Today saw the start of the long journey North, back to Gloucestershire – but not before spending most of the morning and early part of the afternoon on the beach at Galissas / Γαλησσάς.
Leaving Syros to return to the mainland, even though I’m still in Greece, always feels a bit like the end of the holiday; I had the same feeling when leaving Syros part way through my 6 week trip around Greece in 2014.
Boarding the ferry wasn’t too bad – but busier than all the ones I’ve been on so far. If you can imagine driving on to the ferry then doing a 3-point turn to reverse in to a parking space, but following instructions being shouted at me in Greek, rather than looking in the mirrors (they don’t like it when drivers look in their mirrors on the ferries, it means they’re not paying attention to the crew).
The good news is that I can understand most of what they’re saying so managed to board and park with no problems. The most useful phrases for this are: Αριστερά/Aristera = Left, Δεξιά/Dexia = Right. Also useful to know are: λίγο γκάζι = a little (more) gas, and πίσω = back.
The crossing from Syros to Piraeus took about 3 and a half hours – then it was in to the traffic of Πειραιάς / Piraeus. What an experience that was. Piraeus traffic was absolutely terrifying.
Taxis cutting in from the right (and left), bikes cutting in from all directions, I got stuck behind a bus but there was too much traffic to change lanes – and Greeks don’t like traffic lights.
I survived it all though and arrived in Γλυφάφα / Glyfada just in time to watch the Sun setting before I went for dinner. I am just over the road from the same beach I came to on the tram in December to watch the setting Sun – and just a 5 minute walk away from my regular Athenian / Glyfada beach.
Quite a drive to get to Lefkada tomorrow so I’m going to put the TV on for a bit, then head off to bed.
The ΕΡΤ / ERT TV weather forecaster last night proudly announced that this weekend was ‘το πρώτο Σάββατοκύριακο του καλοκαιριού’ – ‘the first weekend of the Summer‘.
I went in to Ερμούπολη / Ermoupoli this morning and was surrounded by Greeks all greeting each other with the popular phrase ‘Καλό Μήνα’ (effectively: Happy New Month) alongside the usual loud cries of ‘Καλημέρα’ (Good Morning) as they pass their friends in the street.
That’s why I’ve given today’s blog update a title which sounds extremely odd in English, but is a very common, idiomatic phrase in Greek.
Before I left Britian I said to the office I’d get a photo of me wearing my work shirt in each country I visit. I’ve not taken any yet, so – now that I’m on Syros at the Southernmost part of my journey – I took the first photo of me in my Plumbase top. Just to show the office that I’m thinking of them (and, dare I say it, not missing the daily routine at Fairford one bit: Would they mind if I stayed out there?).
In Ermoupoli I collected my tickets for tomorrow afternoon’s ferry, I had a walk around town, and I walked to the Βαπόρια / Vaporia district of Ermoupoli – making friends with the local cats along the way.
I spent longer in Ermoupoli than I had planned – It was almost lunch time by the time I left, and I very nearly just went back to my apartment for lunch. In the end I stuck to my original plan and went to the beach.
I drove to Δελφίνι / Delfini beach – this required a little bit of off-roading as the road there from Κίνι / Kini isn’t paved; the type of road the car-rental companies don’t let you drive on, but nothing my own car couldn’t cope with.
There was a slight breeze and it clouded over a little while I was at the beach but I still had plenty of chance to swim and sunbathe, and when the Sun went in I went to the beach-bar for some lunch.
I took the scenic route back to the apartment; I’d seen a viewpoint coming out of Ermoupoli on the way over so went back past that. To get back to Γαλησσάς / Galissas from there meant going through Πισκοπειό / Piskopeio. While the road was signed for Galissas I hadn’t realised this would mean another off-roading experience.
This time there was one casualty: My Italian telepass (the wireless device which lets me through the automatic toll gates and charges my UK bank account) fell off the windscreen. I managed to stick it back on when I stopped at the supermarket.
