The origin of our travelling lust.
It all started in Greece many years ago, so ofcourse we were excited to go there in our Hymer. Our first holiday together was in Greece and after that, we have been there several times by airplane, as ordinary tourists. But freecamping in Greece turned out to be almost impossible. Almost no free overnight stays for the hedonists, but still a ton of great experiences.
And the beginning of our dream.
All in all Greece was the place, where our dreams of a life outside Denmark began. It was also where Malthe proposed. So our expectations were sky-high when we boarded the ferry. We had decided to take the ferry from Italy to Greece and use the “Camping on board” opportunity. Basically it means, that you are allowed to stay in your caravan, while sailing. Also during the night, since it is a long trip. We tried to order tickets on the internet, but the webpage was so outdated, that we decided to call instead. The poor employees used the same webpage, had just as much trouble as us and the outcome was still: No ticket. In the end we simply decided to drive to the harbour in Bari and talk to the office face to face. We had to go there anyways, so it wasn’t a problem. But, but, but…. The office also used the same outdated webpage and after 3 days of trying to order a ticket without any luck, we lost our patience. We smiled at the employee and left the office and decided to buy a ticket to Albania instead. A much shorter trip, but also a trip to one of the Eastern European countries, that we are not so keen on visiting.
There are a lot of different opinions about the Eastern European countries. Often so different, that some people get mad at us, for not visiting them. There is no doubt, that those countries are beautiful and we also believe that a lot of good people live there. We are just not willing to take the risk of bumbing into the bad people. We have heard numerous stories about highway robberies and criminals and it is better to be safe than sorry. We’ve already had two break ins in the caravan, so we take our precautions and stay away from risks.
Our fears came true.
We arrived to the harbour in Albania around midnight and had a 4 hour drive ahead of us, before we could cross the Greek border. First of all, it was pitch black on the roads and second of all, we experienced 2 attempts of highway robbery in those 4 hours. First we passed a bonfire on the side of the road. The drought was at it highest at the time and normally we would stop and call the fire department, to prevent a wildfire. But we could see, that the bonfire was manmade only to make us stop. We didn’t! We drove like crazy through the smoke and felt lucky, not falling for the trick. A few hours later, we were driving on a dark road. The only other car, was an old pickup truck in front of us and it was driving really slowly. Every time we tried to pass it, it drove to the middle of the road and prevented us. We realized we were led to a specific place by the car and we simply had to overtake the pickup truck to get away. Malthe found the right spot to do it and stepped on the accelerator. As before, the truck went to the middle of the road and when the driver realized what we were up to, he continued on to the opposite lane to drive us off the road. If Malthe wasn’t such a skilled driver, the truck would have succeeded! It was crazy and all the fears we had had about the Eastern European countries turned out to be true. Besides those two attempts, we were also hunted by a pack of wild dogs. They were literally running on both sides of the caravan, barking and growling with white foam around their mouths. We have seen many wild dogs before, but these were straight out of a horror movie!
I guess you can understand why those 4 hours of driving through Albania was more than enough for us. Luckily we crossed the Greek boarder at 4am and was able to find a spot to park in a very small village, to get some well deserved sleep.
Waking up in Greece
We woke up around noon and our heart skipped a beat, when we saw where we were. It was the cutest, very small and very local little village and we were parked at the town square. The villagers smiled at us and said hello, but also looked very curiously at the caravan. Two crazy Nordic blondes at the town square.
When we drove on, we read about the camping rules in Greece. We always read up on traffic rules and camping rules, when we enter a new country. It turned out that freecamping is not allowed in Greece at all. That was critical. A great part of our trip is based on free overnight stays. It turned out, that the unofficial reason for this new rule is, to prevent gypsies. Those are are huge problem around Europe and we completely understood why the action was taken.
No real plan. As usual.
As usual we had no real plan as to what to see in Greece, but someone told us to go see the mountains of Meteora. We love mountains and we love good tips, so Meteora would be our first real stop. It was the best tip that anyone have given us, it turned out. But first we had to find a place to stay, due to the no-freecamping rule and we found Campsite Vrachos Kastraki by sweet coincidence. Such a lovely campsite, with pool and a great restaurant. Actually we ended up staying a few days, because of its coziness.
