03 December 2019 | Bristol - 8,443 NM
05 November 2019 | Mytilini - 8,443 NM
18 October 2019 | Mytilini, Lesbos - 8,413 NM
11 October 2019 | Molyvos, Lesbos - 8,379 NM
04 October 2019 | Porto Lagos - 8,263 NM
02 October 2019 | Porto Lagos - 8,263 NM
22 September 2019 | Ormos Eleftheriou - 8,210NM
18 September 2019 | Thassos - 8,190 NM
09 September 2019 | Marini, Lemnos - 8,123 NM
02 September 2019 | Sigri, Lesvos - 8,049 NM
19 May 2019 | Mytilini, Lesvos - 7,977 NM
12 May 2019 | Skala Polikintiou - 7,936 NM
05 May 2019 | Moudrou, Limnos - 7,847 NM
17 April 2019 | Skala Loutra, Lesbos - 7,722 NM
09 April 2019 | Skala Loutra, Lesbos - 7,722 NM
06 April 2019 | Chios Town, Chios - 7,673 NM
28 March 2019 | Lakki, Leros - 7,573 NM
2019 by the numbers
03 December 2019 | Bristol - 8,443 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Cold and Sunny
Eighth year of cruising completed. This year’s numbers are:
Nautical miles travelled: 880 NM (Total of 8,443 since leaving home)
Number of ports of call: 38
Total time at sea: 6 Days, 11 hours
Longest single passage: 79 NM (14 hours 55 minutes)
Average passage length: 23.2 NM
I don’t want to alarm you but......
05 November 2019 | Mytilini - 8,443 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Windy
We had 10 days in Mytilini before our visitors arrived. We spent the time being very sociable with our fellow yachties. As well as Gordon and Louise on Camira we were joined by Edward on Windhoos from the Netherlands and Uva from Germany. A few bleary mornings were testament to the good nights had by all!
It became apparent that we could not get the new foil for the foresail before going home and so the riggers returned to refit the forestay as we couldn't leave the the rig held up by the spinnaker halyard all winter. We've ordered the parts and will fit them in the spring. We then started working down our winter decommissioning list. All this as the lovely sunshine held and we hoped it would continue for a little longer......
Tasha and Maddy arrived late on Sunday night leaving just enough time for a glass of wine and some supper while they settled in onboard. Monday in Greece was Oki Day - a national holiday celebrating when Greece said no to Italy moving into Greece during WWll. All over the country it's celebrated with parades of school children, clubs and armed forces. We watched it all from Mytilini harbour. We then walked to the other side of town and found the perfect table by the sea for lunch. Unfortunately lunch didn't live up to expectations as we waited forever and even then only half of it arrived before we gave up, paid for what we'd had and left! We walked back around the castle and had ice cream on the harbour.
Tasha and Maddy wanted to go sailing. Unfortunately there was no wind and, of course, we only had one sail but we could still give them a flavour. We left for Scala Loutra in the morning, raised the mainsail and left our visitors to helm along the coast. We dropped the anchor in a lovely, sheltered bay for lunch and a swim. It was a bit chilly so late in the year but we (not Paul!) had a lovely swim and snorkel in the turquoise, crystal clear water. Tasha was first out and while looking down from the deck she uttered the now forever immortal words "I don't want to alarm you but.....
there's something very large with a fin swimming towards you"! Maddy almost levitated back on board leaving me to follow behind. But there really was a shark in the water! It was 2-3 metres long and patrolling the fish farms looking for lunch. Tasha, Paul and I were really excited - Maddy wasn't so impressed! After lunch we went through the beautiful channel further into Kolpas Yaras to Scala Loutra where we moored stern-to on the quay. That night we had a delicious dinner in the taverna.
The next morning we walked around the village and up to the "Mama Mia" style church high on the hill above the bay. Our walk then took us through the lanes and olive groves to the village of Loutra a mile or so inland. On the way back to Mytilini we dropped anchor in "shark bay" (hoping to get some pictures). The shark didn't make an appearance but regardless of this Maddy still didn't seem too keen on swimming.