For my final night in Syros, I ate at the Savvas restaurant which had been favourite during our first holiday in Syros in 2013. I ordered a chicken souvlaki which was very good – I think the chicken had been marinated in something before cooking. Couldn’t quite work out what, but it had a tiny hint of spice in it.
Tomorrow the journey back home to Britain starts. Up until now I have been always driving South – but now the time has come to turn round and go North. Only a short distance tomorrow; I’ve got to be at the Port in time for a 16:00 departure.
So far I have been lucky to have largely avoided traffic the whole time I’ve been away. A few slow bits in Bavaria, particularly getting past Munich, but otherwise the last major hold up was the M25. This could all change tomorrow, when I come off the ferry and hit Piraeus and the coastal districts of Athens.
Monday sees me driving in more of Athens; The sat nav suggests that to get from Glyfada to Lefkada I drive back to Piraeus and get on the A1 motorway (briefly), but then come off the motorway and drive through the Western districts of Athens – Αιγάλεω / Aigaleo, Περιστέρι / Peristeri, Χαϊδάρι / Haidari, etc.
I think the road is effectively the Athenian version of the South Circular (London drivers will know what I mean by that). In some ways I am slightly nervous at the prospect of driving in Athens but in other ways not at all; If you can drive in Central London, you can drive anywhere.
Once clear of Athens the route is simple and is mainly done on 2 new motorways both opened in late 2017 – I need the A8 (Ολυμπία Οδός / Olympia Highway) as far as the Rio-Antirrio bridge, then I take the A5 (Ιονία Οδός / Ionian Highway) as far as Amfilochia; then the last 60km is on local roads – the motorway spur to Πρέβεζα / Preveza hasn’t yet been completed.
My last night in Greece will be spent in Lefkada on Monday night; then on Tuesday overnight I leave for Italy. My time in Greece is almost at an end. 🙁
It’s approaching midnight out here so I’m going to bed.
The last couple of days the Sun in Syros has been quite strong, and I’ve not really done much other than go to the beach.
I had a small breakfast in the apartment this morning – the café down below opens properly tomorrow (June 1st).
Then I was straight on to the beach at Galissas – For most of the morning and the early part of the afternoon I had one whole end of the beach to myself; with the exception of one couple who came down to the beach with their 3 dogs. It was quite entertaining watching the dogs getting excited as they played and swam in the water.
I left the beach at about 2 (siesta time) and went indoors for some lunch and to get out of the Sun for a couple of hours.
During the late afternoon for a change of scene I got in the car and went to Κόμητο / Komito beach. Despite the fact it was now overcast it was still quite warm and the beach still relatively busy.
I say busy compared to the beaches in Thassos which I more or less had to myself – but compared to how they are in August, this is quiet. At least I can still find a decent spot away from other beach-goers at this time of year!
I was quite hungry so went out for dinner a little earlier than normal tonight; My normal rule is that I won’t think about dinner until after the Sun has set (usually around 20:30 or maybe even later). I prefer eating my meal when the temperature has come down a little.
I ate at the Ηλιοβασίλεμα / Sunset restaurant in the village; I’d seen them writing up their daily specials board earlier and was interested in on of the dishes they had on offer. I had the Κριθαρότο με μοσχάρι – beef with orzo pasta – a bit like a giouvetsi but not quite. I wasn’t quite sure what sauce it came in, it wasn’t tomato, it almost tasted slightly sweet.
Tomorrow a bit of housekeeping; I’ve got to go in to Ermoupoli to pick up my ferry tickets for Sunday. I booked them online several months ago but the Greek system means I have to get to the local ticket office to collect them. Then I will probably head in the direction of Κίνι / Kini and go to the beach there.
I’m going to read for a bit on the balcony, and then head off to bed for the night.
My short time on Tinos has come to an end. It has been interesting visiting the island in low season; The last (and first time) I came it was the middle of August when the tourist season was at its peak.
In Tinos, most things are yet to open – but the painters arrived at the apartment today, and there has been activity at some of the tavernas near the beach. I think perhaps they’re going for a 1st June opening!?
