Finally a bumper post on my recent trip to southern Macedonia with Discover Greece Blogtrotters and Olympus! We did and saw so much in our five days, I’ve tried to break it down into little bite sizes and of course, there will be a part two…!
We flew to Athens and then onto Thessaloniki to reach the region of Pieria (an hour’s drive). This area is astonishing in its rich variety and stunning natural beauty. Surrounding the mythical home to the gods, Mount Olympus are rolling hills, agriculture, archaeological ruins as well as gorgeous beaches and bluest of sea. With so much to offer – everything from R&R in five star resorts to hiking, diving and visiting museums and ruins – Olympus is truly bountiful.
While the fitness gang (Leon from The Lean Machines, Carly Rowena, Victoria from In The Frow & Alex) gamely made the 12 hour hike – fairly treacherous in parts! See Carly’s post here – up Mount Olympus (Greece’s highest mountain) to the highest peak Mytikas (the throne of Zeus), Erica from The Edited and I took a slightly gentler approach on our first day and chilled at the hotel… There’s something very awe-inspiring about sitting on the perfect grey pebbled beach and gazing up at the cloud halo of the mountains. There aren’t many places that offer up that kind of natural juxtaposition. It does something to your head. Something good! And only having visited the Greek islands of Paros and Santorini before, this trip totally turned my head to the mainland…
We returned to Olympus after the big climb to check out the nature side of things – the 52-peaked mountain is a National Park rich with flora (1700 species & sub-species), endangered fauna and home to 75 types of orchid, a few of which can only be found there as well as 32 types of mammals including goats, deer, boar, wildcats, foxes and squirrels.
You can get 2000 metres up by minibus and hop off, grab a delicious hot chocolate in the cafe lodge and take a little explore. I immediately fell upon a little waterfall and starting trying to take long exposure shots to get that moving water effect (failed! Nearly impossible without a tripod) and chasing butterflies. Even from where we were, the views were breathtaking… (While our gang did the hike in a day with super capable guide Babis Marinidis – hiking boots & sticks are a total necessity btw! – most people break up the ascent by overnighting in lodges along the way.)
City of Zion
So I’m a bit of a history geek, ancient and otherwise, so our trip to the ancient city of Dion with its old ruins – temples, theatres and baths – under the tutelage of the wonderful historian and playwright Athanathios Bintas (organiser of theatre festival in the foothills of Mount Olympus, the International Youth Meeting of Ancient Drama, Music and Athletics) was right up my street. I felt quite overwhelmed to be standing on ground where Alexander the Great prepared with his armies for campaign. The excavations started in 1973 and Athanathios told us that it would take at least another 100 years to dig up everything they believe to be there.
The on-site museum is replete with statues and objects – I couldn’t keep away from the gold and rings! Connecting with the past by visiting ancient cities has always effected my quite strongly. I love to feel that, we as humans, are still very much the same as we were centuries ago. This is something that really hit home with me as a student when reading the Greek comedies – they laughed at the comical (like farts!) just as we do now. We really are all the same, the world over and through the centuries. We also visited the beautifully serene Agios Dionysius monasteries, old and new…
I think I speak for us all when I say we fell a little bit in love with the beach at boutique hotel Litihoro. I fell over myself when we came upon this gorgeous loungebed looking out to sea, wanting to dive into the palette of soft, tonal colours – my favourite! We stripped down to bikinis and shorts and tested out the clever little waterproof Olympus Toughs for the first time, splashing about like kids, trying to get underwater shots. Not as easy as you would think!
Dinner one night…
I think I said this in my first post on this trip and it kind of ties in with my experience blogging as a whole. Making friends was not something I expected but something that came about so readily. Of course, I already knew and am great pals with Erica but I had’t spent much time with the others but by the time we hit night three we were like a gang of excitable teenagers at the restaurant ordering pizzas and champagne.
Sometimes you just click with people and I must admit I do find it easy to click with bloggers. Maybe it’s because already we understand what we’re all about – noone understands the constant snapping and social media-ing like another blogger – but while we chatted endlessly about photography and blogging we did also get to know each other through that, cracking up as we began to recognise each other’s quirks and personalities. Such a lovely group and I’d go away with them in a heartbeat…!