...and then Greece! Some guy in Macedonia warned us about the Greeks. Then again, the same guy told us not to worry because the Greek people from the northern region of Greece called Macedonia were not really Greek, they were Macedonians...?! Very confusing, this thing about the Republic of Macedonia and the Macedonia in Greece.. it is even more confusing that there are serious disputes about the names (resulting in this kind of warnings?).
Obviously, we did not take the warnings seriously, but actually another thing was worrying us: the month of December was supposed to be the most rainy month of the year. We prepared ourselves mentally to fight against big storms and heavy rain… (oh, who knows where the idea of storms came in!)
And there we go. First day: rain. Our minds quickly switched to a fighting&enduring-mode. The colder it got, the stronger our minds grew..
Then, second day: ...no rain! Gray clouds but no rain!!! Yeeeaaayyy!! With red cheeks like "Heidi" and a running nose, I must have repeated at least a thousand times how lucky we were that it wasn't raining! In fact, it did not rain on any of the following days in Greece and I repeated at least another thousand times (per day?) how lucky we were with the (really, really cold but not rainy) weather.
Our big highlight in Greece was definitely our stay at Yorgos’ place in Xanthi. We meant to stay for a day or two and ended up staying for a whole week simply because we liked Yorgos and his dog Looky so much : )
Yorgos and Looky.. best friends, very touching ; )
While Looky is opening another bag of garbage in the street, Yorgos is cleaning up the mess of the first garbage bag that Looky had opened in the garden....
The reason why we had decided to go to Xanthi in the first place was because we wanted to catch a bus from there to Termes, a mountain village near the border to Bulgaria. As the name implies, there are some hot springs in Termes.. and we were soooo ready for hot springs!!!
It turned out that Yorgos actually worked in Thermes. Considering the size of the village and Yorgos' profession -a teacher- it really was a wonderful coincidence: The school consists of only 6 students and 3 regular teachers! So one early morning, we joined him to Thermes..
(The secret about this tiny school is that the students belong to an ethnic minority called the Pomaks, a Slavic Moslem population - who get special support by the government for their education. Being such a big country with a relatively low population with many islands, it seems that small schools are not that rare in Greece after all. One of the teachers used to teach a single student on an island. As she taught only 2 subjects, several more teachers had to come for the other subjects!)
Ohhhhohoho, the hot spring! W O N D E R F U L!
Another special thing about our Xanthi experience was rock-climbing with Eftychia and her friends in a nearby place called Nestos.
Also W O N D E R F U L!
Eftychia also took us to the cantine of her university. We were surprised to learn that students could eat for free twice a day, they also get free accommodation and internet etc. if they do not have the means to study otherwise. I strongly hope that these principles will not vanish in times of crisis and young people won’t have to incur debts before they even start to work like it is the case in so many other countries…
Talking about crisis. We did and we didn't feel it. We were told that people in the northern part of Greece are less affected by the situation in Greece because the north is far less populated, the cities are not so big, the businesses are smaller etc. What we superficially saw and experienced as travelers actually had nothing to do with crisis. Happy, generous people (we got invited for food so many times by people who we had not even talked to - just like that), huge, amazing pastry shops everywhere ; ) but of course, the problems lie far deeper than in pastry shops and when we ask people for their opinion about the situation in Greece, we did feel that there was a lot more going on.... we actually met Eftychia on a demonstration.
Even though we could have easily stayed longer in Xanthi and squatted Yorgos' place, we finally left..
(Oh. Just after I wrote that the crisis wasn't visible for us... but this here was an exception. I just kind of liked how well improvised the garage was)
We arrived to a deserted beach. We didn't expect to see much more than a few pine trees, sand, the ocean and maybe a dog. But there they were: Four long-bearded English bicyclists with a big smile and simply good energy. We hooked up with them and spent a really nice evening around a big bonfire. Our ways split the next day we so didn't ride together much but we actually met up with Peers two or three more times again in Istanbul. Very cool!