turned off the main road and drove through the town I was surprised about many burnt trees and empty properties along the way (also shown in the video).
Police were on patrol and had set up a mobile guard. There were mobile toilets in front of the ruins of houses as well.
Only later did I learn that two months earlier a giant roller of fire had destroyed everything up here from the mountains to the sea. TThere were also likely many injuries and deaths. But I hadn’t noticed anything of that on my road trip. The Ramada Hotel directly at the waterfront was one of the few buildings that had been left standing. Even the neighboring building no longer existed. And when there was no wind, the whole area still smelled burnt. Spooky.
Athens, capital of Greece
Of course, you can have a 14-day holiday in Athens without any difficulties. And always discover something new. Or just stroll through the city. Or visit another museum.
The city is a cultural and historical center. With many ancient locations and buildings. And is considered the origin of our democracy.
By the way, also a Greek word, δημοκρατία (demokratia, rule of the people). Composed of δῆμος (demos, people) and κράτος (kratos, rule). How good that I paid attention in Greek at school back then 😉
Unfortunately I didn’t have 14 days time. Because I only wanted to stay there three days and then I wanted to see other parts of Greece.
First the Landcruiser, then the sightseeing
But before I could explore the capital of Greece I had to take care of a service for the Landcruiser. The last one was 10.000 km back.
That was in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Since nobody could give me a hint which garage to take, I used the reviews in Google as a guide. With the result that the best workshop was exactly on the other side of Athens.
So I drove there the next morning. And I did not regret it. It was really a first-class service. The master took 2 hours to check the car. Even all 4 tires were removed to check the condition of the brakes. And the rear ones actually had to be renewed.
This has probably never been done before. I should come back two days later, by then the spare parts would be there.
Actually, I was hoping that the service would be done on the same day.
So I had to cross the city twice. And on the day of the inspection I had to go from the workshop by subway to the center. And to pick up the Landcruiser again in the afternoon in time before closing time.
A bit complicated, but there was no other way.
A journey through the ancient world
I could write an own post about the city and its historical sites.
But I don’t want to make a travel guide for Athens here.
That’s why I only tell about some places I have visited here. But that doesn’t mean that other places are less interesting.
For example the Syntagma Square in the center. But you will pass it from the subway station anyway. Or the districts of Plaka and Monastiraki for strolling, eating and shopping.
And of course the local mountain of the Athenians, the Lycabettus. From there you have a great view of the city, the Acropolis and the sea. At least when the sky is clear. But unfortunately that was not the case during my visit.
If you want to experience history and Mediterranean flair, then I can definitely recommend a city trip to Athens!
The Agora and the Temple of Hephaestus
If you want to put yourself into the life of the ancient world, you should visit the Agora (ἀγορά). The more than 2,500 year old market place of the Athenians.
But it used to be much more than that. Meeting place, place for discussions and elections, fairground and social meeting place. So to say Instagram and Facebook of the ancient world. Except that here people spoke with each other personally.
More than 30 buildings once stood here. Today there are unfortunately only two of them left. One of them is the marble temple of Hephaestus. It is one of the best preserved temples in Greece.
The area is quite large and there are far fewer visitors than on the Acropolis. If you feel like it, you can go on a journey back in time to ancient times there.
By the way, please do not confuse the ancient agora with the Roman agora. This one also exists in Athens. But it is “only” 2,000 years old, from Roman times.
Another ancient building is the Dionysus Theatre. Down in front of the Acropolis, on the southern slope of the mountain.
Tragedies and dramas by the famous Greek poets Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were performed here.
Every year in March and April during the 8-day festival of Dionysia there were new plays.
Sit down on a row of seats and imagine what it must have been like in the past when a new play was premiered.
By the way, in the first row of spectators there are still the stone seats of honor.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Another theater. Or rather an opera house. Herodes Atticus had it built as a memory of his wife at the turn of the ages. Also at the foot of the Acropolis.
Here, performances and competitions of artists in music and singing took place. Or poetry readings.
And as you can see on the photo, that has been preserved until today. Because a musical performance is currently being technically prepared.
By the way, all the ancient sights of Athens are spread pretty close around the Acropolis. And therefore also easy to reach on foot.
156m above the city. Castle hill and fortress, ruler’s palace and ammunition depot, church and mosque.
The Acropolis (Ακρόπολη) has been a lot. And today, of course, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But best known is its time 2,500 years ago as a temple complex for the Greek gods.
The largest building on the Acropolis is the Parthenon. A 70m long temple made of marble. Dedicated to Pallas Athena, the goddess of wisdom. And patron saint of Athens.
