Happy new year! More hikes, a barbecue and French guests
January 3, 2016
First of all: happy new year! I wish you lots of travels (small or big), change, health and of course lots and lots of fun for 2016!
During Christmas and New year, I was checking the Bucket List like crazy: I visited Ioannina Island, hiked to a Dragon Lake and we had a did Winter barbecue in our garden. So nice!
Christmas and new year in Greece
Christmas was very nice to celebrate in Greece. At Christmas Eve, the party starts around 3 o'clock in the afternoon. On the streets you will find souvlaki, music and people partying.
After that, you go home around 9 to have diner with your family. And as I described in my previous post: no gifts. You eat classic food like chicken soup with egg and lemon, stuffed turkey with rice and chestnuts and melomakarona (egg-shaped sweet cookies made with honey).
On Christmas Day a lot of bars are open in Ioannina and people go out to meet each other for coffee (always the coffees in Greece... I think they seriously outdrink the Americans). After the coffee, a lunch with the family is waiting for you (stuffende cabbage leaves with minced meat, salad and a lot more). Fully stuffed like the turkey and the cabbage leaves, we biked home to have an evening with leftovers and American movies at the couch.
Second Christmas Day we went out to check the Bucket List: visiting Ioannina Island. The weather was a bit foggy and cold but the fog gave something magical to the whole trip and a great blue sky came out later. Ioannina Island is small: 2,3 km when you walk a whole round. There are some people actually living and the village is full with traditional stone houses. Very beautiful. We went running: I did 2 rounds and the guys I guess 6... No shepard dogs, no cars: so perfect!
Hiking to the Dragon Lake We were on a roll with checking the Bucket List! Monday we did a hike to the Dragon Lake. The most famous "Drakolimni" is nearby Papigo. But in the winter it is to dangerous to visit because of the ice. So we went to a different lake nearby Paleoselli. Two hours driving from Ioannina and they told us around 3 hours to hike up to the lake. Together with friends and dogs, 7 o'clock in the morning we left with the car. Around 9:30 we were ready to start hiking up that mountain. What we actually didn't expect to find on our trip was snow... lots of it. This made the hike more difficult but also very very beautiful. We ended up taking 5 hours to reach the lake. Which was completely frozen... The view was awesome, the sun was out and it was perfect. Although I was breathing like an old man to keep up with all those fit, quick, skinny Greeks. Maybe it were the breathtaking views (just let me believe it was please...?).
Because it took us (read ME) a long time to get up, we only took a 40 minutes break before we started going back down again. Luckily we could get down quit fast. Only the last kilometre back to the village we had to walk in the dark. We came back to the car at 5:30 after 24km of hiking. I was 'kapot' and even Kalí went straight into coma. The following days, my legs reminded me very kindly of the hike...
New Years Eve in Ioannina Oké: first I need to admit, I actually hate New Years Eve. I don't like the fact you HAVE to party, you have to be in the mood and you better like it until sunrise. It needs planning, organising, searching for outfits, paying a lot of money etc etc. Sorry, I am not a fan. So I was glad to be here in Greece, in Ioannina to be precise. New years eve starts the same as Christmas eve: from 3 o'clock in the afternoon with souvlaki on the streets and music. We went to our favourite bar, Skala, for coffee and Rakomelo before going for diner with the family. We didn't want to go again to the same bar with music like the Surprise bar in Amsterdam. Did that with Christmas Eve already. By the way: Rakomelo is hot Raki (or Tsipouro) with cinnamon, honey and cloves, it is super tasty.
After getting warm from the Rakomelo, we went home to have diner. I just remember a lot of meat, all good but a lot... At 12 o'clock it is gift-time! And time to cut the cake: Vasilopita. This is the tradition. Pita = pie and remember what I told before, 1st of January is the nameday of Vassilis. So that makes it Vassilopita. In the cake, they bake 1 golden coin. You cut the pie into the exact amount of pieces equally to the people you share it with + one for the house and one for every pet. The person (or pet/house) that gets the piece with the golden coin is said to be granted luck for the rest of the year! To bad I didn't get it ;).
Winter barbecue including new friends from couchsurfing! Oh yes, this week we were so up to speed, we crossed a third item of the list. On New Years Day we had a barbecue in our garden! It was really cold but blue sky and no wind. I made Glühwein and Dutch 'hutspot', we put a big barbecue on, made a fire, there was pie, lots of meat and of course family and friends. In the end of the evening we had some 'wish lanterns' to send up to the stars. We started 2016 with the best wishes and we didn't cause a fire...
When we arrived here, I signed up as a host on Couchsurfing. Lucky us: two French girls were around Ioannina with New Years and asked if they could stay over. So they joined our barbecue! They are traveling with a van trough Europe for a year (a bigger one than ours, they can actually live inside during the winter. So nice). Tomorrow they will continue their journey towards Albania, Croatia and well... For the rest they will see what comes on their path. Very nice and inspiring to meet them and I was happy to have the oppurtunity to offer them a bed, a warm shower, a laundry machine and some 'local experiences'. The day after the barbecue, we took them up to the Zagori mountains for a short hike trough the small Vikos Gorge. Hopefully they enjoyed it as much as I did ;).