Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Greece: Halkidiki and Mt. Pilio (The Pelion Peninsula)

We left sunny and warm Istanbul hoping to get more sunshine in Greece. The first day we only got as far as to Alexandropolis which our guide to Greece described as a seaside town designed by Russian military architects, belonged to Turkey till recently and eventually handed over to Greece. Nothing exciting. However, the town turned out to be a vibrant and lively seaside town with pleasantly looking and inviting cafes which were full of coffee lovers at 9 a.m. on Monday morning when we drove through.

Having said so, I didn't want to stay there as I wasn't fond of the campsite. I must admit though, it had one of the best beaches we'de seen or been to in Greece. It seemed that the further south we went, the less of a beach we found, just a very narrow strip of dirty sand or pebbles. I'm sure in summer every inch of these beaches was taken.


It was the very first and only time so far I had helped Aaron to pull down the tent. I just couldn't get out of the campsite fast enough!


An insect found in a washbasin in the ladies room at the campsite.
So off we went to Halkidiki and what a beautiful area it was. We fell in love with it. It felt remote just enough for us, not too touristy nor overdeveloped, with wide open sandy beaches. The campsite was good too and we had a beach just on the other side of the road that run along the campsite. Basically perfect for a few nights stop that we'd planned. Well, it would've been if it hadn't been for wild dogs and cats that the place was full of. As one can imagine, they were all hungry and we were perceived as a source of food. And we were until we had enough of them coming very close, fighting for the food, sleeping in our chairs. Moreover, they were very disrespectful of night hours and hence we were woken up several times at night by their loud barking or meowing.

The way to Halkidiki



A little beach off the main road where we stopped to have lunch




Marcel, the third parent. He's amazing with his little sister. Apart from feeding her, although most of the time she feeds herself, he shares his DVD player with her and puts her favourite cartoons on. He lets her watch Peppa Pig for as long as she wants to or until she falls asleep.



Our campsite in Halkidiki






Beach opposite the campsite.






Just a few months ago Anastazja would not leave a blanket on a sandy beach and would clearly show us how unhappy she was touching the sand. Any grains of sand stuck to her feet or hands had to be carefully wiped off. 



A lot has changed since then...








Despite liking the place a lot we had no choice but to pack up and go. Two nights in a row of interrupted sleep was enough for us. There were lovely places just down the road but it felt like too much effort to pack everything to move down a few hundred meters so we headed for Volos in the Pelion Peninsula, Mt. Pilio area.

Since we arrived late at a campsite Sikia in the Pelion Peninsula, as we usually do, we couldn't actually see till the morning what a beautiful campsite Aaron had picked. Located on a hill which slopes lead to a small but lovely beach with clear, turquoise water and with tent pitches amongst olive groves the place was everything I imagined Greece would be. There were some pitches by the beach but despite the time of the year the campsite was busy and obviously those spots were taken. It didn't bother us at all as we had a fantastic view over the beach and the rest of harbour from our spot. And also because the beach pitches were located far away from the amenities which were positioned at the top of the hill. At the moment I don't fancy walking up too many steps. The only thing this place was missing was sunny weather. We had a bit spitting and drizzling to start with which eventually developed into a proper thunder storm proceeded by very strong gusts of wind. After that it got better and better every day until it felt like summer again and it stayed this way till nearly the end of the Greek part of our holiday.

The first morning at Sikia



Off to the beach.











Very excited about going to have a swim




There is no way the little one would miss out on a swim when we are that close to the water!


Braving the rain to get some toys from the tent which by the way is just a metre away from tarp.


We left the last campsite trying to get away from cats and dogs. Well, we only managed to escape dogs at Sikia. There were still cats there, including three little kittens whose favourite pastime was to climb our interior tent. On a bright, sunny day we can now clearly see little holes from their paws. It was very difficult to keep the cats away as they weren't even scared of Micky who would grab them, lift them and then eventually drop them to the ground. Surprisingly she didn't get even one scratch from the cats. She now knows not to do it but it did take a bit of learning!



Very pleased with herself for putting her shoes on her own!

Anastazja doesn't like showers. 




Since we treated the Greek part of our trip as a beach holiday, we were in no rush to move on. We did some trips around the Pelion Peninsula, however most of our time was spent at the campsite, on the beach.  One of our little excursions was to highly recommended beaches on the east coast of the Pelion. Two out of the three beaches we visited were absolutely stunning and deserted whilst the third one was a big disappointment due to the amount of rubbish left basically everywhere despite rubbish bins being provided by and on the beach. As we noticed later Greece, especially public beaches, is quite dirty.

Beach at Paltsi, the east coast of the Pelion Peninsula




Aaron was very pleased with himself for 'getting Beany' in one of the games the boys developed.









Potistika Beach









A little town a few kilometres inland. It looked abandoned. We didn't even see one person! And obviously everything was closed so there was no way of getting so wanted coffee! The town, I believe, was called Xinovrysi.




















We also visited a couple of towns that have been designed as protected showpieces  of the region: Makrynitsa and Vyzitsa. Makrynitsa was very pretty and picturesque. It sat on a side of a hill above Volos, had narrow cobbled street with beautiful tiny shops selling local produce, and traditional stone houses, many of which were B&Bs. The number of B&Bs and shops would suggest it's a very popular, touristy town, however we didn't get to see crowds of tourists as it's not the peak time. Travelling at this time of the year definitely has its advantages but there are disadvantages, too. Finding a place to have dinner in this town was rather difficult. There was only one restaurant open and it only had a little selection of dishes.

Volos - a view from the road leading to Makrynitsa


Makrynitsa






Vyzitsa was a completely different story. We couldn't understand why it was chosen as a show town as there was nothing interesting there. We drove through it , then simply turned around and went to a town we saw on the way which looked much more interesting.

Milies

Marcel is very much into photography now. He takes photo of everything and everybody!






We enjoyed our stay at Sikia and the Pelion Peninsula a lot but it was time to move on. The next stop was Delphi.

By Polka

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