Her statue has unfortunately disappeared. And an explosion during the time as an ammunition depot destroyed large parts of the Parthenon. From the rest, the English ambassador abducted statues to London. They are on display in the British Museum today. And Great Britain does not want to give it back to Greece either
But still you can still guess how magnificent the building must have been.
There are also smaller buildings on the Acropolis. For example the Erechtheion. Originally, the palace of the mythical King Erechtheus stood there. And he is said to be buried under it.
The roof of the vestibule is not supported by pillars. But by 6 girl figures. Which, from the point of view of the builders, play a key role with their heads.
Also the entrance gate to the Acropolis, the Propyläen, can still be admired. And the little Nike temple.
In Greek and in German, it is not pronounced like the sporting goods manufacturer. But something like [ˈniːkə] 😉
And it is correspondingly crowded. But I really hadn’t imagined it to be that crowded.
And the Acropolis Museum
The very modern new building is also located at the foot of the Acropolis. It also includes an excavation site that was found here.
And has its own subway station.
Only finds from the Acropolis are shown in the museum. And you can also spend many hours here.
The Corinth Canal
Actually that was a bad idea. Because I should have gone to Cape Sunion first (see below). And only then onwards to Corinth. So it was a detour of 100km.
But I had planned a road trip from Australia to Germany. And not a sightseeing tour in Greece. So I didn’t have a fixed route. And I didn’t get all of the tips for sightseeing in Greece in time.
The channel of Corinth is an eye catcher. From above, 85m deep on the water surface.
And probably also from the bottom of a boat to the top.
It was opened in 1893. And saves ships the 400km long trip around the Peloponnese. But only small ships, because at the level of the water surface the Canal is only 24m wide.
So the next day I headed back from Corinth 80km west of Athens. To the tip of the Greek mainland, 70km south of Athens. Here on the cliffs, directly at the sea, stands the marble temple for the sea god Poseidon. Or better what is left of it.
But even that is still beautiful, especially at sunset.
At the top of the cape the ruins of the temple, on one side the blue Aegean Sea and on the other the rocky coast and mountainous landscape.
And Cape Sunion is also mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey.
By the way, the temple of Poseidon is made of a special marble.
Which is not so ferrous and therefore does not turn brown.
You should definitely go to Cape Sunion when you are in Athens. It’s really worth it!
On to Delphi
After these experiences at the sea I went back to the mountains. To Delphi, approx. 200km northwest of Athens. In ancient times, this place was the center of the world for the people.
The legend tells that the god father Zeus let an eagle fly from each end of the world. And they met in Delphi. So here had to be the center of the earth.
The Oracle of Delphi
In ancient Greece, Delphi was also known for its oracle bekannt. A priestess here predicted the future.
This was used mainly by rulers and rich people before making important decisions.
It probably wasn’t quite cheap either. But the wealthy clientele received detailed answers. Which, however, could sometimes be somewhat ambiguous.
Croesus saw this forecast positively and thought he would win against the Persians. But something else was meant. He lost the war and his own empire was destroyed. So even then, forecasts were difficult – especially when they concerned the future 😅
Poorer people were only allowed to ask one question that could be answered with “yes” or “no“. For the answer, the priestess pulled one out of a container with black and white beans. If she caught a white one, the answer was “yes.” But if she pulled out a black one, the answer was “no.”
I would have liked to asked if I would get home safely with the Landcruiser. But unfortunately all oracles were already banned by a Roman emperor in 391. What a pity!
And the historical site
From the temple of Apollo, where the oracles took place, only a few columns remain today.
But you can still see the treasure houses on the so-called “Holy Road”. There the individual Greek cities kept their gifts for the Delphic Apollo.
To explore the whole area you should be able to walk well. Because it stretches over 300 meters in altitude along the mountain.
In addition to the temple remains and treasure houses, there is also an open-air theater in front of the mountain backdrop. And a stadium at the top.
Both were used for the Phytic Games. There were not only sporting but also musical and acting competitions.
In order not to collide with the Olympic Games, the Phytic Games were also held every 4 years. Always 2 years before or after the Olympic Games.
While it was still quite crowded down at the Apollo Temple, it became more empty the higher you got. And from the very top you have a great view of the landscape around you.
As at the Acropolis, there is also a very interesting museum next to the site. There you can see excavation pieces from ancient Delphi.
In any case, you have to plan a day for the site and the museum together. That’s why I stayed in Delphi for 2 nights.
After my visit in Delphi, I went 250km further north. To the Meteora monasteries near the city of Kalambaka. Originally there were 24 of them, which were built on tiny sandstone rocks up to 500m high in the middle of the landscape. That looks pretty exotic. But today only 6 of them are left.
Some speak of floating monasteries. Because when it is hazy or when the clouds are low, you can’t see the rocks. Then the monasteries seem to float in the air.
