Heading to Greece!
[Kalabaka, Greece, Sept 18, 2017]
In the last few years, I’ve always tried to tack on additional travel to my usual Bulgaria visits. Whether it’s visiting sites in Bulgaria or adding a few days somewhere in Europe, it’s been a great way to see my family and get some of my bucket list items checked off all at the same time. I am in Bulgaria for less than 2 weeks total this time, so I thought a side trip with my parents might do the trick. I had always wanted to go to Meteora to see the monasteries high up in the cliffs, and I discovered it’s only a 6-hour trip by car from Sofia. My parents had been 30 years before but they were up for visiting it again, and I hadn’t been to Greece in 20 years, so it seemed like high time to head South of the border!
We got up early on Monday morning to hit the road. We gassed up the car at OMV – an Austrian gas station chain – and left Sofia in no time. We picked up highway E79 – E stands for Europe and it’s a designation used for highways that go across borders. The drive to the Greek border was almost all highway save for a few miles, so we made it to the border in about 2 hours. Crossing it was super easy – all we needed was a valid ID. No waiting, no lengthy document checks!
We headed towards Thessaloniki, a port city in Northern Greece, then veered West towards the mountains. The last few kilometers off the highway towards Kalabaka were on a little mountain road with great views but lots of curves. It was a tricky little thing but we finally got to Kalabaka with no issues. It was a balmy 36C / 97F! We found our AirBnB and settled in. We have two big balconies here overlooking the cliffs – one of the main reasons I picked this place! The views were absolutely spectacular. It was hard for me to imagine that someone had built dozens of monasteries up those cliffs. I can’t wait to see them tomorrow.
You may be wondering why I am in Kalabaka when earlier I said I am heading to Meteora… so let me clarify. “Meteora” is the collective name of all the monasteries perched up on the cliffs. Kalabaka is the name of the city in the valley just below the cliffs. However, the name of this city has several variations – you will also see it called Kalambaka and Kalampaka.
In the evening, we took a short stroll to a restaurant recommended by our Greek host, Keti. It was my dad’s birthday, so we celebrated with drinks and great food. What a great first day in Greece!