After two long and exhausting months in rainy and not so warm Prague, the day of our departure was finally here! We kept our resolution from our last trips (“No way we are bringing this much stuff next time!”) and managed to cut the luggage in half, freeing not only our car’s roof but also the view through the rear window. Our next destination? Lefkada, Greece. The reasons are pretty obvious – Mediterranean Sea, reliable wind and tons of sunshine. This is just what we need after the “cold” winter and spring.
To make the long drive bearable, we split it into five days.
First Stop: Kerekegyháza
Leaving Prague on Saturday turned out to be really smart. We literally zoomed through Czech highways and nothing could ruin our great mood; not even the mean old witch that refused to sell us a vignette for Hungarian highways! After the first 650 km we ended in a cosy apartment in Hungarian countryside (found via Airbnb). Our bodies were screaming for some exercise so the kids got their scooters out and all of us went to explore the little village. Oh, the treasures we found! I am not exaggerating when I say that every single house in this place has a cherry or sour cherry tree in the front yard! Tired, but happy and with our bellies stuffed it was time to go to bed and energize for the next day.
Second Stop: Dolna Matka
As soon as we entered Serbia we were surprised how the quality of roads deteriorated but that was the only downside to this leg of our journey. What we saw from the car was pretty amazing and we promised ourselves to definitely visit Serbia sometime in the future. Macedonia seems to be a country of contrasts. Dirty and old looking villages, dusty roads and beautiful nature and mosques that look like they have been built yesterday. The place we rented via Airbnb from a Dutch guy named Peter was pretty sweet and it was just a few steps from Matka Canyon (near Skopje). Honestly, the first thing that crossed our minds right when we saw that place was that we should have done our research and stayed longer. As there was so much to see and no time to waste we grabbed a dinner in a near fish restaurant (the food was nice but the staff was so weird!) and went for a nice evening walk along the river.
Thank goodness our next stop was only five hours away so we got up early and went to explore this natural beauty one more time. The kiddos insisted on scooters but pretty soon we had to leave them behind as the hike involved some rock climbing. Due to the lack of time, we only hiked a few kilometers but made ourselves another promise – next time for longer and with paddle boards. The drive to Greece was uneventful apart from the surprising incident at the Macedonian-Greek borders when one of the Macedonian customs officers made a poor Dutch old couple give up two bags of cookies as a bribe. 😀
Third Stop: Meteora
It felt surprisingly exciting to be back on EU grounds. Our first impression of Greece? Superb! We stopped for gas and were greeted by extremely friendly and English speaking people who could prepare coffee like professional baristas! The place we were staying at was a small hotel in Kastraki village and was right at the bottom of the famous rocks. Let me tell you that after all these wonderful apartments, sleeping in a hotel room felt a bit cramped. But hey, we can do this for two days :). The hotel restaurant was pretty decent and after a quick dinner we headed out to explore again. Well, so much for exploring… We ended at a playground that was like 223 meters from the hotel. Half an hour into the kids playing it started to rain cats and dogs. While we took a shelter in a nearby shed the kids were running and jumping and splashing and trying to get as wet as possible.
Having only one full day in Meteora, the plans for the next day were rather obvious – visiting a monastery the Greeks built on top of a rock due to the lack of space in the valley (and they repeated it 23 more times until all the rocks were taken). The hike from Kalambaka was pretty easy and only took us two hours (one which was spent by trying to persuade Maya to stop crying and finally start walking). Walking the remaining 100 steps to the monastery in hot weather was a “piece of cake” (a very melting cake), but we did it and it was worth it!
We felt like proper tourists because before we left for Lefkada, we hopped in the car and drove up to the St. Stephen monastery and visited a few other vistas because the views are simply breathtaking. The drive to our final destination only took 3 hours and we were rewarded by an amazing view of the sea and a refreshing swim. But to hear about that you’ll have to wait for our next post.