One of them, by the way, was used in 1981 as the location for a James Bond movie.
When they were built, the material had to be pulled up onto the rocks by ropes. And the monks probably climbed up on rope ladders.
Well, that wouldn’t have been for me! Today there are of course streets, paths and stairs up there.
And a lot of tourists
Because I wanted to go to the monasteries as early as possible in the morning I looked for a guesthouse nearby. With the beautiful name “Arsenis”.
Getting there early is important for two reasons.
First of all you can avoid the tourist rush a little bit.
And secondly, the monasteries have different times for the lunch break. If you want to visit more than one. By the way, every monastery is closed on a different day of the week.
So even though I was at the monasteries at half past eight, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Buses and cars were parked all along the street. The Japanese were already there before me. You can also see that in the video below. So maybe be there at 7 a.m. next time?
While the outside view of the monasteries is already a highlight, you have a great view into the valley from the inside or above. And sometimes also on the other monasteries too.
Nevertheless, I only visited two of them. Because somehow it looks similar inside in the monasteries.
But remember if you want to go inside: Men only with long pants. And women are best with long skirts. In some monasteries the ladies have to borrow an apron at the entrance and put it over their trousers. Oh yes, arms and shoulders must be covered as well.
The evening at the Guesthouse Arsenis passed by quite quickly as well. At dinner with two Dutch couples who were on tour in Greece with their mobile homes.
On the Peloponnese again
Actually, this was the end of my tour through Greece. I had seen everything I wanted to see. Nevertheless, I didn’t really feel like driving further north now. Greece is beautiful, the people are friendly, the food is excellent and the weather was good here. While it was raining in the north.
In a phone call, my son suggested that I take another week’s vacation in a resort on the coast. Good idea! Not that I didn’t feel like driving anymore. But now for half a year in a different accommodation almost every day, plus the daily planning of the route and the next place, I didn’t really feel like doing that anymore.
So I booked a week at the Robinson Club in Kyllini Beach from the next evening. The only disadvantage: It was 400km south on the Peloponnese. If I had already done that from Corinth, it would have been only 200km.
So the next day I went back to the south. First through the mountains and near Patras then over a great bridge to the Peloponnese. And later on small back roads to the sea.
In the afternoon I stood in front of the gate of the holiday complex.
And of course caused a sensation among the mostly German guests with the Landcruiser, its stickers and the Australian license plate.
Incidentally, that had been the case before.
I was approached by German tourists in several parking lots on the motorway in Greece, who were also traveling here with rental cars or mobile homes.
In addition to the beach, the sea and good food, there was something else important for me here.
I was finally able to wash all my clothes properly in a washing machine again. And not just in the hand wash basin, a lake or in a river.
For one day I also went on a small excursion here. To the ancient Olympia, only 90km away.
Unfortunately it was a bit disappointing. Because in contrast to Delphi there are only old stone remains to visit.
And on one afternoon my Landcruiser was even allowed to go to the hotel beach.
For a few photos in the online club magazine.
One last stop in Greece
I drove north over the great Greek motorways, the Patras bridge and later through tunnels and mountains in the north of Greece.
Since it was almost 700km to the Bulgarian border, I made a last stop in Greece for one night. In the small town of Veria, 70km southwest of Thessaloniki.
In the evening I strolled through the town again and had a good meal in a Greek tavern. But I noticed already here: The weather is autumnal. After all, it was almost the end of October.
And to the Bulgarian border
The next morning I went to the border between Greece and Bulgaria. That was only 200km and I was there by noon already.
However, there was a new task for me before crossing the next borders. In Veria, I was strongly advised to check the Landcruiser before the border. Whether a stowaway is hiding somewhere on or under the car. Because even an unintentional taking along of migrants could become expensive.
I should do this at the borders to Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. From Hungary onwards then there are no more border controls with the next countries. As Central Europe is a common customs area without any controls.
Perhaps this advice was a bit overly cautious. Because the border formalities were at least not a problem at all on the border with Bulgaria. The whole process took only 10 minutes. And I was back in Bulgaria.
What I experienced there, I’ll tell you in the next post.
Cheers, Ruediger 😎
Here is my Dashcam video of Greece (4m 20s, 809 MB; Music: Tracks of my Fears – John Deley and the 41 Players, YouTube Audiolibrary).
- Burgas / Bulgaria
- To Greece
- Cape Sunion
- Meteora Monasteries
- Kyllini Beach
- Back to Bulgaria
As in previous videos, I have found that it looks better on the cell phone than on the PC. Try it.
I will release the link to my YouTube video from 2019 in a later post. Because there I have shown together most European countries.