Conquering Greece – Day 3 : Florina to Igoumenitsa

  • Weather: Sunny and then rain
  • Departure: 11h00
  • Arrival: 22h00
  • Date: 02/08/15
  • Distance: 381km

Florina to Igoumenitsa

Alban on the bikeMe and Alban had planned to have coffee the next day but I waited for a while in the lobby of the hotel for he was nowhere to be seen. I went out and grabbed my caffeine fix and something to eat and when I came back, there he was. The night before, he had pitched the idea of him riding with me to Patra as a passenger  and again he did that morning. Not that I did not want to have him with me. Circumstances permitting, it would have been a thrill but given the road ahead and the state of my bike (crooked steering, sketchy brakes, underpowered) and the limited room, it was not possible so we parted ways there.

Road in northern Greece

It took me an hour to find gas but otherwise, everything about this day was perfect. The roads (save some unrepaired stretches), the amount of trafic, the views. Canyons, peaks and no cars to be seen. So I drove along at a steady pace enjoying my time very much in wild northern Greece all the way until Konitsa, where I stopped for some much needed food.

Downtown Konitsa

Downtown Konitsa

The old stone bridge in Konitsa

The old stone bridge in Konitsa

Konitsa was entirely build on a mountain side, with pretty alleyways and charming ambience. It had an old arch bridge of the likes I had never seen and was gateway to the national park of the Aoös gorge. The setting was beautiful and for minutes I was torn between making a stop there or continuing to my planned destination.

I picked the latter. In Ioannina, a large regional town, I stopped for a picturesque break near the old city walls on the side of the lake, still pondering if I should stop or not. Again, I kept going. At a gas station, I asked for direction to Igoumenitsa (a city on the western coast and my objective for the day) and was correctly directed towards the shortest route, a highway, which I took thinking I was somewhere else on the map. Not wanting to skip on the nicer roads nearby, I promptly exited the highway and proceeded on a local road.

Once I hit the first village, the rain started and given the state of the road, I took the decision to stop. I was in Polygyros, a townlet of about 60 inhabitants perched high up in the mountains, It had a pretty church and town square with trees where I had found shelter under. On seeing me there, a couple sitting under their porch waved at me to come and sit with them so I approached.

The Polygyros church

The Polygyros church

My hosts in Polygyros

My hosts in Polygyros

They offered me coffee and a chat in very rudimentary English with the man (who was a retired sailor) until their teenage son showed up. He was more proficient that his parents which enabled us to have a more complex conversation about me, them, Greece, Canada and what I had to do with all of this. Having finished my coffee I stood up to leave; they had offered me food several times, which I had had to decline. It was getting late (19h00) and I wanted to make it to Igoumenitsa before nightfall. Then the son told me that his mother wanted very much to cook me something and that it would be rude not to accept. I yielded, sat back down and moments later, had an omelette, a salad and some bread in front of me, all coming (except the bread) from the garden and chicken coop they had in the back. Delicious.

The remainder of the road took time as it was a succession of hairpin turns with patches of gravel here and there. I passed many timeless Greek villages, cows, goats, old women sitting by the side of the road. Beautiful.Once I had reached the principal road I was aiming for, I told myself that this little excursion in the back country was worth it and that I’ll have to try it again. Late on time, part of the way to Igoumenitsa was done in the dark, with shitty headlights and a dirty helmet visor. Dangerous. After a bit of searching, I managed to negotiate myself a room at a decent price and stayed there to write and to rest. Igoumenitsa, a port town, did no seem to have a lot to offer.

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