I had originally thought to spend 2 or 3 days in Ioannina but changed my mind. Partly that was a practicality: the hotel I stayed in only had a vacancy for one night. Not that Ionanina isn’t a pleasant enough place, it clearly is. Like much of Greece it has it’s laid-back street scene with pavement tavernas and restaurants and lots of people of all ages wandering around and sitting around having a frappé or glass of wine in the sunshine or the shade depending on the temperature. Very chilled … in terms of ambience not temperature.
I arrived on the bus from Metsovo in trousers but they proved too hot in Ioannina at half the altitude (about 500 metres rather than 1200) so I changed into shorts. I had been the only person in shorts in Metsovo even in the sunshine. But surprisingly the same was true in Ioannina. I saw only two other people in shorts throughout Monday and they were both tourists like me. I used to feel a bit self conscious in the UK in shorts when everyone else was in trousers but now shorts are common-place in the UK even in winter. I even saw a good few people wandering around Banff in Canada in shorts in temperatures down to -20oC. But not in Ioannina in +20oC.
There is also much indication that Ioannina is part of the global economy with all the major brand names in Latin script very much in evidcence: Mercedes, Opel; Hyundai, De Walt, Karcher, Makro, BP …. and many, many more. Particularly noticeable was the large number of German brand names, presumably part of the deal on the Euro bail-out. Pleasingly few US brand names. It may be there somewhere but I saw no MacDonald’s. A small victory for Greek fast food, the gyro, with a large out-of-town ‘Gyroland’. There were several edge of city-centre garden centres of varying size. I even saw three outdoor gear/mountaineering shops with recognisable brands of good quality stuff. Whatever the outcome of the political hiatus over the economy and the Eurozone, Greece is now firmly tied to global consumerism.
But there wasn’t enough to keep me there. The main interest is the old citadel which I ambled around yesterday and the area of narrow streets and lanes leading down to it full of tavernas and unusual and idiosyncratic shops. But that’s not my scene at all. I could have taken a boat trip out to the island in the lake which sounds picturesque but not very photogenic surrounded as it is by pretty discoloured, polluted water and under grey skies.
And Tuesday dawned with very grey skies. Turning black! My onward journey was to take a bus to Igoumenitsa, a major international as well as local port in the far North West corner of Greece, close to the Albanian border and opposite Corfu. I had sussed out how long it would take to trundle my luggage to the bus station from the hotel and the times of the buses. Rather than another early start I decided to go for a leisurely stroll after an 08.00 breakfast to catch the 10.00.
I had had an ouzo nightcap in a backstreet taverna in a small courtyard and noticed a great bit of wall art so, as it was only slightly out of my way, I called in there to take a photo, much to the bemusement of the staff who must have wondered what this weird bloke was doing wheeling in a Big Bag, fishing out a camera, pointing it at the wall, and then wheeling off again.
The route to the bus station was towards and then parallel with the lake and I could see above the buildings that the sky was turning darker grey and then black. Before I was half way heavy rain spots started to fall leaving large wet dots on the pavement … and on me. I quickened my pace but knew I would not beat the deluge which was clearly visible, approaching at some pace across the lake accompanied by crashing thunder and flashes of lightening as it descended from the mountains. I didn’t.
I stopped under the canopy of a periptero (street kiosk) and pulled on my ultra lightweight cag, put on my sun hat which gave some measure of protection to my top half, but within minutes my trousers were absolutely saturated. Because it was a lot warmer in Ioannina than up in the mountains in Metsovo I had packed my shoes and was wearing sandals, so at least the water flowed out of them rather than collecting inside. For the final quarter of the journey it fair lashed it down.
I was so wet that when I got inside the bus station I pulled out a pair of trousers from the Big Bag and went and changed in the loo. With the air conditioning on, some of the buses are distinctly cool and I didn’t fancy sitting in wet kecks for a couple of hours.
As it turned out the indication in the Rough Guide to Greece of the journey time to Igoumenitsa was significantly wrong. It took 1½ hours not 2½ hours, thanks I guess to the new motorway and the tunnels cutting through the mountains rather than meandering over the top. But the 2012 edition of the Rough Guide should have got that sorted out. The journey to Parga was in two parts, first to Igoumenitsa then to Parga. The journey time in the Rough Guide for the second part of the journey was also wrong, 1½ hours not an hour. I concluded earlier in the trip that the Rough Guide is just that, a rough guide.
But it worked out well. I had calculated that I would get to Igoumenitsa by 12.30 and get a connection to Parga at 13.15. As it was I got to Igoumenitsa by 11.30 and sat in the sun enjoying an espresso until the connection at 12.30.
The bus meandered through a few villages inland to get here which is why it took so long and one thing which struck me was the number of telegraph poles with storks nesting on top. Hope to find some closer to Parga while I’m here.
I had researched affordable hotels in Parga on the internet before I set out and the bus stopped a mere 20 metres away from one of them. I couldn’t be bothered humping baggage around looking for a better deal so, as they had vacancies, I checked in. Wunderchöen as we used to say when I spent part of a summer in Austria. And it should be nice and convenient when I head back to Igoumenitsa for a ferry to Corfu.
First impressions of Parga are favourable on the whole. Major advantage is that having finally dropped down out of the mountains onto the coast the sun is shining. Exceedingly pleasant.!! I ambled around a bit and took a few pics to give a flavour of the place. Problem trying to get a map showing footpaths. The assumption is obviously that most visitors hire a car and zoom around the region rather than explore the local area on foot. There is even a road train!!!!!!!!
It was a marked change to see that I was far from the only one in shorts. The place is heaving with tourists and most are in shorts. I don’t think I heard a single British voice since I arrived in Athens but in Parga they are everywhere. A few are obviously returning visitors of long standing who seem sit in particular bars all day and hold court It saddens me that so many do no more than stagger between the beach and the beach-front tavernas, claiming waiters as life-long friends, and presumably stagger back to some hotel at night. Perhaps when I get old and overweight I’ll be less driven and I’ll do the same. But in the meantime …… Parga is a pleasant place to be.