Via Egnatia – Accommodation recap and a few trail notes – Greece

Once again this post will really only be of interest to those interested in walking the Via Egnatia.
All comments are prefaced by the fact that we aren’t carrying a tent or sleeping mat. We seek a roof over our heads and a bed under our bodies each night. We have no intension or desire to camp on this trip. We are two fit well travelled women in our 60s. 

Arrival in Greece from Bitola

Niki is the first village over the border into Greece. There is no place to stay there so we walked on to Neo Kavkasos. This made for a long day and a good portion is along road.

Neos Kavkasos 

The VE guide book suggests asking for private rooms. Wild camping is not recommended. The surrounding area is all farmers fields. Even if we did have a tent I have no idea where we might have put it. This was a very unfriendly village. We spoke to eight people asking about accommodation. Absolutely not. No taxies. No buses. We were also lied to and practically thrown out of the town. This was a low point of our walk. It was a poor welcome to Greece. We walked on (total 34 kms for the day) and were picked up by a man driving a delivery van.  We would have been walking into the night had it not been for his kindness. He drove us to Florina. (Note one of the authors of the guide book – Holger – is following up on what happened to us in this town with the local authorities).

Florina (instead of Niki or Neos Kavkasos)

This town has three hotels (we think). The first one we went to was fully booked. We got a room in another – Hotel Filareti. The staff were very welcoming. Nearby restaurants offered simple, delicious reasonably priced meals. Twin room B&B was euro 40.00.

Were we to do this again, we’d get a taxi from the border or Niki direct to Florina.

As Florina is off the VE we decided to regroup by taking the train to Agios Panteleimon as there is no official accommodation at Meliti or Kella either. The hotel listed in Kella is now permanently closed. It was disappointing to miss some of the walk but we felt this was a “clean” solution which would avoid needless frustration trying to take taxies here and there at the start and end of the next few days. The train ticket cost euros 3.00 each.

Agios Panteleimon

A very sleepy village when we were there. There seem to be at least four hotels but only the one we stayed in appeared to be open. We stayed at Hotel Panorama and while it was open – it seemed only barely functioning. Hardly any staff. Despite a dining room, no meals or coffee. There is a pool there. Twin bed room – euros 40.00 and a free beer thrown in.

Arnissa

We had a dull walk by the lake along a road which had a fair bit of fast moving traffic. Maybe we should have followed the VE route but it was raining….Arnissa is a dingy little village. The grocery store doubles as a betting place in the evenings. Shop before the locals gather to gamble – they don’t appear to like interruptions. Dining a bit limited but as long as you don’t mind sharing with starving stray dogs it’s OK.

The big hotel on the main street here is closed and has been for some time – broken windows, shuttered up, very derilict. We stayed at Karipidis Hotel. Just outside the main part of the village. There was no one there but we found a phone number and called someone to let us in. We were told to leave the front door key under the mat when we left the next day. The place seemed closed but they welcomed us. It was a very nice place. Fire place in the room, living room to sit in. We negotiated euro 35.00 for a twin room. 

Edessa

To get to Edessa we did two days in one because there is no official accommodation in Nisi. We’d been in contact with Holger  and he recommended sticking to places with official accommodation. The crisis in Greece has undermined much in this country and hospitality is suffering as well. Many people here are really struggling and just don’t seem to have the interest, energy, time, desire – to host strangers walking through their lives.

We took a taxi a few kms up the road from Arnissa to Nea Xanthogia to shorten our walk. Even so it was a long day. We caught the taxi outside the Arnissa post office at 8:30 when it delivered mail. We’d been told about this the evening before. No one in Arnissa we spoke with seemed to have a phone number for a taxi service.

In Edessa we stayed at beautiful Hagiati Guesthouse. This is an old building, beautifully furnished. It only has Seven rooms. Edessa seemed pretty busy – we booked ahead and are glad we did. We paid euro 45.00 for our twin bed room. Breakfast was extra but they accommodated us picnic breakfasting in their gorgeous sitting area. We stayed here two nights. 

Giannitsa

To get here we rolled three days into one for the same reasons. No official accommodation in Profitis Ilias or Aravissos.

