1000km, 12 cars, 5 days
I guess it was Tuesday when we decided to go somewhere for the weekend with a friend of mine. I suggested the monastery area of Meteora and for Alexandra it was OK so we had a plan. Somehow we came up with an idea to hitchhike the whole trip there and back.
On Friday noon we took a metro and a commuter train to the northern parts of Athens near to the road leading to the north. It wasn’t the best place to get a car but after 20 minutes we managed to get a ride to the toll stops where it would be easier to continue the trip. We felt quite good that we got at least somewhere. The first driver was a scriptwriter on his 30’s and really nice company.
As he told us it was easy to continue our journey from the toll stops. We got the second ride from a punk/alternative music singer. He was going to Volos and since we didn’t have any exact plans we joined him all the way there. Volos is really nice medium sized city in the eastern coast of Greece. We spent one night there eating in a taverna, drinking Tsipuro (the traditional alcohol beverage from Volos) and walking around the city.
On Saturday we continued our journey with a help of Romanian violin teacher. With the first two drivers we were able to communicate in English but this time there was a language barrier. He spoke English as much as we spoke Greek (which isn't a lot) but luckily my French friend found out that he spoke French as well which solved the problem. He got us to Larissa where we changed to the next car.
We got our fourth driver after 10 minutes of waiting. He helped us maybe 10 kilometres to a better place. We got out at the road leading to Kalabaka which was our destination since it was the closest city to Meteora monasteries. After 20 minutes a military guy and his mother took us to Trikala where we got the next ride to Kalabaka.
We arrived to Kalabaka around 4pm so it was getting a little bit late. We decided to go to the mountains immediately so we could have some light there. The area is incredibly beautiful with all the weird shaped rocks and the monasteries on top of those. After one hour of hiking we reached the first monastery and visited it. They even gave us something to eat after asking if it’s possible to eat there. We ate a little bit and checked out another monastery. It was already dark so we hitchhiked back to the city, looked for a hotel and went to have some dinner. After the dinner we went to a local Kafenio (the place where you see old Greek guys drinking coffee and watching TV or playing cards) to play some Backgammon. They were a little bit amazed to see tourists there and talked with a few of them. We staid there until they closed the place and went to sleep.
On monday we woke up, walked to the next village and hitchhiked to the biggest monastery of the Area called Megalo Meteoro. The weather was really foggy and rainy - the perfect weather to visit this kind of mystical place. After the visit we ate some lunch and continued to Varlaam, the second biggest monastery. Somehow we didn’t see anyone telling that the visiting time is over and we found ourselves standing in the middle of the monastery buildings behind closed doors. We tried to shout for someone but it seemed like there was no one there. Luckily we were able to open the gate from inside and we got away. During the way back to the city we went to one quite big cave to share the last cigarette.
Once we got back to the city we were quite wet and cold and we saw this perfect taverna with a fireplace. We went in and moved one table right next to that fire. It was the best feeling sitting there and getting warm again. We walked back to Kalabaka and went next to the road leading to Ioannina.
It wasn’t the easiest thing to get a ride to Ioannina from this little city at 8pm. We tried to look really cute and desperate standing there in the middle of the heavy rain sharing one jacket as our umbrella and holding this plate saying Ioannina. We’ll it kind of worked since people were interested in us but they weren’t going to that direction or their car was already full. Anyway we managed to maintain our good mood and we were just laughing at the situation. After 40 minutes of waiting we got a ride from a doctor in his 40’s or 50’s. It was quite long trip and the bad weather didn’t really make it faster. Once we arrived to Ioannina we looked for a hotel and went out to have something to eat. Both of us were quite tired so after dinner and a tea in a bar we went to sleep.
On the next day we visited the island in the middle of the lake which was really cute. It didn’t look like Greece at all - in some places I even felt I could be in Norway or somewhere far in the north. We met some local elderly people who were really pleased having some visitors at this time of the year. Our common language was Greek, not the strongest one for us but it’s fun trying to communicate with native speaking people. Especially with elderly people it’s great to see how they appreciate our effort to learn the language.
After a walk around the city centre we continued our trip to Patra. We got a ride from an Albanian guy who didn’t speak English nor any other languages we were able to speak but Greek. That was the first time we were actually forced to communicate only in Greek the whole car trip. I can’t really say it was a good or deep conversation but we had fun time trying to understand each others. We got to Patras where we staid at my friends’ place.
Patra was a familiar city for me since I did my Greek language course there so I was showing some places to Alexandra. It felt like going to my hometown in Finland and showing around some of my favourite places there. Maybe I’m already growing some roots to Greece.
We left the city on the next day and got back to Athens with a help from an engineer in his 30’s. We had a really good conversation about different kind of stuff (while Alexandra was sleeping the whole trip).
After all the experience of hitchhiking trip was excellent. It’s a great way to travel and to meet some different kind of people. Just make sure you have some kind of sign saying where you’re going. And if you don’t care, write a sign saying anywhere. Anyway it draws attention to you. My favourite one was a white plate we used to get to Patra. We didn’t have any proper pen so we used green leaves to write the city name. Smiling and making an eye contact will help you as well.