SATURDAY 15-4-23

It was a peaceful night spoilt this morning by the clergy at the church across the road beginning to chant. After a while there were two loud bangs, and I thought somebody local who fancied a lie-in had come and shot him, but soon afterwards there were a number of other firecrackers going off. Quite what firecrackers have to do with Easter I've no idea.

We were out and about by about ten this morning making our way round the headland to the main part of town and its marina. It's a walk of about a mile or so.

We were blessed with a lovely warm day with blue skies and everywhere looked so much better for it.

So a bit about Kavala:

The Ottoman Turks first captured the city in 1387. Kavala remained a part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912. In the 16th century, an Aromanian that had converted to Islam in his late teenhood, Ibrahim Pashe, Grand Vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent, contributed to the town's prosperity and growth by reconstructing the late Roman (1st - 6th century AD) aquaduct. The Ottomans also extended the Byzantine fortress on the hill of Panagia. Both landmarks are among the most recognizable symbols of the city today.

Mehmet Ali, the founder of a dynasty that ruled Egypt, was born in Kavala in 1769. His house has been preserved as a museum.

Kavala was liberated by the Greek navy during the Second Balkan War and was incorporated into Greece with the Treaty of Bucharest. In August 1916 remnants of the IV Army Corps, stationed at Kavala under Ioannis Hatzopoulos surrendered to the advancing Bulgarian army. These events provoked a military revolt in Thessaloniki, which led to the establishment of the Provisional Government of National Defence, and eventually Greece's entry into the First World War.

Fish and seafood, as well as the products of the local livestock breeding and agricultural sectors, are the prevailing elements of Kavala cuisine. The traditional local recipes have also been influenced by the cuisine of the refugees from Pontus and Asia Minor.

Fresh fish and seafood, especially sardines, shrimp salad (garidosalata), mackerel "goúna" (sun-dried mackerel on the grill), kavouropilafo, mussels with rice, herring saganáki, anchovies wrapped in grape leaves, stuffed eggplants and from meat plates, lamb with spinach, are some renowned recipes in Kavala and the coastal settlements of the region. The grapes, wine and tsipouro produced in the area, as well as the kourabiedes (sugar-coated almond biscuits) from Nea Karvali, are particularly famous.

We had nothing specific to do and so just ambled around the marina and shopping areas. I had already established that there were two Vodaphone shops in town and I wanted to find one of them to buy a data SIM card for Greece, to take the pressure off my 3Mobile one. Having found it we popped in to make the purchase. At least this time there wasn't the queue to be served and a young lady was soon sorting me out. Having taken the Mi-Fi with me I asked her to put the SIM card in and set it up for me. This she has done....I think. It's just that I'm getting a weak signal indication, I hope that's all it is, otherwise I've bought a pup.

We had intended to have lunch out but this is a public holiday weekend, and everywhere was so busy. In the end we bought a filled roll from a shop in town and sat and ate it, intending to have a coffee and a cake if we could find somewhere suitable, but after dragging ourselves round for a while looking, we settled for an ice cream and made our way 'home', stopping off at the nice supermarket down the road for a few bits and pieces as well as a couple of pastries, which we enjoyed back home with a coffee.

The plan this afternoon was to sit out in our chairs and enjoy the sun, but there is a cool wind blowing off the sea which makes it a bit difficult to feel comfortable. Maybe we'll try later.

I think we'll probably forego the barbie this evening and leave it for a few days. Later this evening we'll move the vehicle over to the side of the car park facing the exit, just in case it goes crazy here tomorrow morning regarding Easter Sunday church services.

Tomorrow we hit the road again heading for Perea Beach. It was to have been Thessaloniki, but there are no campsites there, and the Camperstop/aire/Sosta with ten spaces, is right in the middle of the city (N40.59741° E22.96979°) as well as visiting the CWGC Saloniki Military Cemetery while we were there, but Motorhomes and cities don't really mix, especially on a public holiday weekend.

It will be interesting to see if we can get parked up easily tomorrow. Never mind it's all part of the challenge.

