Four Pearls of GB: Windsor-Cambridge-Richmond-Oxford

Windsor

Windsor is a historical town on river Thames,  34 km West of London, where one of the summer Palaces of the Royal Family is.  First settlement around this town is reported to be in Bronze Age and like other neighbouring places, it went under the rules of Romans and Anglo-Saxons. The Royal Castle was built  about a decade after the “Norman Invasion” which took place in year 1066, and commanded by William the 2.nd, who was a Norman. Today, the castle is still being used by the Royal Family during weekends and for great gatherings on weekdays.  The Windsor Bridge is the first bridge built on the river Thames.  Black Death in 1348 has influenced the town and reduced the population by almost fifty percent.

In the 15.th Century, the castle became a center of Pilgrimage, therefore many resources have been used to develope and  maintain the town.  In 1992,  some parts of the castle have been burnt down with the fire, later it has been reconstructed and re-opened to the  service, as well as to the tourism.  There are many luxury and expensive houses in and around the town which attract the attention of the visitors.

Windsor is an extremely recommended  venue for travellers and history chasers,  where the Castle can be visited,  nice spots of the town can be discovered and some time at the cafes or nearby restaurants can be spent in one day…

Cambridge

Cambridge is a University town with some 150,000 inhabitants, 50 miles North-East of London. There are archeological findings evidencing that first settlements were here in Bronze Age. Town was ruled by the Romans and  Vikings  while becoming a developed trade center of the region.  Cambridge is well known by the “Cambridge University”, which was established in 1209, and today  became a center of High Technology.

Town was ruled by the Saxons, after Romans and the river passing through the town which was known as  “Granta” , was later named as  “Cam”. Vikings have come in 875 and in the following years town has developed rapidly. In 1068  William has ordered a castle to be built. In 1349, town was affected by the “black death”. During the Second World War, it became a defence center and British people evacuated from London, have been sheltered here.

Today’s economical situation of the town is dependant on Research and Development, IT Consultancy, High valued Engineering Products, Pharmacology and Tourism. Cambridge, as a famous town in many branches of sporting activities,  is also hometown of the well known rock group Pink Floyd. If you are interested in this kind of music, here is Pink Floyd’s legendary song “Another brick in the wall”…


Richmond

Richmond is a lovely and evergreen residential town, some 8 miles South-West of  London. This attractive as well as peaceful town is located on a meander of river Thames is also known as one of the most wealthy places of United Kingdom. Richmond  was named after Richmond Palace, which was built by Henry VII  in 1501, in place of a big manor house, demolished after a fire in 1497. Queen  Elizabeth I, who loves this place very much, passed away in Richmond, in 1603. Richmond Park, which was ordered by George II  as a hunting lodge, is serving today  to all visitors and residents of Richmond with all its beauties.

Nice walking paths with many cafes and restaurants along the river attract tourists.  It gives one a totally  different pleasure to watch the spectacular view of  plain terrain and river  Thames from Richmond hill.  It is possible to reach Richmond by bus, train and even by boat from London. There is a University in the town, which provides its visitors amusing times in museums, theatre, movies and recreational places.

Well, isn’t there any problem in the town? Yes there is !. guess what? Like all big cities, London has got many airports and biggest one, namely Heatrow is very close to Richmond.  Residents of Richmond  complain about the noise, caused by the planes flying very low over the town…

Oxford

This old town with less than 200,000 inhabitants is dated back to the period of Saxons. It is very much famous with the University and the different architectures of the buidings’n the Campus.  University is first mentioned in the historical records in 12.th Century.  Town has been influenced by many epidemic diseases  in the past.  The canal was  built in 1790, connected the town to Coventry. Afterwards this canal was connected to river Thames and the integration of the railway in 1844 played an important role in the development of the town.  At the beginning of  the 20.th Century printing and publishing became a kind of an industry. Just after the Morris Motors Company was established  in 1970’s,  town has splitted in two parts; University town in West and Automobile town in East. Today, Mini model of  BMW brand is manufactured here in a small factory. A  “business park” was built in place of the old factory (!)…

Greek island Thassos

 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Türkiye – Greece – Thassos (day1)

Departed from İstanbul on a cloudy summer day, early in the morning. We are traveling to Island Thassos of Greece, via İpsala border and Keramoti port of Greece. As time went on, sky got clear and temperature rose. Called at Alexandropolis for a lunch break before we reached Keramoti port at 14.30. We saw “Thassos” ferryboat, discharging its load to the port, before its next trip to the island. Ticket fares were 20 Euro/car + 3 Euro/person. Somebody has handed over leaflets, giving information about island. Boat has set sailing at 15.00 hrs.

After a nice and -full of fresh air- travel on the open deck, which took three quarters of an hour, we arrived at Thassos. Upon exit, we followed the route at right and started our tour. On the right side of the road, were settlements of different sizes and beautiful beaches. After about 20 km of driving, we came to Skala Sotiras. Here we have swam in the sea, which was refreshing. As we start to starve, looked for any fish restaurant without success. We went to Skala Prinouwhere we couldn’t find fish as well and continued to drive counterclockwise towards south.  Soon after we arrived in Limenaria town.
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This old town was full of people, making it living. As I was interested in sea food, owner of one restaurant at the sea shore, Mathias has taken me to his kitchen and explained everything about what he has got, even given me a piece of calamari to test. At the end, we had a nice dinner here…

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thassos (day 2)

Following a nice sea bathing early in the morning, we had a fresh breakfast at the cafe across the road. At noon time we came to Skala Potamia and took a lunch break at one of the restaurants on the sea shore. We spent our time in the afternoon on this long, wide and sandy beach with relatively warm sea water. People call this place “golden beach”…

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thassos (day 3)

We woke up at Skala Potamia and departed to  Thassos. This side of the island is more wild with untouched small bays. On the way we saw Potamia village up on the hills and learnt that almost every village on the hill has got a beach, named after it, by puttting “skala” prefix in front its name. Likewise, we passed through another village Panagia of which beach is Skala Panagia , located at the end of Skala Potamia.

