My Final Day in Greece :: Η Τελευταία Ημέρα στην Ελλάδα

Λυγιά Λευκάδας :: Lygia, Lefkada

You can picture me writing today’s blog update from the top deck (Deck 11) of Minoan Lines’ ship Cruise Olympia, sunbathing as we travel across the Adriatic Sea from Ηγουμενίτσα / Igoumenitsa to Venezia / Venice.

However as the ship’s wifi is expensive I won’t publish the blog until I get to my hotel in Italy [Update: I arrived safely in my hotel, a 6km drive from the Port, at 03:00 local time – keep in mind that Greece is an hour ahead so really for me that’s 04:00).

Tuesday morning in Λευκάδα / Lefkada was still very overcast but at least dry so after breakfast at the apartment, I wandered down to the beach – not for swimming but to take some photos.

I had the whole day ahead of me and, in terms of distance to travel, really I was just trying to find things to do in order to kill time; The drive to the ferry wouldn’t take more than 2 hours but I had 15 hours to do it in.

After leaving Lefkada I drove through the Aktio under-sea tunnel and went in to the city of Πρέβεζα / Preveza. By this time it had unfortunately started to rain again – there isn’t a massive amount to do in a Greek city when it’s pouring with rain, other than sit in a café bar with a drink in one hand, and my mobile in the other catching up with the latest BBC News.

Πρέβεζα :: Preveza

I have to say the t-shirt, shorts, sandals and coat look isn’t particularly trendy but it seems to be acceptable… As far as I was concerned, this was my holiday and when I’m on holiday, t-shirt and shorts it is.

The rain passed before too long which gave me a chance to walk around the city, explore some of the tourist shops, get some postcards, take some photos.

After leaving Preveza my next destination was to Σύβοτα / Sivota – a coastal village opposite Corfu where we have been on holiday 3 times since 2005. I was interested to note that, while in Lefkada and Preveza I’d seen more British cars than everywhere else in Greece put together, in Sivota there were hardly any. In the car park was just one other car – on GBG (Guernsey) number places. Prior to arriving on Lefkada I’d not seen British cars in such a high concentration since the German Autobahn near Cologne 17 days earlier.

I had loads of time in Sivota and while it was dry it was still very cloudy so not a beach afternoon…yet! I had a late lunch in a café, moved on to a bar for a drink, wandered the tourist shops and supermarket.

Σύβοτα Θεσπρωτίας :: Sivota

My car is now fully stocked with 2 coolbags full of Retsina (Greek wine) for Mum and Dad; numerous cartons of fruit juices which aren’t commonly available in the UK; On top of that there’s a few packs of Lay’s oregano flavour crisps (again, can’t get them in the UK). I’ve got to take advantage of there being no luggage restrictions, and no weight restrictions! Unlike when travelling by air I’m not limited by the size of my suitcase. By the time you squeeze in with all that: my suitcase, my laptop, beach rug and chair, then there’s all the general junk which just lives in the car – it’s quite a tight squeeze to get everything in, but it just about does fit!

It wasn’t until gone 6 that the cloud finally cleared and it warmed up enough for me to spend a couple of hours on the beach – my last swim in Greece this year. After getting clear of Venice the next Sea I come to will be the English Channel and I don’t really think I’ll be stopping to swim in that!

Then my last meal as I watched the sunset; I had a starter of grilled saganaki cheese followed by beef stew in a tomato sauce (κοκκινηστό μοσχάρι) served with rice – I remember eating that on numerous occasions during our first visit to Sivota 14 years ago.

Το ηλιοβασίλεμα στα Σύβοτα :: The Sunset in Sivota

By 21:30 I was back in the car, ready to make a move – Although I had only used a little over ½ a tank since Athens, I filled up with petrol here as Italian prices are more expensive than Greek – This means I’ll arrive in Venice with more or less a full tank and should mean I can get as far as at least Switzerland, if not in to Germany, on 1 tank of fuel from Greece.