To make this possible we took a taxi to Kali just east of Profitis Ilias. The resulting walk was a bit long but doable. Some of the walk along the canal was more over grown than suggested in the guide book but if you go into the orchards a little there are much better farm tracks. Just before the final stretch into Giannitsa the route crosses a paved road, and past an Alfa beer depot. At this point we were stopped by an agitated man who works at the depot who begged us for our own safety to go around by the main road. In the hill area between here and Giannitsa there are said to be a few packs of numerous feral dogs. This is not one or two stray dogs. These are feral dogs running in packs. Do your own research. Consider the size of your group. The dogs are said to be large and the locals seem quite nervous about them. We walked around by the road – very hard on our tired feet.

In Giannitsa there are lots of hotels but some are closed. We stayed at family owned, friendly and very nice Hotel Pella. Twin room with breakfast was euro 78.00. A bit over our preferred budget. Guess we were tired of going out and finding coffee and breakfast because euro 14.00 of that price was breakfast for two.

Chalkidona

Once again we needed to do two days in one because there is no accommodation in Pella.

We walked to Pella and spent some time visiting the museum (very modern and quite lovely) and the archeological site of Alexander the Great’s home town. Sadly as with many such sites in Greece, it is very weedy and rundown. From here we took a taxi to the Hotel Galla in Gefyra. (As mentioned in our guide book.)

Quite an expensive taxi ride for euro 20.00 – and when we got to the hotel it was closed. It looks like it’s been closed for some time. The taxi driver took us back to Chalkidona. This cost more of course. The annoying bit was that if we’d known the hotel in Gefyra was closed we could have just walked to Chalkidona. The frustrations were sure mounting.

We stayed at a very nice hotel here – Hotel Maison. Has a pool and restaurant. Twin room and breakfast was euro 45.00.

Thessaloniki

Huge disappointment for us because we’d so much wanted to walk into Thessaloniki, but as with many other times on this route accommodation problems put and end to those ideas.

We needed to get to and sleep in Oraiokastro. So our idea was to take a taxi back to Gefyra and follow the route from there. We checked into booking a hotel in Oraiokastra to discover everything either closed of fully booked. Without a guaranteed bed, we are no longer willing to walk anywhere after some of our not so warm and happy end of day experiences.

Should we take taxi all the way to Oraiokastro? Then walk into Thessaloniki. Very expensive. The local busses are currently on strike so that was not an option either.

Our solution: We walked 6 kms south through Partheni to Adendro, where for 2 euro we caught the train to Thessaloniki. Not the joyous arrival we had envisioned. Thessaloniki’s reasonably priced hotels and hostels were fully booked or closed for the season. We paid way too much for two nights at the Olympia. It was OK and the price included breakfast but it was far from our nicest accommodation. Cost including breakfast was  euro 87.00 per night for a twin bed room with the smallest bathroom possible!

We are now taking a break in Torini before returning to Thessaloniki in a few days and continuing east. Will post our findings when our VE journey ends.

Day 24 – Via Egnatia – pictures in Thessaloniki

The food picture is part of our outstanding lunch today in a charming cafe run by a delightful young man who gave us a free beer because we had to wait a while to be served. The reason we had to wait is because we arrived before he was open. Now I’d like to know how many times you’ve been offered something for free for arriving before opening hours? 

The Roman archaeological site is about half a block from our hotel. We can see it from our balcony (so can you if you look carefully). The other pictures are all about the scale of amenities in our room. The tiniest  mini fridge on the planet – currently storing our wine. Our mini screen TV – but we have BBC so that is a positive! And the bathroom – hardly a room – WC – water closet? It’s smaller than the average closet. The shower is equally minuscule just to the right out of sight. 

Via Egnatia – accommodations recap

This post may be a bit boring unless you are planning to walk the Via Egnatia but Pat and I feel this is important info for anyone contemplating this challenging walk.

We are experienced walkers. We are fit women in our 60s. We are well travelled. We are not carrying a tent or sleeping mats as we have no desire to camp on this trip. These facts are the premis for the following comments about accommodations. All prices listed are per twin bed room per night.

One reason for the challenge of this new cultural route is accommodations. They not always where one might wish, based on the “walking days” described in the Via Egnatia guide book.

