Interrail day twelve – Alexandroupoli to Samothrace

9 May

Samothrace (Samothraki) is the final one of my three key locations, and the furthest point of my journey, so I suppose you could call it my destination. To come all the way to the eastern edge of Greece overland (and sea) has been quite an experience, but not as hard as I thought it might be.

I thought this would probably be the furthest east I had ever been Europe, not counting Istanbul, but in fact the map shows that I’m at about the same longitude as Bucharest, and even Kea (an island off Athens where I have family) is about the same, since Greece sort of slopes to the east as it goes down.

I had a bit of an early start again, as there is only one ferry to Samothrace today, and I didn’t want to miss it. I did have time to try out all the lovely toiletries at my fancy hotel, though, and my skin still smells of them! (The towels were incredibly thick and fluffy too – 31 Doors Hotel comes highly recommended if you ever find yourself in Alex.)

Samothrace seen from Alex

It was a good job I had already had breakfast, as I had to run the gamut of Greek bakeries full of amazing, sweet-smelling things that would definitely have sidetracked me otherwise. I picked up the bus times en route, bought a ferry ticket, and went out on deck where the wind blew my hair dry in no time. There was a party of teenagers (everywhere I go I am dogged by groups of adolescent schoolchildren), one of whom had a laugh shrill enough to shatter glass, but it was still fun. This ferry was smaller than the international one, so you could see them casting off the ropes and stuff, which I enjoy.

Samothrace was everything that you would expect a Greek island to be – except that it was cold! It must have been nearly ten degrees colder than Alex. I was so disappointed, as I had pictured hiking in shorts and swimming in the pool. However, as they day wore on, it grew warmer and when I went out to find some lunch, I was too warm in my jacket and jumper. In fact, it got up quite a reasonable temperature eventually.

Like most Greek islands (as far as I know), the afternoon is very sleepy and everything shuts down. A woman at the mini market told me it was closed and would reopen at five, so I took that as a sign that I should have a siesta. Thus refreshed, I decided to brave the pool.

Looks inviting, doesn’t it?

I had left it until five o’clock, when in theory the air temperature should still be at its highest point, and the pool would have had all day to warm up. So how cold was it once I got in? Perishing! It was the kind of cold you get in the sea off Scotland where the water is physically painful against your skin. I did few laps and I adjusted to it a bit, but it was still very, very cold. Fortunately a hot shower was only moments away.

It was sort of invigorating in a feels-good-for-you kind of a way, but I think swimming is probably out for the rest of the holiday. Hiking in shorts might be ok though, as long as I don’t start too early in the morning, and according to Google maps this place is not too big, so I should easily be able to walk to both the Sanctuary of the Great Gods and the main village (χορα) in a few hours. In theory I could also hike out to the caves I’ve come to see if there are no boat trips, but I’m really hoping there’s a boat trip.

But after venturing out in search of dinner this evening, it is not looking hopeful for the boat trip. I asked a woman at a fishing place and she said they are only in summer. By the way, you may remember that I said I didn’t expect Samothrace to be as monolingual as Ferrara – but it is! The hotel staff speak English, but everywhere else so far it has been a struggle to reach an understanding between their broken English and my broken Greek. Mostly when I try to communicate, they just repeat it back to me, with the right pronounciation and a questioning tone. 😂 Getting the stress right in Greek is hard.

There are mopeds (and indeed cars) for hire, which would make visiting the caves quicker, but I didn’t bring my driver’s licence as I had no intention of driving in crazy foreign traffic. That’s a shame, as I would have probably been happy enough to drive here, it’s so quiet and there are hardly any roads, so you can’t get lost easily. On the other hand, with the condition of the roads, I would probably have pitched myself over the handlebars when the front wheel hit a ditch.

I’ll have to consider the options (I expect they have at least one taxi, for example), but I have a nasty feeling the caves can only be accessed from the sea. At this rate I’ll have to (gasp!) make stuff up for the novel!

However, it’s a beautiful island and I’ll no doubt have a lovely time however it pans out.

Goodnight from Greece

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