12 septembrie 2011

From Corfu to Wien: Eastern Europe by car. 1st part: Greece

Well, I have no intention to give very many details on how to drive from Corfu Island to Vienna, crossing Northern Greece from West to East, Bulgaria from South to North, Romania from South to West, and Hungary from East to West. However, I feel that it might be interesting to underline some peculiar features of driving this way, which shows common Eastern features, and might be useful particularly for Western European travelers. Also, Greek, Romanians, Bulgarians, and Hungarians may see what they have in common and what makes the little, but important differences. In the end of the series, I will underline a couple of nice Eastern futures, which provide to be better off than in the West.

Please note that the following include only my personal, non-systematic observations, and should be treated as such, not as a scientific truth. At their best, the beneath comments are an “educated guess”. (Remember that I am a sociologist :)!)

Part 1. Greece

In Corfu, you should notice the tiny roads, the rather poor houses, the incredible very cheap food, and the very dirty toilets in the gas stations. This is one of the main ‘features’ of the entire area: you have to carefully choose the where to refuel, in order to be able to enjoy a decent peeing. However, Greece is a perfect country from this point of view. In the summer of 2011 the cost of the 98 essence was 1.9+ Euro per litter (!!). Probably this is why all toilets in the gas stations looked anything but clean. You get taxed for experiencing a sort of peeing deprivation. It was quite bad as a men, but you can imagine how this looked through the eyes of my wife and my daughter.,

Well, taking the ferry from Corfu to Ignalitsa, on the continent, made us forgot about the toilets. If lucky, the boat traveller might encounter the three dolphins jumping freely over the blue seawater.

Back on land, the new Egnatia Odos highway is a good example of best practices in using EU money. The road is a nice engineering outcome, reproducing the Roman Via Egnatia, which connects the Adriatic shore to the nowadays Thessaloniki, heading to Istanbul, as it did some two millennia ago! The tunnels and the bridges reminded me of Switzerland. The highway itself was a kind of strange: rare gas stations, a couple of bizarre speed limitations (probably preparing us for what had to come in Bulgaria!), and, most of all, the profile of the peeing man, dominating the arid environment, and who would become an emblematic figure of the Balkans.

The peeing man? Simple, he is a man peeing on near his car, parked on the sideway of the highway. You will find him all over the Egnatia Odos, and the car will be registered in Greece. One may also often find him in Bulgaria, and the car’s number will be Bulgarian. Some few years ago, he was a common figure in Southern Romania, but nowadays it is an endangered species there: almost nobody sees him, and they do have more and cleaner toilets in the oil stations around the road. Well, this is the problem with the Northern countries :p

On the way to Thessaloniki, there are very many things to see. If one needs variation, and feel the mood to visit something else than ancient Greek or byzantine remains, one has to immediately visit Metsono, just on the highway. The 1700 meter above see the Vlach’s village is an impressive example of intensive rural- tourism and richness. The legend says that the Vlachs over here are the descendants of Roman soldiers guarding the valley, who preserved their privileges during Ottoman rule, in exchange of a small tax…

Ouzou Melathron
Then, stop in Thessaloniki, and eat in Ouzou Melathron Taverna, where Alexia kindly sent us. The menu is not necessary Greek, but you may get nice foods with strange names (like Maria’s Tits, or Lovehorn Plate – the last one I fully recommend, along with the feta stuffed squid), served with a Retsina, in the outdoor terrace.

On the highway, note the funny announcements: a road sign alerts you to reduce speed when the road is icy (wtf, this is Greece, it is always hot!!! – yes , I know, that we were in the mountains, but it is still funny). Another electric screen warns you not to use the mobile phone when driving. Well, this actually is a very serious one, it is definitively crisis-related: they are so poor that they cannot afford an headset :(

Next post in the series: Bulgaria.
The whole series (6 posts) is available here.

Un comentariu:

Jocul orb spunea...

Also in Metsovo one could stop for a quick meal and have some delicious Kokoretzi - some sort of barbecue prepared with wrapped lamb organs. Might not sound good but it is good :)
Since we are on the gastronomic side, not to miss macedonian specialty in Thessaloniki: bougiourdi some sort of cheese with paprika in the oven delight.

If you rather not stopped in Metsovo then dare for a pitstop in Kalabaka - some 20-30km away from the highway but not easy to drive. There however you will feel compelled to stay one more day in order to visit at least some 2-3 of the Meteora monasteries. The stay will be nice since you can check in a family-run inn with a good price, a nice view to the Meteora rocks and good food...

Convorbire telefonică cu ... un hoț??

Sună telefonul, de pe un număr necunoscut, vizibil (adică nu este ascuns), iar o voce de bărbat mă angajează în următoarea convorbire: -  ...