The drive to the port from Sivota only takes about 40 minutes or so but on arrival at the port I was greeted with a queue of truck, after truck, after truck. It took me a few goes at driving round in circles to figure out that the only way to get to the check-in desk inside the terminal building, would be to join the queue of trucks and then turn off as the queue passed the terminal – then I could come out of the terminal in to the car lane to the right of the trucks.

The queue was caused by very tight security – I’ve never seen anything like it! Forget Dover / Calais and questions at the border when re-entering Britain – that’s just a formality; Here, the queue of trucks and cars stretched back in to town. Trucks were being opened up and car drivers questioned as to where they were going or had come from – me in particular, being a solo driver from so far away.

Both Greece and Italy are within the borderless Schengen area but border controls do take place when travelling between the two, and the controls are much tighter when going North. I suspect the main concerns are illegal immigrants and drug smuggling.

You’re not out of the woods if you choose to travel completely overland either; While it is possible to travel without leaving the EU, Romania and Bulgaria are not yet within the borderless Schengen area. The shorter route, through the likes of Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia – just becomes a paperwork nightmare. That said if I ever get the chance – time & money being the main hurdles – I would drive the whole way to/from Greece overland, although to be honest I’m not sure coming on the ferry has really saved me much in terms of time or money. It’s just saved a whole day of sitting in the car.

I got through security OK – then it was just a case of sit and wait for the ferry. It was supposed to be in at 00:30 and leave at 01:00; Actually it was more like 01:00 when it came in, and closer to 03:00 when we left. Cars were loaded on quite quickly and I enjoyed standing watching them reversing all the trucks on before we set off. That must have taken the best part of an hour. In the end 2 trucks couldn’t fit on (one of them already half way up the ramp) – and were sent away.

Minoan Lines – Cruise Olympia
Έφτασε στην Ηγουμενίτσα στης 01:10πμ :: Arrival of my boat in Igoumenitsa at 01:10am

I should find this ferry a bit easier than the one on the way out here – I’ve got on the ferry having had a good meal before going to the port, rather than gone to bed and got up half way through the night. I was able to get on the ferry, sit on top deck and see the lights from Greece disappear in to the distance, before going to the bar to find a sofa to lie down on for the night.

At the other end, not such a long drive. We’re due in around 1am (I think it’ll be closer to 02:30 which isn’t uncommon for this ferry) – but early enough that I’ll probably just stay up after I’ve eaten, maybe read my book in the bar. Besides, they call people out of their cabins an hour before arrival so there won’t be space to lie down and try to sleep. I’ve got a hotel booked about 3 miles from the port where I can lie down properly and grab a few hours sleep before I get on the road later in the day.

I’m getting hungry so I’m going in search of food – They’re serving souvlaki at the bar on the top deck. Don’t get that on the Dover-Calais ferries!

FH.

Today’s Mileage: 99.2
Accumulative Mileage: 2631.4

Journey Map

My GPS froze in Preveza so today’s map comes from Google Maps

It’s Raining In Lefkada :: Βρέχει στην Λευκάδα

Λυγιά :: Lygia

I was impressed with the breakfast in Glyfada this morning – A buffet breakfast and I had a little bit of everything; bread with ham and cheese, a slice of feta, bougatsa, a chocolate croissant, and a slice of cake.

I checked out of the hotel not long after breakfast. I wasn’t sure or not whether to go in to Athens itself on the bus or not. I had my ATH.ENA card (which is a bit like an Athenian Oyster card) with me so I could have done; but on reflection I decided it would take up too much time. I wanted to be on the road by 11. Besides, I was in Athens only 6 months ago and I’ll be back again before too long.

So I settled instead for a walk along the beach at Glyfada before getting in the car and getting on the road.

Παραλία Γλυφάδας :: Glyfada Beach

The journey from Glyfada had essentially 3 stages: First stage was to get clear of Athens. Thankfully the Athenian traffic wasn’t as scary as Piraeus had been the evening before; I sailed through. There were a couple of moments when I just wanted to beep the horn to express my extreme dissatisfaction at the actions of the driver in front…but I resisted tempation. I might be picking up some Greek driving habits but I’m not that Greek. (Does my horn even work? I’ve never had to use it! I wonder what it sounds like!)