FRIDAY 14-4-23

I speak as I find, and I have to say the Romanian group along from us were no problem at all last night. They'd spent the evening having a barbecue, but they must have been burning damp wood because the amount of smoke they generated was enormous, and it didn't let up for over an hour and a half, still, they enjoyed themselves and just about all campers missed the effect of the smoke.

Last night was peaceful until next door's husky started barking at 06:40. It wasn't so long after that they all disappeared in two of their three cars. So I guess they either set off for some nice local coastal resort, or the horse sales.

It was The Chef's turn this morning to go for a shower first. Normally on campsites we're happy to leave the vehicle unlocked, but this site is right next to the beach with no security regarding who can walk off the beach and on to the site, so we like to play safe.

On my arrival at the bathroom block there was no evidence of the phantom pan-splatterer. Maybe dehydration caused his demise, or maybe he's moved on to greener pastures, or a brownfield site.

It didn't take too long to prepare the vehicle for the road. We'd charged up numerous battery operated items overnight whilst hooked up and that just left the tanks and loo. Since the campsite didn't provide a dump station for the grey water the grass and bushes on our pitch got a watering.

Having parted with €79.08 for three nights camping we were on our way down the road for some fuel at €1.61 (£1.42) a litre, then off to the local Lidl before leaving town. The only problem was the store was closed. According to the displayed opening hours the doors should have been open, but the only activity we could see was two members of staff filling the shelves. That was annoying, but never mind. We hit the road out of town. We'd discussed yesterday evening where to go next on the Travelscript and opted to miss out Komotini and Xanthi and visit Kavala. I think it was about an eighty mile trip. Most of it was on a toll road, with a total cost of €4.50, which seemed reasonable to us.

There are no campsites in Kavala, so we were heading for a particular car park where we would test the 'No wild camping' policy in Greece. But first it was a visit to their local Lidl branch in the hope they would be open.

We arrived there at 12:15, and the sign on the door stated they would be open for the day at 13:00. There were a number of customers hanging around who were also a bit miffed, but we didn't hang around, we went back to the vehicle and had our lunch. By 13:00 the car park was full. I think perhaps Friday morning is reserved for restocking, so everybody wants to come in the afternoon to get their hands on the freshest produce.

We weren't in there long and were soon off down the road to our car park (N40.944817° E24.428968°) with fingers crossed. If it was full, we had a problem, but luckily all was quiet, and so we parked up with our backside sticking over the low wall a bit to try and not take up any more space than a car.

Once we were sorted and secure, we went for a wander to the marina. On the way we came across a discount store which sold very nice produce and had a layout rather like Lidl and Aldi, with the discount isles of all manner of things. I was looking for a new gas lighter for the hob onboard. The one we have has been with us for years but is about to stop working having run out of gas. No luck in those isles but right by the till were a couple of shelves of bits and pieces and among them, the gas lighters. What a bit of luck, and we bought two so that we have a spare. They were only cheap, but the annoying thing is that I wouldn't have left home without checking we had a spare onboard, the trouble is I can't find it.

There's the marina here with some restaurants by the side of it, and that's probably about it. While we were there we looked across to see if we could see the motorhome parked up, and we couldn't. The Chef was certain it should be parked next to a black car we could see, and so we thought the worst, even though all doors were double-locked and the PIR alarm was set.

It was a brisk walk back to that car park I can tell you. Fortunately Freddie Fendt sat there safe and sound. The Chef had been looking at the wrong black car, but I have to say I hadn't spot it. All the way back I had been thinking how disastrous it would be if the vehicle had been stolen. It contains everything including our passports, and we couldn't have phoned the Police because it also contained our phones. But thankfully all is well.

Our car park is opposite a church and this evening worshippers have been coming and going like crazy. There's even a police presence, and we've yet to be hauled out and spread-eagled on the floor.  Either there is a big Christian event today, or this is a regular evening or weekly occurrence. Either way, churches and religion are taken far more seriously over here, far more so than back home, it's little wonder with that woke tosser Justin Welby leading the Church of England.

