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2008/9 Winter: In Greece PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

IN GREECE: WINTER 2008/9

An Account of a Motorhomer's Winter on the Beach in Finikounda

Margaret and Barry Williamson

February 2009

Here are some highlights of our winter on the beachside Campsite of Finikes, near Finikounda in the southern Greek Peloponnese.

To read about our journey from the UK to Greece in November and early December 2008, via France, Italy and the Superfast ferry from Ancona to Patras, click: UK to Greece 2008.

To see more images of our winter time in Greece, click: Winter in Greece 2008/9.

To view images of our October time in the UK and the journey from the UK to Greece, click on one or more of the following:

At the Slate Mine in North Wales
Life on the Farm
The Port of Portsmouth
In the Dordogne with the Durhams
The Road to Ancona via the Frejus Tunnel
The Port of Ancona and the Crossing of the Adriatic

To read about our 3-month stay in Bulgaria, click: Summer in Bulgaria 2008

To read the log of our return journey from Bulgaria, click: BG to GB 2008

For more details and images of our Motorhome, click: A Flair for Travel

The Location of Camping Finikes, near Finikounda in the Southern Greek Peloponnese

Camping Finikes at the bottom left hand corner of the Peloponnese, at the end of the Messinian Peninsula.

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The Messinian Peninsula defined by the small fishing ports of Petalidi, Koroni,  Pylos and Methoni (where we were married).

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The location of Camping Finikes at the western end of the 2-km beach from the small fishing village of Finikounda.

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The Journey from Patras to Camping Finikes near Finikounda.

9 December 2008   14 miles   Ancona Nord Services to Ancona Port, Italy   On Board the 'Superfast XII' Ferry

We are sailing while riots rage in the cities of Greece

We soon left the A14 for Ancona, paying a very reasonable toll of 27.80 Ancona_Ferry_(10).JPGwhich includes 2 nights. Arriving at the port, we found that Ancona's maritime station had been moved from the quayside to a new site a mile away. We cursed the lack of signposts as we wound our way back through the narrow busy streets.

The brand new building had ticket booths for Minoan, Superfast and Anek lines. It was very quiet (perhaps no-one can find it!) and we easily picked up tickets for the Superfast ferry sailing at 1.30 pm. Superfast's winter offer gave a 50% reduction on the whole fare, for both motorhome and cabin.

We packed aAncona_Ferry_(31).JPG bag, made our way back to the port for 11.30 am and were surprised to be waved straight on board. On the upper deck we joined half a dozen trucks and unusually no campers or caravans of any kind. The crew were happy to plug us into an electric point (for the fridge-freezer) but camping on board is not allowed between 1 November and 31 March. The half price offer more than covered the extra cost of a cabin, so we had decided against driving down to Bari or Brindisi for a shorter crossing that might allow overnight camping. We actually had a roomy 4-berth en-suite cabin to ourselves and enjoyed the calm voyage.

The ferry sailed on time, as we watched Ancona recede in unseasonally Ancona_Ferry_(24).JPGmild sunshine. We dined in the self-service restaurant, then easily resisted the temptations of the WiFi Hotspot (at 9 for 90 mins) and the on-board shops.

The (mostly Greek) truck drivers and crew were crowded round TV sets in the bars and we struggled to follow the breaking news of riots in Athens and 30 other cities and towns. The (literal) trigger point had been the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy in central Athens 3 days ago. Two police patrol mAncona_Ferry_(27).JPGen had been arrested, protesting it was an accidental ricochet bullet, but the ensuing demonstrations and protests had escalated into street battles. Yesterday the capital's giant Christmas tree had gone up in flames, shops were being looted - we could hardly believe the scenes. A friendly waiter tried to reassure us that it was the normal story of everyday protest but it looked much more sinister to us.

Wondering what awaited in Patras, we put our watches on one hour, read a little and slept well in our comfortable cabin

10 December 2008   58 miles   Patras to Amaliada, Greece   Marathia Beach

Arrival in Greece on the day of a National Strike

The crossing was so quiet that we barely awoke as the Ancona_Ferry_(29).JPGferry docked briefly in the northern Greek port of Igoumenitsa at 5.30 am. When we ventured on deck around 8 am the weather was fair, a few clouds hanging in a blue sky over a calm sea.

