Boxing Day, off to Larisa

Trip Start Dec 01, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, December 26, 2008

There are alarms going off all over the place and gradually both of us surface, pack the car and leave for the port, it's raining, joy of joys the roads are slippery & I hadn't expected the additional risk factor of drivers on the road that had been out celebrating all night, quite an exciting adrenalin rush sort of journey to the port.

We arrive at the port just in time for the 6.30am only to be told that all the small ferries have been cancelled due to bad weather and we have to catch one of the large ones at 8.30am, so after a small curse for lost sleep we watch the world go by with a feta pastry and coffee then catch the later ferry to Igoumenitsa. I have to say this crossing is much more civilized than the previous one even if I didn't like driving up a very steep, wet, slippery ramp to get on, I was dreading coming back down it. This turned out to be ok because they decided to put down some non-slip matting to help for unloading and yes Dickdad I did have to turn the car around on the boat and there is always some pillock who can see what you are doing and then drive straight into the space you need for this manouver.

So we arrive on the mainland quite a bit later than we planned but no big problem, we have plenty of time to make the journey at a leisurely pace. The first part of the journey is on motorway, which is unexpectedly closed before its end, so due to bad signposting we spend an hour on a quite hairy mountain road before we get back on the main roads again.

We stop for some lunch at a really nice place, Metsova they have a toboggan slope here, it is full of families having a lot of fun, the temperature is -3C. I have been promised the best sausage sandwich and I have to agree, it was great. Greek sausage cooked over charcoal served up in a ciabatta roll with lashings of tzatziki, (so much nicer than ketchup) and Greek salad. I am starting to understand that it doesn't matter how cold it is, what time of year it is a meal is not complete without salad, the Greeks have a passion for salad.

We eat and then go for a play in the snow, there isn't much natural snow so the snow machines are busy blasting snow onto the slope, the ground is frozen solid and icy, it soon becomes apparent that not only am I responsible for me and Pierre staying upright but I have Nikoleta clinging on for stability as well (this pattern continues later).
It's now time to head onto the hardest part of the journey, the part Nikoletas father has concerns about, the roads wind up into the mountains, we already have rain and now have a little snow creeping in as well. In general the roads are clear, the snow ploughs are patrolling spreading salt, but there are places where a little snow is blown onto the roads from the verges and after a while we are driving on snow slush so progress is slow but steady. I did forget myself at one point, the windscreen was getting mucky so automatically I press the screen wash control, the water freezes instantly, the wipers become ice encrusted and stick out like two little stiff legs, it is only then that I look to see that the temperature has reached a heady -8C. I expect Nikoleta to panic, she is a nervous passenger, but no she is crying with laughter at my error even though she can barely see where we are going. I hit the heater controls to melt the ice, but even when the ice melts the wipers are so stiff we still have a wet screen.
I have promised Nikoleta coffee, I don't think she really expected that I would stop to make coffee at the side of the road and our break is taken with some hilarity, she is even more surprised to find out I can make Greek coffee that is very drinkable. A Greek driver stopped, asking if we are taking chains off the car but I think they were really curious about what we are doing with a little gas burner.

Once we get past the winding mountain roads the roads are much better and we arrive in Larisa at about 5pm. We go to her friend Georges house for coffee. He is a photographer, mainly landscapes and spends a lot of his time roaming his local area and taking many beautiful pictures. I am in heaven, he shows me a small portion of his work, I have a lot more to see at this stage. When I arrived I was quite tired but once we start talking about the pictures, the places, the history my energy levels rise to buzzing point, I learnt so much from him and my head is full of ideas I want to try and the places I can go in my local area to try some of the things he has shown me.

Three hours later we head off to Nikoletas cousin and her very good friend Natasha's house, another great hospitable welcome. This is a mixed household, Nikos is Greek and Natasha is Russian, her mother is visiting so the food was a delightful mix of traditional Greek and Russian fare. The wine is from Natasha's father in Moldova, her mother has made a Russian salad. A very noisy evening was had by all.

A big thank you to Gazza and Keith Guster for teaching me a little about football. Nikos is a big fan of his hometown club Larisa and has been to England to see them play Blackburn Rovers and win. He also follows Manchester Utd. He is very up to date with English football and I was thrilled he knew who Reading FC are and he only had good things to say about the team. Even in Greece they know that Reading is a fantastic team for the families.

I stayed with Nikos and Natasha for the night, it's amazing how a Greek household in a comparatively small home can transform the sofa into a very warm and comfy bed. Nikoleta was collected by Georges to stay with his family.
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