Thursday, 3 March 2011

Halkidiki

Sadly we arrived into Greece, from Macedonia, in the dark, so there was not much to see. But our first day in Greece, was nice, but a bit cool. We explored the finger of Kassandra that we were staying on in Halkidiki. Halkidiki is actually shaped like a trident striking down, and Kassandra is the first finger of these.

Halkidiki Coast
 Did a bit of off-main-roading which provided us some very nice views of the bays and some interesting bird sightings (sadly they were too fast for camera). The whole place seems to be closed down for the winter as we didn’t find a single place open to have lunch. This sadly is one of the more annoying points of travelling off season, but there are a lot of perks (e.g. being 1 of 2 guests at the entire hotel). Not to mention that it was quite annoying that we could not properly explore (although we did manage to get a bit further than fenced off) of the temple of Zeus and Dionysus that is in next town from our hotel. The geological composition of the finger is quite interesting as there is diversity in soil types and colours.

Our hotel was very nice. We had gotten a deluxe room which came with a fireplace and Jacuzzi in it which was very posh for us. They also have a sauna and steam room, and in the summer the pools open as well. Definitely recommend Hotel Nostos if you are looking for a nice place in Halkidiki. However, I would actually never want to stay here in the summer despite the obvious niceness of having good weather. On Kassandra (the whole area we have travelled while here), there is a very large volume of apartments and hotels, and seemingly not enough beach to enjoy properly. I imagine the beaches would be insanely crowded, which coming from New Zealand would be very off putting. But it is a very lovely area, with nice green blue sea, even in the winter.

Petralona Caves
Our second day in Greece we explored the Petralona Caves. This is definitely worth the visit and is priced well at only 7EU standard entry, with discounts available. Due to the time of year, we were lucky enough to have the entire place to ourselves. The caves presents a lovely variation in colours from pure white to brown red tights, mights, candles, fans and curtains (different forms of cave growths). It has 2 main halls, and numerous side passages which are explored at your own leisure if you are alone. I imagine during the summer there would be proper guided tours and lots of noise. It was very peaceful and impressive site. It is also quite unusual cave as all year round it is a balmy 17 degrees, with good level of humidity. The caves are accompanied by a museum, which displays the many archaeological finds. There is the famous Petralonian man which was found here, with his head physically removed and moulded to the wall of the cave over the years, while the rest of the skeleton sunk down. There was a good representation of this fact (and the skull) are in the museum. In addition there is a high number of different finds of human activity, as well as, animal bones.
White tower of Thessaloniki

After Petralona, we did a bit of country wandering up to Thessaloniki. Very very city, and couldn’t imagine trying to drive there in the summer. Saw the white tower and briefly enjoyed the sea front, before heading back via the sea route towards our hotel. Personally there are much more interesting sites outside of the city, but it does offer an easier stay with everything being central. Stopped off in Nea Fokea along the way back, to view the Byzantine tower and church, which still stand. The tower is only accessible through climbing the wall with a rope, as the tunnel to its inside is hidden these days. This town is very cute, and we saw evidence of the famous beach front restaurants.


Pretty beach near Thessaloniki
The food is of course with a mention, as its super yummy. The garlic heavily influences the tastes of the different things we tried, and everything is quite fishy in the area, being so close to the sea. My favourite dish was grilled aubergines with garlic sauce. So yummy! Most nights ended up feeling very fat and bloated unable to move very much.

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