For the next day our plan was to take a day trip to Turkey which is only a 1.5 hour ferry ride away. As it entailed an early start, Paul walked round to the travel agent to buy the tickets. We had done some checking and were told all we needed were our passports, no visas or the like. But no such luck. It turns out that a minor (under 18) can only travel to Turkey, on this day trip at least, if they are accompanied by both their parents or a solicitors letter giving permission. As we only had one parent and no letter our day trip was off.
The weather let us down the next day. We drove up the east coast of Lesbos stopping at the Roman aqueduct, pretty spots on the coast, the monastery with the fighter plane outside and then up in to the hills along north coast where we had lovely views. Unfortunately it was very chilly and we found a beautiful taverna with spectacular views just as it began to rain - food was delicious though. We headed back to Mytilini and explored the shops in the rain!
Luckily the sun returned the next day as we headed for the fairytale town of Molyvos. On route we stopped at a lovely monastery with lots of cats for Maddy to cuddle, which was a theme of the holiday. In Molyvos we walked up through the narrow streets to the castle before stopping for lunch with a view over the bay and then down to the pretty port. Finally, we stopped at Petra to see the old town and the church on its rock pinnacle in the middle of town.
We tried to watch the rugby world cup final in the marina cafe over breakfast but we were disappointed to discover it wasn't broadcast in Greece! Breakfast was good though. In the afternoon we sat on the beach and had a final swim before Tasha and Maddy headed home early the next morning. A great week, over way too quickly!
We had 2 days to complete our decommissioning and get Freya lifted before flying home for the winter. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was showing heavy winds and the lift was looking very doubtful. The next morning, the wind had picked up and a southerly swell was building. About 9.00 am we found Jorgos in the boatyard and he said we were on for the lift despite the 1-2m swell running across the harbour mouth but luckily it was a bit less by the haul-out quay. We were more than a little apprehensive but we moved the boat around as requested. Our next job was to loosen the backstay holding up the mast so it didn't foul the crane's sling. We have never been lifted by crane before and the 20 - 25kt winds made it even more scary. But after a couple of hours Freya was finally safely ashore in her cradle. From now on when selecting a boatyard for our winter haul out we will look for a travel-lift. They seem to be much safer and faster.
After a night ashore, we caught an early morning flight to Bristol via Athens and will return to Freya in the spring, perhaps a little late than usual as we are spending a month in Antarctica over Christmas this winter.
Overnight to Molyvos
18 October 2019 | Mytilini, Lesbos - 8,413 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Sunny and Still
Our overnight passage was beautiful. We left Samothraki just before 5.00 pm to do 78 miles ensuring we arrived in daylight. The sea was totally flat and we had a gentle breeze allowing the main to give us a bit of assistance. The moon was almost full and already rising as we left and it lit our way until 4.00 in the morning when it was replaced by millions of spectacular stars. Paul spotted a few shooting stars as well and even had a visit from a couple of dolphins in the dark. We arrived in Molyvos on Lesbos at about 7.30 am and found plenty of room on the quay where we managed to moor stern-to with Paul getting a line through a mooring ring from the boat and then climbing up a tyre onto the quay to attach the second line. Tea, showers and breakfast were very welcome and when Louise and Gordon, with Lily (cat) on Camira got up they brought their morning coffee to join us and catch up. We were feeling remarkably awake and so went to explore the lovely old town with its steep, narrow, winding streets full of shops and bars. It wasn't long before we were flagging however and we headed back towards Freya having lunch on the quay for a snooze. The snooze had to wait though as the port police had been and wanted us all to move to the end of the quay as they had a big boat coming in. Two stern-to moorings in one day after very little sleep seemed a bit much but we duly obliged before eventually getting our snooze which was just as well as we were joined by 2 charter yachts with British crews on holiday and the evening turned out to be very sociable! The big boat never materialised!
