It wasn’t part of our initial route to cycle through Greece but the unexpected heavy snow in the Bulgarian mountains made us go south. In 2014 on our previous trip we didn’t really enjoy the northern part of Greece (while cycling from Florina to Igoumenitsa we saw mostly industry). So we were hesitating to stay in Bulgaria and taking the detour via Plovdiv. However after checking the weather forecasts and being warned by several locals the decision to go via the warmer coastal climate of Greece seemed the smartest decision, even if we didn’t really wanted to leave Bulgaria so soon. It was a coincidence that the moment we decided to go more South there was an actual border crossing to Greece, just 2 km’s away, so before we knew we entered our 5th country.
After the border crossing in Kulata the road suddenly turned into a toll highway. There was no other smaller road next to it so we had no other choice than to go through the toll booth with our bicycles. Expecting to be stopped, because in most European countries it’s forbidden to cycle on (toll) highways, the guards at the toll booth just smiled and let us through without any comments. So there we were, just crossed into Greece and about 30km’s of highway ahead of us until the first exit where we could change to another road. Luckily there was almost no traffic, a wide shoulder to cycle on and mostly flat with some minor uphill’s. It felt quite safe and we made good progress that way. The secondary road we took after the exit was more challenging as it followed the hilly landscape up and down.
On our second day in Greece, the weather changed significantly. Suddenly it was warm and sunny! It was great to finally be able to cycle in a t-shirt! Comfortably warm we passed through a little town where Maarten saw a gsm shop and we stopped to check it out. His phone had broken down in Ohrid and he was already waiting for two weeks to buy a new one. (We got the advice that it was better to buy one in Greece for the cheaper prices compared to Macedonia and Bulgaria.). This little shop still had some stock of older popular smartphone models and after more than hour of indecision he bought a new (old) sony xperia phone. Because we lost some time the day ended with less km’s than usual but happy as a child Maarten set up camp for our very first wild camping night on this trip.
The next day we stopped for lunch at the sea town Kavala, very touristic and with lots of bars and restaurants. For a moment it felt like we were in the Greece we used to imagine, with colourful houses lined up next to the hills. It was a good place to rest our legs after the unexpected hill before arriving here. Getting out of the town meant climbing again but with the continued good weather and the nice ocean views this didn’t bother us. That night we again wild camped, near a small village where we went for a stroll to find water for our empty water bottles.
On the fourth day of cycling in Greece we suddenly saw a mini Ikea. We couldn’t resist to go inside and explore. We came outside we lots of useful gadgets for the trip J, which 5 month later seems still very handy to carry. It felt like they never saw a tourist in that shop before. Maybe we stink too much as we didn’t had a shower for 4 days, however they were very friendly trying to sell all kind of things. Like we wanted to buy a full bathroom or bedroom? Could we really carry that on our bike? J
The last cycling day from Komotini to Alexandroupoli was very beautiful. We were cycling in the hilly country side, with nice views and perfect camp spots. It happens often that we are passing a very nice camp side at lunch time, where we want to stay, but it is too early to stop cycle, so you continue and end up going to a hotel in a city (it’s a pitty, but we will get enough changes to camp into the wild). During the downhill we met 2 Greek cyclers who were interested in our trip and offered us a free maintenance check of our bikes in a Shimano center. The day after we went to the bike shop, got the check-up, bought some essentials and got a history lessons for an hour or 2, which was inspiring and motivating to continue and explore the rest of the trip.
At the end Greece was all about new things on this trip and we had a great time!
- we hit the first milestone of the first 1000 km of this trip
- finally some good weather and sunshine
- after 19 days sleeping inside, we were thrilled to (wild) camp and pitch our tent
- being attacked by angry street dogs
- unfortunately we started to see many more road kills (dogs, cats, …) which wasn’t easy to look at!
- shopping in a mini Ikea, buying all kind of useful things for our bikes (plastic box to put our fruit/vegetables in, a lid for our cooking pot, some candles, a hook to hang up our sleeping bags for drying
- , …)
- beautiful landscapes and safe roads
- relaxing in a lovely apartment (we recommend you to use Airbnb from time to time to relax