Moe and Randy in Europe - Trip 2 travel blog

Loading the motor home onto the small ferry from Turkey

Trying to get used to Greek signs!

Arched streets in Mesta

Arched streets in Pirgi with xystra decorations

More xystra decorations in Pirgi

Old city well in Olympi

Path between Olympi and Mesta

Street in Mesta

Street scene in Olympi

This is how you get sun dried tomatoes!

As we are meeting our kids in Athens on March 3 we had to choose between driving the 1600 Km from Izmir to Athens (in a week) or take an overnight ferry. Despite the cost, the ferry won out! The ferry leaves Cesme, on the peninsula west of Izmir, for Chios - a Greek island so close to Turkey you can see it with your naked eye - and then on to Piraeus, the port of Athens. Cesme is "okay" but really the summer holiday destination for all the Turkish families from Izmir so filled with holiday villages completely deserted this time of year. We camped on the beach waiting for the ferry and were kept awake the night before we left by the wind. It did not occur to us to connect this gale force wind with cancellation of the ferry - but when we arrived to board, we were advised all sailings had been cancelled for several days! It was a heart stopping moment - and time for a big decision: wait to see if the ferry left within the next two days OR start the long drive. We were of two minds as couples often are - but common sense prevailed and we waited it out. Our concern was that we may arrive in Chios and then still be unable to get a ferry all the way to Athens - leaving two jet-lagged Canadians cooling their heels at the Athens airport with no greeting party. Due to Randy's bullying techniques, the ferry company managed to get us on a ferry though they were overbooked (due to the cancellations). When we saw the ferry they proposed putting us on, we nearly changed our minds! It appeared to be little more than an excursion boat filled to the gunnels with three bus loads of Asian tourists. There was exactly enough room for us to drive onto the boat, with the mirrors tucked in, leaving our bikes hanging over the back of the boat so they could not close the tail gate and the remaining space in front of us crowded with suitcases and packing crates. It was still very windy so the trip across the strait, with the waves crashing over the sides and Gypsy listing from side to side, was more than exciting.

We had two days in Chios before our ferry to Piraeus (Athens) so we toured three of the most well preserved Medieval Mastahorias (villages where they harvest the mastic from the Lentisk bush to make gum - considered by the ancient Greeks, and modern-day adherents to alternative medicine, to have pharmaceutical benefits). The villages were all hugely fortified with archways spanning their narrow streets to prevent the walls from collapsing in the event of earthquakes. You certainly feel you have stepped back in time when walking through these seemingly deserted villages with populations barely exceeding 100-200 people, with their 14th century stone houses, streets made .from stones and barely a trace of the 21st century. There is a trail so you can walk through the olive groves and up over the hills from the village of Olympi 2 Km to the village of Mesta. When we returned to Olympi after our 4 Km, a friendly old Greek man pointed out that we could have taken the "taxis" which turned out to be two donkeys with wooden saddles! The third village, Pirgi, was even more striking as not only did it have the 14th century houses and arches over the narrow streets, but the building facades were decorated with intricate grey and white designs. These designs, called xysta are created by coating the walls with cement and black volcanic sand, painting over it with white lime and then scraping off parts of the lime to expose the dark colour beneath. There has been EU funding provided to the village to restore the old designs and train artisans to create new ones.

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