Panagia is a very interesting place with two restaurants and two cafes across the road. If you take a walk upwards, you see a man-made little fountain, flowing down, under big cheddar trees, passing through old and mostly restored Greek houses. Though it was in the morning, grills of those two restaurants had already been loaded with “kokoreç”, chicken, pig and lamb meats, for the lunch time visitors.

We sat at one of the cafes, run by a old Greek couple, and sipped freshly cooked coffee, served with fresh cold water, to be drinked before the coffee, to clean up your throat…Both cafes have got covered places and open patios, shadowed by pergolas, full of grape fruits. In the middle of one patio was standing a water fountain with four taps, where passing-by visitors and local people are filling their bottles with fresh water. We did the same…

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Close to noon time we came to Thassos. Here is like other capital towns. Many hotels, restaurants, cafes, cars,etc. Continued to drive counterclockwise and arrived at  Skala Prinou first. Also visited Prinou up on the hills. Did the same thing for Skala Sotiras  on our way and visited Sotiras. Both were lovely little villages with narrow roads.

Late in the afternoon, we came back to Limenaria and had a lunch break. This time Mathias offered us local dishes, namely “mousaka” and “dolmades”, which is stuffed tomates and green pepper. Dolmades is something we cook at home in Turkey and taste was similar. We cook also mousaka but in a different style. We spent rest of the day in Limenaria.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Thassos (day 4)

Today we aimed to go to the Livadi beach. On the way, we came first to Theologos, which was the oldest center of governance. Roofs of old and single storey houses in the village are covered with flat stones in grey color, whis is found abundantly on the island.

Livadi beach lays at the end of 600 meter long road  which is directed from the main road with a little sign. First 100 meters part of it is concrete and the rest is dirt road. At the end there are plenty rooms for cars to park. There is a little cottage serving the visitors and if you like you can rent umbrella+chaise longues. Beach is long and wide, sea water is crystal clear and cool.

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We stayed there until 13.00 hrs and visited Arhangelous Monastry, overlooking the beach. Our next stop was Panagia. There was a strong grill smell in the air, attracting us to take our seats in one of the restaurants. As we were eating a Roman group of musicians came and started a little concert, including Turkish originated melodies. As we came to the end of our meals, sounds escalated and we transferred to the cafe across the street. After two cups of Greek coffee, we returned to Skala Potamia. Following a relaxing afternoon, we have dined in Afrodit Restaurant with a very nice Greek Music in the background, made by a buzuki, a guitar and a tambourine and three Greeks performing these instruments while singing…

Friday, September 02, 2011

Thassos (day 5)

In the morning we stopped by the boulangerie shop just at the exit of the village. We saw many locals were coming and going, taking breads, pastries and cookies as they wish for their breakfasts at home. After having a quick breakfast here, we went to Aliki beach.

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At 10.00 hrs we positioned ourselves at the beach, at the root of a little narrow bay full of turquoise blue sea water.  Behind the beach were many fish taverns. We stayed here until 17.00 hrs with pleasure and later came to Panagia via Skala Potamia once more…

After a nice dinner, we had a little chat with grandchildren of Yorgo, who is the runner of the cafe, about island Samothraki.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Thassos (day 6)

After breakfast we went to Livadi beach once more. Late in the afternoon came to Limenaria and took a table in Limani Restaurant. Owner took me to the kitchen and opened the cold drawers one by one, to show me the fishes. Dinner was very satisfactory…

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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Thassos – Greece – Türkiye (day 7)

Following a breakfast with freshly cooked pastries of spinach and cheese, we have visited last time Aliki beach. This time we have noticed that there were many people who came from Romania. We have taken our lunch at restaurant “Beautiful Alice”. On the way back to Thassos, we stopped by a cafe on a scenic hill and came to the port of Thassos. Ferryboat was waiting for us…

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History of Thassos in brief:

Thassos has got a “middle and late Neolithic period” related history. Underground  findings near Kastri are pointing Bronze Age about 1100 BC. It is said that the islad had been named after the son of . Phoenix, whose name was Thassos. Greeks have discovered the island around 720 or708 BC and gold mines attracted everyone. Herodotos has written about the value of  the mines, which had first been run by Phoenicians, at the place facing island Samothraki.

First occupiers of Thassos built their own ships and fortress to protect the island from Persians, during the Ionian uprise. Later in 463 BC island fell into the rules of Athens and then handed over to Machedonian King Philip the 5.th. After the Byzantian period, island had been conquerred by the Ottomans in 1462. Sultan Mahmut the 2.nd has given the island to İbrahim Paşha of Egypt, as a gift. Until 1908 island lived in peace and prosperity and been administrated as a sanjak, under the rules of Selanik (Thessaloniki). On 20th of October 1912 it was given back to Greece.  During 2.nd World War, island fell into the control of Bulgaria but soon after handed over to Greece.

Thassos was famous with its gold mine, marble, wine and hazelnut.  Today,  it attracts most of its visitors by producing honey, wine and olive oil. Circumferencial well asphalted road of the island is about 100 km long.

Greece, homeland of different tastes…

 

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Türkiye – Greece – Parga (day 1)

Today, we have departed from İstanbul, under the open and clear sky, to realize our travel plan. This time we wish to see Greek islands of Lefkada, Kefalonia and Zakintos, then Peloponnes and Chalkidiki on the main land. After entering into Greece, we drove on Egnatia Odos highway and took a little pause in Xanthi.

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We have set “Parga” on the navigation and before reaching İoannina junction, turned to left, drove downwards on a relatively good quality of asphalted road. Road was bending and finally we saw the sea. On a narrow road, we continued driving along the sea shore for another 40 km’s and arrived in Parga at 20.30. This little and lovely town has got a small bay with old but well protected houses around. Since we were starving, we went to a tavern, which we have spotted during our approach. It was overlooking the bay and had a nice terrace with tables. Meal was also satisfying…

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Parga – Lefkada (day 2)

The history of Parga dates back to 13.th Century. Town was first established on  Pezovolo mountain and later moved to its today’s place in 1360, as to defend it against Albanian’s attacks. During that period, a castle had been built with the help of Norman’s of Corfu. In 1797 Parga has fallen under French rules and later in 1817 handed over to Ottomans, in line with a treaty agreement signed with Britain. Eventually in 1913, it has gained freedom.

