This post is all about a journey log. I am trying to tell day-by-day what we did, how we felt and how it was, together with showing a little of the beauty of the places we passed by.
It all began in the last article, when I arrived to Germany to get Saphira from the dealer I bought it from, and traveled to Vienna in Austria to meet my wife. That was Saturday the 8th of August, I arrived after 700 Km of riding to the Park Inn Hotel in Vienna, and my wife was supposed to arrive at in the Austrian Airlines flight from Tel Aviv at 19:00. But the flight did not arrive. It was cancelled due to two broken toilets. People from Austrian Airlines in Tel Aviv told my wife to go back home that they would call her to reassign her to another flight in two hours, and she could be waiting until today, because nobody called. Since it was a Saturday in Israel, there was nobody to call as well.
Luckily, when the Universe is at your side, everything aligns to make things go right. That wasn't really an Austrian paid flight (what would lock me with Austrian), but an United mileage flight with a Star Alliance airline. So I called United in the US, explained the situation, and in 5 minutes they changed Lily's reservation to a flight by Aegean Airlines, leaving Israel at 4 am in the same night, and arriving Vienna at 10 am, after a connection in Athens. Using the reservation number, I already checked her in to the flight, and used Google Chrome's Cloudprint feature to print her boarding cards at our home printer, so she had them immediately. At 10 am Lily was landing in Vienna. Since we had planned a full day there, we only lost an evening and half day visiting the city. Our schedule, however, was not modified.
Some pictures of Vienna (as usually in this blog you can always click the picture to see its full version in big size).
As you can see, Paris also came with his RT, and here we display both the RTs together.
And this was the end of our Vienna chapter.
In the next morning, we woke up, and immediately after breakfast, left the hotel and Vienna. Our direction: Budapest.
Our first stop was in Gyor, a beautiful city already in the Hungarian territory. We stopped there to drink something, rest a little and enjoy this lively little town.
Budapest was definitely one of the strong points of the trip. This is some beautiful city. During the first evening and night, we first visited the great synagogue of Budapest, then we had some dinner, and last we went for a twilight Danube cruise that showed us the city from the Danube at daylight and at nightime.
We finished the day walking through Pest and visiting that side of the city and its attractions.
If you are continuing from the previous posts, you surely remember that my original trip plan had to be changed due to the fact that Serbia and Macedonia are not EU members, so from Budapest we left to Romania and Bulgaria.
In Romania, the city chosen was Resita. The reason: well, nothing actually, except for the fact that it was nearly in the middle of the way to Sofia and it was larger than the other towns around, so we could sleep there.
So we left Budapest in the morning, with 430 Km to do until Resita in Romania, taking the Drobeta-Turnu-Severin road, the shortest way to get to Sofia without entering non-EU countries. On our way we passed through many small villages, made of 1-2 roads only, in which the main road crosses the middle of the village. At the end of a really beautiful road, we found Resita, and there the Hotel Rogge, a stunningly beautiful small, family hotel in which the staff did all they could to make us happy - including preparing gluten-free spaghetti.
After a good night of sleep at the Rogge Hotel (which btw is part of the Best Western network), we left Resita on our way to Sofia. We had a long way ahead, 530 Km which were expected to last 7-8 hours - just like my 700 Km from Frankfurt to Vienna.
That was a beautiful day of travelling, but probably also the most difficult day, due to the bad state of the road and the heavy traffic of trucks which kept the need of overtaking over and over again.
At the end, we arrived to the Park Inn hotel at Sofia aroudn 15:00, had a shower and, since we had only that evening to know the city, went to walk at the center of the city at the Vitosha Boulevard, a pedestrian boulevard named after the Vitosha mountain that stands by the city.
We left Sofia in the morning, and hey, after 2 hours, we were finally into Greece. We had 330 Km to do that day, but by 14:00 we were in Thessaloniki. We checked-in at the Esperia hotel, and went to visit the city.
It was a Friday, and the view of everything closed reminded us of the Israeli shabat. We were afraid that this will be the state of the city during all our evening. But we forgot the greekmen SIESTA. After 16:00, the city came to life. Thessaloniki is a very lively city, charming to visit. We began by having a coffee near the sea, then went to visit the White Tower of Thessaloniki, and went for lunch in a small nice restaurant where I ate a great Pork Gyros. After that we visit a great shopping avenue (I am not sure if it was Tsimitski or Mitropoleos), and from there we took a Bar-Boat which shows the city from the sea. The boat is free, and you pay for the drinks you consume. The first drink is compulsory (but the price is decent) and on the second you have a 50% discount.
