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A Winter's Work 2012 PDF Printable Version E-mail

A Winter's Work in Greece: January to March 2012

Barry and Margaret Williamson
April 2012

The following list summarises the additions to our website during our winter hibernation and financial recuperation in the southern Peloponnese of the Greek mainland. The background, and often the foreground, to this work was the ongoing Greek economic and social crisis. We remained involved in cycling, walking and meeting the mix of fellow travellers, holiday makers, expatriates and Greeks who populate the hills, valleys and beachfronts of this wonderful corner of Europe.

Our Writing and Photography

1. The Year of the Ferry 2011
This is our end-of-the year summary of early spring travels in Turkey and Greece, a summer in Scandinavia and a return to Greece at the end of the year. The first and last journeys were by motorhome; for Scandinavia we took a 21-year-old caravan to follow behind our Sprinter van. Altogether, these journeys required 35 ferry crossings, ranging from 20 minutes to 20 hours.

2. Travels in Scandinavia from May to August 2011 (text)
These are the detailed travel logs of our 6-month, 11,500-mile (18,400-km) journey from the UK to and around Scandinavia, but mainly Norway, by Sprinter van, caravan and bicycles.

3. Travels in Scandinavia from May to August 2011 (images)
Here is a series of Galleries and Slide Shows of images of the summer travels in and around Scandinavia.

4. Travel Notes for Scandinavia 2011
Here we summarise what we needed to know and learn to travel successfully in the Scandinavian summer.

5. A Winter Journey from UK to Greece 2011 (text)
Following the summer in the far north, we exchanged the Sprinter and caravan for our Flair motorhome and travelled some 1,600 miles (2560 km) across France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy to the familiar haunts of the southern Greek Peloponnese.

6. A Winter Journey from UK to Greece 2011 (images)
Here is a series of Galleries and Slide Shows of images of the winter journey to Greece.

7. Winter in Greece 2012 (text)
This is a brief summary of our period of hibernation and financial recuperation amidst the economic crisis that has come to define contemporary Greece.

8. Winter in Greece 2012 (images)
Here is a series of Galleries and Slide Shows of images of our hibernation in Greece.

9. Greece to France 2012 (text)
Leaving Greece, we took a ferry from Igoumenitsa to Ancona and then motorhomed through Italy, pausing in Assisi, Siena and Pisa. Entering France past Monaco and Nice, we reached Clermont Ferrand via Montpellier and then on to Tours, Le Mans and Caen before reaching the Channel port of Cherbourg for a ferry to Rosslare in Ireland.

10. Greece to France 2012 (images)
The focus of these Galleries and Slide Shows is on the architectural glories of Assisi, Siena and Pisa.

11. The Greek Tragicomedy
For 11 pages we collected data from the English-language Greek press, as 30 years of scandal, scam, forgery, bribery, lies, cheating, trickery, fraud, duplicity, profiteering, deception and corruption were slowly revealed. Eventually we had to stop; there was too much. It was overpowering in its magnitude at every level of society. Tragic yes, but comedy? It was so outrageous, so brazen that always a first instinct was to laugh.

12. What is Different in Greece in 2012
We were often asked about what had changed in Greece, following the onset of the crisis. Was it still safe? How were ordinary Greeks coping? Did it affect the tourist business, the campsites, the ferries, the number of motorhomers, the prices?

13. Lemon Drops
Margaret wrote this in order to share her pleasure at cooking with the lemons that grew freely all around us on our Greek campsite. Here are some recipes and some mouth-watering images of what can be achieved with this under-utilised and under-valued fruit.

14. Eco Camping in Bulgaria
Hristo Simeonov wrote to us with news of his new campsite in the Rhodopi mountains of southern Bulgaria, adding it to our information on 49 other campsites in that under-visited country. We look forward to meeting Hristo and spending a few cool days by a lake some 3,600 ft (1090 m) above sea level.

15. Ferries between Greece and Turkey
Nearly a century after the end of hostilities between Greece and Turkey, there are still no ferry services between the mainlands of these two countries. A whole range of ferries, big and small (but mainly too small) run between a number of Greek islands and the nearby Turkish mainland. Most are seasonal, few take vehicles, almost none can accommodate a large motorhome, all are overpriced and reliable timetables are hard to find. Here, we share our experiences.

16. Ferries between Greece and Italy in Winter
In the confusion of mergers, cancelled services and offers of free cabins and meals rather than 'camping on board', we try to clarify the situation on the Adriatic Sea between Greece and Italy.

17. Campsites Open All Year in Greece
We regularly update this popular article, which does exactly what it says in the title. We pick out the best and describe the rest of the few sites that do stay open through the winter months.

