Crossing Greece from Kavala on the East coast to Parga on the West coast. 495 km on Egnatia Odos Highway through mountainous regions of Thrace and Epirus
Greece! YES!!! This time was going to happen and I could not wait to be again on the road. Packed as always more than I need it and we hit the road…If in Montenegro were three of us, this time, it was just Crina and I. Me as always being in charge of the navigation.
From Bucharest to Kavala are 569 km and to get there we had to cross Bulgaria where I discovered that besides navigation I had to do some camera spotting and traffic police spotting too in order to avoid getting any fine for speeding. This spotting business kept me alert and I did not realise when we crossed the border with Greece at Makaza.
While crossing Bulgaria I haven’t stopped to take any pictures although we passed through a beautiful mountainous area because we wanted to get to Greece as soon as possible and besides I was thinking that I will do another road trip which will cover only Bulgaria some day soon.
We spent the night in a small hotel close to Kavala so the next day we were ready for the adventure early in the morning.
To get to Parga we had to take the Egnatia Odos highway. It is a modern highway passing through the provinces of Macedonia and Epirus offering some scenic views. It is linking the eastern border of Turkey with the western port Igoumenitsa. The idea of such road is not new, In roman times, a via Egnatia was built to link Via Appia to eastern provinces of Roman Empire. That road was starting from Durres Albania passing through Macedonia then Greece and then straight to Constantinopole.
The modern Egnatia is passing mostly through a mountainous region which posed quite some engineering challenges and this made it so fascinating to me. I was amazed about the tunnels crossing through the bowels of the mountains, the bridges built in such difficult areas and the amazingly beautiful landscape.
We stopped at Metsovo to see the village and accidentally we saw a secondary road winding on the side of the mountain, Instantly after we found out that is the old road from Metsovo to Ioannina we decide to continue our trip on it.
It was pure bliss. We stopped so may times just to breathe the air and look at the mountain peaks which were sending smiles from behind the clouds, It was sunny and looking around me I felt so happy for being finally where I wanted to be in the first place, This was the part of our trip that I was waiting for, I was in the wild and down there on the highway other cars were continuing their trip undisturbed,
A saw a cow walking very calmly in the middle of the road, the time had no meaning for her, maybe what she was thinking was the destination, which was probably the stable, a place with shadow.
A sense of calmness went through my body and mind and I was thinking “ Come on, is Greece, you are in Vacation!“. In that particular moment, I was disconnected from everything I left behind and I decided to loose the sense of time. Who cares about the time in moments like this anyway?
There was no other car around and it really felt like being lost in time while wandering through Greece. I did not mind because this was what I was looking for. So many miles drove, to be right there, that particular moment,
Making sure we are heading west we diverted our route on some offroad we found and passed through some mountain villages where the streets were so narrow that if a car would have come from the opposite direction I do not really know what we would have done.
The areas we covered was quite large and maybe we could have lost our way easily but to me, it seemed impossible for this to happen because I was feeling like being home. Besides, from time to time we could see the highway from above, clear sign we are in the right direction,
It was already 5PM and we were still 170 km from Parga having another place to see on the agenda, Every time, I was in Greece I wanted to see Vikos Gorge and now it seemed a good time to do it because I was not sure we will take the same route on the way back, Since we were heading to Ioannina Vikos Gorge is 50 km from there in Pindus mountains on the southern slope of mount Tymfi,
We were already tired and although having the second thought about going to Vikos gorge we still headed that direction. I knew is going to be beautiful but I could never imagine that it will be breathtaking.
The closer we were getting the more amazed we were. Charming little villages with traditional mountain house made out of the local stone were appearing on our way being more than I could imagine. This was the traditional Greece I wanted to see, the authenticity I was looking for.
Vikos was the highlight of the day and I haven’t even seen the gorge, I was so inebriated by the beauty of that village that I was even forgetting why I was there, There were only a few places in Greece which attracted me with their authenticity and now the villages close to Vikos are on my list too.
I loved every chiselled stone from those streets and every detail, The atmosphere was emanating peacefulness that if the entire day I felt like running now, my world stopped around me. I could have continued dreaming sipping my coffee under the big tree but I remembered that we came here to see a gorge, therefore, we’ve got to see a gorge,
In moments like this, you have to follow the signs so, we were following the signs still thinking that we should have stayed in the village a bit more, I did not know that we were in Monodendri village and from there we took the path which was taking us to the gorge,
The moment we got closer I lost my words. If I thought that the best part of our day was the Momodendri village now I saw the steep cliffs going down in the valley from where the sound of the river which carved the gorge over millions of years could be heard.
Since I was on Masca Trail in Tenerife I wasn`t so bewildered, The gorge was overwhelmingly huge, The ruins of Agia Paraschieva Monastery were opening the path along the gorge. From what remained from the terrace, I could see the vertical wall of the mountain in front of me.
A narrow stone path took us on a short stroll on the edge of the gorge, Not for faint-hearted that’s for sure but definitely giving us a boost of adrenaline. I was surprised by the masivity and the depth of the gorge and although I knew it is risky to continue walking on the edge I could not help myself, I had to continue walking on that path to the end of it,
I am not afraid of heights that I felt a bit dizzy while walking there, My glance was drawn towards the abyss and despite the danger, I never felt more alive. It is after all one of the deepest gorges.
I think Vikos gorge is one of the most spectacular places I have seen in Greece and ironically is not on one of the islands. Greece is more than islands. Greece has some dramatic mountainous landscape. Place of unspoilt beauty where the commercial tourism didn`t set foot yet. I would have drove on every mountain road to see what is behind the first mountain and then behind the other mountain and I am sure it would have taken years to see everything I want to see.
Probably in my next road trip. For now, the destination was Parga…but more about Parga in the next episode…