2018 Pella - Kilkis
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In case you don't know already September is the best month to visit Greece. Weather is close to perfect, better than summer in the absence of heatwaves, sea is warm, beaches are not too crowded and "overbooked" starts becoming a rarity. It's all better in September unless you enjoy crowds - each to their own. Mid September finds me leaving the beauty of the seaside East of Athens where I stay in order to head North intending to explore some mountainous areas of Greece around there for my first time (the cons of being busy tripping abroad). People know Greece for the sun and the sea and yes, when it comes to swimming it's the top choice but Hellas is actually a very mountainous country with so much beauty lying there above sea level.
After a 600km ride North, most of it on boring toll roads to save time (otherwise I hate them and prefer the secondary ones) I arrive several km before the North border at the village of Polykarpi where I have booked my AirBnB. It was a brand new listing I found on this site and decided to take the risk and book it as it looked really nice and conveniently located. Turns out to be among the best I have ever booked. I am welcomed by a super lovely family, they show me around my apartment which is fully equipped, pristinely clean and full of local extra delicious goodies. As if this was not enough, they bring me a meal I never ordered:
Sitting at the balcony the sound of the wind passing through the leaves of the plane trees made the perfect chill out soundtrack:
Next morning I can't wait to ride around this area that looks already promising. On my way South to the town of Edessa this plane monument dedicated to local pilots who died on duty catches my attention:
A few km later I am at Edessa already ready to visit the famous local waterfalls:
It's no Niagara by any means but it's a really sweet place that pictures cannot really do justice to how nice it is in real. Plus it's the sound missing so here's some videos:
A short stop afterwards at the lake Agra West of Edessa doesn't hurt at all:
However, I am focused in making it all the way up to the ski resort of Vora, one breath away from the border. I make a short stop at the last bits of straight road before it becomes winding and ascending:
And I start going up. Here's a video (keep volume low to avoid wind noise):
The route and the view is so nice that I soon can't skip stopping for some more pictures again:
The road calls me back. I can't say no to this:
So I continue my way up. Soon I am at the deserted area of the ski resort. Here's a clip:
I am the only soul up there:
A few meters later I find out I am not the only one but still definitely the only one speaking. Cows:
I make it up to the very end of tarmac, probably the only tarmac road in Greece above 2000m.
I know there's another record for me waiting all the way up to the end of the road and the end of the country too. However, it's gravel, I have no idea at all how bad it gets later or how steep it is, all I know is that it goes up to 2500ish, it's very cold and windy (20 degrees difference from where I started) and I am all alone on street tires and summer gear. I have nothing to prove so I leave it for the next time. On my way down back to the ski area I spot an old train wagon so I stop for a picture:
There I spot one more soul, a dog all alone up there. Looked rather sad and in need of company but too afraid to be approached. You'll see it in the middle of this short clip (reduce volume cause it was too windy):
I make my way down taking the South East route this time towards the village of Kerasies. No complains about the route at all:
How can I complain on a day like this anyway:
I took this rout for a change but also to visit the thermal baths of Pozar which, amazing as they are, unfortunately they were overcrowded even in this slight off season period. I don't think I have seen such an overcrowded place in Greece at this time before. I leave it behind and head back to my AirBnB. The fantastic homemade cherry jam from my host is the icing on the cake of a great day like this.
Next day I wake up with plans to head East this time. Weather is still great and soon I'm on my bike for new destinations and explorations. My host told me to visit Archagellos and boy did I enjoy it. This place generously offers cover pictures like this ones:
Are you fed up with my noisy videos already? well, time for a quiet one taken at the above spot:
My final goal is to make it to the waterfalls of Skra. A lovely route brings me at the entrance of that place:
As if Skra waterfalls knew how pissed I was after the ultra crowded Pozar baths and the WHOLE place here is all at my exclusive disposal. No-body-else-at-all. Ultra happy I take the steps down and I'm soon hugged by nature's unparalleled beauty:
Fancy a couple of videos?
As I walk up back again to leave, a lady comes and asks me if there's anyone else down there cause she wanted to leave some flyers. I tell her it's only the two of us and she kinda cracks up. As I get on my bike to leave I put 1st gear, leave the clutch and then I go "shit, the disk lock is still on! Gotta brake!" As soon as I pull the brake lever I here that metal crack that I wanted to avoid. Next thought is "Don't do this to me! I'm more than 600km away from home with a broken brake disk?" I get off the bike and I see the disk lock broken in two. The disk brake looked OK except a bit of yellow paint from the lock on the caliper. Impressed by the strength of my brake disk I still can't believe it survived so I ride the bike again to test it. Not only it is OK, years and thousands of km later till today it still is. Gotta love my bike...And I haven't bought another disk lock ever since.
Happy that I leave the spot without further damage I start my way back to my AirBnB. I decide to take an alternate route going South first to cross the Gripas park. Quite a deviation but worth the effort totally:
A few kms before I arrive back to the place I stay I see a thing on the tarmac like a big stone so I stop to pick it up to spare other drivers from the risk. To my surprise, it is actually a huge potato! I say to myself "This must have just fallen of a truck as it's harvest season so it must be fresh as it gets". I take it with me and as soon as I am back I fry the whole thing in olive oil. These chips are probably the best ones I've ever made. You can't beat fresh.
A wonderful ending to a short (for my standards) but wonderful trip. Next day all that's left is to say goodbye to my lovely hosts and ride all the way back home. After the first 100km I make the only stop on the hole way, only to picture this beyond funny cafe bar:
Yes, this guy put a whole DC3 plane on the roof. A Dakota above his head. Nuts...
See you on the next one!