Central Italy North Greece

October 2012 

Part 4: North Greece

I'm leaving one more good friend behind at Pesaro (thank you Steve!) and make it to Ancona to catch the ferry back to Greece. My time in Italy ends as the ferry turns its back to Ancona's port but my time with friends is not over yet. The plan is to make it to Kastoria which is the meeting point with my Aussie friends Pat and Bin as they kindly and gladly deviate on their way from Montenegro to Romania in order to spendsome days together around North Greece. Yes, both on their bike too.

The next chilly October morning offers me the following cloudy sunrise at the first sight of Greek soil North West of Igoumenitsa's port:

I decide to take the fast toll road from Igoumenitsa to Kastoria being strictly loyal on my appointments though I rarely do so in my trips as these roads are boring in their vast majority. However, the A2 is an impressive piece of engineering, the longest one in Greece (670km) crossing the whole North of the country. It's really like a string of bridges and tunnels through those countless mountains on its way and it's almost as scenic as a toll road can be. I ride relatively fast and I eat those couple of hundred km to Kastoria faster than I expected which gives me time to kill around this beautiful town, well known for its lake that sometimes freezes on a heavy winter:

I take my bike to another parking lot closer to the water and the town's center to enjoy the sun and the view:

Fortunately my dear Aussies are as loyal to their appointments as I am so it doesn't take long to meet them, fresh coming from another lake, Ohrid. Priceless to meet beloved ones when it's been a while and we all ride around the town in search of a place to stay. Off season helps us to find a good value for money by the lake and yes, we can't complain about the balcony view:

First walk around the town doesn't bring many fruits except the obvious beauty of the lake. The intense financial crisis (back in the day) is challenging the local economy. We grab a few beers and some fruits to enjoy at the balcony which next day offers me a nice panorama of the lake's water reflecting the first rays of the sun:

A tripod offers us this hug shot:

Yep, Pat is the mountain Everest as you see.

We go out for a walk on this lovely day and just a few steps out of the door I capture one more moment for my "nature never ceases to impress" folder:

But also humans have their own way to impress - if only all houses were as beautiful as this one:

No surprise Katoria's lake is a heaven for our feathered friends.

Here's their morning bath:

Ducks are not so fond of boats but seagulls definitely are:

I can watch for ages the soothing water of a lake. At least a lake like this:

However, we have places to see and roads to ride around this beautiful area of Greece - time to get on our bikes again.

We start riding around the lake first and what a lovely slow ride it is by the water on this narrow route - here's a video:

We leave the lake behind and make it out of the town riding North West on the 15 and doesn't take long to see a sign reading that the bridge ahead is down and closed. We are forced by the situation to take the gravel alternative that leads to a relatively sallow river passage and looks like this:

We ask our bikes and both say they don't mind to wet their tires for a bit:

Genlteman as I am, I let Pat and Bin do it first.

Here's how it goes:

It's now my turn and lucky me, I have two cameras recording me as Bin is cameraman 2:

We continue riding a loop around the North side on Verno mountain up to Florina and then down South to Kastoria again. It is a bikers heaven up there with ultra scenic routes on winding roads and the local food is among the most value for money you can ever find. I often leave Pat and Bin behind for a while to enjoy the absence of traffic in a faster pace.

Here's a video summarising this magic carpet ride:

We're back at our place in Kastoria where we end this great day with a bit of night walk around the town, some more nice local food and a good amount of wine back at our place for a proper goodbye to Kastoria. It's our last night there before we move to a next place.

The next day is not as good as the previous one and it feels like it could rain anytime. We pack our things and get our bikes loaded and ready. Before we leave the place Pat asks me what shall we do with all these wine bottles we left unfinished. Well, I can always find some space on my bike for valuable bits and I consider wine one of them so here's my answer:

And here's all tied up with both my side panniers on:

With a pillion like this behind me we stop at a gas station as Pat's bike is thirstier than mine and the lady at the pump drops her jaw at the look of all this alcohol. "Ready for party?" she asks in giggles.

We continue South East, take a long noon break for lunch after the first hundred kms and then start looking for the next place to stay as the weather is not precisely biker friendly. After several hits and miss we end up at a kinda luxurious but dead empty hotel at Elassona. Not much to do around there but with enough wine and good friends I can make it anywhere.

My time with my lovely Aussies is over unfortunately and we ride together for a while before we split. They have to leave their bike at their Romanian friends in Oradea while I have to head South for much less pleasant commitments (I'll spare them - don't worry 🙂 ). As I get close to Athens the weather gets much warmer and by the time I arrive home it is literally one season difference compared to North Greece.

Here's a summary video of the whole trip with music played, written and recorded by me:

See you on the next one!