919-921: The Start of Our Greek Odessy

919- Wednesday 6th December 2017: Off to Greece

We completed our services and took the short drive to Igoumentisa port. A long wait of 3 hours….  Some trucks reversing – all over the place (health and safety – but it all works in an Italian beautifully organised disorganised way – bellissimo!.  Where do they put them all?  Ah .. two levels.  Loaded last as first off, most vehicles going onto Patra … we turned around on top deck.  Lots of areas on board closed as not enough passengers … self service restaurant shut till 7.00 p.m. … K had bought a cold supper as we’d been told the food is expensive and not marvellous … so we sat in the cabin and ate that as a late lunch,  fortunately we did not need supper.  Would have been complicated anyway – we’d either have had to eat taking it in turns or leave Oscar alone in the cabin – as we know from the howls that another couple did!   Coffee EUR2.50 each – not paid that since Nice area!

Oscar pooped on the poop deck!  So proud!

Nanny nap, research on Greece, showers (hot and forceful, but didn’t drop the soap – just as well as no room to pick it up!) more wine — bed in stuffy room. 18 hour crossing……………. successfully completed.

IMG 3799

May not be a cruise ship despite the name … Cruise Olympia, but significantly better than the Helsinki-St Petersburgh ship. 

920- Thursday 7th December:  What an Amazing First Day

The same free-for-all disembarking.  Straight onto A2 motorway – brand new with EU money – that route or our destination would have been very wiggly … toll £5.30 for not very far … will need to check roads out – can we do non motorway?  Anyway, we are in Greece – my first time (and Oscar’s) but K was here 30 years ago…..

Dodani … holy oak tree – revered by frenzied priestess and priests, they slept on their floors and didn’t wash their feet!  The Romans chopped the tree down and built temples and an amphitheatre.  

Another nanny nap in the car park as sleep was not great on the Adriatic/Aegean Sea. Good ruins but we always think of Sicilia/Italia as the best – but we will see loads more in Greece.

Iaonnina was our first town destination – walls, lake, castle museums. Superb cheap lunch – yummy.

We drove in the afternoon up the hill to a viewpoint/official motorhome free parking overnight – spectacular views down over the lake…..

P1150315

Our first Roman amphitheatre in Greece.

P1150316

Originally a Greek site, rebuilt with lots of Roman Temples.

P1150317

The original Oak was cut down … the Oracle Priestess would receive slates with questions such as ‘Are my wife’s children mine?”  She would listen to the bottles suspended from the branches that magnified the rustle of leaves and pronounce her answer.  Not sure how she worked in winter when the leaves dropped. 

P1150319

… but people obviously still hope it will bring luck and chucked very low value coins in.

P1150322

Used to be another 10m on top and seat about 17,000 making it one of the largest in Greece.

P1150323

Another Oak waiting for the performance to start.

P1150326

J on role reversal … pulling every which way and cocking his leg.  We’re still working on J being the Boss!

P1150331

Our walk along the lake to the historic town of Iaonnina.

P1150337

Two mosques still in the old town castle, which was the base of Ali Pasha who essentially ruled a massive area as a fiefdom.  This one was the Aslan Pasha mosque 1611 and now municipal museum.  Next door was a Muslim seminary, where Ali Pasha attempted to rate his son’s mistress. For refusing the tyrant’s advances, she was bound, weighted and thrown into the lake with 17 of her companions.  He also executed a rebel in public by smashing his bones with a sledge hammer.  Nice chap!  A young Lord Byron visited Ali Pasha in 1809, Ali Pasha took rather a shine to Byron… sexual? … as he was taken with Byron’s small ears – a sign of high breeding!

P1150339

Inside the Alslan Pasha Mosque.

Screen Shot 2017 12 07 at 16 53 33

Two dishes of the day … lamb stewed with potatoes (falling off the bone) and lamb with fresh tomatoes in a filo parcel served with a rocket, sun dried tom and balsamic salad … with 500cl of local regional wine … £22 with tip.  We’re so going to love these prices … means we can eat out more.

P1150344

Spot the snow!

