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Adventure, Greece, Helmet Views

Helmet View of The Mediterranean – Middle Of The Sky

So, it’s time to leave Macedonia and how the hell did I get to Macedonia and what is this post about? Well, I’m on a motorbike trip around the Mediterranean, I have packed so much stuff on my steel horse, Yamah XT660R, that if it was alive I would be arrested for animal cruelty. That is just a glimpse of what is going on – check out the previous post to read about the beginning of this 8000 kilometer journey.

 

Albania – is there really nothing interesting to see?

After very nice time in Macedonia it’s time to continue my trip. As I was leaving the country which has bright yellow sun on the flag, lady border officer asked why am I going to Albania, since there is nothing to see. I told her that I heard otherwise and that the roads for motorbikes are awesome. She stared at me with one eyebrow up and wished me safe trip. A few moments later I was entering Albania. As I was passing my passport to the officer, I already had two officers checking out the bike asking me how’s it handling and how did I manage to put so much stuff on it and why do I need so much of it for the summer? They just continued laughing and joking in Albanian so I could not understand them but I was smiling too, trying to make them think that I know their language – I’ve probably failed. When I told them that I’m just passing through Albania they said that on the contrary belief it is a beautiful country and next time I should plan at least few days there. They were right.

Luckily, there was no problem with Albanian police

Luckily, there was no problem with Albanian police

Albania has some really nice roads, Ohrid lake is beautiful, but not as beautiful as it is on the Macedonian side – I noticed most of Albanians go over the border to enjoy the water. As I was driving away from the lake, my GPS wanted to show me something different. First it took me through one way street and luckily police didn’t stop me, they just continued their way. Then it took me through this very poor village that didn’t have normal roads and there were horse carriages, which was cool. Kids were waving, but the elders were like “what the hell are you doing here”? To be honest, I was eager to get out of that village. From that time on I named my GPS ‘Ghetto Positioning System’ since that was not the last time it decided to show me the other side of the country.

Interesting fact about Albania: it has its own “Marijuana Mecca” and it’s the small village name Lazarat. This village makes Albania largest exporter of cannabis in Europe. Gangs in Lazarat are believed to produce about 900 metric tons a year!

From that time on I named my GPS ‘Ghetto Positioning System’

Before I tell you what I think of my short trip through Albania, I would like to tell you a funny anecdote from Montenegro. This lady was asking me about Albania and how was it and as I was explaining, I told her that there is lot’s of animals (like cows and sheep) on the road. And she did not look a bit surprised, she just continued  “…yeah, they are one century behind Europe, they don’t know how to act…” and she left me wondering should I tell her what I meant by animals.

My short drive through Albania came to an end and my experience is totally positive. Roads are amazing, scenery is beautiful and people seem cool although I did not meet many of them.

Did you ever go to Albania, let me know how it was!

Yamaha XT600R and Meteora

My overpacked Yamaha and Meteora monastery in the background

Going to a place that only exists in fantasy books

While I was waiting on the border to enter the country of gods, beautiful architecture and emerald seas, the customs officer stormed out and asked me to take my GoPro off the helmet – I guess he didn’t feel photogenic.

Another border, another place to visit – Meteora!  I would like to say that highway I took from Albania to Meteora was boring as hell! It’s like, nothing, nothing, nothing, village and after that – more nothingness! Getting off the highway to some hills was amazing experience! Yeah, it was amazing! Why? After all those hours on the highway, you finally start to appreciate the hills, woods, shade and cool scenery.

The monastery of Great Meteoron

The monastery of Great Meteoron

I visited Meteora when I was young and I could remember just a glimpse of it.  Meteora is a valley dominated by massive pillars on top of which monasteries are built. There is no exact date as when they were built, but it is believed that 20 monasteries were built at the beginning of 14th century, six still stand.

Monastery of Varlaam

Monastery of Varlaam

As I was coming close to Meteora valley,  started to think “Is this real?” Seeing those enormous pillars rising up to 500 meters into the air, you cannot help but think that you are in some fantasy book, just waiting for a dragon to fly out of there, spitting fire while some monk rides it. The cloud formation that selectively lets through the sun rays just adds to that feeling, especially in the evening when the monasteries are bathed in the fire orange.  It’s not strange that literal translation of Meteora is the “middle of the sky“.

Beautiful View and Amazing Architecture

Beautiful View and Amazing Architecture

As I was a bit late and some of the monasteries were closed, I decided to go to the biggest one, called The Monastery of Great Meteoron. Long time ago going up to the monasteries was deliberately difficult, so it would fend off all unwanted visitors – the only way up was with ladders which monks pulled up whenever they felt threatened.

The only way up was with ladders which monks pulled up whenever they felt threatened

Not to mention it was quite ‘leap of faith‘ going up those ladders. Now there is a paved road, stairs were cut into the rock and for the Monastery of Great Meteoron there is a bridge to reach it.

View on the monastery from a terrace

View on the monastery from a terrace

Entering the monastery you can feel the tranquility of the place, for the most part it is used as a museum, showing the traditional way of life monks had – old kitchen which is still black from the smoke, winery, well preserved frescoes of life of the Christ and you can also see the skulls of monks that used to live there. To get the glimpse of the Meteora valley from above, you would have to go out to the terrace where, besides valley, you will see other monasteries, but what singles out this one from the rest is the fact that it’s the highest, biggest and the oldest monastery of the six.

You can also see the skulls of monks that used to live there

It’s good to know that Meteora is second most important site in Greece just after Acropolis! It is one of the few sites in the UNESCO World Heritage that falls under two categories – culture and nature!

Amazing view at Meteora Valley

Amazing view at Meteora Valley

Chasing the ferry for Corfu!

Lazy summer sun begins to fall behind the hills and it’s time to hit the road before night grasps it and the only light will be from my trusty motorbike. It’s another 200 kilometer ride on the highway to Igoumenitsa where I need to catch a ferry boat to Corfu – really special island for Serbs as it was used as a hospital after the epic retreat during World War I after the Austro-German-Bulgarian invasion.

Going into sunset... on a ferry...

Going into sunset… on a ferry…

As I arrived to Igoumenitsa I bought tickets for a ferry and rested. On the boat I met a girl who I asked about the Corfu, what sites would she recommend and what might be a good place to stay. She recommended Ipsos, which was a party place for Italians and that kind of place I was trying to avoid. Although she recommended a place that wasn’t really to my liking, she actually sent me to the place where I will meet some amazing people.