Serene, isn’t it? I was curious to see a little of the Greek mainland. Yet of all our Greek holidays, like this photo, it’s a little hazy in my memory.
Halkidiki (though I rather like the silent C) is the distinctive-looking three-pronged peninsula in the north of Greece. Our base was at the tiny resort, Polichrono, on the third “prong” known as Kassandra.
The sheltered beaches of the most westerly peninsula were quite popular at that time, the main resort being Hanioti. Popular was not what I was looking for, and the peaceful sandy beach at Polichrono was timeless in its appeal. I planned, of course, to visit Sithonia, the middle “prong”, and hopefully Thessalonika. The third “prong”, Agion Oros, with its mysterious monasteries, was only accessible by ferry and with special permit. A ferry ride was always on my list.
For 2 year old James, life was a beach. With the purchase of a large green crocodile, he sealed the friendship of a lovely blonde mop-headed little boy called Kirk. Not in the least shy and very adept in the water, Kirk led the exploits, grappling with the croc. Land-based, their activities included constructing a huge, sand Tracey Island (for Thunderbirds fans everywhere) with a little engineering help from Michael. Sometimes, while Dad worked, the boys drifted off to play with the Lego pirates, or Stingray- another favourite.
After a few days of lazy sunshine, the urge to travel was with me again, and we signed up for a coach tour of Sithonia. An early start, in ‘jamas, was becoming the norm. The scenery was pretty along the coast of Kassandra, becoming more dramatic as we rounded the curve to travel down the western shore of the middle “prong”.
Neos Marmaras made a sunny, pleasant, coffee stop, then on to some castle ruins at Toroni, and up the east coast of Sithonia. A series of lovely bays, a lunch stop at Sarti then heading back, it was a bit of a marathon day.
Naturally, beach time followed, and to my dismay the prospect of a trip to Thessalonika was vetoed. Still, I had one more treat to come. Mount Athos was an intriguiging destination.
Yet another World Heritage Site, Mount Athos, the “Holy Mountain”, is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries. The number of daily visitors to Mount Athos is restricted, and all are required to obtain a special entrance permit. Residents must be males over the age of 18, and must be either monks or workers. Women are expressly prohibited from entering the territory, known as the “Garden of the Virgin” by the monks. Quite sensibly, the reason for the prohibition is to make living in celibacy easier for those who have chosen to do so. Knowing that I was forbidden entry didn’t spoil my day out.
The enormous ferry, complete with swimming pool, set sail from lovely Chroussos Bay. 3 and a half hours at sea passed surprisingly quickly, especially the last half hour, spent looking out for 8 of the monasteries perched along the coast. Ouranoupolis was a pretty little spot for lunch and a paddle, before the shorter, more direct sailing homewards, excitingly accompanied by dolphins.
And so, another chapter in my Greek odyssey comes to a close. I’m leaving you with a calm Halkidiki sunset.
Just one last Greek story to tell. Can you guess which island I’m going to next?