A beautiful rock formation.
Meteora is a rock formation out of the ordinary. The mountains are like columns and on 6 of them are some beautiful monasteries. Originally there were 24, but only 6 is left and open to the public. Parts of the James Bond movie For your eyes only is filmed in the Meteora mountains along with several other movies such as Game of Thrones and The adventures of young Indiana Jones.
The fascination is understandable because the mountains are amazing. Unfortunately the Holy Trinity Monastery where 007 was filmed, was closed for the day, when we were there. But then we had lots of time to wander in the mountains instead. Time is important, when walking in the mountains (unless you drive by car) since it’s going to be a long walk down, if you miss the last bus. Don’t miss out on Meteora if you go to Greece. It is absolutely amazing.
The silent dog.
While walking through the mountains, we were accompanied by a wild dog. Not wild in an evil way, just one of the many homeless dogs in Greece. It was a very special experience. She just started walking beside us, without looking at us and without the urge to be touched. It was as if she just wanted to get us safe to the top of the mountain. When we finally got there, she just wandered off again
A snake and a rat
We have been travelling for more than a year without seeing any of the dangerous animals that we know are around. At Vrachos Kastraki we finally got to see a snake though. Eating a rat. I don’t think we need to see more of that anytime soon.
Towards the ocean.
After a few relaxing days at the campsite, we continued towards the ocean. We had gotten another tip about the beauty of Halkidiki and that was our next stop. On our way we passed through Thessaloniki, which is the second largest city in Greece. It was a real eye opener. A sad one. Many tourists go to Thessaloniki, but by travelling like we do, we also get to see the non-tourist places and sometimes our hearts break when we do. Closed down businesses, abandoned houses and apartment buildings. It was so sad to see.
Heat and wildfires
As in many countries in southern Europe, the summer-heat and drought often causes wildfires.We saw several burned out fields, trees and ditches, but even though they can be devastating, the Greek seem to be pretty calm when the fires are raging.
We actually succeeded in finding a few spots for freecamping via CamperContact on our way to Halkidiki and after a few days we were there. The rumours were true. The beaches on the Halkidiki peninsula are amazing. The best in Europe! Our first dip in the clear blue ocean was at a local beach by a small taverna. They made delicious and cheap food and the Greek were just as friendly and hospitable as we remembered them. The staff at the taverna actually offered, that we could stay for free at their private parking lot. We accepted. Great food and great beach. What’s not to like? After a few days we moved on, even though the staff seemed all sad about our departure. But we will be back someday for sure.
Our beloved Skiathos.
Skiathos is the Greek island we have travelled to many times, the past 12 years. We couldn’t wait to get there again, so we set course for Volos and the ferry to Skiathos. Experience had taught us, to drive straight to the ferry, to buy tickets. Even though we had hoped to get to Skiathos quickly, we didn’t expect it to be straight away, but there was room for us at the ferry, so we got on board immediately. We ended up at Skiathos late in the evening and broke the freecamping rules, by spending the night at a parking lot. After all, the island is small, so what could happen? Next day, we would drive to the campsite.
The accommodation problem.
Next morning, we rushed to our favourite restaurant Dinos, to say hi to Roula. She is the owner, and a fantastic person. After trying to reach the only campsite on the island by phone and asking around, we found out, that it was closed. It was catastrophic. No freecamping and no campsite. Roula suggested going to the local authority to get a special permit. They were super kind, but asked us to go to the police to get one. The chief of police was the one and only unfriendly Greek we have ever met. We couldn’t get a permit and he actually didn’t care if we left the island or not. As long as we didn’t freecamp.
Last minute booking
So the hunt for a place to stay began. We succeeded in finding 2 studios, with 2 free nights each. Even though stays on hotels are not part of our plan, we decided not to let it bother us.
Our first scuba-dive.