Right near the end of enjoying this evening's delectation from  my darling Chef the congregation across the road broke free and held a procession down the road, so I nipped out and took a few photographs.

Having just Googled the matter, I have established that this weekend is the Greek Orthodox Church's Easter, and today is their Good Friday, which is all well and good, but I didn't see any hot cross buns for sale. Two Easter's a week apart and not one hot cross bun this year, and even worse than that, this is the first year I've not had any Easter eggs, even if I do have to buy them myself.

Tomorrow we shall walk back in to the town and maybe have lunch, maybe a Stavos stew, then maybe, but only maybe, have a little barbie on the nearby beach in the evening.



THURSDAY 13-4-23

We awoke to a lovely blue sky with a weather forecast guessing that it would last all day. It's the only reason we've stayed here an extra day - just to get the washing and chores done.

I was volunteered to be first away to the bathroom block. Soon after entering my shower cubicle the sound and smell that greeted my senses made me realise I had almost come face to face with the phantom pan-splatterer. He's been making visits ever since we arrived here. What that man eats I've no idea, maybe he's a vegetarian.

I was lovely walking back to the motorhome in my dressing gown enjoying the sunshine and a view of the sea, which today was lovely and blue rather than grey.

While The Chef was away enjoying her shower I rigged up the clothes lines ready for the washing, the first opportunity we'd had to do any since we left home two weeks ago, so there was plenty of it.

The washing took a while as it had to be done in small batches as we chose to work out of two buckets rather than use the campsite very large sinks.

Then it was lunch which we enjoyed sat outside on our chairs facing towards the sea.

The afternoon bought many new arrivals, almost exclusively from Romania and Bulgaria. We have new neighbours, the Ozzies having left this morning. In fact the next three pitches along are taken up with Romanian caravanners, and they're all together. I just hope they're not noisy tonight. I'd even be prepared to by some wooden clothes pegs or lucky white heather from them if it means they'll be quiet.

Today has been a nice reminder of what we came all this way for - sunshine and blue skies. It makes such a difference. Today has probably been the first day we've felt all the effort and expense of getting here has been worthwhile.

The challenge for this evening is for us to decide where we go next. It's OK  planning it all out on paper, but once you're here the reality kicks in and amendments have to be made. On the Travelscript Komotini and Xanthi are the next places to visit and they're only just off the motorway heading towards Thessaloniki, but looking more closely there doesn't appear anything worthwhile at either locations. Maybe we'll carry on to Thessaloniki, a city, in which there is an Aire, or here, a Sosta, on which we can park for free. The only trouble is, by the time we got there, cars will probably be parked on our allocated spaces, not only that, but do I want to drive in to yet another city. But if we don't challenge ourselves to do these things we may as well have stayed at home, or gone on a cruise and just followed a guide with an umbrella or stick in the air. Cruise ships - they're destroying tourism. The newer ones are as big as towns, and have an enormous impact on the ports they arrive at. The Ozzies who were our neighbours told us their home in Sydney is at Manly, and the cruise ships park fairly nearby, well near enough that they can avert their gaze from their own television and watch the massive outdoor screens on the cruise ships.

In the news I see that the Ginger Whinger has decided to come to his father's Coronation, but won't be bringing his wife, Megan Me-Me. No surprise there. That head-case will never have the courage to meet the Royal Family again and look them in the eye after all the lies and muck-raking she's done. Never mind, at the end of the day she got an obedient and easily manipulated husband out of it.

The newcomers to the site have bought along their barking darlings, it's starting to sound like Battersea Dogs Home. Time to move on.

Tomorrow we'll be back on the road heading who knows where, having firstly stopped off at the Lidl supermarket down the road.



Yesterday evening was spent watching  the Doc Martin Xmas special 'The Last Christmas in Portwenn' whilst devouring yet more strawberries washed down with the remaining Prosecco for The Chef and the rest of a bottle of Tesco's Finest Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc.