Durres:

We flew into Tirana and stayed in the coastal city of Durres where the walk begins. Durres is trying to be tourist friendly but is lacking. The beach front which could be lovely is filthy and in disrepair. We spent two days here to get over jet lag….but if jet lag is not an issue – don’t waste your time. There are numerous restaurants. Finding breakfast food seemed a bit challenging but if you only want strong coffee you’ll be in heaven. Milk in that coffee is the tricky bit. Hot milk is even more difficult but not impossible.

In Durres we stayed at a very nice little hotel – no breakfast, no restaurant,  just off the main square in an excellent location. Hotel Pepeto. Passible wifi in the downstairs lounge. Very thoughtful hosts. Euro 31.00 per twin room.

Memzote:

This is where the first day’s walk ends. No one claimed to have heard of the Via Egnatia. No one offered accommodation. We were however kindly driven to the highway to a underused hotel near the village of Kryeuz. We were the only guests. We ate a delicious fish dinner in solitary splendour in a run down ball room. The people there really kind. Breakfast the next morning was a dry day-old junk of bread and a very strong with no milk coffee. We could get nothing to go with that bread. It was a pretty poor start to the day’s walk. However the whole stay – room and meals was Euro 30.00 per twin room.

Peqin:

Really horrid place. After a long day we arrived to have stones thrown at us (with force and accuracy) by some ill behaved children. As we walked through this run down dirty “town” we were stared at by numerous young and older men sitting drinking in bars. There are derilict public buildings and the atmosphere was incredibly uncomfortable. A very nice German speaking police officer drove us to the delightful Hotel Maci which is 1.5 kms on the far side of town. Here we were warmly welcomed. Beware the menu items. Some things are hugly over priced. Chicken for instance cost much more than anything else and was pretty terrible. It was a tough old rooster at best. Breakfast the next morning was very sketchy – bit of stale bread and coffee. Euro 14.00 per twin room.

Broshke:

After a long boring walk – much along a railway track with garbage strewn around everywhere and hanging in trees – we arrived in Broshke. No one here seems to have heard of the Via Egnatia either. Certainly no one was offering accommodation. It was hard to find someone to even call a taxi. This was no an attractive place and was pretty  much surrounded by garbage. The cafe/bar was populated by several drunk indolent men of various ages. We did find one pleasant man who called a taxi which we took all the way to Elbasan. We were disappointed to have found no place to stay in Broshke.

Elbasen:

There are numerous hotels. We stayed in Hotel Guri right inside the south east corner of the old town walls. One of the wall towers is incorporated into the hotel’s bar. This was a great location  and there was a very nice breakfast buffet included. They were asking Euro 50.00 but we negotiated the better price for both nights. This place is quite luxurious. B&B Euro 40.00 per twin room.

Mirake:

Once again the guide book ends the walk in a place with no accommodation. We walked up the highway to the first hotel we came to – Hotel Balkan. We’d inadvertently mistaken this location for another hotel so needed to walk a bit further up a busy highway. Perhaps we would have been better off  to stay at the Balkan which was more expensive than the one we had chosen and also (according to locals) has a reputation for being involved in some way with illegal activities….. Just what is being said – we have no idea if this is true or not.

We stayed in the village of Ares at Vila Zeneli. A simple place. Comfortable but a bit run down. Dinner was OK. They seem to cater to local groups. The next morning they provided a ride up to where we joined the Via Egnatia trail again. Really kind staff and management. Went out of their way to be helpful. Locally owned which we gather the Hotel Balkan is not. Euro 30.00 per twin room.

Dardhe:

Here the guide book suggests a women’s house – non-existent when we were there – or the school floor. We aren’t carrying camping gear and the cold, cement floor was so filthy I think we would not have stayed there even if we were. We didn’t check out the possible bathroom facitlities but leave that to your imagination. There was garbage all over the place in the hallways and class room. Cold and really grim. We were told dinner of some sort would cost us Euro 15.00. Considering that we had been paying  much less – we decided to give this dump a pass. Clearly people taking advantage. We walked 3.5 kms down the hill to a delightful little hotel on the main road. Hotel Lokal Dashmash. We think this may be a chain. It’s near a village called Hotolisht. Here we we warmly welcomed and given a very nice room, very hot water in a spotless bathroom, very ample delicious dinner, more than ample breakfast and a ride back up the hill to Dardhe the next morning for Euro 30.00. A much better deal than the school floor and a questionable meal in a dismal place. The people at this little roadside hotel were also much more welcoming than the rather  flippant teenagers up in Dardhe.