Early in the morning we went to the center. Pupils were going to school, cafes were preparing for the day and cookies have already been cooked, spreading fresh smells all around. Having had our breakfast, we set ourselves on the road to Preveze. Temperature was 15 degree…

Preveze is just 54 km far and we reached after a nice one hour journey. There was not much to mention about this industrial city, except we found a local coffee house where oldies were chatting. While we grabbed two chairs to sit, we also saluted locals and owner came out, had a quick look at our vehicle plate and waived to us warmly, saying “komşi hoşgeldiniz !”, which means “wellcome neighbours !”…

After drinking our coffees, we drove on the main road planted with blackpepper trees on both sides, which gave us freshly grinded pepper like smell and passing through a submerged tunnel opened back in year 2000, connecting main land to Lefkada, entered into the island. A litte later a surprising scene was waiting for us; road ended up with a passage made out of an old ferryboat, which is serving as a bridge. In fact, there is a piece of land connecting both sides, but this was kind of a nostalgic idea which made us pleased…

Weather was open and hot enough and we continued towards the center of Lefkada. Next settlement is called Kariotes. We stopped for a while on the sea shore and took photos, than headed to Nidri. There was a marina here with many boats which were being prepared for the coming season. Roads and houses were ornamented with sardinia, jasmin and genista flowers.

Driving on a narrow, bended but well asphalted road, we descended to the town of PorosThis relatively calm bay attracted me and I swam in the crystal clear and cool, refreshing sea water. Our next stop was Vasiliki. This was another nice sea side town with many restaurants standing side by side, along the sea shore, of which end is a port. We saw a ferryboat waiting and asked the man of the port where it was headed. Learnt that they started the service on 1.st of May and ferryboat was scheduled to go to Kefalonia  in half an hour. Paid 66.5 Euro and embarked on the boat, departed at 17.00 hrs sharp. At 18.00 hrs, we entered the bay of Fiskardo, which is on the north tip of Kefalonia island.

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PS: Kefalonia has been in the list of our target places to go. Because my wife has liked movie film named “Captain Corelli’s mandolin” very much and wanted to see the island. We saw the cafe in Sami, where Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz have visited during the film shootings. I am giving the link below, in case you are interested to highlight parts of the film:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VA5jVJVEZQ

Fiskardo is a little but lovely town. Apart from a small bay, there is a parking place for the visitors who came with their cars, behind a hill. Hence, center of the town was clear from any motor vehicle. All around the marina there are many fish taverns and after we put our clothes for the night on, we had a little walk and took our dinner in one of them.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Kefalonia (day 3)

We woke up very fresh and departed for Sami. Sky was cloudy and we saw first “Daphnodi beachsign but couldn’t reach…After having had a complete tour, ending up in the same place, we set our target on the navigation and followed it. On our way, we saw from a hill a very nice village down on the bottleneck of a little peninsula. On a road sign it says “Asos” and we drove down.

Asos was amazingly a small village, with a castle on top of the peninsula, made by Venetians in 16.th Century. There was “reconstruction work” sign post on the entrance and we left this place after taking photos. After a while from a panoramic terrace on the side of the road, we saw Myrtos beach, laying down there with all its beauty.

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There was really a good asphalted road leading us down to the beach. Wide beach was full of spherical white little stones, apparently formed by huge “ocean-like” waves. Thoug it was a bit dangerous, I throwed myself to the hands of big waves and swam. It was a good experience…

At 12.00 hrs we left the beach, leaving few sun bathing couples behind, and on the way to Sami, visited Agia Ephimia which was another nice place on the sea side, took a stop for refreshments and went on.

Temperature was 25 degree and 30 km before Sami, we decided to visit Melissani cave.  Here is a lake, 30 meters in diameter and during the recent earthquake, piece of land covering it, has collapsed, causing it became an open underground lake. Depth varies between 15-40 meters and inside, spring water mixes with salted water. In fact, it is a lake on an underground river, originating from Argostoli and meeting the sea at Sami. There were a few boats which takes visitors to show the lake and the cave, which was discovered back in year 1951.

After having seen this interesting place, we went to Drogkarati cave nearby. This cave has 300 years of history and the temperature inside is 18 degree, with 90 % humidity. There were stalagmite-stalagtite formations inside the cave.

We have seen finally our targetted town “Sami” and after a little drive in the town, we embarked on a ferryboat which was waiting at the pier, headed to the Capital city of Kefalonia, named “Argostoli”.

After our arrival at Argostoli, we first tried to recognize the town, visited the center and a boulangerie shop for some refreshments, we went to Lassi, which is 2.5 km far from the center. Here is a summer village with many summer houses, not yet opened for the season. Coming back to Argostoli, this time we embarked on another boat for Luxori. Arrived in Luxori at 18.50 hrs under the cloudy sky. Luxori is a town like Sami, which is big and living.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Kefalonia (day 4)

While we were having our breakfast in a cafe, we carefuly took note of what the waitress told us, than left Luxori, headed to north. After half an hour driving, we saw a nice beach down the road. This was Petani beach, facing northwest,  with two taverns and three guest houses.

First we had cups of tea and I swam, followed by a nice lunch break in the nearby tavern. Our menu consisted of calamari and scordalia fish. By the time passes, some locals -apparently who love this place- came and it was time to leave.