We went to Molyvos with Dee and Kevin in a hire car in the spring and it absolutely poured with rain to the extent that we couldn't see anything or enjoy it. We simply got back in the car and left! How different it was this time. In the morning we could see the medieval town in all its glory and we headed back into town and right to the top to visit the Byzantine/Ottoman/Genoese castle with its stunning views of the town and bays on both sides. We were just leaving when we found Gordon on a shopping trip and looking for an Ouzery he'd found before. It would've been rude not to join him and so we joined the search and eventually found the bar on a little back street. It was very basic but with lovely views and we had the ouzo mezze without the ouzo which was delicious even though it included snails and was just 3€ each. After a little more exploring we had a snooze before dinner in a lovely taverna in town with Louise and Gordon.
Just along the coast from Molyvos is the old town of Petra which is now surrounded by a modern holiday resort. The easiest way to get there was on the "wally trolley" (tourist train) which was a very bumpy ride along the cobbled streets but we were lucky as it was their last day of the season. We'd also stopped here in the rain earlier in the year and so it was lovely to explore the old town including the church perched on a rocky pinnacle in the middle of town and the Vareltzidaina mansion built in the late 18th century in the Ottoman style with vaulted ceilings and beautiful frescoes. On the return journey we got off at the beach and sat for a while - the temptation was too much for me and I had a lovely swim across the bay and back to Freya. As Paul walked back he was persuaded by a friendly taverna owner on the quay that we would really like to eat at his place that evening - another lovely dinner with Louise and Gordon.
Having really enjoyed Molyvos out of season, it was time to move on and we selected an anchorage 17 miles away on the East coast of Lesvos, Palios. It was beautiful and I enjoyed a lovely swim in the turquoise water where there were few fish but lovely yellow coral growing on the rocks before a spectacular full moon appeared. In the morning we rowed ashore and walked through olive groves around the shore to an area covered in tombs which had been carved out of the rock. Interesting but we couldn't find any information about them. We went to visit Camira on the way back - Paul rowing and me swimming. When we'd arrived in the bay Gordon had been worried about a strange noise coming from the engine. He now knew an engine mount had sheered. Paul went back to Freya to collect bits of wood and between them they propped the engine up. We left for Mytilini going slowly and following Camira in case the problem worsened. After about four hours we were back safe in the marina where Camira needed an engineer and we needed a rigger to sort our genoa.
The rigger duly arrived the next day and the forestay was dismantled. It appears it hadn't been fitted correctly 3 years ago in Italy, with glue and screws missing. We need new parts from Harken which have been ordered but in the meantime our rig is held up by the spinnaker halyard!
11 October 2019 | Molyvos, Lesbos - 8,379 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Warm and Sunny
It was time to start heading south and back to Lesvos for the winter. We left Porto Lagos having really enjoyed our few days, there even though it felt as we left as soon as we’d arrived. 37 miles away was our next stop, Samothraki. A small island made of a large chunk of marble a long way from anywhere else. On our last passage we’d unfurled the Genoa to find a big greasy splodge in the middle surrounding a tear in the sail! Further investigation found the foil (around which the sail furls) had come apart causing the damage. The forecast gave calm winds and relatively flat seas for our journey which worked well as we would only be able to use the main - and the engine. It started well but we soon had a 2 metre swell and over 20 kt winds! It was a really rolly and uncomfortable trip which seemed endless. Although we did have a pod of dolphins come to play in the middle with several babies - always makes you smile! With about 2 hours to go we noticed a loud clonking noise coming from the binnacle where the steering cables are housed which we think was caused by Flossy (autopilot) trying to hold course in the rough sea resulting in some erratic movements on the wheel. We manually steered for the remaining journey and all was fine but we would need to investigate before moving on. We moored side-to, all alone, on the quay in the capital Kamariotissa which, from the boat, looks lovely nestled under the mountain. When Paul did his arrival checks he concluded that we are using lots more diesel than usual - possibly Freya’s dirty bottom and prop or maybe something else to investigate! We think Freya is very unhappy about something........
