Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Meteora Greece

Last year in Croatia, Anton and Marija told me about Meteora.. after seeing their photos I knew I must go.  So from Ohrid Macedonia this will be my next stop, but first.... ANOTHER border crossing!  To date, all of my border crossings have been a breeze..  the only one that kept me extra long on a cold rainy day was Estonia of all places!  They are forgiven though, as I ended up loving that country...

Two things that really stood out to me while riding the northern roads of Greece are:  1) the tall rocky snowy mountains.. and 2) the amount of power plants.

I have seen too many advertisements for Greece and they all seem to show me ocean, sailboats and white churches.. never even imagine these snowy mountains .. surprise!

And for the power plants, I see them everywhere and often!  I don't know much about power plants, but I didn't realize they needed quite that many of them in a small area. It's hard to see in this photo below, but behind this obvious plant is another one in the distance just at the base of the mountain.. that's how close they are...

I also had no idea that I needed to keep an eye out for bears?!  Totally normal I'm sure, just wasn't something I thought about..  and I love these sign posts together as it makes even more sense the deer on the run and the bear on the hunt... ;-)  Turn around Mr. Bear.. he's going the other way!!

Aha, I think that the rock formations ahead must be Kalambaka (Meteora) coming up...
And what a beautiful day to be riding a motorcycle in Greece!!  Sometimes I wake up while I am riding, and I'm like.. "Hey!!  I'm in Greece, how cool is that!!??"  Still amazes me to be in a new country, even though I've been doing this for a while now.. 

Pretty dramatic landscape as I ride into Kalambaka (the main town for the area of Meteora).

I always love if I can find a place to stay outside of town.. as I love to experience country life more than the touristy center.. so I will first search this place out before I explore.

On the way, I spot my first Monastery on top of the rock in the photo below.  Meteora is a fascinating place and I learned most about it from this website.. which I used quite regularly for several places I visited in Greece.. Good job Matt Barrett! 

But in a quick nutshell, the monasteries were built high out of reach during the Turkish occupation of Greece and here the Monks were able to keep the Hellenic culture and traditions alive.. I also learned that although some of the monasteries still have a few practicing Monks, the majority have moved on due to the tourism disrupting their peace and study.  (guilt... gulp...)  Originally there were 20 monasteries, and only 6 remain today.

And another one!

While I was parked taking photos, this very large man on a tiny little scooter that was puffing out serious amounts of purple smoke pulls up next to me.. I'm like, "Oh, no.."  He asks "You need a room?"  I smile and say I already have one.. He says, "You have reservation?", I say yes.. He says, "Pension Arsenis?"  I'm like, geez, this guy is psychic!  But I didn't want to answer him with a yes, but then told me he was expecting a lady on a motorcycle, and that would be me!!  You don't see many around here, so I expect I'm the one! ;-))

His name is Kostas, and his uncle says his nickname in English is "Bubba".. classic!  Kostas is as nice and helpful as you could imagine and it was amazing he finds me as I was looking for their place.. and had me follow him to the pension.. couldn't ask for better service than that!! I have grave concerns for that little scooter though.. it was not happy..  and I had the thought that after following so many men on this trip who have big BMW's, this is just a humorous change of scenery...

Lovely Kostas got me to my beautiful room in the country overlooking the mountains and to Kalambaka in the valley below.. his Mom made me a big meal and I settled in for the night.

Good to know they love motorcycle visitors here...

Next day I just rode around and enjoyed this amazing and most unique place I have ever seen on this planet..and without much explanation, here are the photos of the day..

I was just wondering how they get the grass on top of this one so nicely groomed.. ??

Spring in Meteora.. just divine.... literally!

Varlaam Monastery

These roads are sooo fun..!

It's amazing how they built these structures and I was curious how they attached to the rock.. keep in mind that every stone, brick, wooden beam, roof tile, AND PERSON was hoisted up by somebody in a bucket.

Rousseau Monastery

Okay, I hope you've enjoyed a little tour around Meteora.. it gets top marks for one of my favorite places I seen so far..

Next stop, Delphi (Delphos) Greece!
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Monday, 25 April 2011

Montenegro PLUS Albania and Macedonia

No, Blazo… you can’t come with me!!

Just kidding, he’s not begging to come along.. more like begging me to go!  ;-)  Well not that either, not really sure why he’s taken this position on the beach.. but we have fun teasing him about it..

Spent my last night in Montenegro.  Blazo has done so well to show me the majority of his country, and I finally have approval to move on.  ;-)  BUT!  Not without he and Marko escorting me to one more location…Ulcinj. 

Since Montenegro is so rocky, this beach is unique because they rarely get normal soft sand.. The waves roll in here with more force, therefore breaking down the rocks into the classic sand we love for the summer.
Marko finds a way to put Blazo out of his begging misery.. 

