West of Macedonia is one of the places I have visited the least, for as long as I have been travelling on a motorcycle. The continuous invitations of my cousin Mimis finally made me take the decision for this trip. But, let’s take things from the beginning…
Following Egnatia street starting from Ioannina, after 140km, I found myself in Kozani. Although I am not used to driving in highways, I should confess that this particular part of Egnatia street is nothing but boring. Continuous bridges and tunnels traverse the mountains of Pindos, coming through green landscapes at an altitude of up to 1500m.
Unfortunately though, the weather was not on my side, so, after the junction of Grevena, a heavy rain started and followed me all the way up to Kozani. My cousin and I had decided to meet each other in a coffee shop in Kozani, nevertheless he couldn’t resist and came all the way up to the edge of the town in order to welcome myself. That’s just a sample of the hospitality that characterizes the people of Kozani!!!
After having settled in my cousin’s place, in the evening we went out for a walk in order to have a cup of coffee and meet his motorider friends. This is how I met Sakis A., one of the most active members of the travelling motorcycle company of “ Moto-Diadromes”(=Moto-Routes). As it was expected, all we talked about was trips and motorcycle issues and, despite the non-promising weather forecasts for the next day, we arranged a trip to the region of Kozani...The appointment was set for 9am the next day.
The next morning was cloudy, but the companionship felt a lot like for a ride. The participants were Sakis A. (Honda Transalp), Mimis (Kawasaki Vulcan 900), George K. (Suzuki Bandit 600).
Our plan was to move east taking – at first – the old National Road to Grevena and then to Giannena. The landscape was full of green meadows on a tableland with an altitude of 600-800m. The road followed a course very close to Egnatia Street and in several parts parallel to it. At about 3-4km after the junction to Siatista, we turned to the right driving to Neapoli. At some point, we made a stop and went down about 200-300m to find ourselves to the riverbed of a tributary of Aliakmonas. The raging river was coloured brown, as a result of the soil it was carrying from the mountains. The trees had not yet blossomed, nevertheless gave a special beauty to the landscape.
When we arrived to Neapoli, we made a stop to have the first cup of coffee for the day. Judging from the few things I saw, the little town does not have anything really interesting to show. For us, though, it was a place of rest and discussion/information about the beauties of the region.
We departed driving east (towards Giannena) and after 10-15km we found ourselves to the crossroad to Omali, Anthoussa etc. Driving on a secondary provincial road network, with a relatively good condition of road surface and several straws, we climbed up to 1000m. What was impressive was that we came through some villages with stone houses, most of which had been abandoned. In Anthousa, we stopped for a few minutes in order to take some pictures of the inside of one of these houses. Both Sakis A. and I were surprised to find old furniture and other objects left to the ravages of time and weather.
We left Anthousa behind and, following an amazing route, we moved to a place with a landscape of unique beauty. Sycamores, oaks and rivers, all these made a spectacular composure that reminded you a painting. We stopped several times to take pictures, but mostly because we wanted to enjoy the scenery, the sounds as well as the scents of nature. After about 15km (on an asphalt path) we found ourselves to the monastery of Agia Triada Vithou.
The monastery dates back from 1700AD and its history is very rich. It has impressive holly frescoes inside the church and as far as the buildings are concerned, they are made of stone and wood. It is located on top of a small hill and one can barely see it from the road, because of the lush. On the edge of the road, driving there, we also encountered snow!
The other guys were familiar with the monastery, especially Sakis A., who had visited it many times in the past. There is a friar who has lived there for many years now, with whom we had the chance to have a cup of coffee and discuss o few things. Sakis A. showed us around the rooms, the dinary and the dorms. He informed us that not a few people are hosted in the monastery from time to time, during the days it celebrates, as well as other days.
It was about then that it started pouring with rain. Nevertheless, we took the decision to go on to our next destination, which was Pentalofo, one of the most beautiful stone villages of the area. The route (about 5-6km) was also very beautiful. Unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy it because of the heavy rain. Reaching Pentalofo, we headed for the central square in order to find some coffee shop. We were lucky, as we had the chance to taste local tastes and raki.
The village is built on five hills, and that’s why it is called so (Pentalofo= Five Hills). Most houses are made of stone according to the traditional local architecture. The village is the birthplace of many stone craftsmen who found themselves in many places around Greece – but also abroad – and have created real “artworks”!!!
As soon as the rain began to stop, Sakis A. and I attempted to take photos of some beautiful spots of the village. The fog gave a special character to the landscape.
When we decided to leave, the rain had already started again. Our plan to visit the village Chrysavgi didn’t seem to be possible. Sakis A. was so upset because the previous day he had told me so much about that village and wanted to show me…So, we took our way back to Kozani, driving in the old N.R.
About 20km later, we found ourselves to the junction to Chrysavgi. The rain had stopped and Sakis A. couldn’t bear not to propose the beautiful village. We all agreed and started driving in a narrow spiral route. At some point, Sakis A. stopped in order to show me a little sign with the message “Caution Mines”. It was about a small minefield that was located next to the road!!! Surrounded by fence of course.
As soon as we reached the central square of the village, we found a slopping paved road, which we followed. We ended up to a very beautifully formed place with a renovated stone watermill, a stone arched bridge and an impressive waterfall!!! The cultural association of the village, using great effort and enthusiasm, had created a place for recreation and entertainment. A playground, a barbecue, wooden benches and stone paths complement the landscape. This is a very hospitable spot for those who visit the village, but also a very beautiful destination for those who love nature.
As it was expected, cameras were o fire!!! We couldn’t find the courage to leave this place. We all stood up to the wooden bridge enjoying the panoramic view of the place! Sakis A. promised me that the next time I would be visiting the area, Chrysavgi would certainly be one of our night stops…
Daylight had already started to go away, when we decided to take our way back to Kozani, which was about 50km away. The route was convenient with several turns, but the landscape compensated for it. At some point, we found the junction to Omali, where we had turned in the first place. Thereafter, the route was pretty much well known. When we reached Kozani, we went to the place where the other guys hang around for a last cup of coffee, watching the rain pour endlessly and with intensity. As one could expect, we discussed about the places we had visited. The guys asked me for my impressions. Of course they were the best I could get and as a proof of it I had already started thinking when I would get to visit my friends from Kozani again…
In conclusion, I would like to thank with all my heart the guys from “ Moto-Diadromes” and especially Sakis A. and Mimis, for their wonderful hospitality. By getting to know them, one could realize their love for moto-trips as well as for their place. They are always willing to show you around, they won’t hesitate to even leave their jobs, in order to make you feel good and please yourself. A great thank you… I wish you nice journeys and see you again soon!