We toured Samothraki in a battered hire car for 2 days. It’s a very different Greek island. There is only 1 road almost circumnavigating it as the island is mostly a mountain 1,611m high which falls away into the sea. It’s also a very green island - which means a fair amount of rain and lots of streams and waterfalls coming off of the mountain - and across the 1 road. As we drove around there were large sections of the road missing, washed away, with off-road diversions in place. In other places there were small landslides to be avoided, rubble all over the road from gentler hills and fords. We understood why our car was battered and the hire company weren’t interested in it’s bumps! On the first day we went north and started at The Sanctuary of the Great Gods, the ruins of a mystery cult whose initiation rites promised divine protection and the opportunity to become a better person than ever you were before! Just hand over some money and the priests would sort it. The site was fascinating with all the various rooms for different parts of the initiation although a good imagination was necessary. We then headed to the end of the road at the far east of the island where our little map told us there was a beach - lunch we thought. We found a huge rocky beach in a spectacular location but nothing else apart from a few hippies camping - no lunch. Our other discovery was that the island is very sparsely populated as we’d only passed 1 village, Loutra, aka Therma, because of its hot springs. We headed back to find lunch. It was a very pretty village and had the feel of a backpacker destination in South East Asia and it also had a hippy commune adding to a very relaxed atmosphere. Unfortunately it was closed and it took us some time to find a restaurant that was open for lunch but it certainly looked closed with leaves all over the terrace and tatty tables scattered around but we had a very nice lunch on our own. There were signposts around the village for waterfalls and so we went for a very pretty walk but failed miserably! Back in the car we headed back to signs we’d seen earlier but still failed. Back to the village we drove around the very narrow roads again and out of the village until we eventually found, we think, the Ghria Vathra Canyon which was stunningly beautiful like something out of the Lord of the Rings, with huge gnarled and hollow plane trees covered in moss and a stream tumbling over rocks and boulders. We walked up the gorge clambering over rocks to find rock pools - with naked hippies - and waterfalls. Then back again to the village for a dip in the hot springs - more naked hippies - where we arrived just as others were leaving and enjoyed a lovely warm soak while looking over the mountains and sea.
On the 2nd day we started in Chora, the capital of the island with a Byzantine/Genoan castle perched on the top. This was obviously closed, as it was Monday, but we thought we could probably see most of it from outside and could certainly enjoy the views. The village was beautiful spread over the hillside with narrow streets and terracotta roofs. There was very little open apart from a few cafes but we enjoyed exploring before coffee in the cafe that boasted the best views in Chora. Next came the south of the island and again the promise of a beach at the end of the road but this time there were signs for a taverna. The beach was huge, white and sandy - lovely - but the taverna was closed! On the way back we explored a couple of hillside villages in the hope of lunch and eventually found a locals cafe. The lady came out and sat at our table to explain what she had while Paul translated - she gave me a hug when I understood loukanika, Greek sausages! Lunch was fine but the experience was lovely. Our final stop was the huge sand spit sticking out on the west of the island. By then it was very windy but we had a quick walk and found an old radio station which presumably kept the island in touch pre modern communication. The spit was just odd stuck on the end of a mountain sticking out of the sea. We filled up our diesel cans on our way back so that we were ready for the next stage of our journey and returned our car, had a drink by the port and a walk around town before returning to the boat and battened down the hatches as the wind built for the next storm.
The storm grew over night with Paul needing to go out and rescue the Bimini just after midnight luckily before the rain joined in - I slept and didn’t even notice! Later the rain came too and waves started breaking over the wall covering the boat in posidonia grass. By this time it was all very loud and even I was awake! But in the morning it was all still and totally silent with no damage done. Our job for the day was to look at the clonk in the steering. We thought the cables were a little lose and so tightened them and greased everything but all looked fine. After turning the wheel this way and that then doing it much harder we realised the clonk was coming when the wheel reached its limit with a jolt when Flossy was struggling. Hopefully all sorted we went for a walk and a coffee, returned to the boat for lunch and then prepared for our next passage. After much debate we had decided an overnight sail back to Lesbos made most sense.
