Posted on June 3, 2013 by

Northeast Greece

After 5 days in Halkidiki, we got bored of living the beach bum lifestyle and we were definitely ready to move on. Although we’re in a little bit of a dilemma as we are now very close to Turkey but don’t want to be there too early as we need to stop in Istanbul [Paul’s family arrive on the 7 June] so trying to waste some time.

We planned to go to Kavala and possibly take a ferry to Thasos but once again it looked like a concrete metropolis by the sea, so gave it a wide berth and headed inland for Xanthi instead.

I had read it had a pretty old town, rich with buildings from an era when Tobacco merchants built their mansions there. Sounded ok and a change of scenery from the coast. We approached from the Industrial side of town, which isn’t a great first impression, the city is also vastly taken over by the ‘new’ town which comprises of ugly high rises set around a central square.

When we arrived it was blisteringly hot and there seemed to be sparingly few hotels. After over an hour of walking around and only being offered of an alternative hotel costing 70 Euros, we ended up in a 40 Euro room that had a ninja turtle green shag pile carpet – I think that says enough but it did have air-con.

The city is another Greek student town and the old part was filled with stylish restaurants and bars, which would have been nice to sit in all evening but doubtful our budget is equal to that of even a student these days.

During the evening, we reluctantly decided that we would have to go back on ourselves, as we’ve made it this far too fast. It’s either that or go to another town where not much is going on and not much to do. We headed back west to the ferry port and stayed on the Island of Thasos for a few days.

After reverting to our beach bum life, after only one day away from it, we decided we needed to use some energy to occupy us and made a plan to cycle around the island to find a natural pool on the south coast. After searching and failing to find the push bike company by foot, we gave up headed back for the motorbike.

Trying to find the natural pools was not easy, which made us happy we didn’t find the bike rental place after all, especially as Thasos is also full of steep roads. I got a rather bemused look from a local man when I said “we are looking for the eye of Zeus” and Paul did not believe me that it’s called that, but if you Google ‘Eye of Zeus’ it shows the natural pool.  He told us to head to a small town called Astrida, then after the big hotel Aeria on the bend take the second dirt road to the beach, then walk over the hill the rest of the way. Simple.

We full on scaled the rock face, climbing through thorn bushes and pine trees to try and find the pools. After over an hour of climbing, there was still no pool in sight. Paul was adamant I had the wrong side and we should be on the opposite rock face. So we headed for the other side, but after asking someone on the beach he pointed us back in the same direction but up a dirt path that runs adjacent to an olive farm.

Following this path, we met an elderly English lady on her way down, she was also in pursuit of the pool. She had been searching the previous day too and still failed to find it.  Despite this we continued anyway, eventually we found the pool and someone had made an attempt at spray painting signage on a couple of the rocks. I’m glad to say it was worth the search and the reward was the plunge into the pool.

We left Thasos today [Monday 3June] to start to head into Turkey and are currently in Alexandroupolis. We had a very brief exchange with a guy called Cuneyt on the ferry who had traveled to Thessaloniki from Turkey to have his motorbike repaired as its cheaper [slightly worried turkey is going to be expensive] and was on his way back to Istanbul after a little holiday in Halkidiki and Thasos.  He gave Paul his email address, and said to contact him if we need anything, pretty nice guy. He also said not to worry about the riots and that we would be fine.

We’re feeling rather frustrated that we’re stalled in Greece but on a more positive note we finally have the quote from the RAC for the Carnet – £1,600.00 of which we can only get £350 back if we get all the stamps. Because the Carnet wasn’t ready before today, its now being posted out to our hotel in Istanbul.

Also heard from David at Stan Tours who is organising our LOI numbers for the Iranian visas, and he has one reference! Not sure on the whereabouts of the other,  so he is chasing whoever he needs to in Iran, but tomorrow and Wednesday are national holidays for Iran so nothing will happen if he doesn’t hear back today. As we’re applying in Istanbul we need this number quite soon, even once we have applied, the actual visa process can take between 1-7 days with only a 75% chance of approval. Fingers crossed everything comes through.