Followed by a really funny joke.. I believe it had something to do with Chuck Norris, as I’ve learned is the base for ALL jokes in Montenegro. Ha!

Photo opportunity in Ulcinj is no ordinary click of the camera.. Marko takes hold of my camera and does the drop and roll on the beach before facing us with the lens. Chuck Norris?? I’m laughing of coarse and Blazo has a look of  ‘WTF’ ??

And I can not dismiss these photos of Marko having a dance in the water.. this boy gets really giddy on the beach!

What can I say.. the man is a unique individual in a motorcycle suit! ;-) You'd think this was the first time he's ever seen a beach and he lives here!

But on the bike, he’s a different man.. looking very serious here as we cross the river..

On the river, they have a very interesting and traditional way of catching the fish.. we are really close to the outlet of the ocean.

And then on to a ‘restoran’ for some fish soup! ;-)))  The most popular dish for me here and will be my memorable Montenegro food to attempt to make when I return home.. of coarse it will not be anywhere near as good as here, obviously!

Mmmm mmmm good..  and it ain’t Campbell’s!  We are the first ones to get today’s fresh soup.  And fresh bread with a big dollop of green parsley, olive oil and garlic.. I am happy happy!

Time to get a move on, as I have a lot to accomplish today… next stop is Albania and Macedonia.  But this was a perfect way to finish my time in Montenegro.

The boys know the back roads to take me to the Albanian border.

Blazo is already into Albania, while Marko and I are still in Montenegro. Marko tells me this is only one of two border crossings in the world that you can process through the same building.  In fast, they don’t even hand you back the passport, it is passed on over the desk to Albania officials.  So convenient!! I wish more borders where like this.

The guys are just addicted to riding.  Not only do they take me to the border, they also find an excuse to ride with me for a bit in Albania.  So nice!

Not a bad welcome to Albania.. the kids are so excited here!

More kids waving, and not just a wave, they are truly excited to see the bikes. Not sure why though.  They do have motorcycles and scooters in this country.

Now we can officially say goodbye..this is where the boys stop, and I continue on through Albania.  Super huge THANK YOU Blazo for taking so much time to show me nearly everything!!  Can’t say how happy I am to have stayed longer in Montenegro and absolutely love your country!  And thank you Marko, for your entertainment! 

Now, the weather forecast isn’t flash hot, and I have some ground to make up on my schedule after staying a bit extra long in Montenegro.

After lots of discussion and mapping, my best plan is to ride through Albania today and into Macedonia to see Lake Ohrid.  Didn’t really want to do this, because I wanted to stay at least one night for a chance to get to know Albania better.. but I have a ferry booking in Greece and don’t want to miss it either! I think this is the first time I have ridden through an entire country without stopping on this journey. ;-(

However, as most of the ride is under rain threat, the photos are few as well..

But I loved this great guy on a wagon, who from the moment he saw me wanted to make sure I knew which road to take on the round-about.  How does he know where I want to go anyway, I have no clue.. but he was right! (confirmed by my gps!) I’m making my way through capital city Tirane.

Spring in Albania countryside…

Only a couple hundred kilometres, and I was at another border crossing into Macedonia. Really didn't do my tour of Albania justice, but what do you do... I'd stop and stay a month if every single country if I could!

By this time I had been through some very twisty mountain roads, and the elevation had risen quite a bit.  It got really cold and windy.

While the men processed my documents, I plugged in my heated jacket and turned up the heated hand grips for the first time in a while.

Once in Macedonia, it was another short ride out of the mountain to the beautiful Lake Ohrid.  Marija and Anton in Croatia as well as most others I met suggested I take this route and especially stop here.  Just as well, it’s getting dark.

They also recommended I find Neim’s Restaurant in the town, as he’s a keen biker himself. A bike club leader for the area of Ohrid.

Didn’t have an address.. just rode to the middle and started asking.. everybody knows, and guided me perfectly.

He has rooms upstairs to stay and it was great, convenient, and my price at 10 Euro.  Neims’ son carried my big bag up the steps, and his Mom did the “Home Alone” face when she found out I am from Australia.

Unpacked, shower done, and I have my dinner in the restaurant. What a perfect find.

Next morning a walk around the ancient old town built on this beautiful lake.

Where winter is still showing it’s evidence..

But Spring is taking over.

My friends in Croatia and Montenegro recommended this place well, and I’d recommend it to you too!  A beautiful part of the world,  I again had never heard of.  That’s what exploring is all about for me.. I may not be going all out extreme trying to cross mountain tops where no man has gone before, but I am finding all kinds of places and people that prove this trip is the best decision I’ve ever made.

Back on the road after a great walk around the Lake to start heading south again toward Greece.

Now only 40 or so kilometres to the Greece border, where my next goal stop is another must see place called Meteora.
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