Before I knew it I was on the A8 motorway. Almost as soon as I got there the traffic disappeared. It was like flicking a switch. One minute I was in a 3 lane Athenian traffic jam and 5 minutes later I was in 6th gear zipping along an empty motorway.

I stopped at Κόρινθος / Korinthos (Corinth), perhaps a little more than an hour after I’d left Glyfada, for some lunch and to have a look at the Corinth Canal.

Κόρινθος :: Korinthos

Last week when I was on the motorway there were no tolls, due to the EU elections – but today the tolls were operational again and I came up with what I think is an excellent system to aid sorting all the coins out as quickly as possible while I’m approaching the toll booth.

€1 and €2 coins in one of the cup holders; €0,50 and €0,20 coins in another; and €0,10 in another. So as I approached the toll booth I could just reach for the coins I wanted easily and quickly – This was important because one of the side effects of driving an English car abroad is that I hold up traffic a little bit while I get out the car and walk round to the window of the toll booth; pay and take the reciept, get back in the car and set off again.

My system made progress through the tolls very efficient although I think my €0,10 pile might also have Turkish Lira and Norweigan Kronor mixed in with it as well.

The motorway A8 goes all the way from Athens to Patra now. The last time I did this journey the motorway stopped just beyond Corinth; Now it has been extended all the way to Patra – Just before Patra it links up with the Γέφυρα Ρίου-Αντιρρίου (Rio-Antirrio Bridge) – It costs €13,50 to drive across that!

Then after that I’m on the A5 – another new motorway in Greece which felt like it was deserted; I am not used to being the only customer in an entire motorway service station.

I came off the motorway near Αμφιλοχία / Amfilochia – Eventually a new motorway will link from here to Preveza and the airport at Aktio – but for now, the motorway number which they’ve given it is signed but then crossed out. So the last 30 miles or so were done on local roads.

It started raining as I came out of Amfilochia – lightly at first but it steadily became heavier until by the time I got to the bridge linking Lefkada to the mainland, my wipers were on their full speed setting and I still couldn’t really see!

I had to wait before crossing the bridge on to Lefkada; It is a floating bridge and they had moved the bridge out the way to allow boats to pass through the narrow channel between the island and the mainland.

Driving through Lefkada itself was certainly interesting; The main road was more like a river – Passable with care. Perhaps the weather is preparing me for my next island hopping adventure – That will be when I drive to the Outer Hebridges in August. A world away from Greece!

Still images from footage recorded by my dashcam

The change in the weather meant I had gone from 28 degrees, clear skies, Sunny in Glyfada; when I filled up with petrol in Athens I was greeted with a very cheerful: «Καλημέρα, καλή εβδομάδα, καλό καλοκαίρι» (Good morning/week/Summer) to being greeted with Καλό χειμώνα (= Good winter) in Lefkada.

Not long after I got out the car the rain stopped and, while still overcast, it was at least looking a bit brighter. Having spent all my cash on the motorway I needed some money so I drove back in to town to find an ATM before returning to Lygia for dinner.

I ate at one of the restaurants we’ve really liked when staying here before – I ate at Maki’s and, as it was my last night in Greece (but not my last meal – I’ll have a good meal in Sivota before I go to get the ferry on Tuesday night) – I had a starter as well as a main course.

Λυγιά :: Lygia

Tomorrow – my last day in Greece but not too far to travel. The sat nav suggests it should take about 2 hours to make the 125km (78 mile) journey to Igoumenitsa.

I will probably stop in Sivota on the way and maybe I might go in to Preveza itself. I’ve got all day, and the forecast is for it to be cloudy most of the morning so the morning at least will not be a beach morning which is a shame. I’m still wearing my shorts though – I’m on holiday!

I don’t know if I’ll get another chance to write a blog for a couple of days now – I probably won’t have chance tomorrow and on the ferry I’ll leave the laptop in the car so it might be Thursday now before I post again.

I’m off to bed.

Καληνύχτα,

FH.

Today’s Mileage: 240
Accumulative Mileage: 2532.2

Journey Map

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