Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Beginning our Journey to Thessaloniki Greece

Here we are on the last leg of our journey, beginning our day by loading up our bags in Athens to start the long bus ride to Thessaloniki. Today, our bus ride will be about 7 hours or so, with washroom breaks and a lunch break out in the country. Our bus driver that we've had in Greece so far is able to stay with us for this next part of the journey as well, which made us all clap in happiness because he's wonderful! I took a picture of the map which shows our route....we start from Athens and drive up the coast and will eventually end up in Kalambakka for the night.

Our next stop was at a war memorial along the roadway, Thermopyles, where there had been "the most astonishing and unequal battle in 480 B.C. between a few Greeks and a million of Persians". It is a battle that's a landmark in the world's history. The Spartans and the Thespians fought against the Persians, who were under the command of King Xerxes,  and were willing to win or die defending the freedom of their country. I have heard and read about this battle and it was so cool to be standing at the place that it happened.

We stopped at a lovely place in the country for some lunch, which was always a buffet/cafeteria style place with room for many people. It’s funny how many on the bus, especially the young people, got out their phones to grab the free wifi : )  I loved stopping at all these different places to eat and they were always ready for a bus load of tourists. There were a couple places we drove through along the way that had large stork nests on high poles or towers and I was able to snap a few shots of them. It reminded me of what my dad had been told when he was young, that the stork brought the babies when his mom had another child and also when calves were born in the barn...crazy, hey? :)  They weren't allowed to go into the house or into the barn when babies were being delivered and then when they were allowed, they were told that the stork brought them! Wow!! :)

It was our goal to be at a place called Meteora by 3 pm and we got there on time. The place was incredible! The large rock formations that loomed above you in this area had over 26 monasteries perched on them with only 5 still active. We toured a lovely one where we were shown that the only way the monks would leave was by a large net lowering them one at a time over the cliff to the valley below. Crazy!! I would be so scared!! It was very interesting to see and to hear about their history here but what broke my heart here was seeing all the painting inside the church up here with paintings of martyrs and how they died. It was horrifying to see but such a sober reminder of the many thousands of people that were killed for their faith at the hands of men. Of course we couldn't take any photos inside the chapel which is always disappointing for me.  

After touring the monastery, we drove back down to stay at a lovely hotel at the foot of these mountains and rock formations. We could see a couple of the monasteries from our hotel balcony. When we were on top, we could see our hotel from one of the places that we stopped. The town was beautiful to walk through and we shopped in the stores a bit. I loved the outdoor restaurants and seating areas. It was also very sweet to see how each hotel restaurant that we stayed in would have their food decorated. : ) The sunset was breathtaking as was the view from our balcony and the sleep was wonderful! It'll be another full day of driving tomorrow as we continue to make our way to Thessaloniki Greece. :)

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