We've embraced the 'Slow' philosophy as a way of life - what's the hurry?. Taking time to smell the roses (usually on a glass of Viognier) is more our style. Having spent more then 3 years on the road, slow travel has become a way of life. We have revised our plans completely and now focus on quality, not quantity, slowly.
We are now in Greece but have taken quite a few long and
winding roads to get here. I suggest you get a glass of something cold and
tasty, (Susan - you can have G&T...) while I tell you all about it.
I last left you in Albania, not a great place to be left!!
Hope you survived, we did. We went in search of the spit-roast lamb by driving up the
hill behind Tirane. Sounds easy – yes? Well, the GPS got us hopelessly lost in
a maze of badly paved roads that turned to mud, in the suburbs. At one stage we
ended up in the cemetery, which was OK as it is the cleanest, neatest place in
Albania. Anyway, we got up there by our wits alone, to find the restaurant was
having renovations done. We moved on and had a rabbit lunch instead. We camped
the night opposite the restaurant, with views over the smog of the Capital.
From there it seemed sensible (ahem) to drive over the
mountains to Macedonia. We seriously wanted avoid going back near Tirane. The
well paved road lasted about 3kms and then things started to get interesting. The
road deteriorated quickly, then more so until finally it got so bad we had to
turn around. It was just too dangerous, too risky even in the go-anywhere Boris-mo-beele.
That Road! (yes, that is bird poo on the windscreen)
Back we went, towards bloody Tirane. After a few bad
mistakes, several 5 point turns, avoiding cows, mud, peasants and chickens, we
found finally the southern highway heading to Macedonia, with the added bonus
of a Carrefour Supermarket and Carwash – fab.
Lawrence put his foot down and we headed to Macedonia and
relative sanity. The campsite we headed for was closed and had been for 10
years – apparently. By luck, kismet or commercial savvy we met a guy who owned
a small campsite by Lake Ohrid and we followed him as we didn’t have much
option! It was a tiny, neat campsite right by the beautiful lake with rustic
but serviceable ablutions. It wasn’t officially open, but he was happy for us
Camping by Lake Ohrid
It was sheer bliss after the hell of Albania. Here’s some
advice. If you are thinking of visiting Albania – don’t! Even the wine was
We went into the local town which was fairly dull but had an
eclectic market. One woman was selling lettuce and live chickens, another
stall had only socks and olive oil, but really, you could buy almost anything.
We also spent a day in Ohrid and did the obligatory ancient
orthodox churches and a Macedonian lunch, before moving toward Bitola. We
decided again to take the long way – another long and winding road over the
mountain pass between the 2 lakes. Once again we were forced to turn around –
this time because of snow. We couldn’t be arsed putting the snow-chains on and
chugging slowly through it for 20 or more kms. So we had to go the boring way.
Pretty Chapel - Ohrid
Couldn't be arsed with snow chains in Macedonia
We were not inspired by Bitola so just headed for the Greek border
looking for somewhere to stay.
This is where it got a little bit interesting. As we
approached the Greek border, we saw a side road that we thought might be good
for an overnight camping spot. But the road was terrible and there was no likely
spots so we turned around only to be confronted by the border guards.
They had seen us turn off and obviously thought we were up
to no good. After lots of explanation and serious grovelling they let us move
on but of course we were stopped at the border proper, more explanation and
forelock tugging required.
And that leads us to Greece.
As we were ahead of schedule – yes, we do have one – we took
the advice of our chums Darren and Clare and headed to Meteora. What an
extraordinary place this is. Even without the monasteries it is a sight to behold.
Great pinnacles of rock stretching sky-high, some with wonderful 15th
century monasteries perched precariously on top. 6 of them still operate and
you can visit them easily (even if you have to put on a bad taste skirt over
your jeans – women only). I’ll let the photos tell you more. Sadly the weather
was cold and grey.
So now we are parked by the sea on our way to Thessaloniki.
Today we did another long and very winding road past Mount Olympus. I do wish
that the Weather Gods and weatherunderground.com would consult with each other
a little more and come up with the often promised sunshine for us. Mt Olympus was shrouded in
cloud and mist, so we didn’t see much. The road however was fab and coming down
the other side was exciting. 19 hairpin bends in 7 kms with a drop of 500
Next stop Thessaloniki, slated as Greece’s coolest city, so
we should fit right in. I just hope they are not talking about the weather.
I’ve had enough winter, seriously, enough.
It is now bloody raining, again.
So we are sitting here drinking a fabulous Macedonian Rosé,
made from Vranec and Merlot. We were so impressed with Macedonian wine – a
wonderful mix of strange indigenous varieties and some internationals (which
they have been growing for many years). Wonderful!