Volos, Makrinitsa and France – All In One Day
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
“Bitte.” It means “please” in German, and it’s today’s German Expression of the Day here onboard Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2.
Each day, the printed Programme of the Day offers up a small lesson in the German language to English-speaking guests, which I think is really neat. Bitte not only means please – as in, ein bier, bitte (a beer, please), but also “you are welcome.” So, if you say “Danke” (thanks) to someone, they will likely reply with “Bitte!”
However, as we are docked alongside in Volos, Greece today, a hearty “Kalimera!” might be more appropriate. It means “Good Day” or “Good Morning” in Greek, and what a good morning we had.
Volos is located about 300 kilometres north of Athens, and a little over 200 kilometres south of Thessaloniki. It’s also a very industrial city with modern, squat, and generally unattractive architecture owing to a catastrophic earthquake that ravaged the town in 1955. While it may not have the romanticism associated with its island counterparts like Mykonos and Rhodes, ships like EUROPA 2 call on Volos because there’s plenty to do, just outside of town.
Today, Hapag-Lloyd offered excursions to the historic Pelion Steam Train, and to the impressive sites of Meteora. Once again, our little group was taken on a tour by the folks from the Pelion Tourism Association – and we discovered some interesting sights not far from Volos.
Our main stop today was the small town of Makrinitsa, nicknamed “The Balcony of Mount Pelion” thanks to its commanding perch along the mountainside. From the cruise pier, it’s only perhaps a 30-minute drive up the mountain to reach Makrinitsa, though it’s worth noting that almost the entirety of the road takes place on a narrow switchback. If you’re prone to motion sickness, this might be one to take something pre-drive.
If Volos isn’t the idyllic paradise you think of when you picture Greece, Makrinitsa most certainly is. It’s a small town – fewer than 1,000 people call this hilly mountainside home – but it’s bustling with tourists who flock here to walk its cobblestone pathways, dine in its cafes, and admire the small streams of water that constantly run off the mountain.
We also had the chance to peek into the Makrinitsa Folk Art and History Museum of Pelion. I can’t tell you where it is, exactly; it’s location is rather hard to describe without saying, ‘take a left at the fountain, walk down past the Cathedral, follow the path through the woods with the trees that are just alive with wasps, and you’ll find it.’ Seriously – it’s the most hidden, out-of-the-way museum I’ve ever seen. If you visit Makrinitsa, ask a local – otherwise you’ll never see it!
The museum houses a number of important artifacts from the history of Pelion, including working phonographs, ancient Greek texts, and a depiction of how a typical Greek would have lived at the time of the building’s construction in the mid-1800’s.
As with nearly every place in Greece, well-fed stray dogs and cats roam the streets of Makri