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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.