Tag Archives: Greece

8 Deadly Miles

We went with a group of friends to Skala Sikaminias, north Lesvos, 8 miles from Turkey, a ride out with fellow bikers, for a spot of lunch. This is what we saw.

In less than 3 hours more than 24 small inflatable boats, all overloaded, filled with men, women, children, infants. Many with poor quality lifejackets or inflatable vests. They had risked the 8 miles of open sea, across a shipping lane, in what on that day was good weather, with equipment not fit for purpose.

flotation

We saw one boat get into difficulty. The outboard failed. Fortunately close enough to shore to be seen and fortunately the wind assisted in helping them. A small boat went out from the village and helped, got people closer to shore.  A human chain formed.  All got safely to land.

We saw another boat get into difficulty on rocks, people dashed out to help.

We saw a boat being piloted into the small harbour by a fisherman in his boat.

pilot

We saw those on shore help their fellow human beings reach safety.

We saw the villagers of a small fishing port, dependent on the sea and tourism doing what they can. But frustrated. How do the occupants of a village with less than a few hundred people cope with this? How do they keep the cafes and tavernas open, how do they make a living? But, they helped, even if only to get people to the shore and on their way to Mitilini, not one said build a fence, not one said send them back. Their view was, we will help, we will do what we can, but we need help as well.

A reporter their asked us if as tourists we were distressed. We said no, not as tourists. Yes, distressed as human beings. The reporter saw something more interesting so we were saved more questions.

We saw men, women and children. Ashore, smiling, happy faces. No doubt relieved to have made the incredibly dangerous and expensive trip across 8 miles of open sea. Relieved to have reached the EU, to perceived safety, to a perceived chance to build a new life and not be dependent on charity. To have escaped whatever they are running from.

There was incongruity about it all. The tiny fishing village with more people arriving in three hours than the entire population of the village, and knowing this happens day after day, week after week, month after month. Our hugely expensive toys, Harleys mostly, gear left on saddles, draped over bars, people passing through with their entire worldly possessions in a small backpack, looking, pointing, smiling.

We give to charity, money, clothes and stuff. We asked a volunteer worker there what more we could do to help. He said this. He said, no matter what we do, people will come, people will try to reach Europe. He said to go back and tell your government to open the borders and let people pass.

Winter is coming, the storms will come, the sea will become far more dangerous. And yet, if we do nothing, people will still try to come, the body count will rapidly rise.  Opening the borders is not a perfect solution, it is not going to solve a crisis.  It will do one thing and one thing only, the most important thing, it will save lives.

So please, if you read this, if you value human lives, go to your government, tell your government to open the borders, to let people pass.

Advertisements

Back to Lake Kerkini

Meanwhile, as the Izmir festival continues……  Back to Kerkini, Greece.

http://kerkini.gr/eng/

As you can probably tell Lake Kerkini is fabulous for watching water birds.  It is also good for eagles, buzzards, black kites, bee eaters, rose starlings, and more.  There are also water buffalo, easy to see, and by repute other large mammals including wolves and jackals which of course are less easy to see.

Kerkini22

There are a few hotels in the area, two in Kerkini, and others nearby in other villages.  The hotels may fill up at the weekends (Kerkini is less than an hour from Thessaloniki) and during migration but, when we were there we had no problem finding a place to stay.  We chose Oikoperiigitis which is in the village of Kerkini.  Not the cheapest option, but is it a lovely hotel which does really great inexpensive food.  One of the specialties is lumps of slow cooked buffalo on pasta, simple and utterly delicious, even more so with a carafe of local wine.

http://www.oikoperiigitis.gr

There are a few other bars and tavernas in the village, along with loads of nesting white storks.  We have got a bit blase about white storks, we see them all summer back home in Selçuk.

The hotel is able to organise various tours and boat trip in and around the lake, but we guess all the hotels in the area can do this.  We took an early morning boat trip with Vasilis, a friend, who we met the year before.  Vasilis is fantastic, really knowledgeable about the area and birds, and incredibly helpful.  The boat trip was amazing and the source of most of the bird photos from an earlier post including this one of a spoonbill and pygmy cormorant

Kerkini9

It is a stunningly beautiful area, one we will return to.  We are already thinking about next year and maybe getting to Lake Prespa as well.

Kerkini23

The Birds

We may publish flocks of corvids sitting on buildings, in trees, on wall, watching humans and muttering nevermore…..  But we can do most of that here at home in Selcuk with the vast flock of jackdaws.  Oh and a shower scene, or am I getting fiction and film mixed up?

Poe and Hitchcock aside……

We will say more on Kerkini soon, but for now, the bird photos.