It was a nice peaceful night during which only the sound of waves lapping at the seashore not far away could be heard.

We intended to make an effort to get up this morning and go for a walk in to town before it rained this afternoon. We needn't have set an alarm as at 08:00 a JCB was on the beach moving the sand around, so of course, every time the driver put it in to reverse to have another run we got the loud BEEP, BEEP, beeping of its reversing alarm.

We intended to go over to the only open bathroom block for a shower this morning, but we couldn't remember if there were coat hooks and a shelf in the cubicles. This was important because we'd spotted yesterday that the shower cubicles are just one slightly sloping tiled space, and when the shower is turned on the water runs under the door and in to a gutter outside serving all cubicles. This would have meant that anything placed on the floor would have got wet. So we played safe and showered 'at home'.

The sun was out as we set off down the road for a walk around Alexandroupolis. Ummmm, as I recall the only reason we're here is to relax a bit before advancing further in to Greece, there can be no other explanation.

So a bit about Alexandroupolis:

The modern city of Alexandroupolis was founded as a small fishing village in the early 19th century under the Ottoman Empire, by fishermen from Ainos and the villages of Makri and Maroneia. It became known as Dedeagac. The name supposedly comes from an old Turkish wise man (Turkish dede) who spent much of his time under the shade of a tree (ağaç) and was eventually buried beside it. From the first days of the city's capture (May 14, 1920), the local authorities as well as the Metropolitan, decided to rename the city from Dedeağaç to Neapoli ("new city"), as it was the newest Greek city. In 1920, King Alexander I of Greece visited the city, and the local authorities renamed the city Alexandroupoli ("city of Alexander") in his honour, with the approval of the central government.

Long used as a landing ground for fishermen from the opposite coast of Samothrace, a hamlet developed in the area during the construction of a railway line connecting Constantinople to the major cities of Macedonia from Kuleliburgaz. The work was part of an effort to modernise the Empire, and was assigned to engineers from Austria-Hungary. The settlement grew into a fishing village, Dedeağaç.

During World War II the Nazis gave Alexandroupolis to their Bulgarian partners. Alexandroupolis was under Bulgarian occupation between May 1941 and 1944. Before the war the city had a Jewish community of 150 members. The city suffered destruction of its Jewish population by Bulgarian forces. In March 1943 the Jews were deported to the Nazi death camps, where they were exterminated. Only 4 Jews survived. The city suffered some damage to buildings and a loss of population during the war.

Alexandroupolis was largely spared the effects of the Greek Civil War (1946–1949). Forces of the communist Democratic Army of Greece in and around the town area were small and loosely organised, resulting in the absence of major battles in the area. The return of peace allowed for Alexandroupolis to grow from a town of 16,332 residents in 1951 to a city of 57,812 residents by 2011.

After  walking down the road for a while we were able to make a right turn and follow the promenade. It didn't take our breath away. Ahead was the lighthouse, which at first glance looked as if it was being used to control the traffic in the middle of the road. Beyond that were more shops and we managed to have a good look round a local supermarket where we bought a few bits which we got for €2.33, which surprised The Chef, because adding up the prices displayed she calculated we'd spent about six euros. The most reassuring thing was that fresh cow's milk was readily available in the chiller section, though we didn't need any today as we're still working our way through the powdered milk we made up. We're much happier with the ratio on this second attempt. the first was a 50-50 mix of Nido full cream milk and Tesco semi-skimmed milk, which to our pallet is tasteless. The latest ratio is 25% Nido and 75% Tesco semi-skimmed. The powder is mixed in a 750ml Bulk mixer designed as I recall for mixing protein shakes and is available from my favourite corner shop - Amazon UK.

On the way back I spotted a Vodaphone store and so popped in to see if I could by a data-only SIM for Greece. Unfortunately we spent so long waiting in the queue, even though we were second on our arrival, but it was lunchtime so a few of the desks were closed and at the others were sneaky locals who queue jumped without me realising. In the end we walked out. I'm not desperate, it's just that I only have one 3-Mobile data SIM card with me. It's for 24Gb, but because I have the effrontery to use it abroad I only get half of that allowance over here - 12Gb, we've used about 2.5Gb so far, so I'm not desperate. Maybe I'll look for a local Stavrosmobile card further on.