The restaurant no longer offered the generous fixed-price breakfast that we'd enjoyed last year but we were consoled with fresh croissants, honey and good coffee in the self-service (followed by more coffee and muAncona_Ferry_(30).JPGffins in the bar). After over 500 nautical miles, we arrived in Patras ahead of schedule and disembarked by 11.15 am. The mountains behind the port, bare of snow, showed how mild the winter is.

The largest city and port in the Peloponnese was GR_2008_(12).JPGquiet too quiet! Assuming people were staying home after last night's riots, we easily made our way west along the sea front, past St Andrew's Cathedral and the Praktiker and Eurospar stores, to the free car and coach park (on the left). We later learnt that this was the day of a national strike, but the shops were still open! We strolled back in the sunshine to buy bread and a pack of Greek Xmas cards. In Praktiker, a fully frocked Orthodox priest was trying on black Wellingtons perhaps a hint of the weather to come!

Continuing west and southGR_2008_(11).JPG along the New National Road, we noted the familiar landmarks with pleasure. Oranges hung on the trees like golden globes, olive-pickers waved from their perches high in the branches, goats, sheep and turkeys roamed the fields below Chlemoutsi Castle, rising proudly on its hill, high above the plain, guarding its peninsula and the little port of Kylinis.

Passing the right turn for Gastouni, we promised ourselves a visit to Camping Ionion Beach (10 miles west) in the New Year. Right now, we were headed for Finikounda.

After 55 miles from Patras, we came to the traffic lights, where a left tGR_2008_(18).JPGurn leads into the market town of Amaliada. Instead we took a right towards the sea and a right turn at a brand new roundabout: then first left, for the large sea-front parking area at Marathia Beach, near the municipal campsite (summer only). The car park was empty and peaceful, a good place for the night in the winter months when all the nearby campsites are closed.

Taking a walk along the empty shore, we were amazed how warm it was (75 F or 22 C at 4.30 pm), with a light wind coming from the south. No heating needed!

11 December 2008   7 miles   Amaliada, Greece   Marathia Beach

Shopping and meeting old friends

We drove back and across the traffic lights towards Amaliada. Our plan was to shop at the supermarkets along the road into town (Lidl, Champion-Carrefour and Dia, all with large car parks) before visiting our old friend Peppas at his motorbike shop. We'd then continue our journey south, after a lunch at our favourite chicken & chips emporium.

Arriving at Lidl, we were met with bear-hugs from the lovely Austrians, Hans & Inger, from Camping Ionion Beach! We learnt that other old friends, Mike & Flo, were also at Ionion then bumped into them inside the store! Trolleys full, they joined us in the motorhome to catch up with each other's news over coffee, talking until lunchtime.

Going our separaGR_2008_(19).JPGte ways, we parked further along at the Dia store and walked into the centre of Amaliada, which was eerily quiet. We ate our fill at the Pikantika (where the spit-roast chicken was as tasty as ever), then talked for an hour with Peppas at his motorbike shop. Fluent in German, English, Greek and Politics, he told us much about the current situation in Greece and his own dire straits. There had even been clashes between police and students in AmalGR_2008_(15).JPGiada, though tomatoes and eggs were the missiles, rather than the rocks and explosives hurled in the capital. We left very saddened.

After more shopping at Dia and Carrefour, too late to continue our journey, we returned to Marathia Beach for a second night. The wind had risen into a gale and we were careful to park away from the trees, but only later did we learn of the severity of the storm that hit land at Finikounda, 100 miles south.

12 December 2008   62 miles   Amaliada to Agrili, Greece   Agrili Beach

Via Lake Kaiafas and Kiparissia to Agrili

It had been a stormy GR_2008_(30).JPGwet night, though there was no sign of local damage. We returned to the New National Road and headed south, pausing at the ABC supermarket before Pirgos through an especially heavy downpour. Buying Golden Syrup (the first seen since leaving the UK), we were astonished to find the normally busy shop empty, with just one check-out in operation. Christmas is still low-key in Greece and times are very hard.

