Part 5 (24 April - 5 May) Greece and Turkey



Maybe it`s because we fell in love with Albania, but entering Greece after Albania felt a bit like a cold shower to us. After a hassle-free border crossing (which included buying a duty-free bottle of Glenlivet, yay!) we found ourselves in a landscape much less lush and with endless road works, well, now we know where all the European money went ;-) Also the prices of food and accommodation tripled compared to Albania. Not what we had expected, but then again, we are getting a bit lazy and didn`t do much research either into this broke holiday-paradise. The Greek animals are better-behaving though, in Albania we had to dodge 4-legged creatures on every road (without warning signs) while in Greece every 100m a sign warned us for crossing sheep, deer, cows and wild hogs but we never saw one on the roads!



Our first stop was Ioannina where we found a simple but official campsite at a lake home to the regional rowing academy. From our car we could watch them shooting across the lake in 8- and 4-man boats, Olympians in the making! Every morning their warm-up consisted of a 10 lap run passing our car, which woke us up and made us follow their example by doing some much needed running ourselves.

The city itself has some nice sights including an old but active Byzantine church from which the eerie Byzantine chanting (singing) can still be heard. The first night we were treated to some severe rain showers and thunderstorms right above our heads with thunder so loud, it was almost scary. The rain didn’t stop until late afternoon the next day, which gave us plenty of time to plan the next leg of our journey.


We decided to head south, into the peninsula of Peloponnesus and visit the ancient sites of Mycenae and Delphi. Heading to Mycenae the landscape gradually changed from dull to one of great beauty, especially the area surrounding Mycenae is very scenic. In modern Mykines (2km from Mycenae) we found a campsite where we had a rare episode of classic role-division; Nicolette did the laundry and Jeroen played grease monkey by doing some needed tune-ups to the car.



Next day we visited the ancient site of Mycenae which once was the center of a vast empire ruled by mythological king Agamemnon around 3500 years ago (see the movie ‘Troy’ for a totally inaccurate but entertaining depiction of him). The site is not as nicely preserved as the Roman sites of Pompeii or Butrint but since it is 1500 years older, this is to be expected. We enjoyed it a lot and check out the awesome spider which headed right for us! (to all the South Park fans, we didn`t kill it J)   

After Mycenae, we headed for Delphi directly, skipping Athens in favor of Thessaloniki. The route took us over some very scenic roads, as the site of Ancient Delphi is located high up in the mountains. The site is stunningly beautiful; draped on a mountain slope with breathtaking views of the surrounding area. It features some reconstructed temples, a large theater and higher up the mountain a large stadium where the Pythian games, the predecessor of the Olympic games, were held. 




That evening we camped near the sea at a location suggested by Emmelie and Harley whom we met in Montenegro, the site can be seen in the dashcam video we posted earlier, it`s where we (almost) drove over the puppy dog J.



Thessaloniki is the nicest large city in Greece our guidebook stated, you should go there! Well, if this is the case than Greek cities are in a pretty bad state. Safe to say we did not like it very much and found it crowded and flooded with cars and their exhaust gasses. So after spending one night in a camper-park (see photo, it was a regular looking car park in the middle of the city, dedicated for campers) we headed for Alexandroupolis near the Turkish border. 

Now this is a nice Greek city! It has a nice atmosphere, its very clean and has a large campsite with lots of facilities to prepare for our trip through Turkey. The city itself has some very nice bars and eateries, and we could even find a shop that could provide us with black & white ‘incognito’ license plates for the car without an EU or NL logo J The only sad experience was the dead sea-turtles that we encountered on the Alexandroupolis beaches. We are not kidding, 2 of these majestic creatures were lying on the beach, apparently this happens every year as turtles returning to their birthplace are injured by fishing boats and nets.