P1150348

The wrought iron to the left of the mosque is Ali Pasha and his wife’s grave.  I’d hoped to see the Silverware Museum in one of the Castle’s building, but it shut earlier than advertised.  

P1150352

P1150354

So still – an almost perfect reflection.

P1150355

Our night time view point … wonderful.

 

921- Friday 8th December:  Cycling Lake Pamvotidha

 We moved Jez down to the lake side and we cycled 26 km around the lake. Two packs of dogs chased us but they couldn’t work out where Oscar was (concealed in his Os-car).  He went very quiet at all the barking.

Monastery of Dhourahani – very smart and cared for … run as a vocational school for disadvantaged children.  The Churches have lots of paintings of saints, but are very dark.

The obligatory coffee en route…trays of meat and pots ready for the standard late Greek lunchtime (2-3:00 pm).  We’d have stopped as it looked good, but it was only 12.00 and not sure how long we’f be salivating.  We lunched in Ianonnina, more excellent value – and our first Moussaka.

Drove to Metsovo for night stay … very cold … checked weather – one app said snow overnight… risk averse …then drove an hour back down the mountainside … lake side pitch, not far from the monastery – our first ‘wild camping’ in Greece. After only 2 days, we have a good feeling for Greece – like we experienced in Italy. Roll on the next few months. Oscar likes it too – although he doesn’t know which country he’s in – he’s in HappyK9ville, always! 

IMG 9272

Our morning view of the lake … it’s been filled in by mist. 

IMG 9288

Such stillness.

IMG 9290

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

912-918: Now Which Country Are We In?

912 – Wednesday 29th November 2017: And into Montenegro

Heavy rain (drizzle from Brizzle, or Spain?) – K did laundry – or laundwet?  Rigged up clothesline in the closed but covered restaurant patio. Some van cleaning – and I went to have shower….. well, the water temperature hovered between tepid and coooold!  A real ‘boarding school’ shower….. (K: I elected to use the one on board, having had J heroically test them!)  But lovely campsite owners, known by all the locals, including the bar where we took wine – to ward off the cold and damp…. and use the wifi.

 

913 – Thursday 30th November: And Further Down Montenegro

Some laundry had blown off in the overnight high winds … J collected it’s sodden mass.  Some had dried overnight in the van.  We had planed to stop at Kotor on our way south towards Albania … but lashing rain and road flooding conditions prevented this.  ‘Interesting’ wet and slow drive on empty roads.  Nothing for it but to head into Albania sooner, but needed to do some planning as we thought we’d be longer in Montenegro.  So to a campsite our Finnish friend told us of South of Budva.  Still peeing down, put a damp load of laundry on … no driers so all hanging in Jez – 3 days of Chinese Laundry in the van :(.  Walk along beach front … rat .. googled rat infections on dogs … and forum replies on rabies blood test … yes Oscar should have had it … vet knew our destinations and we (K:  that would be me, but J is too kind to point the finger!) hadn’t properly checked !!!  All to do with three tiers of rabies … rabies free, controlled and high … Montenegro and Albania are high.   We don’t fancy being stopped at Albania / Greece border …. so we will head back North into Croatia and investigate boats to Italy then Greece.  “The best laid plans of mice and men clang aft a-clay” – or something similar….

IMG 3756

Are we on a boat?  Little did we realise … not yet!

IMG 3766

Islands in Kotor Bay almost submerged.  Water level definitely high as we spotted a beach volley ball pitch of very short people (are we allowed to call them midgets?) … poles only a couple of feet high.

IMG 3767

Windscreen wipers could hardly cope with the torrent. 

914 – Friday 1st December: Then Back Up To Croatia

We traversed back through the mountains to Bosnia and Herzegovina – some stressed and successful border crossings – ’nothing to declare,Sir…’ (not even the 10 bottles of vino and 6 months supply of e-juice) – a big shop in BiH at mega low prices – and into Croatia (again) – back to the sanctuary of Camping Stobrec – one of the best sites ever! Only 9 hours travel….. What a day – phew… Oscar had to be ‘invisible’ at the border crossings, just in case!