We drove first up to the main road and came to Kaminarata via Vilaroria and Agia Thegli. By asking local people, found Kipuria (Kipoureon). This place was on a cliff, overlooking the deep blue sea, facing northwest. Only a monastry which was like “left-in-time” stands there, looking after its past times…

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We thought there wouldn’t be more interesting places to visit further in south and returned to Argostoli via Luxori. It was hot and we went to Skala, via Metaxata and Lourdata . The road which we were on, was nice to drive and passes through green areas where summer villas were. They were not yet opened but gardeners were working to prepare…

Skala is a living town at the sea shore with nice hotels, telling us that tourism is high here. After a nice dinner under the full moon, we decided to overnight here.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Kefalonia – Peleponnes (day 5)

Today is a general elections day in Greece. There was almost nobody in the street when we woke up. We went to the beaches in front of nice hotels, for swimming. Locals soon started to come, after they voted and we departed for  Poros.

We were intended to go Zakintos island but learnt that ferries will start running on 15.th of May. Therefore decided to go back to main land. While we were waiting for the ferry, we discovered that there is a very big and well built port   in Poros.

Eventually a relatively big boat came and together with vehicles and passengers, a group of people, celebrating a wedding came out. Then they started to dance on the port, reminding us our homeland. At 15.55 hrs arrived at Kilini port. From here there is ferryboat to Zakintos but we decided not to go this time.

We set Olympia on the navigation and came via Pirgos, couldn’t find antique theatre at first time. After hastling with roads we found and took photos. Than we came to open museum where Olympiade games had been performed in the past. Unfortunately due to the elections, place was closed and we took distant photos instead.

Kyparissia was on our way but found not interesting, took a pause in Kalo Nero which was a small village, after having our dinner we were headed to Kalamata.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Peleponnes (day 6)

After the breakfast in the shadows of Kalamata church on the hill, we went to Naphlion via Tripoli and Argos . Road leading to Naphlion was beautiful, we stopped on the way to the castle, which has a very nice view. Within a few kilometers, there are beaches and green areas to rest, behind a hill soon after we left center of the town. Following a short lunch break here, we set Hapimag Porto Heli address on the navigator.

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Early in the afternoon we swam in the bay of Damnoni, after our arrival in Hapimag resort. Before evening came, we have visited nearby Portoçelli town, located around another small bay, full of sailing boats. In the night, the scene of full moon was amazing…

Tuesday – Wednesday, May 08-09, 2012

Hapimag Porto Heli (days 7 & 8)

In the afternoon we drove towards Ermioni village, just across island Hydra which is a very attractive place for the tourists, famous with fish taverns and donkeys. We had our dinner in a tavern outside Ermioni and came back to our resort.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Peleponnes – Athens (day 9)

Our first target this morning was Poros town in the north. We saw Poros, across Galatas when we reached there. Width of the bosphorus is about 300 meters and small boats running between two settlements. Poros is providing a very nice view when looking from Galatas, with some houses of Italien style.

We continued driving towards Metana and felt a strong sulphur smell upon arrival at the town. We decided to follow “Ancient Acropolissign but had no success. While we were coming back we noticed hot volcanic springs at the entrance of the town, with bathing facilities and understand the reason of smell… 

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Next target was Epidauros where the antique theatre and archeologicalsite are. Theatre has been protected very well and pupils were rehearsing. Some of the findings are exhibited in a smal gallery near the site. We saw many tourist groups and students from abroad, visiting here.

Epidauros is known as the place where the son of Apollo, Asclepius was born. At the same time it is believed that this region was good for healing various illnesses. Theatre was built in 3.rd Century BC and has got a capacitiy of 15,000. It has also a really good acoustical feature. I could even hear the whispers of pupils from the uppermost step…

After the lunch break, we came to Korinth. Looked for the panoramic terrace but couldn’t find it, asked a turkish speaking local and went to a bridge as he recommended, where we could capture nice shootings of the canal.

At 17.44 hrs we arrived at Pireaus and continued to Athens. Capital city was a bit hectic if you are driving in the traffic, like all others…Hapimag hotel is in the center of the city, near Plaka street.

As decided to go out of the center, we went to Vouliagmeni which is popular for summer tourism. There are many hotels, taverns and beaches here. We have chosen a local restaurant for the dinner and tasted the ice cream later, which was delicious…

Friday, May 11, 2012

Athens – Thessaloniki (day 10)

Early in the morning we left Athens for Pireaus first, after a short breakfast break drove northwise and came to a port where a ferry was ready to depart for Evia island.  

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Travel took half an hour and our first impression about this island was not good, because at the port, ground and roads were muddy and many construction works were on the way. This part of the island was full of industrial plants and thinking that the island is narrow and very long, we concluded other parts would be nice, but since we did not have enough time to see, we drove through Chalkida, passed over a suspention bridge and returned to mainland again. 

Setting Lamia on the navigator, we moved to north on E75 road, drove down to sea shore on a bended road and entered in the highway. Next town was Volos which is a University town with many boulangery shops and cafes. Following settlement was Larissa, which was a plain town with many streets and narrow sideways, intersecting each other geometrically.

Late in the afternoon, we came to Selanik, passed by the shore which was full of young people, reminding us Smiyrna in Turkey. We drove this time directly to Kalamaria. Here we had a very nice dinner on the shore.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thessaloniki – Chalkidiki (day 11)

After our departure from Kalamaria, we entered into the first peninsula of Chalkidiki. There are summer houses all along the shore, with beautiful green lands. First town was Nea Moudania. Took a break in a cafe, came to Skioni via Kassandra. Here is a peacefull place with locals fishing on the shore.

After driving round the first tip of this peninsula, we came to Paliouri. Fish taverns and guest houses were being prepared for the coming season. This side of the peninsula, which is facing the second one, has got beautiful beaches, where in one of them we swam. Than had a lunch break in one famous local restaurant on the secondary road.

We discovered soon after we entered into the second peninsula that this part is more natural with oak forests and hotel resorts, instead of individual houses. Camping alone is forbidden here but there are camp sites instead. After we turn round the tip, we saw a huge volcanic like mountain on the third peninsula and learnt that there are monastries there.  