Thankfully, the weather forecast was wrong, and after lunch we sat outside in the sunshine for a while, though eventually the breeze off the sea made it a bit uncomfortable as well as the sky becoming darker.

This evening's contribution from The Chef is to be Macaroni Cheese, with some dried onion and bacon bits sprinkled over the top (I keep telling her she should apply to go on Masterchef).

I think I may just have another piece of my Christmas cake as dessert.

Tomorrow I think we'll stay on the campsite as we need to get our washing and chores done because once we leave here it's likely we'll be 'wild camping for a while'.

TUESDAY 11-4-23

Last night, to avoid disturbing the neighbours when we left at 05:00 this morning, I asked the manager if we could unhook and re-park close to the exit gate, and leave from there. "No problem"  was the reply, and so we did.

There was no scrubbing up when we arose on time, thanks to the alarm clock, and we were ready to hit the road. Just as I was about to turn the ignition key to start the engine, the amplified wailing from the minaret's of the numerous mosques around us for Call to Prayers kicked off. We'd gone to all that trouble, probably for nothing as I doubt the neighbours would have heard us leave from our original parking pitch given the noise created by the mosques.

I bought a very reasonably priced new satnav for this trip as I was keen to have up to date mapping, I'll mention it again sometime before the end of the trip, after I've had time to test it. The last one, a 'Snooper' and still onboard as the backup had a good screen display and informed me of my current speed against the displayed speed limit. It showed me the route I was to take in red. This new one shows it in blue. That isn't normally a problem, but having selected a lorry as the marker on the screen, a lorry I might add, that is very dark grey in colour with a silver roof on the cab area.

So imagine my horror when we hit the road and the satnav went to its night time setting which is a black background. This left me driving through the dark streets of Istanbul with a black satnav screen on which there was a black lorry driving on a blue-coloured route. Add to that, for some strange reason I had to manually scroll around the screen to keep tabs on the lorry as we drove along because the screen wasn't doing it automatically. It was all rather tense I have to say, to the point I was thinking of just parking up and digging out the Snooper.

About halfway between Istanbul and the Turkey/Greece border we pulled in to a lay-by and went back to bed. When we surfaced we had breakfast and continued our journey. Thankfully on the second part in daylight, having put the co-ordinates of our destination back in, the satnav functioned correctly. I'd obviously touched something I shouldn't have when we left our 'campsite'.

When we arrived at the first of a number of hurdles at the border crossing we joined a long queue of cars at the single kiosk that was open. For some reason, the car at the front at the kiosk was going nowhere. No arms came out of car windows or kiosk windows for a full half an hour. Which was crazy. Whatever the problem was, nobody in authority seemed keen to show their faces to sort it out.

Eventually arms appeared and the car was on its way. After that progress was slow, but at least it was progress and after about another twenty minutes we were clear of the whole lot of them.

I'm guessing we arrived here at Camping Alexandroupolis (N40.847012° E25.856300°) in, oddly enough, Alexandroupolis, not far from the border, at about 14:30.

We paid for a couple of nights but now think we'll stay for three as we need to get some washing done, and tomorrow is going to be dry and sunny in the morning and wet in the afternoon, but Thursday is supposed to be dry and sunny, so we'll stay for that.

The campsite is in a good location being right next the beach, so maybe, just maybe we'll be able to sit out and enjoy a bit of sunshine after the chores are done. Our neighbours who arrived a while after us, are a recently retired Australian couple who have been touring around Europe for the past two years having bought themselves a French motorhome.

We went for a little walk out towards the town this afternoon to stretch our legs and buy a loaf of bread. Tomorrow we'll take a better look around.

In the meantime we really do need the weather to improve. Wet and windy spoils everything wherever you are.