Our first scuba dive ever was with Theo from Octopus diving center. We had been wanting to try it for ages and it was a fantastic experience. Playing with curious fish at the bottom at the ocean and feeling weightless, surrounded by water was amazing. Theo was patient and a good teacher and scuba diving is absolutely one of the things we need to do more in the future.
All good things must come to and end.
Moving from studio to studio was simply too stressful and expensive for us, so we had to cut our Skiathos trip short. Roula was furious about the way the chief of police had treated us, and offered us to come stay with her at her house if we returned in september or may, out of season. An invitation we will definitely keep in mind.
Heading west on the mainland.
“This is Sparta” is an iconic line and since Malthe is a movie lover, we had to see Sparta. Well, we both like the Greek history so Sparta was the goal. We checked in at a lovely campsite in Mystras called Castleview Camping. Honestly we needed some peace after the rather stressful trip to Skiathos and Mystras seemed to be just the right place to cool down.
From the campsite, we rode on our Pathfinders towards Sparta. It was a nice and beautiful trip, but also really hot! A heatwave was slowly covering Greece, but we were really keen on seeing Sparta, instead of staying in the campsite pool.
Ruins of Sparta
In Sparta we found out, that the Greek are not that good at preserving and promoting their ruins and cultural treasures. Yet again it might have something to do with the bad economy. At least the ruins of ancient Sparta wasn´t as well preserved as we were used to from other countries. But they were there and it was still exciting and afterwards we could check them off our bucket-list.
A beautiful stray dog
Luckily the area around Mystras was both beautiful and inviting and on the campsite was the most adorable stray dog we had ever seen. Our neighbours told us to take her with us, because the shy dog seemed to like us, and even though we wanted to, we restrained ourselves. People often ask us, if it isn´t horrible to see all the stray cats and dogs we meet on our way and why we don´t bring them with us and give them a good home. There are several reasons why we don´t do that. First of all it would be a neverending story. We meet so many stray animals on our way, especially in Greece, Italy and Spain. It would be impossible for us to take care of them all. The second and maybe most important reason is, that they are wild animals, born by wild parents. It would be impossible for us to stuff a wild cat into the caravan. It would run off again at the first given chance. The same goes for a stray dog. No matter how hard we tried, we would never be able to provide them with the same free life they are used to. At least our life had to be more stable if we should try.
So what we do is to give them food, water and love when we are around them. Therefore food for cats and dogs is always in our cabinet and we are also carrying a little with us, when we are out walking. Who knows, maybe the stray animals remember meeting us and think back on it as good times?
The rest of the trip through Greece gave us plenty of time to bathe and dive at, what we think is Europe’s best beaches. The water is so clear, the beaches are beautiful pebbles or wonderful sand. There are no seaweed at the shore and the water is filed with colorful fish. We absolutely love the Greek beaches.
We also love the Greek tavernas and buying fresh fruit and honey at the roadside stalls, in surroundings that takes your breath away. Greece is fantastic.
Goodbye at a beach party
Our last stop was a campsite at Kato Vasiliki. The place is known for its cliffs and is also a sought after spot for surfers. We are not surfers and we don´t jump from cliffs, but we said goodbye to Greece at a big beach party. Actually we knew nothing about the party and was enjoying our siesta nap, when someone knocked on the door. A man advised us to leave the campsite, since a couple of thousand party-people would arrive within a few hours. We drove a little up the road and parked there instead and decided that we wouldn´t want to miss a beach party. The party was an annual event with DJ´s and a spectacular light show. What a way to end a fabulous roadtrip in Greece.
Beautiful but not camper friendly
All in all Greece is a great country, but not that friendly for freecampers. Maybe we have become a bit spoiled from the possibilities in the other countries, where freecamping is both legal and natural. Although the poverty of the country is saddening, the Greeks are still super friendly and accommodating. Besides that the beaches and the nature are absolutely worth getting lost in. Although we encountered some problems along the way, Greece still has a big place in our hearts.
E & M
-Writing: Eva. Photo editing: Eva.