04 October 2019 | Porto Lagos - 8,263 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Thunder and Lightening
Our first night back in Kavala turned out to be very long! One of the big ferries arrived shortly after us which isn't normally a problem but it clearly wasn't going anywhere soon but kept his engine running all night. Added to that the whole fishing fleet must've returned for the weekend passing very close to Freya and our beds. The big ferry left in the early hours - phew! - except an equally big one arrived shortly after and seemed to be dropping his anchor on us! Not a lot of sleep was had! Saturday was market day in Kavala and we love a good market and so undeterred we had to go - it turned out to be right beside the harbour and so we didn't have far to go. It was an excellent market if very crowded with lots of locals in 'bubble' mode but we returned with bags full of fresh goodies to last us a while.
There was one more place we had to visit near Kavala and that was Fillipi, a Greco/Roman city built on the one built by Phillip of Macedon, Alexander the Great's father. We caught the bus for the half hour journey which was well worth it - we do like a good pile of old stones! The site was huge and will get bigger as more parts are being uncovered. There is so much history here - St Paul visited and created the first Christian church in Europe. He was also arrested and the cell he was held in is still standing - outside of which a group of American gospel singers worshipped! There were very impressive roads, with drainage, which are part of the Via Egnatia linking Constantinople to Rome plus a huge basilica and an octagonal church with mosaic floors as well as the usual streets, agora and houses. We spent a couple of hours exploring and imagining life there 2,000 years ago and followed it with a fish lunch in the taverna in the village.
We left in the morning and motored in zero wind 15 miles to Keramoti which was very pleasant but is primarily a holiday resort full of modern apartments and tavernas which were closing for the winter. It did have a spectacular wide sandy beach with shallow, turquoise, warm water though. This is another ferry port for Thassos and so another early morning as the ferries and fishing fleet started work! As there is no wind which makes journeys very boring we're doing short hops along the coast. Next was Advera another 15 miles away which has more ruins. This area is the delta for the Nesta river which spreads over a huge area making the sea very shallow. When we arrived we found we had to anchor almost a mile from shore and even then with only 1.5m of water under us and the depth alarm continually complaining! We could see the ruins on the hill and another village of modern apartments and decided a mile was too much effort and satisfied ourselves with a very nice lunch bobbing at anchor looking at the sparse ruins through the binoculars! We've been a little disappointed with this coast as we were expecting it to be less developed but apart from the cities we've found soulless modern developments. We then lifted the anchor and did another 10 miles to Porto Lagos.
Porto Lagos is a very sheltered lagoon entered via a long a narrow channel around a sand spit. Once in, we surveyed the big quay for somewhere to moor. There was a large area with tyre fenders clearly for something bigger than us, probably the boats collecting wheat, there was a large section with a few fishing boats with nets piled in between them and so probably not for us and then a few yachts and spaces with lines attached which also looked occupied. We opted for one of those not knowing whether we'd be moved on or not and moored stern-to. We set off to explore thinking that we'd be here for a few days as storms were coming. We thought we may hire a car and explore the wider area which included a huge lake which is again part of the river Nestos delta - not a chance! It felt like a ghost town! The streets were deserted. A third of properties were derelict, another third were for sale and empty and the rest didn't look very inviting. To complete the picture there were a number of (friendly) dogs roaming the streets, but did they like to "sing" in the evenings. There was one taverna, one bar, one betting shop (essential!) and a very small mini market. We asked in the shop and bar but neither had a clue about buses to the nearest town, Xanthi, and the bus stop didn't have a timetable only graffiti. We debated whether to move on quickly but really wanted to explore the lake and so after much debate we decided to stay although feeling a little trapped in zombie land.