18. Overnight Parking in Greece
We regularly update this popular article, which also does exactly what it says in the title. Helped by the excellent work of Pete Jenkins and more recently Ian Shires, we help motorhomers find a place to park overnight, have a night halt, a stopover or even what some of them call 'wild camping'.

19. Greek Winter Campsite Brochure
We and many other travellers are familiar with campsite brochures, which depict happy families in the sunshine, laid out on the beach, cavorting in the swimming pool, socialising in the clubhouse, disporting on the mini-golf course and inebriating in the bar. In winter things are different and here we tell it as it really is, closed 'facilities' and all.

20. LPG in Greece
Until very recently LPG was only available in Athens, Thessaloniki and a few other major cities. Now LPG stations are opening everywhere and we list over one hundred. Why the increase? Until the recent lightening of the Government's heavy bureaucratic grip, motorists were not allowed to own and run a private van of any sort, nor a car which ran on diesel or LPG. Now conversions to LPG are very popular, given that Greece has the most expensive petrol in Europe.

21. 54 Campsites in Turkey
We regularly update this popular article, as news comes in of new campsites and changes to existing sites. The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey are becoming ever more popular with adventurous motorhomers, despite the distance involved. It certainly seems a long way from where we are now in Tipperary! However, the real adventures are to be had in inland Turkey and in the far east between and beyond the Tigris and the Euphrates. Here the least of the challenges is finding a campsite there aren't any!

22. Dam burst in Biser (text)
Ten people died and considerable damage was done to houses when an upstream dam burst, suddenly flooding the rural village of Biser in southeast Bulgaria on the morning of Monday 6 February 2012. We know Biser and some of its inhabitants well, from three long stays at Camping Sakar Hills, which is on the edge of the village, and we received a number of reports from different friends in that area, giving eye-witness accounts of events as they unfolded.

23. Dam burst in Biser (images)
Carol lived in the village for a number of years and was there when the flood struck. Here are her 16 graphic images of the aftermath, including the body of a neighbour wrapped in a carpet.

24. Replies to Emailed Queries
Our website invites queries and suggestions and sometimes we are stimulated to reply at some length, following research into a subject new to us. Below are four examples of articles that have emerged from this process.

25. The Cost of Long-term Motorhoming
In response to questions raised via our website, we thought it useful to summarise what we knew of the cost of long-term motorhoming. Is it still viable? What kind of income is required? How can costs be controlled and minimised. We found this quite a useful exercise!

26. Motorhoming with Children
Again, we wrote this piece after receiving a query from a website reader. It is quite uncommon to meet long-term motorhomers with children, particularly those of school age. Using the advice and experience of a family on our winter campsite, travelling with two such children, we found that there was much to learn and to take into account.

27. Dogs and Travellers
We had a request from a motorhomer and dog owner to link to her website which, it turned out, was mainly an advert for a book she had written about 'rescuing' a dog in Spain. This got us thinking about dogs in general, their relationship with the human species and, in particular, with the motorhomer and cyclist. Dog lovers (really?) may disagree with our findings!

28. Sensitive Travel in Less Developed Countries
Another email suggested we linked to a blog describing a brief motorhome tour of the tourist bits of Morocco. It seems that from this brief experience the erstwhile travellers were aiming to write a guidebook. This produced more thinking on our part: how crudely and wantonly do we abuse and exploit the poorer countries in which we travel? How much is it an ego trip? How 'intrepid' and 'admirable' is it to drive on bad roads among ragged people, resisting what are dismissed as 'touts' and 'scams' and braving the horrors of campsites quite unlike those back home? Read this piece for the obvious answers to these questions and several more.

29. 36 Motorhome Insurers
We found time to review and update our list of agents who offer insurance for motorhomes. Not least, we describe the many prevalent pitfalls and misleading practices. Vehicle insurance available in the UK is probably the most restrictive in its coverage of travel in mainland Europe, usually limiting both the time allowed and the number of countries covered.

30. 538 Readers' Comments
Readers often write to us for advice or clarifications on travel-related subjects. Sometimes they include a comment on how much they value the website or the extent to which it has been useful to them, practically or as an inspiration. Here is the collection, which we updated during the winter.

31. 63 Fellow Travellers
These are the other long-term, long-distance travellers by motorhome and/or bicycle who have contributed articles and photographs to the website. The recent additions are described below.

Edited Articles on the Website

The following articles were added to the website during the winter months. Our role has been to encourage the sharing of information, as well as editing and formatting the pieces where necessary, copying them into the website and including them in the network of menus and links which define the website.

32. Dr Bob & Sandra: A Year in Australia 2011 (text)
This was Bob and Sandra's third long visit to Australia to travel with their Land Rover Discovery and twin-axle caravan. This time they make their way from Perth to Brisbane, leaving behind the paper trail of writing which enables the adventurous to follow them through the bush or from an armchair.

