Day 5 (Continued from this page)
Not knowing what a lockdown meant for the tourists, we continued our trip to the north. First off, we drove to Kalpaki, where we were told we could find the only open supermarket in the area.
Packed with supplies, we were ready to continue exploring the beauty of the Zagoria region. The road was winding between green pastures and Mediterranean forest, and not once did we have to slow down in order to let a herd of goats or sheep pass or to admire the massive-jawed but calm-natured Greek Shepherd dogs that were sleeping on the side of the roads.
We passed by Aristi on our way to the Voidomatis Trail. The hike was lovely, an easy walk in the forest along the turquoise water of the river. We continued to the famous Rogovo rock pools, which were beautiful, but I’m sure that the best season to see them is when the water level is higher and the weather allows bathing.
We drove up to Micro Papingo to enjoy the exquisite mountain view from the top, at the village agora. As every agora we encountered, this one as well had the three elements: a church, a plane tree, and a public fountain.
We continued driving north, and by evening we arrived in Konitsa. The Konitsa bridge looked marvelous at sunset, and a local climber told us the monastery five kilometers away into the gorge was beautiful, so we decided to come do the trail in the morning.
Though this was a bigger town, we decided to try the “asking people on the street” system.
There were no people on the street due to the lockdown, I guess, so we tried with a lady in a food store. Though she could not speak English, she jumped in her car and motioned us to drive after her to a family-run guest house.
Once we got set for the night, we went out to the city center to get a bite to eat. Most of the stores were closed, but we found a souvlaki place that was open. As we ate our “to go” dish in the town’s square, we received a text from the Greek government informing us that during lockdown, everyone should stay indoors.
Later that evening, we got an email from our flight provider that our flight was cancelled. So we went online and found another flight, but we cut our trip short by two days.
With the new schedule, there was no time for the Konitsa bridge trail, so we headed straight to Meteora. It was a beautiful drive in the mountains, overlooking lakes and magnificent gorges and crossing long tunnels. We had the road to ourselves. Kind of surreal. Imagine driving a highway for four hours and seeing nobody on the road!
As we approached Meteora, the view became simply breathtaking: those huge rock boulders poke into the sky amid the forest. The monasteries built on the tops of the boulders were just fantastic. Excuse me for my world of associations, but they looked like they were taken from a Game of Thrones episode. Nothing short of spectacular. I was very sorry that they were closed because of the lockdown, and we could not climb up and enter inside. I will have to come back to Greece for this.
Our next destination, and our last, was the semi-island of Pelion. Hadas read that it was an undiscovered part of Greece that tourists had not flooded yet. The drive was long but easy, being the only car on the road again. Once we passed Volos, the big city of the area, we continued along the shore, aiming to reach the tip of the island. It was the first time during the trip that the clouds got gray, and an autumn atmosphere took over. We drove along the sandy beaches, rocky beaches, stone quays and houses, all built right on the water. It is incredible how many beach-front properties they have in Greece. There is so much beach that many of the beautiful beach stretches are kept natural and not developed.
As the sun started to descend, we arrived in Agia Kyriaki, a stone village right on the water, of course. We knocked on a few hotels’ doors, but there was no answer. We drove on and stopped by a young couple who accompanied their sheep across the road. They told us they were farmers; they sold cheeses and olives and honey and jams. They called their friend Leila in the village, who owned a traditional guesthouse and who said she could take us for the night. Her place was lovely.
For dinner we got grilled fish and Greek salad takeaway from a fisherman’s restaurant right on the beach—and loved it.
Because our flight was the next day, we had to start driving toward Athens. On the way in, we drove on the west coast of the semi-island, so on the way back we crossed to the other side to explore the eastern shore. It was the coldest day of our trip, and from time to time raindrops wet the windshield. The inner part of the island was beautiful, endless olive trees, but some planes and pine trees too. The eastern beaches were beautiful, but everything was empty and closed.
We drove through Volos, stopping to stretch our legs in the marina. Then more of the empty roads, until we got off the highway in late afternoon to look for a place for the night.
Agios Konstantinos, just a bit off from the highway, was a perfect place to stop. We drove all over the center until found we one open hotel near the church straight on the water. From our balcony we watched the fishermen’s boats sail in the dark and the joggers on the beachfront promenade.
The “Taverna on the Park” supplied us with excellent home-cooked food for takeaway.