We leave early because we have a long and uncertain journey ahead of us, especially in the Volos-Thessaloniki section, which we have to drive by in uncertain technical condition. The Rio-Antirio Bridge is even more impressive when you cross it. The long steel ropes form the typical visual perspective of such bridges as one moves forward, but with this bridge, due to its great length, the effect is even more majestic. Before getting off the bridge and stepping on the continent, however, it takes a long time, despite the presence of at least 5 traffic processing points. There are many who want to cross the bridge. Probably only for trucks it is more economically justified to use the ferries, because the fee is 13 EUR for a car, I do not know how much cheaper it should be by ferry to prefer a crossing that takes about an hour with loading and unloading the vessel compared to the 5 minutes on the bridge (but also about 15 minutes out of the bridge area on the opposite bank). Even so, it’s twice as fast.
So far I have never thought of Greece as a country rich of mountains, steep rocky peaks, precipices and picturesque mountain valleys, but there are plenty of them on the Patras-Lamia route. Initially, I move along the coast, as the road gradually climbs higher and higher, and then hacks directly into the mountain range. I pass a panoramic site, from which I suspect there is a unique view of the Gulf of Patras, but as I explained earlier with Fiat Panda, the possibility of turning off the road in Greece for the purposes of photography is difficult and quite risky.
We cross the ridge, the descent begins and I just think we are done with the mountains, when we start a new ascent. Behind me, a column of several cars and trucks is patiently rolling. Overtaking is forbidden and the tiny Panda is panting on the steep slope.
We leave the mountainous part near Thermopylae and descend to Lamia. After that we step on the painfully familiar highway to Volos. It is close to 14:00 and I know that Herz will go out in a siesta at any moment until 17:00, but even before I reach for the phone, they call me to check how fast I am moving. Apparently there are people willing to hire Tiny. I assure them that I have another 15 minutes to Volos and I will be grateful if they wait for me. Of course, on Friday, in the height of the season, there is no problem for them to do me this favor in order to hook the next tourist.
I successfully hand over Tiny to Herz, without any remarks from them, and enter the Landcruiser, which has been dusting from the 7-day stay at the port, hoping that the problem has somehow disappeared…. Well, it’s not! It will drive at 70 km/h to Bulgaria. Quick refreshment with sandwich, coffee and cold water and on to Thessaloniki. I decide that I do not want to take all the other drivers swearing on the Volos-Thessaloniki route being on the highway, so I will try the old road, which winds on both sides of the highway and passes through all possible villages, farms, roadside resorts, etc. small settlements with speed limits.
The only reason a person would want to do this could be if he has a problem with the car. There are so many overtaking sections along the route, traffic lights, priority crossing, roundabouts and detours in order to drive on one side or the other of the highway, that I start to wonder which driver with a brain would inflict this upon herself. You won’t believe how many of these lunatics there are! In order to save around 20 EUR on tolls, behind me has formed a looney swaying queue of all kinds of vehicles, which, on top of everything, is constantly growing in size. I’m sorry, but I’m technically limited to 70 km/h. We swing around the bends, watch the lucky guys speeding along the highway, and we can’t even enjoy the scenery, because there’s really nothing to see here.
At one of the next turns, instead of slipping under the highway again and finding myself on the other side, I confuse the lane and I realize that I will enter the highway, but I am so fed up that I consciously decide to go. The last 50 km to Thessaloniki I stay on the highway, albeit half in the emergency lane, with the emergency lights on, passed now and then by the occasional puffy truck.
The road from Volos to Thessaloniki in emergency mode and mainly off the highway takes us 3 and a half hours, instead of the standard 2 hours and 15 minutes for the highway. However, I have a great desire to walk in the historic center and take pictures before sunset completely leaves me without light, so I just throw my luggage at the hotel and impatiently take to the streets with the camera. In 1 hour I manage to cover 4 km INCLUDING the time for the shooting, which is quite an achievement. There are many nice Art Nouveau buildings in Thessaloniki and I promise myself that sometimes I will come especially for the purpose of shooting them and will spend more time touring. I manage to capture the relatively well lit by the last rays of the sun “St. Dimitar”, the rather darkened “St. Prophet Elijah ”and the lit by street lights and with blackening sky “Church of the Holy Apostles”.
Here, as in Sofia, Bulgaria, the street artists do not forgive the historic center and everything is heavily strewn with graffiti. However, it is already quite dark and unfortunately I have to finish the photoshooting. We take burgers for dinner at Tarantino Sandwiches & Fries (I admit, I chose it by name), where I had a chance to try for the first time Greek kraft beer, and it turns out quite alright. My decision was also influenced by the proximity of this fastfood bar to the hotel, which is in a very good location, there is a convenient paid parking right next to it, it is very modern and clean, but is unlucky to be sandwiched between Caligula nightclub and the pedestrian zone with restaurants near the port. Till 04:00 a.m. the noise from the music is constant and unrelentless – even a terribly tired man with sound sleep, like mine, could not sleep very peacefully. In the high season, I definitely do NOT recommend staying at this hotel unless you have brought very efficient earplugs.
I will not write a separate article about the back trip to Bulgaria. In general, there is nothing special about dragging on the highway from Thessaloniki to Kulata and then to Sofia at a speed of 70 km/ h. I was most upset when the trip computer gave up and I had to switch to manual maintenance of the speed limit. It’s a good thing I always have audiobooks loaded in my phone, so even this painfully slow trip went relatively fast.