25.07.2017 - 18.07.2017 28 °C
Day 55 Tuesday July 18 2017 Alexandroupolis to Popova / 417 KM
- It blows a gale and rains heavily during the night. If any refugees are attempting a Mediterranean crossing, they will encounter very choppy seas.
- We are surrounded by Greek families on holiday on an all inclusive package. Except for us - and we are also the only couple without children in tow.
- Whilst the location on the beach is pleasant enough. Inside it is just like one big airport lounge. Due to the bad weather, it has become a playground!
- White wine is served warm & red wine straight out of the freezer.
- A large buffet spread is soon decimated by the guests. We order a la carte. Sounds refined doesn't it. But because everyone is on an all inclusive ticket, chef is not prepared for individual orders. Andy's chicken concoction is inedible. He shares SG's main course instead. It is a miserable experience. We are particularly upset because we are being charged extortionate EU prices - our room is costing just under 100 euros and AG's main course 20 euros.
- In the morning we discover we only have one bath towel between us, that the overhead shower does not work and that the toilet seat is broken.
We aim to leave as early as possible. Only breakfast dictates our departure time. It is after all included in the room rate. We figure if we get to the breakfast buffet as soon as it opens at 7.30 a.m we will be ahead of the holiday crowds.
Do we complain? You bet. For our troubles, we get a bottle of Greek red wine and a small fruit plate. The Thraki Palace will be receiving very poor reviews.
- As we set our respective satnavs ( 2 in the car ), the familiar digital voices greet us: "please drive to the highlighted route". And so another day thankfully begins & we leave Alexandroupolis.
- This time next week we will be arriving back in UK. We are meant to be moving within a month. We have a house to pack up and temporary accommodation to find. But hey that's a full 7 days away. Let's enjoy what is left of our trip.
- Today we drive a coastal highway to Thessaloniki before heading north to the Republic Macedonia, a country neither of us have ever visited previously. North of Thessaloniki the roads deteriorate noticeably. Confusingly this region of Greece is also known as Macedonia.
- The border crossing into Macedonia is a relatively quick but expensive affair. Since the country is not yet an EU member ( just on the waiting list ) we are not covered by our European car insurance. We must pay 50 euros, a blanket charge, for the minimum period on offer - 15 days. We are spending 3 days 2 nights here.
- Do we charge non EU cars coming into UK ports with a blanket insurance fee? Do we even ask if they have insurance? SG determines to find time to write to the Secretary of State for Transport - whoever they are.
- As well as the standard Duty Free store, there is also a casino at the Macedonian border - and then a few more are subsequently advertised along our route. This may be geared to Turkish travellers - casinos and gambling are banned in Turkey except for the state run lottery.
- The Macedonian & EU flags fly side by side. There are EU signs indicating that the huge road projects we see in progress are supported with EU money. Admittedly the existing road from the border to Skopje the capital is in need of improvement. You would just have thought it possible for a country in receipt of EU funds, to be incorporated within the EU insurance agreement.
- We are staying this evening in our favourite kind of accommodation - a vineyard with a restaurant. Set in quiet, mellow Macedonian countryside, Popova Kula Winery is obviously a well known stopover for travellers heading across the Balkan States in either direction. We are not alone. And there are 50 rooms.
- We sign up for the 5 p.m. wine tour. It is a brief event and there is no wine tasting. We are therefore none the wiser what to choose with our evening meal.
- We do discover that they cultivate about 8 different grape varieties including a grape unique to this area called Stanushina. In all they produce 600000 litres of red, white & rose wines per annum. The one fact we do learn, (and we possibly should have known this previously), is that barrels are graded not only according to the type of oak and age, but also to the intensity of scorching. This is the application of flame heat applied to the interior of the barrel during its manufacture. Barrels are clearly marked with this information. The higher the temperature, the more scorched the wood and the toastier & richer the flavours of the wine stored.
- Dinner is not the fine experience we hope for. It seems they are better at making wines than food. However this evening the fridges are malfunctioning and the 'taster' menu is served with tepid white wine. Strangely the bottled water comes to table well chilled.
- Still there have been worse stopovers on this trip. We have but one night here; we are on the move again tomorrow. Our modus operandi has advantages.