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Greece, Dec 2018

Thessaloniki, Kavala, Lesvos.

Contains 779 photos, the last of which were added 3 years, 5 months, 25 days, 17 hours, 24 minutes, and 40 seconds ago.

A few days of cafe working in Thessaloniki. The city is huge and sprawling; chaotic in a nice way. Winding uneven streets and cars and scooters to dodge. Maybe if it was hotter it would feel harder (more stressful?) to navigate, but the temperature is perfect. The seafront is concrete and the water is clear. Streets are pucked with excavated old shit; Roman amphitheatres, Byzantine towers. Churches are varied and extravagant and quite a few feet down from the pavements, roads and blocks of flats. This is a city of layers and layers.

A day of ambling around Thessaloniki, looking at old stuff and new stuff and the sea.

Brunch at Butterflies & Hurricanes, a dessert cafe where chance would have it a fundraising vegan brunch was being held. It was packed and chaotic but I squeezed in. Most of the regular menu wasn't being served, but I ate some of the brunch buffet and then managed to get chocolate pancakes.

I proceeded through the hills just beyond the city to the Heptapyrgion fort and the Byzantine city walls. The sun was warm and the views were unreasonably good.

Dinner at Orea Ellas, a Cypriot restaurant full of locals, with friendly staff and an English menu with plenty of vegetable dishes. I ate hyacinth bulbs - which taste like olives but way stronger - with greens and potatoes, and for no clear reason got free cake, which happened to be vegan!

Food and night wandering in Thessaloniki. It's pretty alive at night.

The bus from Thessolaniki to Kavala takes about 2 hours express, and is €16.30. Thessolaniki bus station is out of town and huge and a bit confusing. It took me a while to find the ticket offices, but I wasn't stressed as there are plenty of buses throughout the afternoon. Ticket offices are divided by destination, so there's a lot of mostly Greek sign-reading involved.

It was late afternoon when I arrived in Kavala, and I had time to wander around the harbour before the sun set. I hiked up to the castle and found it closes at 1600. I ate in an Italian restaurant because the Greek ones don't really open til later, though I was still the only person there.

I saw the old aquaduct in the middle of town, that's cool

The next morning I went to the archaelogical museum first thing, because it closes at 1400. I spent less than 45 minutes there, it was €2, and the woman the the front desk was super surprised I wanted to visit.

An afternoon wandering around Kavala, and a visit to the castle. It's always nice when the cool tower is actually open. Health and safety related paraphernalia is minimal, and I wandered around the walls where a sharp gust might have sent me over. I still only managed to spend 45 minutes here though, and spent some time wandering the cute cobbled streets on the hill as well. I found a friendly cafe called Fouat who had vegan spinach pie, which I ate before I remembered to take a photo.

Later I went to another Italian place, expecting to get a cheeseless pizza, and lo and behold they had soy cheese! Under 'fasting' pizza on the menu, super subtle. It was good, too! Generous and cheesey. What a day.

Then I headed the port, more than an hour early but was able to board the ferry at once. Many comfortable looking seats were labelled 'economy' on the signs, but only the most crowded ones were where I was allowed to sit. There's about one power socket for every 2,000 people, and presumably directly over the engine because it's the loudest ferry I've ever been on. Oh well.

Ferry arrives in Mytilene, Lesvos, before 6am. I wandered along the harbour, ate my leftover pizza, and went into cafe Meli for coffee. They had no vegan pastries. Staff were very friendly, but seating wasn't super comfortable. I could leave my stuff there for a bit while I went to wander around and take pictures of the sunrise.

I relocated to Coffee Island next door for comfier seating and superior wifi when they opened.

The bus to Petra was at 11; there are two buses, the other being at 1330. It's not the easiest island to transit in the offseason.

The bus was €7, I bought a ticket at the bus station, and fortunately learnt the bus number because it didn't have a sign. In Kalloni we changed buses, and it was unclear what was going on. There were lots of old people yelling. I think that's just how Greek people talk to each other. Anyway I made it to Petra on schedule, but the bus didn't stop in the middle of town where it normally does. It was cloudy and started to drizzle by then.

The woman I'm renting my flat from came to the bus stop to pick me up in the car, but obviously I wasn't at the bus stop, and beat her home on foot. She was very upset I'd had to get cold and wet but actually it barely even qualified as rain by Scotland's standards.

And then I finally moved in to my new sea-view home. Turns out my hosts are beyond lovely, as well, and keep bringing me things like homemade marmalade, and iron-rich fig syrup (also homemade) oh and in the cupboard was also homemade local olive oil.

Still drizzly in Petra, but the sun came out for a wander around the town (village?). There are three :o supermarkets, and many cafes but only a couple are open. There's a big volcanic rock with a thing on it in the centre of town, just like Edinburgh. Well, this one is smaller and the thing is a church (closed) not a castle, but eh. Proportionally, the sea is the same distance away.