After breakfast I had a last couple of hours at the beach (they’ve put up those wooden sun shelter things now – not quite umbrellas but close to them). It was slightly cloudy this morning, but still warm enough enjoy the beach.
I drove in to town to grab a few bits too; parking wasn’t terribly easy. I had to drive round the car park several times while I waited for someone to leave. Annoyingly I forgot to get some Tinos postcards. I always like to get some postcards to stick my bedroom wall (and I do need to update what I’ve got at the moment); but I’ve got plenty of photos at least. Perhaps I’ll get them printed properly in place of postcards.
I arrived at the port a little early for the ferry, but no problem – It’s not like the airport where once you’ve checked-in and gone through security you can’t go back out again. I simply abandoned the car in the queue for the ferry and wandered back in to town to get an ice cream.
While at the port I got chatting to some of the locals. One was a truck driver in the queue for a different ferry who saw my numberplate and wanted to practice his English, proudly announcing «I went to primary school in England for 11 months».
His ferry came in so he had work to do. Although he wasn’t travelling, he had to load up all the trailers which would be travelling unaccompanied (a different truck driver would pick them up at the other end).
In the queue behind me were 2 Albanians, both Greek-speaking, who now live and work in Greece and they were making their way back to the mainland.
It is only in Greece that people come up and talk to me just because of where my car is from. I imagine, because British cars don’t come this far in big numbers, they are interested to know what brings me here.
Out here, people stick their thumbs up at me on the motorway (Greeks as well as other British cars); I get a friendly wave from total strangers as I drive through towns. I had been worried that by arriving in an English car people would speak to me in English instead of Greek. Generally, this is not the case. Even when they see I’m in a GB-registered car they still speak to me in Greek.
When my ferry arrived it was time to board. It was a little busier than boarding at Rafina, where I got on about an hour or so before departure; Here, the ferry had just 10 minutes turnaround. Having been a foot passenger on these ferries on numerous occasions, I’ve always seen total chaos. In reality, from a car driver’s perspective, it seemed quite ordered – it just looks chaotic to the untrained eye.
First, the ferry comes in, passengers & cars get off. Then loading beings, first with trucks reversing on one at a time (unaccompanied trailers first before the ones where the truck is travelling too). Then the gates open and loads of foot passengers start to board. Once they have boarded they let the cars drive on. Cars drive on to these ferries forwards but have to do a 3-point turn while inside the ship’s garage so that at the destination port, you just drive off.
There can’t have been more about 5 or 6 cars boarding at Tinos (including me). Most were bound for Syros but one or two were going on to the next (final) stop in Piraeus. I’ll be travelling through Piraeus on Sunday and I am expecting that to be significantly busier than anywhere I’ve driven yet.
The crossing to Syros from Tinos is only a short one – 30 minutes. By the time I got out the car we were already half way out the port and they call drivers down to the garages a few minutes before arrival too. It’s a strange sensation driving a car through the garage while the ship is doing what looks like a handbrake turn at sea before reversing in to the port while at the same time a loud blast of the ship’s horn deafens everyone on deck (not like Dover/Calais where the boat won’t go until everyone is out the garage and the garages don’t open until you’re in port).
Perhaps a sign I’ve come to Greece too many times, but I can recite the pre-recorded tannoy announcement from memory now (in Greek as well as English):
«Σε λίγα λεπτά φτάμε στο λιμάνι της Σύρου. Οι επιβάτες με προορισμό της Σύρου παρακαλούνται να είναι έτοιμοι για την αποβίβαση, και οι οδηγοί οχημάτων να κατεβαίνουν έγκυρα στα γκαράζ. Βεβαιωθείτε ότι δεν αφήνετε τα προσωπικά σας αντικείμενα στις καμπίνες σας ή στης θέσεις σας. Σας Ευχαριστούμε. «
«In a few minutes we will arrive at the Port of Syros. Passengers whose final destination is Syros are kindly requested to be ready for disembarkation; Drivers should proceed to the garages. Please make sure that you have not left any of your personal belongings behind. Thank-you».
