A winter roadtrip to Northern Greece (pt.1) A dive to magic

T here are some places that you always wanted to visit and for some reason you never managed to. But then comes a moment, that I really don’t know… all stars in the universe align perfectly? And there you are surrounded by the best of people and the best possible script for a trip!

This is how it all started, when some of my best friends proposed a roadtrip to Northern Greece. I wouldn’t hesitate a moment to say “yes”, but then they started explaining the whole concept… we would go to the mountains near Grevena, with offroad cars, where a friend of theirs had a cabin in the forest and then we would move to a mountain village near Lake Plastira and Meteora and… I just asked them to stop because they had to say nothing more. I was already jumping from excitement!

This was the initial plan. Then reality came in and things started to get a little bit more complicated. The weather forecast was terrible – we wanted a winter roadtrip, didn’t we? It mentioned heavy snow fall and temperatures below -10 degrees Celcius during the days that we would plan to be in the area. I didnt want to be the one to drop the “should we cancel” question, but eventually someone had to raise the issue. We just need to take warmer clothes and make sure we all have snow chains was the response from all the brave parents of the group. The green light was lit.

We arrived with the night flight to Athens and met with our friends. We somehow managed to put everything in the car and set off directly towards Kanalia, our first stop. Kanalia is a wonderful village near Karditsa and Frantzeska had a house there. A perfect way to split the distance between Athens and Grevena – our first destination. The prediction for snow was not verified fortunately, but heavy rain was accompanying us all the way, along with terrible cold.

The next morning marked the real beginning of our adventure! Under a moody sky and temperatures around zero degrees celcius, we started driving north.

To be exact, our destination was not Grevena. We were going deep inside the forest, where a friend had a cabin house. As soon as we turned from the main road to the dirt track towards the cabin, things started to get interesting!

If you look really close the photo above, you might be able to spot the little house in the center. This is where our friends were expecting us. The moment we arrived, they had already packed the grill, the meat and the sausages. Off we go! Wait, what? We just arrived! We are going by the river to start a fire and have a barbecue! I could not help but think that I was in heaven.

After a short hike, we arrived at the river. As a result of the cold, the banks of the river were frozen. The whole scenery had this mixture of green and brown winter colors and the moody sky above our heads made it even more impressive. We started wandering around the area. Antonis was super excited because bears were known to pass from these spots and bear footprints could be seen at the river banks. While he was hoping that we could see an actual bear, I was quietly wishing that we didnt. But anyway I followed, not to be named a coward.

It didnt take long to overcome my fears. As soon as I started photographing and admiring the nature around me, I had forgotten everything. And when the sausages were done and the first shots of tsipouro had been drunk, there was only happiness and laughter.

We left for the cabin house where tsipouro continued to flow. By nightfall, it was time to go back to the Trikomo, the village were we would spend the night. The cold was getting even stronger and alas the first snowfall started.

Next morning, as we opened our window, we were greeted by a wonderful snow scenery.

Matina started to shout from excitement and I could not hold the smile in my face. After a “grande” breakfast prepared by the owner of the guest house we were staying, we gathered up, put all the clothes we had and set off for the bridge of Aziz Aga. All the others seemed to know the place, I was totally ignorant. Amid light snowfall, we left the paved road behind us and made good use of the offroad vehicles to arrive at a place that could only exist in my imagination.

The snow continued to fall only to make the scene look more like a fairy tail. After quite some fooling around, we got back to the cars and on the road again. But our course this time was full of stops, because at each turn we had to make a pause in order to admire the landscapes around us.

We were headed towards the Portitsa gorge and at every turn we were becoming more and more excited and restless. How long is it to the gorge? I kept asking and when we got an answer that it was something like a couple of kilometers, me and Matina and some other friends jumped off the cars and decided to walk till the gorge. It was like walking in a dream.

When we arrived, the snowfall stopped and the sun was trying to make a shy appearance. The others were already there and Foivos had already set up a small gas stove to prepare hot tea. We sat by the river bank to sink in both the view and the hot drink, which was very welcome at this point. Typically such moments would call for some philosophic thoughts, but for me, having never again seen a landscape like that, it was really hard to focus on anything beyond the visual information. My eyes were trying to devour all the beauty around me, the flowing river, the white mountains, the narrow gorge, the stone bridge.

In the Asterix literature, every happy day closes with a feast. When the first voice suggested that we should go and eat something, we all immediately agreed that it was our time to feast! It took merely seconds to pack everything and get back in the cars and soon we were back on the road again.

We arrived at the village of Spilaio. Foivos knew exactly where we should go and he also knew exactly what we should eat. And boy he was right! The food was otherworldy and I cannot really remember how much we ate. The only thing I can remember is that at the end we were all in a state of emergency, trying to digest with any means possible – some by drinking soda, others by drinking tsipouro and those in the worse condition looking for stomach pills.

Apparently after such a feast, there could be no more photographs from that day. But the trip was not over by any means! So stay tuned for part two!!

Pindos Mountains, 2015/16.

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