As we were staying a few days, mains electricity would make life more comfortable so off Paul went to the Port Office for the electric card and to pay our mooring fees. Their card machine was broken and uniquely for Greece they wouldn't take cash. So no electric and come back later to pay for the mooring. On his next visit still no way to pay, but a chat with the boatyard saw us sorted for electric at no charge. The following day he tried again, no card machine and was told that as the office would be closed for the next 3 days, he must go the bank in the next village 20km away to pay. He reminded her we came by boat and had no car and with no more buses that wasn't possible. Ah she said, but you must pay today. Paul offered cash again. No, not possible she said. Stalemate. Then he was told the port police would be after us if we tried to leave without paying. Paul offered cash again. Not possible she said. After an hour of this a solution was found. Paul gave some cash to a passing local who he was assured would pay the money into a bank for us. The port office and the port police were happy so Paul left thinking "Only in Greece". That afternoon we got an email receipt for the payment so we needn't have worried.
In the morning we set off to find the lake not sure how far it was or if we needed bikes but we needn't have worried as after a 20 minute walk through the village and along a dust track we were on the shores with mountains towering on the far side and millions of birds of all sizes. We walked along the shore (passing all the rubbish!) and crossed a bridge over an outlet spotting large creatures swimming beside us. It took sometime for us to realise they were crabs with one hugely oversized claw and smaller blue ones which they were flapping wildly to swim. Amazing, we'd never seen anything like it. We found a beach completely made of shells and sat down to watch the birds. There were cormorants sitting on poles which they evicted terns and gulls from, several sorts of herons, greater and little egrets, grebes (I think) and lots of huge pelicans as well as millions of LBJs darting around the reeds. As we sat quietly they got closer and closer and so we sat for an hour or so sharing their world. It was very special. Walking back we followed the outlet to the sea where we could see the muddy waters of the delta mixing with the blue sea and found a bonus - lots of flamingos paddling on the beach!
The next day we were expecting the rain to start and so went for a walk in the morning around the lake in the other direction. We found ourselves on the main road which wasn't great but as it wasn't too busy we carried on and could see a monastery on two islands in the lake. It was a beautiful spot and again we enjoyed being twitchers for a while. After coffee in what was now our regular bar (the only bar!) we went back to the boat to have lunch and await the rain - but it never came. Later we did a smaller preamble around the spit of land separating the lagoon from the sea which is covered in pine trees. It was another lovely walk but so much rubbish everywhere! When we reached the beach the flamingos weren't there and so I guess we were lucky the day before. The day finished with a very nice dinner in the taverna but we were the only customers and come 8.30 they were clearly waiting to close and so we went to the bar where there were 2 old men watching the football. They left at about 9.30 and again, we felt we were outstaying out welcome. Home to bed then.......
The storm definitely arrived the next day with amazing thunder and lightening. A day of boat chores and blog catching up.
A bus trip to Thessaloniki
02 October 2019 | Porto Lagos - 8,263 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Hot and Still
A very pleasant 20 NM downwind motorsail past a couple of oil rigs took us to Ormos Eleftheriou. We had to come here as it’s Rita’s (Paul’s sister) family name. It’s a beautiful, big horseshoe shaped bay with small islands dotted about it, a few smaller bays plus a castle and sandy beaches. After dropping the anchor in a sheltered bay we went ashore which was a bit disappointing as it’s a modern resort full of modern apartments and trendy bars where they served us the most expensive drinks we’ve had in the Aegean! Pleasant but nothing interesting but we had a nice peaceful night even though we’re next to a big fishing port.
