We left Methoni and rode through spectacular scenery in rapidly worsening weather. We managed to take shelter in a village during the first downpour and took the opportunity to eat a spot of lunch. We managed to take shelter in a garage cafe during the second downpour and had a coffee whilst waiting for the worst to pass. The final downpour occurred just as we got to Dimitisana. We parked the bike under a tree and took refuge under an overhanging roof. About half an hour later, a charming gentleman (Jordan) came out of his hotel and asked if we needed somewhere to stay. We had parked the bike right outside! As you can see above (in better weather).
Cold and dripping wet we inspected the gorgeous rooms of a genuine boutique hotel. We really could not turn it down after leaving puddles on the floor and water soaking into rugs, apart from which the rain was still torrential and being out in it was not high on our agenda. We decided to stay two nights and, after a hot shower and dry clothes, enjoyed a beer in the bar which has the most amazing view. With the weather clearing we strolled into town past the Roman bridge and found plenty of choices for dinner. We ate well in Dimitsana.
Next morning we had a huge homemade breakfast, including fried nettle leaves and morel mushrooms that Jordan had foraged from the forest. Then we set off on a walk. The trail was reasonably well marked and our first stop was a surprisingly interesting outdoor water power museum. The whole area was famous for water powered industry right up to the middle of last century. There was a fulling tub that resembles a huge top loading washing machine, a flour mill, gunpowder mill, raki still and a tannery. All with very informative videos.
This is the fulling tub:
We walked on down the trail but turned around after a few hours and came back by road. It was all down on the way out to the bottom of the gorge, and all up on the way back! We should have taken more water with us, we didn’t, but there was an abundance of fast flowing streams on the way down.
The walking was quite hard so we didn’t get too many views of the scenery. There were frequent stops to try and capture photographs of butterflies! We do want to go back to Dimitsana and do a bit more exploring – there is quite a lot to see in that part of Arcadia but, this year, we didn’t really have time.
Next day we headed back to Nafplio for a relaxing evening before catching the ferry to Chios then on to home via Çeşme.
We were in the UK and Ireland in February then, in April, at Hilary’s father’s 90th birthday party in London. Pretty well as soon as we got back we took of on the ferry to Kavala, hired a car (with some difficulty, as it was a Sunday and everywhere was shut) and drove straight to Lake Kerkini.
Kerkini village is a delightful place. On this occasion there was a (very well behaved) school party staying in the hotel so we were treated to three nights in a beautifully restored house. Beers were taken at our favourite bar in the village and meals at the Oikoperigitis where our friend Vasilis is a guide.
On our first day we traveled around the lake, visiting favourite places and taking photographs of birds. The next day we went up to the monastery, above which is a small reservoir where we were lucky enough to see a black kite perched, motionless in a tree for about twenty minutes. We went on to a spot near the Bulgarian border where rollers are often found but we can’t honestly say that we found any. It was only a short drive on some extremely good roads. We did see a very long line of trucks waiting to cross the border.
We also went out on Vasilis’ boat. This is always a magical experience and different every time. This year the level of the lake has been kept low to avoid flooding of the villages. This has not been a totally good thing for the wildlife. We were not able to enter the drowned forest (which is, sadly, slowly dying) though we did get quite close.
It was, of course, perfect biking weather (we left the bike at home). But the next part of the trip was very windy so we were, eventually, glad of the hired car.
We left Eğidir after breakfast and headed South past Lake Kovada. This road has now been made (we’ve got covered in tar on it in previous years) and is quite spectacular. It must be one of the best bike rides in the world though it is quite technical in places.
After winding above crevasses and through wonderful gorges full of pines, it comes out on the main road to Antalya. Which is not quite so interesting. Having passed through Antalya we broke our journey in Çıralı, which was enough riding for the day. We’ve written about Çıralı before. There was nothing much there the first time we visited but it’s become quite ‘developed’. Still beautiful, but packed with hotels and restaurants.
We stayed in a pleasant hotel with love birds and grey parrots in cages in the garden. We had an evening meal and left after breakfast the next morning.
We rode on to Patara, or, rather the village of Gelemiş. We have stayed there quite a few times before and have our favourite Pansyion where we are recognised, welcomed and given our usual room. We walked down through the dunes and back along the beach. All of which we have done before. All of which is spectacular.
Next day we headed for Saklikent Gorge… That’s for walking. Or wading. Depending on the time of year. This time we got the time of year right and were able to walk all the way. It was crowded, but still mindblowingly beautiful.
And, finally, the archaeological site at Pattara. This was not our first visit but the archaelogists and restoration people have been working very hard.
We stood and watched this lintel being lowered carefully into its proper place.
Finally came the long ride home…. But this was a trip worth repeating!
On Sunday we went walking with Zirve Mountaineering and Extreme Sports Club again. This time numbers were more to our taste – 26 of us all together, including a very knowledgeable guide. We were happy to be able to understand nearly everything he told us about the site. He did speak good English, but the information was given to the group in Turkish. It was an early start and a two hour drive to the village of Sart where we stopped for breakfast. Parts of the ancient site are in that village. We wandered around the gymnasium and synagogue area. The synagogue was particularly impressive – huge, built in Roman times, it has some amazing mosaics, on the floor and mounted on some of the remaining walls.
The gymnasium has been quite heavily restored but one of the things we found most fascinating about it is the sculpted heads mounted on the capitals of the columns at the front of the building. We have not seen anything like that before and we did manage to get a picture of one of them.
Sardis was an important city for more than 1,500 years. It was, at various points, Lydian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine.
Our minibus drove us up to the Artemesion. Much better preserved than the more famous temple near Ephesus (the one we can walk to, the one that was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the one that is almost completely tumbled down but a great place for wildlife). The temple has seen very little modern restoration, although there is a church at one end (built when Christianity became the official religion in the area). The columns are of various dates (and some were ‘restored’ in Roman times) but they are properly tapered to give a good perspective.
Following our visit to the Temple we climbed up to the acropolis. All that remains of the acropolis is Byzantine and most of that has fallen down the hillside, not least because the entire hill seems to be made of sand and sandstone. We stopped for a tea break in a sheltered part of the acropolis walls. Although the weather was overcast, the worst of the rain held off till late afternoon and we got some amazing views.
On the way back we stopped off first at the Kazak Centre where we ate Sutlaç, then on to Karabel where there is a wonderful Hittite relief cut into the rock. There were more, unfortunately destroyed when the road was widened.
Leaving aside the ongoing human tragedy and the biker stuff which will be the subject of a later post.
There was another ride out planned for the Sunday, but we had to be back in Mitilini for 4pm so would have needed to leave mid lunch. So, we made our own fun. We went bird watching around Skala Kaloni. Early October is not the best time, the Bee Eaters are gone south for winter, many other species have migrated, and the wetlands are at their driest, so waterbirds are more scarce.
In a couple of hours and not really trying hard. 2 Black Storks, a Peregrine Falcon, a juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle, Little Egret, Night Heron. Along with all the usual suspects, Grey Heron, finches, larks, sparrows, buzzards, gulls. Sadly not many pictures, we only had the pocket camera with us.
Oh, and for completeness on avian matters, from the day before, Theo, Hilary’s friend. Theo is multilingual, speaks, Greek, English and Turkish.
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.
Some 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 two 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. On 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 another 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.