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We have set Asprovalta on the navigation and started to drive up the hills. Road was passing through deep forests, which gived us fascinating all-tones-of-green views. On the way we stopped by a fountain where we have refreshed our bottles with tooth breaking cold water. This road leaded us down to the sea shore near Olympiada and at 20.00 hrs we arrived at Asprovalta.

In the center of Asprovalta, there was Easter celebrations. Men and women in local clothes were dancing with loughters. We went on to Agio Georgio and spent a night there.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Kavala – TR (day 12)

Today was a total refreshing day in the cool sea water of Agio Georgio. We left here at noon, came to Kavala and had a very pleased fish food in “Meltem” fish tavern at the far end of the city, towards east. On our way to our homeland, we stopped at Xanthi for a while, where in old town authentic cafes were full of young people, due to heavy rain started early. Our next and final stop was our home…

PS:

1- Total distance covered: 3,994 km

2- Total diesel fuel used: 300 lt

3- Fuel cost: 480 Euro

4- Ferryboat+highway+parking exp.: 200 Euro

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Places we’ve loved: Nafplion, Greece (blondebrunettetravel.com)

We are going to visit Crete…


Thursday, 18 October, 2012

TÜRKİYE – GREECE

This time we are planning to go to Crete, via İpsala border gate, Egnatia Odos highway and Pireaus port of Athens. We started at 07.00 hrs from İstanbul, lost 6,5 hours due to mine sweeping works around the neutral zone between the two Countries. Therefore we made a little adjustment in our trip programme and stayed overnight at Asprovalta.

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Friday, 19 October, 2012

GREECE MAINLAND

After a nice breakfast, we departed at 07.30 hrs, towards Athens. On the way, called at Panteleimon, which I saw before on the internet as a point of interest. Here is a nice corner with a castle, long beaches and many campings.

We continued on the road number 1 and five km before Stilida town of Lamia, took a lunch break at a sideway tavern. Weather was open and hot (27 degree), we had 210 km left to Athens and were driving on E75 (nr1) road. Arrived in Pireaus Port of Athens  at 17.00 hrs. Found Aneklines office by means of navigator, where we  have got our boarding passes for Xhania port of Crete.

Pireaus port is big enough to host many ships at the same time and has been built in a clever way to help passengers with their vehicles to find their lines easily. Road signs and entrance/exit points have been planned very good. We saw our ship Eliros was ready at the gate no 3 and made our shopping at the AB market across the port. At 18.30 hrs we were embarked on our ship with 1,800 passengers and 500 vehicles capacity. Unfortunately there was no “open deck” system on this ship, where you can stay and sleep in your caravan, instead you may get a special cabin and stay with your pet. Or you can put your pet in a special box at the roof top, in an open area. This time we preferred to travel at the semi-open roof deck, together with our little pet.

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Weather was nice at the beginning and people took almost every empty seat until the departure time. Then a rain shower started, which had no success to bother the passengers queued to get their tickets from the ticket office at the port. Ship departed at 21.00 hrs and following dinner full of chattings and laughters towards midnight, it turned out to be more calm and silent, leaving its place to snores of various frequencies…

 Saturday, 20 October, 2012

CRETE

At 05.30 hrs ferry was secured at the port of Xhania. Since it was still dark, we have rested a bit until 09.00 hrs. While we were driving towards the center of the city, a strong smell of freshly cooked pastries attracted us and after finding the boulangerie shop, we had a very nice breakfast. Our next visit point was the old town.

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Old port of Xhania is protected by a breakwater with a lighthouse at one end, while the old town is placed around the port area. Many cafes and bars with restaurants are standing side by side along the road, contouring the port. Streets behind this frontal buildings are full of old style coffee houses, taverns and shops.

At first sight, ruins of old castle and Hasan Paşa mosque came across. Lighthouse looks like a symbol of Xhania. By asking locas where the “Public Market” is, we found it at the center. Inside are many shops, selling various food staff. Later we entered “Hapimag Damnoni resort” into our navigator and departed. Sky was clear and temperature was 28 degree.

On our way, we started to starve and changed our destination as Sfakias. We were expecting to reach the sea side but on the contrary, we found ourselves climbing a mountain. Eventually we came to a point where asphalted road ended and we saw the entrance signs of Samarias Canyon. Altitude was 1,100 meters and up in the sky we saw the highest point of the mountain, which was about 1,500 meters…

Normally, from this point you can start descending by walking, and after about 13 km you will reach seaside. Therefore one can make a plan of one full day to explore this canyon. After asking the way leading Sfakias, we have learnt that there is no way down to south from this point, instead we should drive via main road to Retymnon. We did so and re-entering our final destination to the navigator, we have arrived in Damnoni at 17.00 hrs.

Sunday, 21October, 2012

This side of the island which is facing south is more calm, since most of the time wind is blowing from north. Sea water was 22 degree, which was good to swim. Noon time we decided to explore Hora Sfakion. First we passed by Plakias, then Souda port. After climbing a hill, we came to Selia village, overlooking the sea. Hora Sfakion is a little village with a small bay, at the entrance of the village there is a parking place, which makes the center free of vehicles.

We first found the restaurant “The Three Brothers” which we were advised to take a break. In the upper floor there are rooms for rent, when you follow the steps down to the bay, you reach a little nice beach to take a swim. This small boarding house is run by a couple and seafood was delicious.

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Tuesday, 23 October, 2012

Today we were determined to visit Preveli Monastery. On the way, we first saw the old Monastery, which is protected but out of use, then came to the new one. By paying 2 Euros/person, we spent some time in the Monastery , having a beautiful view and a little zoo inside. On the way back, Preveli beach is visible from the hill. A little later, there is a small old stone bridge as well.

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We drove on the main road towards Retymnon and after 28 km of driving, we were in the town. Town was highly populated by the tourists. First we have visited the Castle which was made by Venetians and later used by Ottomans who invaded the island in mid ages. We had a late lunch at the center and came back to Damnoni.

Wednesday, 24 October, 2012

Having learnt about planned guided tours offered by Hapimag, we have decided to copy one of them today. Departing from the resort, we have followed the main road, which is red on the map, towards east. First settlement was Timpaki, which I believe provides all kinds of vegetables and fruits to the entire island.