On arrival in Syros it was straight in to the traffic of Ερμούπολη / Ermoupoli; the capital of both the Cyclades group of islands, and of the wider the South Aegean region – it has the feel of a proper capital city (not just a sleepy main village on a Greek island). A university city, Ermoupoli is busy all year round; the University of the Aegean has its Engineering courses based here.
It was a short drive from Ermoupoli to the village where I’m staying: Γαλησσάς / Galissas – This is now my fourth visit to Syros, and the second staying in this particular accommodation – a small apartment above the village shop & café. I last stayed in this apartment during a similar short visit to Syros in the Summer of 2014, when I spent 6 weeks travelling solo around all 4 corners of Greece. The difference this time is that I have the car.
It was a very hot afternoon; Syros might only be a few miles across the water from Tinos but the weather always seems so different. Tinos had a light breeze (and in the Summer the Meltemi wind gets up) – Syros has none of this. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as I lay at the beach this afternoon. I think temperatures at the moment are hovering just below 30. It has definitely warmed up in Greece since I was on Thassos.
Galissas is busier than Tinos was – It’s also the first time I’ve heard English spoken by native English speakers since Thassos (as opposed to English spoken by foreigners or Americans). I still managed to find a quiet spot at one end of the beach. The water at Galissas is noticably warmer than any other beach I’ve been to over the last week. It’s a bit like having a bath.
I had time to watch the Sunset also; something I didn’t do in Tinos – I was staying on the wrong side of the island for Sunsets and I had no intention of getting up early to watch the Sunrise instead!
For dinner – a few changes in Galissas since the last time I was here. The meze restaurant has closed. Or rather it has moved…. to Athens! In its place on Syros is a new grill restaurant specialising in gyros, souvlaki, etc. That’s where I ate today.
I also note that, in place of the ‘Garden’ taverna which was here in 2013 (and had closed by my visits in 2014 & 2015), is a new meze taverna with what looks like a pizzeria next to it. So a few new places to try out over the next few days.
Rochari isn’t somewhere I went last time we were on the island in 2015, but when I was searching the Internet last night for places to go to Rochari came up as one which I thought would be interesting.
It is quite a drive from where I’m staying – Slightly under 20 miles but on Tinos’ roads, which generally don’t allow me to go much above 50km/h (30mph) apart from in a couple of spots, it took almost an hour to get there and another hour to get back.
Being quite far out of town there weren’t a massive amount of people on the beach, those that were there had cars as the beach is not in a village/town. There is a small beach bar there but the beach is big enough that you can sit away from it and not be able to hear it.
The Sun was quite strong this morning so I picked a spot underneath a tree; on the radio this morning (I’ve got a radio station from neighbouring Andros in the car, and a radio station from Mykonos in the apartment) they were talking about temperatures getting up to 29 during the day, which is the warmest I’ve had since I’ve been in Greece. In Thassos last week it was 25 during the day. Night time temperatures have been around the 20-21 mark.
For lunch I stopped in Pyrgos / Πύργος, a small village which we stopped in briefly on a coach tour of Tinos 4 years ago. I just had a lunch light – a cheese & ham toastie – and a short walk around the village, before I got back in the car to return to the apartment for a late siesta.
Although it had clouded over by the afternoon, the Sun did reappear in time to spend another hour or so on the beach this evening, before I returned to the apartment before dinner.
I drove in to town again tonight, and ate in one of the tavernas in a narrow side street away from the sea front. I had Μοσχάρι Στάμνας (beef Stamna) – which is essentially beef in a clay pot in a tomato sauce with cheese on top. While I waited for my meal I was served bread from the local bakery with a home made tomato sauce to dip it in to.
An excellent meal for my final night in Tinos!
Tomorrow I’m travelling again but not far – I’m getting the ferry to Syros, just next door. It’s only a 30 minute ferry; It doesn’t leave until the afternoon (3pm which is 1pm UK time) so I might have a last morning at the beach on Tinos.