After breakfast we moved 1.5 miles to the other, less sheltered, side of the bay and anchored below the castle. We paddled ashore in the dinghy and climbed the hill to the entrance. It was free but there wasn’t a lot left apart from the walls but atmospheric nonetheless in its position on the side of the hill. Back to the boat for coffee before motoring (not even a hint of wind!) 7 miles to Kavala port. Kavala is a sizeable city on the coast of mainland Greece with a lot of history. We moored alongside on a long pontoon with views of the citadel and aqueduct - lovely. A short walk before dinner found a clean, tidy and maintained waterside with everything we need close by although our drinks were even more expensive than the last ones!
More exploring in the morning took us around the port to the huge aqueduct which looks authentically Roman but was actually built by the Ottomans in the Roman style and on the site of a Roman one. It is spectacular whoever built it! Next we wound up the steep narrow streets of the old town to the castle on the top for amazing views of the city below and over to Thassos. The citadel has been rebuilt many times over the years. Most of what can be seen today is Ottoman but remains from Greek and Roman periods can be seen below. Going down the other side of the hill through the old town there is the house of Mohamed Ali who ruled in the Ottoman period and a palace which is now a hotel which looks amazing from the boat. Both are open to the public but closed the day we were there!
Thessalonika is only 2 hours from Kavala by bus but much further by sea. We decided to go by bus as the end of summer was approaching and we really wanted to see Greece’s second city and so we were up early in the morning and off to the bus station. It was a lovely journey across the top of the three fingers of Halkidiki and passing lakes which seem to almost cut them off altogether. We managed to find our hotel on public transport which was lovely and although there were lots of other hotels in the area we weren’t sure why as it wasn’t convenient for anything! We walked miles around grimey, crowded, congested, manic streets but it was very interesting - a bit like Rome there are ruins around every corner. It has so much history and so many different cultures. We knew that Larry and Linda (without Debbie who’d gone home) were there and so we arranged to meet them on our first evening and had a lovely meal in a pedestrian, trendy area near the docks filled with bars and tavernas.
First stop the next morning was the White Tower, the symbol of Thessaloniki. On the way we walked through shopping areas, wonderful markets and the grand Aristotle Square. We were a little underwhelmed by the remaining tower but there were boat trips around the harbour in various reconstructions of old ships - and free for the price of an overpriced drink but still a bargain. We boarded our galleon and it was a very pleasant hour and a chance to see the city skyline from the sea. There is a city tour bus run by the bus company charging 2€ right next to the usual red buses charging a lot more. It was a long way up to the castle and so we found the bus stop at 1.50 and found the bus was due at 2.00 - perfect. 20 minutes later we were still there, ummm. 40 minutes later and we were still there and having not had lunch we thought we’d give up and we negotiated 2 busy roads of manic traffic only to see the bus stopped at the traffic lights - we took our life in our hands to retrace our steps only to sit on the bus until 3.00! The tour was awful with the conductor reading from a guide book and talking over the top of a recording which came in between his ramblings in part sentences and neither made sense! Anyway we got to the top of the city and to the citadel where we started with a much needed souvlaki lunch. Walking up through the old town we came to the castle which was an interesting star shape and was used as a prison until the 1980s. Walking back down we had great views all over the city and bay as we followed the city walls stopping to visit a few churches on route. We are a bit churched out but there were some beautiful Byzantine churches in the city. By the time we got back to the bottom everything was closing and we were exhausted and so we walked back to our hotel and collapsed with a bottle of wine and peanuts from the mini bar!
In the morning we continued our tour with the Byzantine church of St Dimitrios built in the 7th century and held a relic of the saint in a silver casket. It was a beautiful church but also had a much older crypt underneath holding pillars, fonts etc from a previous age. Next was the Rotunda built in 306AD and very similar to the Pantheon in Rome - amazing that the whole building is still standing and it’s been in constant use all of that time. Close by was the triumphal arch of Galerius which celebrated his victories with carvings clearly still visible and led to his palace and the Rotunda. And finally the ruins of the palace itself surrounded by the modern high rise apartments! There was much more including the ruins of the huge Roman agora but too much to include - a fascinating city if a bit to manic after life on the islands. Time to get the bus back to a Kavala.
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