Kalimera, readience! Yours faithfully returned from a great vacation in Greece with Mr. Betterhalf a few days ago and is tanned, happy and relaxed! What started off as a trip without any expectations other than good weather and some peace on the beach turned out to be a fantastic experience with great landscape, interesting history and a newly awoken interest in the country!
The trip started with me running into a guy I had last seen in primary school – he happened to be on the same plane to Thessaloniki, but he was headed to the opposite direction of the Chalkidiki. Everything worked out great: the flight was calm, our luggage arrived safely with us and the transfer worked out fine! We shared the bus with some of the typical German tourists though (well, I suppose, they are the same everywhere, the problem is, you understand what they say!), the ones that start complaining instantly: “Jeez, nothing is in German here!!” “Well, news flash: You are in another country with a different alphabet!!” We arrived at the hotel in the late afternoon. There we learned that we got an upgrade for some unknown reason (maybe just because we deserved it!) – instead of the normal double room we got a bungalow! Sea view, huge terrace, 20 metres to the beach! Here is my first view from our place:
Ouranoupoli is a very special place. Located on the third of the “three fingers” of Chalkidiki, it is the last secular place before the Holy Mount Athos. The landscape you see on your way to Ouranoupoli from Thessaloniki is fantastic: olive trees, lemon trees, plants that look like heather on the various hills. The town is 2330 years old and was founded by Alexarchos who believed himself to be Helios, God of the Sun. You have to think big, don’t you!
The weather was great on most days, so we spent a lot of time on the beach! This is usually not my favourite type of vacation, but both Mr. Betterhalf and I had been so stressed over the past few months, that it seemed like heaven to just lie there reading or looking at the sea. The water is crystal clear with fish even on the shore and it is refreshing and great to swim in! From our beach we looked at the uninhabited “Donkey Islands” and at the small island of Ammouliani.
On the one cloudy day, Mr. Betterhalf and I decided to take a boat cruise to and around Mount Athos. It is fascinating and so not appropriate at the same time! This “Monk Republic” belongs to Greece, but its status is autonomous. Legend has it that Athos the giant threw a rock at Poseidon, the God of the Sea, and the rock became Athos. Another legend reports that Poseidon threw a rock at the giant. Whatever happened, today we have Mount Athos, an important holy place for the orthodox Christians.
On Athos, there are 20 monasteries. In addition to the over 2000 monks that live there, there are “secular” inhabitants as well: customs officers, police men, shop owners and the like – male only! Now this is the freaky part about Athos: only men are allowed on the mountain, and women must not get any closer than 500 metres on the boat! They do not even allow female animals (and I do not even want to think about why!) apart from cats. Athos is said to be Mother of God’s garden. Mary is the highest saint of the orthodox church and is the only accepted woman on the mountain. It is also said that through her, all women are present anyways. *choke*
Male pilgrims are allowed to enter Mount Athos. Male civilians can get a four-day visa. They must change the monastery every night though! Because of the pilgrim deal, Ouranoupoli is full of monks. Your usual hooded monks would have freaked me out (honestly, I suffer from Hooded-Monk-Phobia), but the orthodox monks wear hats instead. They are walking the streets at all times, most of them being from Russia, Serbia or Romania. Every day, boats bring them to the sanctuary.
The only souvenirs you can buy are various icons (made by the monks of Mount Athos), crosses of all sizes and dresses that look like the ones that the Pope wears! Unfortunately I was not able to convince Mr. Betterhalf to enter a shop and try one of these on 🙂
The very holy situation in Ouranoupoli prevents the place from the usual partying and drinking tourists, which is a good thing in my opinion. If you are looking for peace and quiet, you will find it in Ouranoupoli. There are plenty of restaurants and taverns, and if you love to eat fish, you will be in heaven. The sunsets are marvellous and the landscape is mind-soothing. It is a very unique experience, and I am curious to visit the other “fingers” of Chalkidiki some day!
Yours truly, madly, deeply!
All photos used in this blog are mine unless stated otherwise. Feel free to use them if you like, but be decent and link to this site!