33. Dr Bob & Sandra: A Year in Australia 2011 (images)
This amazing collection of images taken by Sandra will parallel, supplement and inform the words of husband, Bob.

34. Dr Bob & Sandra: In Thailand 2011 (text)             
Returning from their year in Australia, Bob and Sandra stopped off in Bangkok to explore that colourful city and its immediate environs. As ever, Bob reports in detail ...

35. Dr Bob & Sandra: In Thailand 2011 (images)
And Sandra supplies the vivid images that still present to the western eyes and mind a world of strange beliefs and practices.

36. Dr Bob & Sandra: In Spain 2012
Returning to their home in Spain from far travels in Australia and Thailand, Bob and Sandra get their faithful motorhome ('Mr Custard', a 2002 McLouis Glen 690) back on the road. Their destination? The Fiesta de las Fallas in Valencia. This is the festival that puts November 5th bonfires firmly in the shade.

37. Helen & David Homewood: Italy to Greece via Albania
Helen and David live in France, which gives them a head start in the exploration of mainland Europe. This time they head for Greece via the ferry from Italy's southern Adriatic port of Brindisi to the Albanian port of Vlore. Now, there's a different idea and one to inspire others. They simply drove south past Ancient Butrint and so to Igoumenitsa in Greece, but Vlore also opens the door to inland Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.

38. Helen & David Homewood: 9-week Tour of Turkey
After entering Greece, the Homewoods drove the long road (the Via Egnatia) east to the border with Turkey and into the Gallipoli peninsula. For the remainder of their long journey, they followed the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey as far as Antalya, returning via a ferry from Cesme to the Greek Island of Chios and a longer ferry journey on to Piraeus. Crossing Greece, they reached home by the more conventional means of a ferry from Patras to Ancona and the long drive across northern Italy and so into France.  

39. Anne Speirs: A Broad Abroad
Anne motorhomed alone for 9,325 miles (14,920 km) in just under 5 months, much of it in Turkey. She writes that she 'had a great time, a few traumatic events - nothing serious, apart from a few overly attentive elderly gentlemen who just couldn't work out why I was on my own!'

40. Martin & Shirley Jeffes: The Transit of Serbia
Owners and managers of the invaluable Sakar Hills Camping site, Martin and Shirley returned to Bulgaria from the UK via the most direct route. The latter part of this journey takes you on good roads through northern Croatia and Serbia, skirting both Zagreb and Belgrade. The problem for British motorhomers is the cost of insurance at the Serbian border. Martin gives the answer: register your vehicle in Bulgaria and you get insurance cover for the whole of Europe, not just the easy bits!

41. Ian & Shelagh Manzie: Transit of Serbia and Macedonia into Greece
Ian and Shelagh transit Serbia from north to south. They were on their way from Hungary to Greece and included Macedonia in their route, as well as Serbia. Their answer to the Serbian insurance dilemma? Live in France and register/insure your motorhome in that country!

42. Audrey & Graham Pocock: Travels from the UK to Greece
We met Australians Audrey and Graham during our winter stay in southern Greece. They had come out from the UK via Norway, an unusual and interesting route. Here is the full story.

43. Audrey & Graham Pocock: Travels from Greece to Turkey
Continuing from southern Greece to Turkey, these adventurous Australians loosely followed the route taken by the Homewoods who left a trail of SatNav co-ordinates to good places to camp or park overnight. Indeed, the Pococks and the Homewoods met in Fethiye!

44. Ian and Judit meet Bessy
Ian and Judit are long-term friends and travellers. We first met in Turkey when they were travelling with their Land Rover Defender and tent. They lived in Budapest and we visited them several times in later years. More recently they have returned to England (Ian is from Yorkshire and proud of it) and bought a Bessacarr E760 motorhome. Here they describe the first few days getting to know their future magic carpet. Their own excellent website continues the story.

45. Don Madge: On the Road to Turkey
Inveterate motorhomer Don Madge now has 27 highly informative and useful articles on our website. The latest describes his winter journey from the UK to Turkey giving, inter alia, full information on his 7 night stops, diesel prices, tolls, ferries, border crossings (particularly new visa regulations on the Turkish border), speed limits and currency.

46. Paul & Sheila Barker: Guide to the Baltics
Paul and Sheila are unmatched in the thoroughness with which prepare, execute and report their European journeys. Their 2011 journey through the Baltic Republics is now complete and, as we write, they are exploring the fascinating country of Finland. Not least, their campsite reports are by far the most insightful and honest of any we have ever read. They tell you exactly what you need to know before wasting fuel driving to a disaster of a site.