Yesterday I was ill and stayed in bed all day. It also rained torrentially and thunderstormed so that was okay.

Today I'm still coughing and snuffling but mostly better. I hiked an easy trail from Petra, winding between the hills to Molyvos reservoir (which was looking quite dry) and around the back of Molyvos then along the coast to Efthalou. There's not much there, except famous hot springs. They're closed at this time of year of course, or on Sundays, or in the middle of the afternoon, take your pick. But two friendly cats live in the locked Ottomon dome which is right on the sea. They told me where to find the origin of the hot spring for an outdoor bathing experience. (Just kidding, I read that part on the internet.)

A pool forms in rocks right behind the dome wall, next to the sea. The spring water bubbles out of the sand barely a meter from the shoreline. The water is super hot, but the sea water periodically rushes in to the little pool formed from boulders, making a very pleasant water sitting experience indeed. The air temperature was about 14c, so I hung out there for a while. One of the cats came for a cuddle the whole time, then later watched over me while I got dried and dressed, helped me eat some crisps, and walked me up the hill to the gate.

I walked back around the cost all the way, via Molyvos castle this time. Obviously the castle was closed, but views from the top over the sea were nice, and also there was a big rainbow. As the sun started to set, Molyvos town on the hillside was dramatically lit with an orange glow, backed by dark stormy skies.

Fortunately, though clouds threatened all day, the worst of the rain held off.

I walked to the next village south, Anaxos. It's apparently a fake village that only exists for tourists, in the summer season. And true enough, it was a total ghost town. A little bit creepy, even. A few leash-less dogs around which always makes me nervous, and the only human I saw was a distinctly grouchy looking old man who just stared at me as I passed. I followed the coast around to get there, which involved a little rock balancing in some parts as there isn't a full beach or path. It was very calm and beautiful though. I scrambled up some hillside and found myself in the gardens of some fancy holiday cottages. I hopped a fence to get into the village, rather than going all the way back down and around. There's a nice beach, albeit desolate. I returned via the road, and saw some more humans on the way out. There are some volcanic rock formations around here, too, which is always pretty cool.

Cafe working and miscellaneous views from my window in Petra.

A lovely day out with my new Greek family. We did some shopping in Kalloni, went to the highest town on Lesvos, Agiasos to look at quaint streets and old buildings, had a meal in a traditional taverna - turns out the 40 days before christmas are a good time to eat with a Greek family who fast, because they were abstaining from meat! - so we got loads of amazing vegan dishes to share. I wouldn't have discovered this secretly vegan side of Greek cuisine by myself, I'm sure. We took the 8 year old to visit santa in Kalloni, and while he was doing that I went to the big supermarket.. where it turns out they have three kinds of vegan cheese sold by weight in the regular cheese counter! I've never seen that anywhere. So that was exciting. My hosts are so generous, and it was lovely of them to take me to parts of the island I wouldn't be able to get to by myself.

Remote christmas day with the digital family.

I hiked from Petra, through the Ligona valley. I saw old watermills, impressive huge stone structures nestled among natural epic volcanic rock formations on both sides of the valley walls. I followed the valley to the spring. Then walked back around the mountain through the village of Petri. The return walk saw amazing views over Petra and the sea. At some point I could see all the way from Molyvos to Anaxos. I saw cats and sheeps and dogs. The sheep wear bells around their neck and you can hear them jangling and clanking across the mountains. It's a really beautiful place to hike.

I walked south-ish from Petra for three and a half hours. Climbing the hill up to the village of Lafionas provided a constant supply of stunning views across Petra's bay. As I got higher, I could see Anaxos and Molyvos too.

But the really exciting part came when I finally went over/around the hill and lost the sea view, because this meant I was in a new part of the island I hadn't seen before. The road zigzags up the mountain for a while, with views of the valley and sheep fields and exciting rock formations, through dramatic pine forests.

Then over the next hill is like another world entirely. The pine trees are more or less gone, and there's a mini-valley filled with white rocks in every size, and all surfaces covered with a bright green moss. It was utterly peaceful, and despite the clearly human-carved mud track I was walking on, felt undisturbed.

As this hill descended, I had views of a new sea. The bay of Kalloni - the other side of the island! I could see Kalloni town, but bore west instead of east, and headed down to the village of Filia, nestled between the hills.

Filia is (I think) the only settlement on the island that still has a mosque, though it's not in use.

Eleni met me in the village, fed me a wonderful lunch, let me nap on the sofa and then woke me up with coffee and traditional quince sweets. She gave me a tour of the village, with a lot of detail about the history of every house, and we visited her mother, who also gave me traditional pastries.

I am endlessly lucky and spoiled and can't think of a better way to have ended the year.