Continuing down the coast, we bought petrol at less than 0.90 per liIn_a_Hot_Greek_Spa.jpgtre. Diesel is now the more expensive fuel, though still below 1.00 here. After about 30 miles we turned left down the lane to the spa at Lake Kaiafas. With the baths closed in winter, it's a quiet place to park for lunch, though the warm pool where we used to take a free dip is now firmly fenced off. The blackened skeleton trees clinging to the rocks behind are a tragic reminder of the fatal fires that raged here in the summer of 2007.

On through Zaharo (Sugar Town) and along the coast, pausing at our last-Lidl-before- Christmas near the smallGR_2008_(29).JPG port of Kiparissia. Between Kiparissia and Filiatra lies Agrili, with its bizarre mock-castle on the beach. The first right turn for Agrili is an extremely narrow lane but the second turn leads for an easy mile to the coast. Turn right at the end, past a bar with a mock windmill (closed in winter) and a small church, to a parking area.

We didn't take our usual walk back along the beach to the Harry Fournier's folly, since it was pouring down: a good time to write our Christmas cards before dinner.

13 December 2008   40 miles   Agrili to Finikounda, Greece   Camping Finikes   10.00

Welcome back to Finikes

A calm sunny morning saw us return to the main road and continue south GR_2008_(34).JPGfor 4 miles to Filiatra, with more Harry Fournier monuments in the shape of a miniature Eiffel Tower and an iron globe! This son of the town apparently made his fortune as a doctor in the USA, leaving this strange legacy.

From Filiatra the main road climbs inland via Gargaliani and the ancient site of Nestor's Palace but this time we took the easier route, gently downhill to meet the sea again at Ag Kyriaki. In the little fishing village of Marathopoli (8 miles from Filiatra) we stopped to make coffee and buy an 'Athens GR_2008_(35).JPGNews' (the weekly paper in English), which made grim reading. A motorhome from Finland was also parked by the harbour and we soon met Gunevi and Kaj, keen to know of a good campsite open over Christmas. They joined us at Finikes the next day!

Another 16 miles down the coast is the larger port of Pylos, where we parked on the harbour for lunch. We walked round the town in search of a watch battery and a 2009 calendar, but couldn't post our cards as Greek post offices don't open on Saturdays (nor on any afternoon, come to that!)

The end of our journey was along the familiar narrow road toGR_2008_(37).JPG Methoni, (where we were married) and then the final 5 miles to Finikounda, at the tip of the Messinian Peninsula. At Camping Finikes we were greeted by Rod and Dan and we were soon settled in, with the luxury of electricity, internet and a washing machine welcome after a week or more on the road.

A very happy evening followed, catching up with our friends over the meal Dan had prepared. It's good to be back - despite the damage the recent storm has wreaked on Finikounda, which we were soon to see for ourselves.


The view looking east from the veranda of John and Lisi's house high above the tiny village of Mistraki. On the far side of the Gulf of Messinia lies the snow-capped 8,000-ft giant of the Taigetos on the Mani Peninsula.

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Harry and Irma enjoying a walk with us and Rod, to the river which flows past Camping Thines after a wet winter. Like most Greek dogs, they are usually kept tied up for years to bark at passers by - in their case at the entrance to Camping Finikes!

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 The mess at Camping Thines after a winter storm which removed the intervening dune. Ironically, 'Thines' means 'Dune'. Needless to say, the dune itself was in no way protected or stabilised. GR_2008_(52).JPG
 Helios meets Poisedon near Methoni. GR_2008_(58).JPG
 The undermined road to Camping Loutsa Beach, to the east of Finikounda village. A wise man does not build his road on sand! GR_2008_(67).JPG

John and Rod take a break by a fountain during an 18-km (11-mile) walk in the mountains of Messinia.

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 Margaret and Rod enjoy dinner on Christmas Day inside our Fleetwood Flair motorhome at Camping Finikes. Finikes_(10).JPG

Part of the seating in the stadium at ancient Messini, an archeological site still under excavation.

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Margaret and Rod on a windy ridge, on a walk to the far south-eastern corner of the Messinian Peninsula.

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Almond blossom in February!

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