On the way we stopped at a village named Agii Deka, dated back at 14.th century. Here there are many old houses not in use, and a sanctuary named “Ten Sleepers”. It is believed that ten holly men from ancient times have been sleeping in a cave, side by side…

End of our route was “Gortyn“. Here is said to be the place where Zeus lived. It is also believed that Zeus, who was known to be the King of Crete, was born in a place, south of Ancient Knossos and blessed at different places like Mount İda, Ancient Knossos and Palaikastro. Later he had left and went to Mount Olympos together with his wife Hera and children Apollo and Athena.

Gortyn is a little archeological site where excavations are continuing. Some of the findings are being exhibited. First church of Crete, Basilica of Ayios Titos is also here.

From this point we decided to drive back and called at Matala in south west. Here there are peculiary shaped stone caves, made by Romans and later used by Hippies as hotel rooms. Some of them were still sitting on the beach, as if they want to remind old times…

Matala bay was full of locals and visitors, sun bathing and swimming. On the way back, there is another nice point named Agia Galini. As we drove further, we came to antique settlement of Festos (Phaistos). This place is dated back to 4,000 BC and a palace had been built in 2,000 BC. With its geometricaly and perfectly shaped sites, it forms a unique example for the contemporary architectural design. Excavations were on the way at some parts, where you can watch the scene of Messara plateau and breath fresh, hailing air. Across the wide plateau, Mount İda stands proudly.

Thursday, 25 October, 2012

Today we planned to go Agia Nikolaos via  Retymnon and  Heraklia. It was cloudy in the morning and even rained a bit, while we were driving towards Heraklia, on the two laned highway. On this higway, there are wide emergency lanes on both sides, which enable the drivers to give way to others who wish to overtake. Before noon time, we passed by Agia Nikolaos and arrived in Elounda. There are regular boat trips to the island of  Spinalonga (Kalydon), just across the bay. Kalydon had been ruled by Venetians for decades and a castle was built, later between 1903 and 1957 island was used as an isolation place for the people who suffered from lepra.

Coming back to  Agia Nikolaos, we have had a “wet” lunch in a restaurant near the artificial lake, under thunder storms…

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Sunday, 28 October, 2012

After two days of resting in the resort, Knossos was in our target today. We came to this antique and well known place via Retymnon and Heraklia and first visited water ducts located some 2 km’s outside of the site.  Knossos site was open to public, because it was sunday (other days except Mondays 5 Euro/person).

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I can write books about this Bronze Age Antique Hellenic Settlement but just with some words, it had been built in 2,000-1,580 BC on an area of  24,000 m2. It was assumed that the first habitants were here in 7,000 BC and they started to use bronze around 3,000-2,000 BC and made clay ware as well.

Palace has got some parts with five storeys, with 1,300 rooms connected each other with geometrically designed corridors. It has also three different and independent water systems; Drinking Water, Rain Water and Waste Water. Therefore Knossos Palace is deemed perhaps to be the first “highly civilized” place on Earth.

“Minoan” columns in red colour and tapered from top to bottom are also unique here. You can see many findings of potteries, clayware and freskos, which had been buried under the ash accumulations and therefore remained in perfect conditions for centuries, following famous Volcanic Thera (Santorini) earthquake took place in 1,450 BC.

Upon finishing our visit we came to Heraklia, where locals were celebrating the anniversary of the day when Germans have left the island. We later called at Anogia, which is a mountain village and Sfemdoni caves nearby.

Monday, 29 October, 2012

CRETE – MAINLAND GREECE

We have checked out from Hapimag Resort at Damnoni in the morning and came to Xhania, spent some time exploring the city and embarked on our ship “Eliros” at 19.00 hrs. Ferry was almost full, bringing a question to our minds of  “how  this journey would be at high season ?”…

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

GREECE – TÜRKİYE

At 06.00 hrs we were at Pireaus port and we started our return trip early in the morning with the sun rising behind the hills of Athens. Late in the evening we arrived at home safe and relaxed. Total distance covered during our trip was 3,724 km.

Question:         “Would you think to visit Crete sometime again?”

Answer:           “Definitely yes…”

Yol Haritasi

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Travelling to Lesvos

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Türkiye – Greece – Mytilene (day 1)

       We start this tour early in the morning at 06.00 hrs. Sky is overcast, rain is expected. Ayvalık is our first target, then Lesvos island of Greece. After leaving İstanbul, road was empty and we arrived in Ayvalık at 14.35. Found new Customs Port and Jale tour Agent office just across the port. While receiving our boarding passes, it started heavily raining, until we came to the port for boarding after a lunch break. Our meal was “Ayvalık toast” which is well known here and served at buffets located side by side in a specially known place. 

       At 17.00  Customs officers came and after the formalities performed, we boarded on a relatively small ferryboat with 10 vehicles + 500 passengers capacity. When we left the port at 18.00 hrs, there were a bus full of Greeks and three cars. Sky became clear very soon and while the sun was setting, travel from Ayvalık to Lesvos at the upper open deck was relaxing.

       Our boat was secured at Mytilene Port at 19.45 and after parking our car in front of the Customs offices, first we passed through pass control, then our car was checked and we were set free at 20.30.

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      City seemed quite lively and after driving from one end to the other, we decided to overnight around airport. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mytilene (day 2)

      Woke up at 08.00, went to the center and looked for a bakery where we bought some fresh cookies. Later we drove up to the hills of the city, where one can see the beautiful Mytilene and the port. There are many villas with gardens here, with fresh and healty air, overlooking the city. After driving down back to the city, we continue to drive this time towards South. First came to Lotura, than entered into a small bay and took photos, and arrived in a small fishermans’ village (Kunduradia) at Geras bay, where we sipped our Greek coffees in an old tavern by the sea side. From a wooden old pier here, people are taken to the other side of the bay with regular and small boat services.

