Conquering Greece – Day 2 : Nikiti to Florina

  • Weather: Cloudy
  • Departure: 14h00
  • Arrival: 20h30
  • Date: 01/08/15
  • Distance: 360km

Nikiti to Florina

The night had been so hot I had trouble sleeping and would wake up intermittently drenched in sweat and grasping for air. That being said, it was extremely nice of Félix to have given me a place to rest. So when morning finally came, I made my way to the dive shop, signed the paperwork got my equipment and departed again to the dive site: a shore dive in a camping site that is owned by the Bulgarian Orthodox church.

Underwater, it was nothing very different than the other dive I had done in the Mediterranean: weeds, soft corals, sponges and small fishes. Thankfully though, the other guy on my team had a good level so we decided to spice things up with a “free fall” jump from the top of a wall at 12 meters of depth down to the bottom at 30, a huge sand plain. In the course of the dive, we crossed three very apparent thermoclines and went from a top water temperature of nearly 30C to 15C at the bottom.

Packing up after diving
Packing up after diving

Out of the water, I packed my things quickly and jumped on the bike to try and make it as far as possible. Edessa was my objective. Except for the part where I cut through the mountains around Polygyros, the road was uninteresting. Boring roads have an advantage, you go fast on them. Their accessibility and efficiency makes them preferred trade routes, which has the consequence of attracting businesses who congregate on their side. However, Greece’s economical situation being what it is, lots of them have closed shop and left vacant the building they once occupied. Added to that, the government, lacking the funds to properly keep nature at bay, has let the roads become overgrown, hiding road signs and lampposts in dense green foliage. This and the fact that it was Saturday all contributed in making the outskirts of cities look as if they came straight out of a post-apocalyptic future. No one in sight, nature retaking control, old abandoned vehicles and stray dogs. I was a lone ranger traveling the country in search of redemption.

Out on the Greek open road
Out on the Greek open road

Since I was making good on time, I changed plans and pushed my day’s objective 100 km further to Florina, a city at the very north of Greece and some kilometers from the border with Macedonia. As I was going up the mountains, the view got nicer and even with a forced stop due to scattered thunderstorms, I arrived in Florina with a bit of daylight to spare. Exhausted, I settled for the first affordable hotel, dropped my things and grabbed a gyros. That day, I had only eaten two cans of coke, three slices of bread and bag of chips. Amazing how the body behaves differently when kept on adrenaline. Anyway, Florina appeared to be a nice and lively small city, with restaurants and bars full of people. Despite the grim economical outlook, the Greeks keep on living.

While sitting in the square, I got approached by another traveler looking for conversation. I had planned that night to go back to my hotel room and catch up on my writing, but instead spent hours talking with Alban (from Albania). He was studying in Germany and decided to leave for the summer and hitchhike through Europe. Along his journey he had met refugees from all the wars in the middle east going the other way trying to reach Germany. No writing was done that night.

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