Dadia Forest

Gibrena-walking-downSome people may have gathered we went to Greece for a few days.  Our first stop in Greece after a leisurely ride north via Ayvalik and Canakkale was Dadia.  Dadia is a small village to the south of Soufli (nearest cash machine) with a couple of eateries and hotels.  More on those later. Our reason for going to Dadia Forest was to see birds of prey.  It is one of only Egyptian-Vulturetwo mainland sites in Europe where it is possible to see Black Vultures and Gryphon Vultures.  It is also very good for other large raptors.  As such the forest is carefully managed and the birds protected.  Just outside the village of Dadia is the visitor centre www.dadia-np.gr from where it is possible to get up to date information on the forest, details of walking trails and more. walking-to-the-hideOn our first day we took a walk up to the hide by one trail, and back by another, both clearly marked, rated as easy, and very pleasant.  On our walk up we saw Buzzards and a Gryphon Vulture in flight.  We spent ages up at the hide, there was an Egyptian Vulture, a Black Kite and an eagle, almost certainly Lesser Spotted Eagle,  Schoolchildren were being brought into the hide, given access to telescopes, given the eco drill in Greek, noisy at times but the hide is well away from the birds and none were bothered.  When the children were not there we got to use the telescopes. One or second day we took the harder trails, one up to Gibrena Peak and anotherGibrena-peak down.  These were graded as medium as indeed they turned out to be.  We were good and followed the rules, left our details and walking plans at the visitor centre, checked back in with them on return.  Again both trails we were marked and easy to follow, giving great views at times.  There was lots of wild flowers, would have been more a month or so earlier, something to maybe bear in mind for the future.  Near the peak we came across an eagle sat in a small tree, unfortunately it did not hang around for photographs.  We would recommend decent walking shoes for the climb to Gibrena Peak which Ashley did not have so took the risk with sport sandals, the only real risk being snakes, and well, not really a big risk. Back to Dadia village.  The village appears to have two hotels, but one seemed closed.  The other is next to the visitor centre www.forestinn.eu It is a lovely place, we think it used to be part of the visitor centre, but is now being run privately.  Our room was lovely, and we spent ages sat on the sunny balcony watching Hoopoes flying back and forth.  One morning when we were leaving the accommodation block to get breakfast there was a Sparrow Hawk in the garden, though most of the time it was populated by Swallows.  Breakfast was good.  The cafeteria also provided us with a steady supply of frappe, the occasional beer and did some snacks and ice cream.  Sitting in the café garden, at times a vulture passed overhead and further in the distance there were storks in flight. At the time we were there the hotel was not doing meals, but there are a couple of eateries in the village, one inexpensive Taverna, and a take out souvlaki place that needless to say did excellent take out souvlaki.  Being Greece, neither opens much before 9pm, so we relaxed in the hotel garden and had another beer. It is a lovely place, we will go again.

Why we didn’t go to Bulgaria

 

Rain-in-Greece

There is a signpost near Lake Kerkini that says ‘Bulgaria’.  We had intended to take that road, up over the mountains (where, apparently, you can see rollers by the border) through spectacular scenery.  Rainstorms were, however, predicted.  And predicted to continue for most of the week.

We changed our plans and headed back to the coast.  We decided to get as far as we could before the rain hit, hopefully up as far as Tychero.  And we made it.  We were running just ahead of storm clouds most of the way but we managed to catch nothing worse than the edge of the storm.

Hotel-ThrassaTychero is a small town, or maybe a village.  It has a lake and wildlife.  It also has a lot of bars and cafes and one or two restaurants.  We got a lovely room in a very pleasant hotel with a view out over the lake (yes, we were warned to take precautions against mosquitoes).

After a shower and change we headed into town and managed to duck into a bar Tycherodaki-leylekjust before the rain hit.  It rained for about an hour.  Long enough to enjoy our frappe…  And, of course, watch the storks.

Tychero is a mere 30 Km from the Turkish border so, next morning, we followed the road sign to Turkey and started the journey home.

 

 

A brief visit to Pella

PellaA

Pella was pretty well on the route between Kastoria and our next stop. It would have been a pity not to have gone (and we needed a break).  So we stopped off and took some photographs.  There is a booth and a small charge to get in.  There is also a museum but we didn’t visit that.

Not sure whether it was the heat (and being a bit worried about stuff we had left on the bike) but it was not the most atmospheric of sites.  Maybe because of the very agricultural surroundings.   Though it has, of course, been an agricultural centre for a very, very long time.

The mosaics, though faded, are impressive.  There was work going on the site when we visited.  It would be interesting to go back for a longer visit.

 

Birding

Flamingos

These are all from our trip to Lesvos, from the area around Skala Kaloni.   We had hoped to go into the mountains and look for eagles but the weather was really unsettled so the chances of spotting raptors in rain and cloud were minimal.  Instead we stayed at sea level, put on rain gear and trudged around the wetlands.

We were rewarded with flamingos, terns hunting the river, avocet, black winged stilt, black stork, jays, black headed buntings, nesting crested larks, all of which minus the terns we got photos of.

These were taken on a Sony and a Nikon pocket digicam, so no special kit.  I keep thinking about a digital SLR but then I’d want lenses and gear and more stuff.  Would be fun packing such kit onto the bike, so probably not a good option.