Leaving Athens to the North we decided to take the midnight train to Thessaloniki. The ticket is at 25 EUR/ person cheaper than the express trains during day time. In retrospective that probably explains why I felt like being back in Afghanistan. Together with 5 other cyclists we loaded our bikes into the first carriage, we had 2 minutes left to get with our carry-on luggage to the carriage all the way at the other end of the train. We decided to walk through the train in order not to be left on the station. The train was packed with people. Bags, kids, burkas and lot’s of discussion in the narrow hallways. I knew that lots of refugees and immigrants from Afghanistan and nowadays Syria use the Athens harbour as an entry point to Europe. After a little while we arrived at our compartment and joined the jam session.
Thessaloniki at 6 in the morning was cold. It didn’t get much warmer after sunrise and we realised that going 400km north also meant leaving summer and diving right into autumn. Little we knew that a week later we’ll be in snow already!
The north of Greece is very quiet compared to the touristic coastline we had seen so far. Camping and finding a spot was easy and didn’t take long. The hilly landscape reminded us a lot about the East of Czech Republic. We missed the Czech pubs as always 🙂
10km from the border our route was continuously merged with what looked like a Highway. Despite us cycling 25km/h there still was a significant difference in speed among us on our 3m wide emergency lane/ shoulder and the trucks passing, honking and giving us thumbs up 🙂 Being German and paranoid of what might happen we branched off one last time and climbed 600m on a road through endless autumn forests in the mountains. When on top a young soldier, alerted by two dogs, greeted us at the entrance to a military base. He told us that we cannot continue and would have to cycle on the highway. As there is no other option we did and were soon greeted by the Bulgarian border guard in fluent Russian. Now we won’t be back in the Schengen area for a long time.