Step through the gate of a 14th century church.
Step through the gate of a 14th century church.
A short road trip. Kassandria-Kriopigi-Hanioti-Nea Skioni
If you’re searching for a quiet place, go to Agios Nikolaos. There is no proper description for it. It’s not a village, it’s not a beach, it’s not a camping spot. It’s simply a place.
There is a small church on a low promontory, equipped with a bell. You could pull the string, if you dare. From there, you might like to stare at Sithonia and Athos. There is little else to do.
There is a fishing village nearby, but don’t go there, you’ll just scare the locals. You could also fish, the place is ideal for such an endeavour.
How to get there ? Easy. Go to Paliouri, and on the east side of the village you’ll find a road sign that says Gallini/Agios Nikolaos.
When the road ends, you will have reached Agios Nikolaos, Kassandra’s middle of nowhere.
Have you ever heard of Pomaci ? Neither have I and I thought I knew it all.
They are muslim Bulgarians who live in Greece, in the Rodopi Mountains. They have mosks, women wear head scarves and men drink lots of coffee and smoke. I’m pretty much describing all Balkan people, except for the mosk part.
Fortunately, these muslims are quite peaceful and mind their own business. Although there are some complaints about how the Greek Government is treating them (freedom of speech issues, minority language issues), things are under control.
Xanthi has an old neighborhood and a new one. Of course, the old one draws people. The architecture is strange. SOmetimes it feels like a small French village. On some streets you could swear you’re in a traditional Macedonian village. And sometimes it feels like Istanbul.
A long time ago, the city was thriving, thanks to tobacco. Xanthi was a major player in the tobacco industry and even today you can see some tobacco fields.
We found a good private parking (very cheap compared to Thessaloniki) and started exploring. I found a nice place, with delicious looking food. Something like mici, but stuffed with cheese. Or maybe it was lard, but who cares. They were
so delicious. The people who worked there were a funny bunch. A Russian, a Turkish girl and a Greek man (maybe a Pomac ?)
We wandered through the winding streets until I felt I was exhausted and hungry and I spotted a pretty restaurant. It was hard to get in. There were many doors, all closed. In the end, we found the right door and stepped inside. It was almost empty. The interior was covered in wooden panels. The place was very quiet and gloomy.
There was no Menu in English and the waiter didn’t speak English. Not even proper Greek. I wanted
some fish and he called me to the counter and showed me the day’s catch. I chose some fresh looking small fish and let him decide what to do with them. I had it hunch they would be fried.
My wife received a cake first (translation error, perhaps ?) and then some mushrooms in cheese sauce. The Menu said it was mushroom cream. It was both. After a while, the waiter left the building and went up a street. We speculated where he went. The bathroom ? Perhaps to get some more fish ? To the mosk, for the evening prayer ? It was a mistery.
The cake was good, though.
This was the second New Year’s Eve we spent in Greece and we decided to go to Thessaloniki. As we were leaving the tsoloridi, I noticed we only had gas for 280 km. Thessaloniki is 100 km away, but there are some hills and then there’s the city itself. It was tight, but nevertheless… we went.
Of course, no human being actually works in Greece on New Year’s Eve, so no gas stations were open. Nothing was open.
We arrived in record time. Almost 2 hours, to be precise. A performance worthy of a sweaty, sun-glassed unshaven single Greek man, driving home from a fancy, sexy weekend on the beaches of Halkidiki, but stuck in traffic from Kalithea to Nea Potidea.
I had to drive slow. I was anticipating a rush of cars to the center of Thessaloniki. I was honestly expecting monstruos fireworks, rivers of champagne and of course no parking spots. Little did I know…
Surprisingly, only a few people were walking towards the center. The town was peaceful. There were no people in balconies, ready to unleash hell from their rocket launchers. What part of the Balkans was I in, I wondered. The civilized part ?
We found a parking spot somewhere in the center (I know, right ?!) and walked to the waterfront. It seemed like we had landed in the Romanian section. I was confused, almost nauseating, hearing phrases that I understood. I kept hearing voices. It was a Romanian poltergeist. I slowly moved along, keeping my mouth shut.
There was timid clamor, some dancing and puny fireworks. Some anchored ships failed to fulfill my dreams of a sea attack with mortars. It ended abruptly, soon after midnight. Seconds after, basically. I felt like kissing everybody for being so self-possessed.
There were some open places, after all. People were eating and having drinks, but it didn’t look like a huge party. We sat for a while on a couch, but the waiters were too busy and we left.
After wandering for an hour or so through the empty streets, looking for a bar and instead bumping into Asian foreigners who were going home from the center, we found a nice restaurant exactly where we had parked the car. It boasted goulas, but we didn’t try it.
The trip back home was not as relaxed. We were basically running on fumes. I was picturing myself on the roadside, making desperate calls, all in vain. Or pushing the car (I wouldn’t actually do that, but can’t one have nightmares when day dreaming ?). We made it home. Barely.
Today I went to the gas station and filled up the tank. My new year resolution is this: always have a full tank of gas. Like a saved castaway who keeps filling his pockets with biscuits.