Sunday, October 2, 2016

Down to the Aegean: Thessaloniki - a port without ferries


Ruth: Although our original plan was to head to the Black Sea, our love of Greece and the turquoise waters of the Agean made our line across the continent turn a hard right in Romania. Thessaloniki seemed like a good goal, with all of its Byzantine sights, and with the option to slow down, roll onto a ferry and relax on a Greek island. No one told us it is a port without any ferries!! Sure those cheap Ryan Air and Easy Jet flights seem like great options until one day you wake up and realize there are no boats in your harbour! OK, there were a few clues of trouble on the horizon that I ignored. Every time we tried to access ferry schedules on line no sailings appeared on any of the days we tried. I repeatedly complained to Gord of the enormous need for computer programmers in Greece so that they could get these Ferry booking sites up and working. No worries, we will just find the information we need down at the port when we get there. Well I have already given away the punch line. But I am ahead of myself, and to really understand how hard the news of no ferries hit us you have to understand how our day unfolded prior to our Ativan in Thessaloniki.  I have now had a night's sleep and enough Mythos beer to tell the tale. 

It was going to be an easy ride down to the sea after a couple of long days crossing the ridge that divides Macedonia and Bulgaria from Greece. As we pulled out of the town of Kilkis an older man tried to encourage us to take another route to Thessoloniki, but I was confident that my planned route was best. After all, it was going to be a short easy ride, so why not take the gently hilly route?  It turns out the flat area I saw on the map was flat because I failed to download the topo maps for Greece. In fact, northern Greece is actually quite hilly.  Our first 15 kms were a roller coaster cutting across the grain of mountainous terrain.  After crossing the third river, and noting on the map that there were three more to come, we knew we had our work cut out for us, but at least things would flatten out as we neared Thessaloniki. NOT SO!! To avoid the $#*!! motorway our route  took us on a dirt track up 350 meters vertical, mostly pushing the bike. We were beyond tired when we finally caught our first glimpse of the sparkling sea. The day was one of our toughest, but it was also very beautiful. A recent rain in Northern Greece and Macedonia had transformed the area into a lush countryside bursting with fall flowers.






We were only in Macedonia for one day, but I was struck by the number of Massey-Fergusons still working the land. 






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