It was fortunate that I’d read the Wanderlings blog on their experience of getting a ferry to Greece from Brindisi. It wasn’t a surprise, then, when we turned up at the port to find hundreds of Bulgarian plated lorries parked up in the waiting bays.
Learning from our Dubrovnik experience I trotted off to the Grimaldi lines check in desk to get our boarding passes. Whilst waiting for the booth to open up I stoically endured the up and down stares of the fifty or so lorry drivers also waiting to check in. They weren’t unfriendly up and downers just curious. We were to be just one of two motorhomes on the ferry. The rest was freight with the odd car thrown in.
Again, it was an interesting loading procedure. Or I should say there was no loading procedure. Without any lanes painted up on the tarmac all the lorries jostled for position spreading themselves six or seven abreast with no apparent order. The poor little man checking boarding passes was running to and fro between them trying not to get flattened. The drivers, all with cigarettes clamped firmly between their teeth and presumably well versed in this system, showed no mercy. One or two beeped their horns shouting and gesticulating if they thought that someone else had jumped the queue in front of them. Fortunately for us we’d been directed to wait on the left hand side and just watched them all fight it out between themselves.
The loading itself involved some going on forwards and some backwards. Our turn came and we were relieved to be pointing forwards although we did have to go up a ramp to a different deck. Once up on the deck the lorries in front were directed to do a U-turn and reverse into their spaces. We had to turn around and parallel park into a space between two other vans. At least it was a reasonable sized space and we weren’t packed in as tight this time.
On board the facilities were more functional than fancy and none too clean. Let’s just say it’s the kind of place you want to wipe your feet on the way out. If you can get them unstuck from the floor that is. Docking in Igoumenitsa in the late evening we parked up in the well lit car park at the port and went straight to bed. No night driving in a new country for us.
The following morning a regroup and a day of planning was called for which required good internet access so we drove the six kilometres or so to Camping Drepanos around the bay from the port. After twenty four hours of reading, researching and general acclimatising we had a loose plan and we were ready to hit Greece.
After a stock up at Lidl where we found Cheddar Cheese, Chocolate Digestives and Ring Doughnuts (with proper sugar on them) we headed east on the E90 towards Ioannina. We are using several sources for overnight stops which can be found here, here, here and here. Greece doesn’t really do ‘aires’ and there aren’t too many campsites open at this time of year so these resources, along with some other blogs are proving to be super useful. Thank you to all of you for sharing your info.
Our loose plan whilst in Greece is to travel across the country inland from West to East then follow the coast in a clockwise direction with a few forays inland finishing up in either Patras or back in Igoumenitsa for a return ferry to Italy sometime in the near or distant future depending on how we get on.
We stopped over night at Ioánnina on our way to the Vikos Gorge. Ioánnina, set beside the Pamvotida Lake, is the capital of the Epirus region and on first impressions seems to be just a long sprawl of built up urban chaos albeit set in beautiful mountainous countryside. Parking four kilometres outside the town we walked in and explored the fortress area which dates back to the 13th Century but was rebuilt in 1815 by Ali Pasha, the Albanian Muslim tyrant.
It was certainly quieter inside the walls of the fortress which was a welcome relief after the walk in along busy roads. Outside the walls of the fortress we sauntered around a really lively area with an eclectic mix of small businesses and cafes. Many buildings were empty or semi derelict but the place had a real buzz to it.
What we’d really come to this area for though was to see the Vikos Gorge. With limestone walls rising to over 900 metres the gorge cuts through the Vikos-Aöös National Park.
The gorge is quite simply spectacular. We drove through the village of Menodendri up to the view point at Oxia. All I can say is if you have any children or dogs with you then hang on to them as, apart from one small piece of manmade wall, it’s a sheer drop to the bottom of the gorge from the path.
We stayed a couple of days just outside the village of Monodendri as we wanted to walk part of the 03 Greek National Trail which tracks its way through the bottom of the gorge towards Mikró Pàpigko. There wasn’t time to walk the length of the gorge as it is a six to seven hour walk one way but we did do part of it.
On the way back towards Monodreni village we found another fantastic viewpoint across the gorge with a birds eye view of the little monastery clinging to the rock face which we’d visited the day before.
Dropping back down to Ioannina we stopped for the night at the little hillside village of Lingiades overlooking the lake before heading off to Metéora.