      After this short coffee break, road has splitted into two, left leading to Plomari. Roads shown in red on the map were constructed by the help of EU funds and quality is quite good. There are many automotive dealers on both sides of the road, which passes through a town named Plakados, where an olive oil factory is. Soon after Plakados, we reached another town at the South tip of the island, facing Agean Sea, named Agia Isodoros, where I decided to take a swim at the nice beach with blue flag.

      Having relaxed, we continued driving towards Plomari. When reached the town, which is very famous with its brand name of ouzo, we took our places around a table at restaurant “Hermes“. Our menu consisted of stuffed calamari, fried squash, greek salad and Barbayanni ouzo. A heavy shower started to pour, when we departed for the ouzo factory nearby. Grandchild of Barbayanni, who is the owner, briefed us on how ouzo is made. There is a little museum, with an exhibition of different pieces of old mill.

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      Grandchild Barbayanni is in command of ouzo production in the factory which has been solely active since 1860. Production continues on 7/24 basis with 3 shifts/day. In the museum, one can see the old distiller which was brought here from İstanbul, by Mr. Barbayanni himself. Taking photo is not permitted in the museum, you can taste different brands of ouzo and there is a small shop where you can buy bottled products of which most part is labelled for export purpose. The main reasons why this factory was established here are the high quality of water coming from the mountains and the different herbs harvested around.

      On our way we stopped and took a coffee break in a small village named Akrasi , where elderly people were sitting and chatting and playing backgammon in old coffee houses…

      Arrived in Vatera beach late in the afternoon, which is one of the longest and clean beaches of Mediterranean Sea. It is calm and there are hotels, restaurants along the beaches. Decided to overnight here and had a very nice dinner in the restaurant of  Hotel Vatera Beach ,run by a family, speaking fluently in english. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mytilene (day 3)

      A  group of German visitors staying in the hotel made a meeting session on the beach, early in the morning.  I have taken a bath in the sea of which water quality was really high. Departed around 10.00 hrs, headed NorthWest.

      After three quarters of an hour, we reached a village named Polichnitos and followed road signs, leading to a hot spring, about 1 km outside of the village. Having experienced one of the hottest springs in the world, which costed us 4 Euro/person, we left this nicely made relaxing point, as refreshed.  

      Soon after we reached Nyfida village facing Kaloni bay, before arriving in “Skala” of Polichnitos. There are also fish taverns here along the beach, where the waves are quite big and powerful, since it is facing North.

      On the way we passed by Lisvorio and arrived in Vasilika which is a lovely village overlooking the bay from a hill. We saw many old houses were being reconstructed. Continued to drive among oak trees, passing by Megali Limni, came to another pausing point of interest, namely  Agiasos.

       As depicted in the “tourist guide pages”, Agiasos is a village which kept its original atmosphere and environment through time,  like Panagia of island Thassos. Streets are like pathways and paved with cobblestones, where only a passenger car can pass through, and the center is strongly reflecting the authenticity of the area. Here there are many old coffee houses, shops where locals are painting ceramic plates on their laps, small markets selling almost everything you may need.

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      After leaving Agiasos, We called at Asomatos before reaching Karini. In this nice village, we have visited Taxiliyadis church and took photos.  While travelling on the left towards Kallonis , we saw a signpost leading to Mesa Sanctuary, about a km from the main road. This place was established in the 7.th Century BC, as a religious center for Zeus, İda and İanosos.  Later we reached Antique Pyyra site of 231 BC and visited submerged city findings after walking about 500 meters. 

      Road leaded us to Petra town on the sea side. Town has got two main streets, one along the sea shore, while other passing through the town, parallel to the first one. First,  we decided to continue to drive and soon reached  Mythimna.  Here is totally different from what we have seen so far. It looks like a medieval beauty coming out of the history. With its well protected houses and castle, it attracts the visitors from almost all over the world.

      Both main street and the secondary one, passing through old houses on the hills, are full of restaurants, shops, houses with rental rooms, cafes etc. In spite of the late season, tourists are everywhere. At the end of the main road, there is a little fisherman’s marina, again surrounded by many fish taverns. We have chosen one of them,  “O Faros” restaurant, for a very warm dinner. Later we had a little walk and sat on one of the benches in front of a cafe-bar, listened to a relaxing night music, looking at the moon hanging in the sky above us…

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mytilene (day 4)

       When we woke up early, sun was rising up from the castle. Today castle is in our target. Molivos castle came from Byzantian period and Ottomans, after conquerring Mythimna (old name Molivos) in 1462, repaired the ruins and reused it. It costs 2 Euros/person to visit the castle.

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      After we left the town at 09.00 hrs, we bought some cookies from a bakery house in Petra and went to Anaxos beach for a small pause.  We called at Skalochori , a little village where a couple of locals were drinking coffee. On this part of the island, olive trees disappeared, hilly and unplanted terrain dominates. From place to place solar energy fields are coming into sight.

      Another settlement on the way was named Antissa, where we took a stop and drank coffee with the locals. When we saw Petrified Forest” sign on the side of the road, we decided to follow. There we came to an open museum of petrified seqouia trees of 15-20 million years old. Giant trees had been petrified after a great volcanic eruption caused them to be burried under the ash formation. Excavations are still being performed  on steep terrain, under the burning heat of the sun. One can visit the museum paying 2 Euros, taking photo is free…

Sigri was on our way, with an old castle which was not in a good condition. Yet there is another covered museum here for the exhibition of some petrified trees. Following settlement is called Eresos.

      If you pass by Eresos, you reach Skala Eresos soon, where we stayed for a night.  Here is another lovely corner on the sea shore. Fish taverns are extending towards the sea over wooden platforms standing on the piles. End of the beach a water sports center can be found. Between this and the center of the village, lays a wide and long beach.  Eresos Palace Restaurant offered us a satisfying lunch. In the afternoon, we swam in cyristal clear sea water, walked a bit and photographed beautiful sunsetting scene. At night, one of the taverns was our dining venue

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mytilene (day 5)

      Early in the morning we cheased the smells of freshly cooked bakery products and found the source  in one of the street corners. This was our breakfast with nicely serviced coffee in a cafe just across Sappho’ s sculpture. Later we left the village after sea bathing.