After that we continued walking around for a little, and went back to the hotel for a nice night of sleep.
Well, one week after the day that my wife and me began the journey by ourselves, here comes the day in which we will not be lonely anymore. Today we are travelling to Volos, and there we are supposed to meet two couples of friends from Israel who rented motorcycles in Athens and will continue the trip with us. We will also meet, just for some moments, another virtual friend from Facebook's R1200RT Owners Group, Sotiris Neofotistos, who lives in Larissa and is coming to meet us in Volos.
So in the morning we checked out of our hotel in Thessaloniki and began our trip to Volos. The 350 Km are done quite quickly, and 11:30 in the morning we are already there. At 13:00, we meet Sotiris in our hotel. He came with his wife Cristina, and they both go with Lily and me to eat lunch. They took us to a very interesting place in Volos, a restaurant in which you order the Tsipouro drink, and according to the number of drinks they also serve fish portions. It was very interesting and particularly tasty. Here we are drinking the Tsipouro.
We returned from the restaurant to the hotel, said goodbye to Sotiris and Cristina, and waited a little more at the lobby of the Philippos Hotel, and then our friends Shmil, Louiza, Eitan and Anat arrived, after one day in Athens and one day in Kamena Vourla. Quite a party we held there at the hotel lobby with this happy meeting.
In the evening, we went to enjoy a nice dinner together at Agria, a small town south of Volos. Our first dinner from what was about to be a nice and happy trip.
Our first day together was a tour of the Pelion peninsula. A beautiful place which mixes mountain and sea, where you can visit beautiful villages, swim in the sea, buy and eat great marmalades, and see stunning views from the mountains.
We began by Makrinitsa:
From Makrinitsa we began riding downhill, and went through Zagora and Kissos, until we reached the beach of Agyos Ioannis.
With full stomachs, we proceeded to continue our Pelion tour. Our next destination was Milopotamos.
From Milopotamos we began our way back to the hotel, from which we saw one of the most beautiful sunsets in history:
The next morning marked the time to leaving Volos, the Pelion, and the east of Greece at all. We left in the morning, with the direction set to Kastraki, Meteora, at the Kalabaka region.
Hotel Kastraki must be mentioned here. It was by far the best hotel we had on this trip. We fell into it by coincidence after another hotel, Sidney Hotel, we had ordered before cancelled our reservation with no apparent reason (they claimed the owner was sick and the hotel was closed during the time we were to come, but we passed by and it was completely active). We were lucky with the change. Kastraki Hotel, a family hotel just under the first Meteora mountains, was way better than Sidney would be. The placement, the hotel building itself, and the staff, which was all the time ready to help. A great hotel, recommended to everyone willing to be in the region.
And then Meteora: I can't understand how this place is not one of the 7 Wonders of the World. A set of very interesting mountains that would be wonders by themselves, but then at the top of almost each one of them there is a monastery. We spent the whole afternoon and evening visiting there, saw a great sunset from the place, and ate dinner at Kalabaka.
The following day was known to us as a day supposed to be one of the most beautiful rides, but also one of the most difficult rides of the trip.
We left Kastraki heading to Ioannina, but not in the easy, short way (110 Km, 1 hour). Instead, we headed North to the Pindus mountains, enlarging our way to around 280 Km, and making it through very twisty and small roads of the Pindus.
The road was beautiful. A twisty, narrow and panoramic road, going up and down hills, full of trees, and specially animals: cows, sheep and horses were free all around the way, and we needed to be very careful not to hit them.
The first village we stopped to visit was Smixi. A very small village, with a ski station, that seems to be asleep all over the summer.... well, unless a group of three crazy motorcycles with their wives decide to land there suddenly in the middle of August.....
At first it looked like a ghost town. Nobody in the streets. Then suddenly we found a cafe with some people seating at the balcony. We stopped for some coffee. When we went in, I felt, at the verge of my 54 years of age, that everyone sitting there could be my grandfather.
