After two magical days in Meteora, we set off westward for Lake Ioannina to explore its fortified city. En route we drove through Epirus, a region in northern Greece that bore the brunt of severe wartime fighting. As we passed through amazing snow topped mountains on the edge of the Pindus range it was evident winters must be bitterly cold. A misty haze spoilt my photos, but at least we saw its splendour.
On reaching Metsovo we soon realised the town geared up for winter visitors. Shops sold sledges and fur-lined boots while hotels bragged of open fires in bedrooms. On the day of our visit the town basked in sunshine, while wood smoke hung in the air. After two summer like days in Meteora it was a surprise to see spring so delayed; the trees were still bare.
Tantalising signs for The Ursa (Bear) Trail gave helpful hints on what to do in the unlikely event of meeting a bear! What a dilemma, should we stay to explore and give up on the idea of spending the night in Ioannina? The Ursa Trail is too long to do in a day, and we were not equipped, so after a stroll and a delicious hot chocolate we moved on. The westward drive through mountains used excellent, virtually traffic free roads… just as well on some hairpin bends.
The outskirts of Ioannina were not inspiring until we glimpsed the lake. We quickly parked and set off to find the historic town centre. Mist shrouded mountains rose beyond the miserable, brown lake, home to a various waterfowl including a family of crested grebes.
Mum was a floating nest, and dad darted to and fro delivering food. He saw a chick fall and whizzed forward to lift it aboard. Busy snapping away I captured dad rescuing the chick; unfortunately looked like he was eating it! I liked the photo above, but due to low light it was drab. Thanks go to my photo editing pal, John for finding their true colours.
Further along a gateway in the old city wall invited exploration. After wandering through twisty turny streets we emerged on a busy waterfront, with small boats plying the lake. As the holiday atmosphere in lakeside cafes bode well for the evening we set off for the car, aiming to find a hotel and return to the busy throng.
Where was the car??? It sounds unbelievable but we had no idea. We must have turned a huge bend as there were no mountains in view across the lake. Our relief at finding the car was soon overwhelmed by disappointment at not finding a hotel with vacancies. Grrrrr. It was the only night I hadn’t pre booked. Not a good idea on a bank holiday weekend when the town was hosting a festival. Ah well, onwards and southwards for the next adventure.
We ended up in an enormous, grim hotel on the edge of a main road near Arta. The hotel was busy with coach loads of people being transferred from one day of sightseeing to the next. From the bun fight at the all-inclusive buffet we assumed they hadn’t eaten for three days! We took a plate of cheese and a bottle of wine to our room to enjoy the film, Mrs Doubtfire on the TV – not what we’d expected from our evening.
The next morning a lovely walk by the river in Arta got us back in the holiday mood.
After this we set off towards Missolonghi with a lovely morning coffee stop on the way.
I don’t know how I’ll manage to fit everything about my amazing Missolonghi ‘pilgrimage’ in one blog post, but I’ll try next week.