Time to head for Turkey! We have decided to keep Turkey short and sweet (kinda like baklava J) and travel in a straight line along the Black Sea coast towards Georgia. We have 2 reasons for this: first is the internal (lots of protests) and external (lots of wars) conflicts in a country that is slowly sliding into a dictatorship. Second is that in 2016, the Ramadan period is from the 6th of June till the 5th of July. During this period it is prohibited in Iran by law to eat or drink anything, including water, when the sun is up and the dress-code is enforced even stricter. We don`t mind taken part in this, just not the entire duration of our stay in Iran, so we aim to enter Iran in the last week of May. 

Our first stop in Turkey is Istanbul, a huge metropolis positioned on both the European and the Asian continents and the symbolic start of the silk route into the East. The old center of Istanbul is a cultural mix ranging from young people dressed in the latest fashion to niqab covered Muslim ladies.

We found it fascinating that in Istanbul there are shops selling the most imaginative lingerie situated next door (and selling to the same clientele) to the shops selling all-covering Sharia (Islamic law) approved clothing. Since the latter is much needed for Nicolette to visit Iran legally (unfortunately for Jeroen the lingerie is not mandatory) we decided to buy such a ‘Sharia approved dress’ for Nicolette. She was determined to directly give it a try in the streets of Istanbul to see how it feels. Bad idea. Encountering an Islamic culture for the first time together with the confining effect of the clothing was a bit too much. The 20°C in Istanbul turned Nicolette into a walking shower, and to think that in Iran it will be 40°C didn`t make her very happy! On the positive side, it did provide much needed experience for the travels through Iran and gave Nicolette a brief insight in the daily life of a Muslim woman.

The city has been the focal point of terrorist attacks on tourists in Turkey, with suicide bombings in 2015 and 2016 costing many lives. When we walked through the city we noticed police and military armed with automatic rifles at every major tourist site and there were airport-like security measures in place at every museum. Somehow seeing all these security measures made us feel a lot less safe. The upside of all this misery is that Istanbul is no longer overrun by tourists, leaving the tourist attractions we visited pleasantly quiet.  


Highlight of our visit to Istanbul was the magnificent Topkapi palace and its surrounding grounds, which was once home to the Ottoman Sultans. The palace has been turned into a must-see museum, where many of the riches of the Sultans are on display, including an 86-carat diamond, the 4th largest in the world! 



The bazar of Istanbul was also very nice, still breathing the old ‘souk’ atmosphere of the old days, when silk-route traders could finally sell their merchandise after their perilous journey from China. Nowadays lots of Chinese products still find their way to the bazar of Istanbul, it just takes a lot less effort to get them there and the quality also isn`t what it used to be J

After Istanbul we headed east, towards the cities of Amasra and Sinop along the Black Sea coast. The winding coastal road connecting these cities has absolutely stunning views and we had plenty of time to admire them as 300km took us about 8 hours. The possibility to take this road will end soon though, because a highway is being built to replace it (partially in the Sea, see the picture of our GPS below) and when it becomes fully operational, the old road probably will no longer be used.

Trabzon was our last stop in Turkey, where we got a taste of the infamous Georgian driving style, a mad dash to fill up any empty space on the road. Apparently, leaving any space between you and the cars left, right and in front of you is for sissies. Fortunately our car makes an impression, giving us right of way in situations where we almost certainly would have been bulldozed over if we were driving a Fiat 500. In Trabzon we were taken good care of by the hotel manager, who made sure our car was in a safe spot (always a bit of worry in cities) and assisted us in finding a nice Turkish-style restaurant to end our visit to Turkey with.



We`ll come back to Turkey when the storms have died down because it sure is a beautiful country!

Reactie schrijven

Commentaren: 3
  • #1

    Erik (maandag, 13 juni 2016 05:58)

    Still having fun

  • #2

    Erik (maandag, 13 juni 2016 06:07)

    Dashcam videos are awesome! Geeft echt een goed idee over wat jullie schrijven! Muziek eronder is sweet! Tof hoor allemaal!

  • #3

    Harald (vrijdag, 17 juni 2016 15:04)

    Het blijft mooi om jullie belevingen te volgen. Ook de dashcam en drone video's zijn mooi om te zien. Enjoy Iran! Hopelijk overleven jullie de Ramadan een beetje :)



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