Berzeshte:

Finally a day that ended as suggested in the guide book. A family that was actually prepared to host VE walkers. But! The cost of room and board at this farm is suggested in the book as being between Euros 4 to 7 per person. They tried to charge us Euro 20.00 per person. The hospitality was abysmal. The pulled out couches were damp and uncomfortable. The meal came  at 8pm and was very nice. But nothing to drink the whole time we were there except for one cup of coffee and several wee glasses of the local Raki. No water even. Bathroom so dirty we barely wanted to wash in there. A relative visiting who rifled through our things. No privacy. We went to bed in the same clothes we arrived in – damp with sweat from walking. We paid Euro 30.00 for the night including the meal. We did not stay for breakfast. This was to date the worst night of our trip. Very disappointing.

Hotel Odessa:

There’s a choice here to continue to Lin but it was pouring and windy so we stayed at this very strange – underused/unfinished – possibly with ideas of being grand – but missing the boat – roadside hotel. I think we were the only guests. There was a locked reception area. Instead one climbs some rickety industrial steps cut into the wall and ceiling behind the kitchen. Really weird. But it was comfortable and the meals were good. The water however was really cold. I don’t think there was a hot water tank! Euro 14.50 per twin room. The price was right but expect Lin might be a better option?

Sturga (now in Macedonia)

We stayed at Exclusive Apartments. The location is perfect. The place looks really run down from the outside – it’s in a big blue, with pink balconies, residential apartment building. Our first poor impression was completely wrong. We phoned the number posted above the door and in very short time a wonderful young woman – owner – showed up and let us in to a delightful purple and pink with fairy-lights apartment. Very girly. Very comfortable. A kitchenette. Little balcony, drying rack…. For this we paid Euro 32.00 per twin room. By the way we really liked Sturga. Had the best meal todate there.

Ohrid

We stayed at D’Angolo Hostel right by the main water front square. A perfect location. Very close to everything – great restaurants, the old town, the water front, pedestrian shopping streets. The only draw back was quite poor internet and filthy carpets in the room. But lots of hot water. Euro 30.00 for a twin room.

St Petra Monastery

Staying here (4.5 kms fro Ohrid) knocks that distance off the next day’s walk which is pretty demanding. This was our prettiest accommodation so far. No meals are provided and there’s no restaurant near by. We carried dinner and the next day’s breakfast and lunch with us. We took wine as well. There is a basic little kitchen – one burner and some dishes including cups for coffee (we carried instant) and glasses for wine. The rooms are spacious. The bathroom a bit dingy and down the hall. Dining areas all over the place. Views  spectacular. We spent a whole afternoon there. We highly recommend this stop. Payment is a donation. We left Euro 10.00 and this seemed well received.

Resen:

The day’s walk ends in Resen. The guide book says  there is accommodation there but none was obvious. Our impression of the place is poor as our approach is through mountains of stinking garbage. The town appears to have nothing going for it. Another walker blogged that they found no accommodation in Resen. We took a taxi 6 kms to  Carev Dvor and stayed at the Royal L Hotel. This place was fine. The water was really hot. Dinner was passable as we were hungry – the salad was really delicious! We were supposed to get breakfast but there was just instant coffee. The owner packed us a very nice lunch for the next day and charged a reasonable amount for that. Euro 31.00 for a twin room.

Trnovo

There are several places on the route at this point that have no accommodation options so we took a taxi from Carev Dvor to Sopotsko then rolled almost two days into one. Trnovo isn’t listed as a day’s end in the guide book but there is a hotel there. Turns out there are actually two hotels. Both upscale. We stayed at Sumski Feneri mentioned in the guide book and it is quite posh. The price however was very good. We paid Euro 65.00 for a twin room, a delicious substantial dinner including too much wine, and excellent breakfast.

Bitola

We are spending two nights at Via Apartments about 20 metres off the main pedestrian street, very near the town square, near numerous restaurants and practically on the VE route. This place has a lovely quiet little garden. Very hot water, excellent internet. Very pleasant woman owns this hostel. Twin room is Euro 25.00.

Will post another similar list of our Greek accommodation thoughts in due course. We hope this will be helpful to other VE walkers.