IMG 3772

Better weather coming North and better views around the Kotor Bay.

IMG 3781

IMG 3782

IMG 3786

In BiH, ancient Necropolis … we used their carpark for a driver change.

915 – Saturday 2nd December: Sitting Still in Croatia

Well – how to start a quiet day? – ‘embracing the moment’ in bed….then one of the site managers knocked on the door – and the moment was suddenly ‘disembraced’…..not quite ‘in flagrante disrobio’ but close….  We compared costs about routes to Greece and decided to drive to Ancona in Italia and ferry to Greece.  Booked Minoan Ferries, with a members discount as advised by Viamare booking agent saved us £62 (excellent service, if anyone is planning to book – lovely people on the phone) + pet friendly cabin….. 18 hour sailing. Our new friend Outi from Finland, who has a house in Estonia and overwinters often in Monetnegro, has never had a border issue with her dogs….but we prefer to be risk averse.  

More handy laundry and a good breeze on our clothes line… for once not inside!

As often happens – a line of poetry comes to mind – very apposite in our circumstances!

“And a good south wind sprung up behind

the albatross did follow

and every day for food or play

came to the Mariner’s hollow”

‘Ryme of the Ancient Mariner’ – we are the not so ancient mariners and we need a good south wind…..

 

916 – Sunday 1st December: North to Italy

A big driving day – 8-ish hours with spectacular scenery – and heigh ho – we’re back in our bellissimo Italia, again!!!  Is there a nicer place to be?  Circumnavigated Trieste (James Joyce residence during the war, I recall) – avoiding the infamous road ramp that nearly nobbled us a month ago…. we paid up for the Slovenian vignette (ERU15 for 20 mins) and stuck to motorways.

Lovely free aire to overnight – we jump started a French van – twice! The 2 lads and 1 lady looked about 12 years old….maybe we are the ancient mariners?  Oscar says – ‘feck off, youze – I’m not a mariner!’  I think he missed something there…  sunshine beams on us – the righteous? But -4C overnight!

IMG 3788

Heading North to Italy – the cloud filling in between the mountain peaks.

IMG 3791

Views looking out to the Dalmatian islands.

917- Monday 4th December: And a Little Further South 

Drove most of day to Fano …passing some places we’d stayed at on our Italy just over 2 years ago.  The aire had tatty permanent caravans ….we wonder at the stories behind these single men.  K walked into town and along beaches with Oscar – I made sure the bed was still horizontal – it’s on my checklist…..Still sunny, yummy.

918- Tuesday 5th December: Fano and Onto Ancona

Walk and breakfast in Fano – lively old town. Had to have a pukka Italian coffee … no where else comes close.  Combed the beach front looking for a chandlery to sell us a replacement electric cable to Euro 2 pin (having left ours Dubrovnik and we’ll need one for the ferry for Electric Hookup)… three places on drive south … everything but in one and two no longer existed despite web presence … we’ll use the UK socket adaptor and a three to two pin … a bit Heath Robinson, but all under cover on the ferry so no wet risk .. If the cable does get wet, we’re in serious trouble!  Onto Auchan supermarket outside Ancona (15 mins from the ferry port) with free dedicated spaces for motorhomes … K did a big shop including Oscarfodder.  And we had another Italian coffee … needs must.  

Another lonely man and dog in a decrepit caravan on the parking.  We settled for the evening, we thought…. About 8-ish, a ‘domestic’ stared outside – 4 men from the decrepit caravan – a bit of ‘handbags’ but too loud. So, discretion being the better part of valour, we moved all of 200 metres – to avoid the unseemly racket.  

Looking forward to the mariners’ trip to the cradle of civilisation…..

IMG 3793

Fano had a lovely busting shopping area … but buildings had kept their original facia.  Christmas Panetone anyone?  All the decorations are up in the shops … wondering when we should put our up?  Just before my birthday?

IMG 3794

Walk along the harbour wall to the ‘David’ … funny how the statue’s bits had been rubbed shiny … but no effect on their size!

IMG 3796

The river had two areas controlled water flow with warnings about sudden surges.