Then came the regular mess: explaining to the old lady how we want our coffee. Israelis are very difficult with coffee, and in Greece they don't really understand that - specially when they also don't understand English. But no problem. The girls went to the kitchen with the lady and did all the coffees together with her.
At some point in time all the coffees were ready, and then the girls decided to open a package of peanuts. Distributing them to all the old guys at the balcony was another story - they were all laughing, "no teeth, how can we eat this?"..... but at the end they ate, somehow.
After nearly 45 minutes, we left the place and continued our trip to Ioannina. We passed through the towns of Konitsa, Papingo, Aristi and Monodendri.
In Konitsa we stopped for a very nice lunch, some rest, and refuelling. it was a surprisingly nice and large town, with a lot of commerce and some good restaurants.
In Monodendri, as it should be, we stopped for a walk at the great Vicos Gorge. The Vicos Gorge is considered the deepest gorge of the world by the Guiness Book of Records, with its depth ranging from 450 to 1600 meters, a width of around 400 meters and a length of 20 Km.
After a long day, nearly at 180:00, we finaly arrived at our hotel, the Anemolia Spa and Resort, at the town of Amphitea, neighbour to Ioannina.
The Anemolia was also a very nice hotel and is in my list of recommendations to whoever visits Ioannina.
After the shower that follows a very long and hot riding day, we went to enjoy the evening at the very busy center of Ioannina, where we could find souvlakis for 1.50 Euro, and a very good icecream. We stayed there until late at night and went back to Anemolia to sleep.
Next morning we left Ioannina to Delphi. We took the road going through Arta and Agrinio, and found this road to be one of the most beautiful roads of Greece. Combining straight parts with very twisty parts, mountains with lake and with sea, beautiful towns, I must say that it was a total surprise to me to find out how beautiful this day was. 306 Km of complete delight of the view.
Our first stop was at Arta, for a coffee. We stopped at a nice boulangerie, ate and drank there for a while, maybe about half-an-hour. It was only when leaving that we found that this place was just before a city center which was very lively and nice, full of cafes and near a lake. We looked at the center from the bikes and continued in our way.
Then, after another hour-and-a-half, we landed in one of the most stunning places we've seen: Amfilochia beach.
Here are some pictures of the way and of Amfilochia for understanding what I am talking about.
Delphi is an interesting town, composed of approximately 3-4 streets, which are somehow one above the other, downhill. The city is famous for the archaeological discoveries in the area. It was known in the Greek mythology to be the place where the fundamental stone was placed (the stone from which all the world was created), and the home of the Oracle of Delphi, the most prestigious and authoritative oracle among the Greeks. Apollo built his sanctuary there, and there began the Pythian Games, the first predecessor of our Olympic games.
We arrived to Delphi around 19:00, so it was time to have a shower, get dressed and go to see the sunset, the town, having some dinner and some shopping.
Today we woke up with the following plan: begin by visiting the archaeological site and museum of Delphi to learn a part of the history of the place, and then do 330 Km to Corinth in order to see the Corinthos Canal, and finish it with 87 more Km until Athens to the hotel where we will stay the next 3 days.
The visit to Delphi was very interesting. You can see here a little bit of what we've seen there.
Now the only thing left was to get to Athens, where we arrived in the evening.
In the first night, we only went to have some icecream at the Placka, near the hotel.
The next morning forces were divided. Shmil and Eitan went to return their rental motorcycles, I went to the BMW dealer to check a small leak of oil from Saphira (my motorcycle), and the girls went shopping.
When I returned from BMW, Shmil was already at the hotel (Eitan was already out), so he and myself went for a visit to the Acropolis. After the Acropolis, we met the girls and Eitan, to have lunch together.
We went to the hotel to have a light Friday afternoon nap, and then back to the Placka for the evening. In Athens, all the ways lead to the Placka, and we were the living proof of this saying.
I arrived to the hotel around 18:30, and then.... well, you guessed it! Back to the Placka. We spent our last evening there with a very good dinner to finish the trip.
Now I am back home, and yesterday went to the Haifa Port to release Sapphira from the ship.
Where will it be? Romania? Switzerland? Scotland? Slovenia-Croatia? I must say, at this point of time even I don't know. But all the destinations are very compelling, and I have drafts of trip plans for every one of them. Only time will tell. Just wait for next July.