Arnissa free camping, Lake VegoritidaNovember 26, 2019 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C
We're on our way to Thessaloniki to hopefully get our heater fixed, but to break up the journey we've stopped just outside Arnissa for the night. A 'Free Camping' sign directed us down a dirt track to the shore of Lake Vegoritida and a T shaped floating jetty. It had been raining heavily for most of the day and showed no sign of letting up, so we were a little concerned to see a wooden hut about 20m out in the water. Thankfully, on closer inspection, we could see the barrels on which it rested; it was obviously designed to sit on top of the water and hadn't been swept out in a flood as we'd initially feared.
Resolving to stay indoors until the rain abated, we brewed some hot drinks and took in our surroundings. There were no specific motorhome facilities but the town had provided bins, sheltered seating and a WC which poor Will later discovered was in a dreadful state when he went to empty our cassette.
Reeds grew up either side of our clearing, a sailing dinghy and blue wooden rowing boat were moored nearby and farther out was the outline of a small wooded island. The far side couldn't be seen through the rain. Sipping our tea and coffee we were surprised to spot Pygmy Cormorants swimming alongside the Great Crested Grebes and perching on the sun bleached branches of a long dead sapling. We'd known there were colonies at the Prespa Lakes, but it was a real pleasure to come accross them unexpectedly like this.
These birds weren't the only treat Arnissa had in store for us; that afternoon we watched Little Grebes, a Water Rail, a couple of Kingfishers, an otter and to top it all off we discovered that a flock of Pelicans called this place home! Wow!
With our pressure cooker boiling away to keep the temperature from dropping, we lamented the fact we needed to move on the following day to get our heater fixed. As luck would have it, our Truma miraculously began to blow out warm air that evening. We still wanted to get it checked, but made the decision to stay another night in this wildlife haven.
The following day was mercifully dry so we headed into town, passing more than 20 stray dogs along the way, either running solo or in small packs. Vicky fed a particularly friendly one who then followed us for the next ten minutes, nudging our hands and even once jumping up to try and persuade us to dole out another biscuit. Seeing people walking towards us with laden bags, we had an inkling there might be a market on. Sure enough, white canvass gazebos lined the near end of the mainstreet. At one stall, frozen fish lay in iced polystyrene trays and carp swam in an aquarium. Tables spilled over with fruit and veg, there was a cheese seller, a herb stall, several displays of sweet treats, then at the far end vendors focussed on household supplies and clothing. We did a recce then re-ran the gauntlet, buying lemons, long stemmed leeks, chillis, peppers, carrots and a humongous cauliflower (the smallest of those on offer). Next we came to the herb stall, where we finally managed to find cardamon pods for Vicky's chai, some loose black tea for Will and gave way to our curiosity when we were shown a powder called salepi, which you could mix with boiling water to make a kind of cream, adding cinamon to taste.
Vicky had been eyeing up the Greek sweets and so bought a pick 'n' mix of syrupy pastries, some turkish delight and a couple of foil wrapped treats. We've no idea what they are but they've been in a number of shops so we were keen to try them. Lastly, Will was drawn to the cheese seller, where the trader cut him two large segments of semi hard white cheeses, advising him, when asked, which was best for frying. Will passed over the €14 and out of the blue we were given some Greek yoghurt in a large earthenware ramekin 'as a gift'!
People were friendly but not overbearing, interested in where we came from and sometimes apologising for their lack of English. Will has learned a very basic level of Greek (it's a difficult language to pick up!) and has found his German coming in handy too.
Following our splurge at the market we attempted to scope out somewhere for lunch. A noticeable proportion of properties were run down or had crumbled, but there were Christmas lights hanging above our heads and a few windows were painted with festive scenes. Most of the cafés and bars looked as if they only sold drinks. We enquired after food in one, but with no luck. Back towards the van on the edge of town was a Ταβέρνα (Taverna) where Will recognised the Greek for word for food. Greeting one old guy smoking on the shaded terrace, we entered an even smokier, dark, high ceilinged room. The two or three regulars turned their attention away from the football for a second to size us up and give a welcome nod.
We found it easiest to speak German with the friendly woman in her 60s who ran the place. She confirmed she could make us lunch and we seated ourselves outside, away from most of the smoke and close to the trio of well fed ginger cats waiting for scraps. There was no menu but Will took up the offer of chicken soup. Our host seemed disappointed when Vicky didn't class this dish as vegetarian, but made up a delicious Greek Salad topped with a huge slab of feta. Yum!
We spent the rest of the day birdwatching, fishing (Will) and feeding the small pack of dogs that had gathered around the van (Vicky). We were amazed at how close the Pelicans came and at the Kingfisher that perched on the edge of the pontoon before making a lightening fast dive and plucking a shining silver fish from the water.Read more