Friday 1 June. Day 14.
Bitola to Thessaloniki 148 miles.
After a damp night and hardly any sleep, not forgetting the little snack and drink of last nights supper, I was awake and getting out of my tent at around 6 am it was bright but very chilly and no rain :-) I took a photo of my sleeping pad as I couldn't see a thing last night in the darkness.
Eventually getting the bike and myself back to the main road then off headed towards Bitola centre. I was off, my thought was I should warm up soon as I start to clock up the miles for today. It was around 7am I was cycling downhill and noticed a petrol station, my first thought was FOOD.. I got off the bike I wandered inside, and I just picked up quite a few things. usual sandwich, cake, biscuits and crisps and chocolate. I tucked in when I got outside the petrol station, then headed into the centre of Bitola. Whilst cycling into the centre it was not like I would have expected, it was a little spread out and I didn't really come across any hotels, so to camp before the centre was probably the best choice last night.
I was headed in the direction of the Greek border, a sign I passed at a fork in the road showed a right direction, although the main road veered left hand side, but I carried on along the road, it was a quiet road so it was nice and peaceful , I was going for a good hour and still checked out my iphone map and yes, I was heading in the right direction. I stopped off at a bullet ridden sign to apply some sun cream, whilst applying the sun cream I could not help to be thinking how long have those bullet holes been on that sign... Was it recently? is it dangerous here ? All these thoughts were in my head, but carried on regardless.
After some time the road was getting narrower, and more rough. I checked out the phone map again, and the signal was very poor even trying to locate me was proving difficult, I didn't even bother using the Garmin as it run out of charge overnight. I carried on into this what looked like a farm yard/field, it was up hill so was starting to sweat like a pig, I kept going on past this couple, I could see big hills in my distance and was thinking thats probably the border over that big hill. The track by now was very poor and I was thinking this is not the way to the border surely ! I turned around casually and headed back down through this farm yard type place where I again passed this couple.. On the way up they were talking to each other but as again I could not understand, but coming back down I asked them where is the Border greece ??
The guy looked at me and pointed in the direction I had cycled from earlier on, and said Greece! So.. I had been going in the wrong direction since the fork in the road Blimey !! I didn't need this sort of delay :-( I quickly cycled to way back again until seen a right turn, checked my phone app agin and if i cycled down this track it would eventually lead me to the main road (The main road I should have been on coming out of Bitola) Oh well... All part of the adventure I thought.
Once I reached the main road I was off again at speed, the road was in great condition, and it was not long until I was cycling through the border with Greece. Nice quiet border part which was good. I was now even closer to Turkey. I headed towards the town called Florina, that is where I could probably get a decent hot meal.
As I cycled into the town it was heaving/very busy I took a little time to just cycled around taking in the centre and the atmosphere of the place. After about 30 mins I was heading out of town, I had not stopped anywhere for food, my thought was to just crack on and get the milage in. On the main road some time after the town I found a Lidl and dropped in there, I bought some frankfurter type sausages (Its just what I needed, something meaty), it did the trick and after some red bull and other snacks I was back off again, headed towards Thessaloniki (this was my goal for today to reach here!)
The road after here was a single carriage-way I was cycling away nice and steady when I looked over to my left I seen a field of sorts/farm type of place.… It had a wooden fence running parallel with the main road, and whilst I was cycling along about 12 mph, there were about 6 dogs running along the length of that field fence, I was thinking daft dogs running along thinking they could catch me ! Well, after the full length of the fence probably about 800 yards one of the dogs got through, and it wasn't the smallest dog (It was like an Alsatian type, It was out ! and on the opposite carriage-way and heading in my direction.... Shit ! was my thought as I pedaled like a Madhead, it was now over the central reservation and hot on my heels... I just sped away at about 25 mph - after a few hundred yards it finally stopped and turned back ! I must admit I thought what will I do if it catches me ? Luckily enough it didn't Phew !! that was close.... A few miles further on I seen a bear sign ! Jeez.. I didn't think they had them in Greece.
I thought Greece was going to be safe after cycling through Albania and Macedonia, but it looked like I had to be on my guard after the dog episode. My thought going forward was that I hope I'm not going up hill when the next one appears as that would mean I will have to go back on myself to out cycle the things haha.
It was a little hilly to start with but the roads flattened out on some parts throughout the day, I was cracking on towards my goal Thessaloniki, in my head I had a vision of what the place would look like when I arrived. My thoughts were of a long sandy beach with a hotel front.
I was rolling into Thessaloniki at around 6pm, I remember thinking how far is it to the coast/sea, the place seemed to go on forever before the coast/bay. It was very busy going through the centre, I eventually got to the seafront and - Not as I had imagined ! It was like a port bay, no sand.. unless the tide was in. I looked through my phone and tried to find a hotel. Several showed up and there were lots of people walking along the sea front. A place popped up on my screen, I was determined to stay somewhere nice after last nights episode, so I called the hotel that came up first and closest, the guy who answered asked if I want sea-view or standard, I just said Standard, well that was over £100 for the night - I can't imagine what the sea-view one costs, but I wasn't really bothered, all I wanted to do was book in, shower, change, get food and Wine (oh how I have missed my wine) and then have a wander around the place. By the time I was out again it was dark.
Over from the hotel was a nice restaurant selling pasta and burritos type food, the place was heaving (my first thought was is greece really in trouble in eurozone? (well this place was buzzing! - no crisis here) - it was brilliant and I kept having a few Reds too :-) After my meal I took a stroll down the front, there were boat restaurants and all-sorts going on.
What a nice place. I remember Thessaloniki being a place visited on coach trip tv series (All I could hear in my head today en route was Brendan's voice off coach trip shouting "Thessaloniki" to the people that were on that episode, that were going there)