      Our next stop was Eresos, where famous Greek writer and poet Sappho was born. We have taken a rest in a cafe right at the center of the village, which is run by a Lebanese man.

      According to a rumor, during her time of teaching, Sappho has had some intimate relations with couples of her female pupils and therefore been disregarded by local people, causing her to leave . When she came back years after, she wrote about this happening and female followers supported her. Hence she became a leader of a trend, named after the name of the island at that time (lesbos), “lesbianism”. Soon after this, Mytilene became a famous tourism center, especially preferred by lesbians, who feel at home and live more freely here. 

      While driving on the main road, we followed a signpost and after 3 km, reached a village on the sea shore, named  Tavari. In this lovely place, we have chosen this time Taverna Mouragio , where we had a nice lunch break. Weather is hot but slightly blowing wind makes it affordable. At 15.00 hrs we departed towards North. After passing by Agra, road was downhill and green terrain appeared again when we reached  Skala Kallonis . We preferred to continue to Kalloni, which is a big trading town. At the center there is a big church. While we continue Northwards, we saw a junction for Agia Paraskevi  but did not go there.

      At 18.00 hrs we reached Petra again and looked for the famous church. Panagia Glykofiloussa church has been constructed on top of a monolithic rock and from the top almost everywhere around can be seen. After taking photographs and walking on the side streets, we had a break in one of the cafes facing Agean sea. At night, in an authentic restaurant, we tasted local wine with different dishes. Then we came to Mythimna again and walked through nicely illuminated back streets, listened to various kinds of music coming out of the bars and finished the day.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Mytilene (day 6)

      From the bakery in an old back street paved with cobblestone, we bought our breakfast meal (dohnuts and fresh cookies) and sat in a cafe nearby “Sea Horse” hotel at the fisherman’s marina. Room rates at the hotel are 60 Euro (BB) today and 68 Euro at the high season respectively. 

      On the way back, we saw rental car agents and learnt about rates. One can rent small car (A0 size, like Hyundai Atos) for  120-140 Euro/three days, and motorbikes for 10-50 Euro/three days. Later we departed from Molivos at 10.00 hrs, it is another hot and sunny day.

      While descending from mountain Lepethimnos, scene on the left was beautiful and shores of Türkiye under  “Kaz” mountain, are visible. Soon we reached Skyminea and its beach Skala Skymineas. Another scenic place with Panagia Gorgona (mermaid) church on the rocks. Later we entered into another settlement named Mantamados .

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     We walked through the town, where there are church, pottery houses, library and two coffee houses. This part of the island is more calm and less inhabitated. there are summer houses but all closed, nature is beautiful and lonely. Later we came to  Pamfila and its skala Pamfylla. Around the small bay, there are a few fish taverns, of which one we decided to have lunch. I went to the kitchen with the owner and saw different sorts of fishes available. Red mullet looked very nice and tasted nice as well, because it is cooked and served well…while we were eating, priest of the nearby church sitting with his friends at one of the tables behind us, called out in turkish, saying “komşu merhaba !”, which means “hello neighbour !”. Our chat then continued in mixture of turkish, english and greek, learning that he was born in Ayvalık, later came to Mytilene during the  “treaty of exchange”.

     When the bell rang, priest left and we departed for a nearby village Moria , where there are natural springs and old thermal baths, together with water ducts from Roman times.

      Later, we came back to Mytilene, being completed our tour around the island and called at Jale Tour office at the customs port, to get boarding passes for tomorrow’s ferry. Thanks God for doing so because we learnt that on the folowing two days there will be strike at the customs offices. For this, Jale had already ordered  a late night boat to transfer the passengers. We had dinner at the port bay of Mytilene until the departure time and boat departed at 22.15 to Ayvalık with three couples, two cars and one motorbike.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ayvalık – İstanbul (day 7)

      We woke up fresh in a good weather and prepared for our return to home. On our way we have made shoppings as usual for the coming days and weeks, and arrived at home safe, at 20.30 hrs. This was really a nice week which we have been planning so long to take, for our visit to Mytilene, therefore we came back happier then we expected. We recommend similar trips strongly to our friends and everyone, since Mytilene should not be deemed as just an island, but as a homeland of different cultures and tastes… 

History of Mytilene:

      Mytilene has become a kind of a real settlement in 11.th Century BC, when Penthilidae family came here from Thessaly. “Pittacus of Mytilene” has ended this first order in 490-480 BC. Mytilene, which was ruled by Byzantians and Genoese during early mid-ages, conquerred by Ottomans in 1462 and given back to Greece in 1912, like island Thassos. Island has got volcanic geographical shape, resulting in providing good quality of water sources as well as thermal springs which are still in the service of tourism today.

      There are about 11 million olive trees and beside of this , oak and fruit trees on the island. During pre-historical ages, giant seqouvia trees on the West side of the island had been petrified, following a volcanic eruption. This “petrified forest” which was brought to the surface, adds another high value to the island.

      In the Greek mythology, the first known king of Mytilene was Macareus. One of his sons, namely Eresus, has given his name to one settlement, which is called today as Eresos. Hitits have also settled on the island during late bronze age.

      Clay potteries in grey color found on the island during archeological works, show that Mytilene had been inhabitated since Neolithic period. After falling under different rules, island was captured by the Romans in 79 BC, handed over to Byzantians in medieval age. After being handed over to Genoese Gattilusi family because of economical and political issues in 1355, it was conquerred by the Ottomans in 1462.

      Mytilene, which is homeland of various famous names like poet Sappho, is today economically dependant of agriculture and tourism. Fishing, Ouzo and soap production are also other supporting fields of trading.

PS:

1-   Total distance covered: 1,473 km

2-   Total diesel fuel used:  118 lt

3-   Fuel cost:  180 Euro

4-   Ferryboat tickets: 250 Euro

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