Jump to content

Our route to Greece and a few observations


Recommended Posts

Hello from Palea Epidavros on the Eastern coast of the Peloponese. Thought you might like to know the sea is blue (though not overly warm) and the sun shone since we got here on 23 December until last weekend. The average temperature in the camper was 29ºC and 42% humidity. We just had 4 days of rain, thunder lightening and ice cubes falling on us. Now it’s sunny again and we were in the sea this morning.


We’d like to thank those kindly folk, notably Brian K and Petra, who responded to our pre trip enquiries and to the hugely useful postings of Don M, - and to update you on the route we did take, with a few of our findings here.


We’re travelling in a 4,600kg Auto MB based Hymer S660. Our goal was a pre booked ferry Ancona > Patras on Sunday 22 December, without too much rushing. The overall plan was to spend 3 or 4 weeks in Greece and return via the Dolomites to get some skiing. The biggest decision for the outward route was whether to go to Italy via France, Switzerland or Austria. We opted for Switzerland. (Reasons later)


The last time we took a camper to a ski area we got buried in snow. It was great insulation, but we weren’t able to move for a fortnight. We managed to carry food and water to the camper but Gas was more difficult. So this time we left the UK with a full Carabottle and a full GB propane bottle, 2 French empties, - Primagas and Total, and a German empty bottle, and these I hoped to fill en route.


Day 1: Crossing Dover>Calais arriving about 8 pm local.

30kms to the Aire at Gravelines, Rue du Port, Parking des Miaulesle, just off the D119 (Rue des Islandais) The GPS co-ordinates I had didn’t quite tally, but it’s a large area of cobbled ex dock yard/quai and we found campers parked in several bits of it stretching a good 800 metres apart.


Day 2: Return to A16/ E40 and exit at Dunkirk / Grande Synthe / Centre Commercial. Shopped at Auchan topped up Diesel and swapped the Total bottle. Auchan don’t sell Primagas, but practically every other sort. The £@ only €1.11 was uncomfortable. 13kg of Calor cost me £21 before leaving. The Totalgas, also 13kg was €23.50 (Not so long ago £1=€1.60. French Gas seemed cheap then)


We headed for Luxembourg via Lille, Tournai, Mons, Charleroi, Namur, Dinant. At Don Madge’s suggestion we stopped at the Aire de Capellen. His advice is that the Northern aire (Westbound carriageway) is better, but we were going East so entered the Southern part. We were a bit tired and in our haste to get parked drove past the diesel pumps! And the 1-way system means no return. So if you plan to follow this route, - be warned fill first. Glad to report that overnight parking was fine.


Day 3: First job, connected the new Total gas cylinder and discovered the Triomatic regulator was leaking. This meant a detour to a Truma dealer in Luxembourg. I have (or will) post separately on this matter, as it’s a new story. We filled the diesel tank and 2x10ltr jerries @€0.88/ltr


We had intended to go Metz, Nancy, Colmar, Mulhouse, - but the Truma problem was not resolved in Luxembourg and forced another detour to caravan dealer Vogt in Saarbrücken. If you’re ever in the area, their accessories shop in Kobllenzer Strasse /Mettlacher Strasse 49N14’23” 6E56’30” is jolly good and I swapped my German empty bottle there too. We re-entered France and used the Autoroute to Saverne (€4.50). The Aire with dump point is next to the chateau and a nice view of the Canal, The most level bit was, we discovered a tad too early next morning, uncomfortably close to the school bus stop.


Day 4: Heading south on the D1004/ D422/ D500 we found a L’Eclerc that sold Primagas, €24. We could have bought a 2 kg block of foie gras for about the same, - stocked up with other French delicacies and joined the E25. We stopped at the “Selestat” service station for diesel and fresh water, but the outside temp had not risen above zero since Luxembourg and was now about -6º. The push for flow tap had frozen and was not to be pushed that easily, so we spent a good 30 cold and painful mins leaning against it to get 60 or so litres! Selestat was one of several service stations we saw that day offering free internet access. It’s a good system, - 20 mins or so for free and when your time’s up you can log on for another spasm.


We had considered the Austria route but the unknown aggro of acquiring a Go box for our truck (>3.500kgs) seemed less convenient than the Swiss carnet/lorry pass. (The cost of Autoroutes put France ?Mont Blanc out of the frame.)


Because we are in a PHGV we can’t use the annual carnet (2” x2” badge in windscreen) that’s available to cars in Switzerland but have to pay a daily fee based on weight & size, and I’m pleased to say that the formalities at the border were simple. I will post as soon as poss. a copy of the form, but it took only a few mins to complete and pay by credit card.


The border guard spoke perfect English and explained we could buy a 25 Sw.Francs pass for 8 consecutive days, or for 32 Sw.F, - 10 separate days during the next 12 months. We opted for the 32 Sw.F option and he gave us an A4 page with 10 spaces, one for each day of use. He filled in space No1 with the date 16 December and said it was pity I hadn’t arrived after 7 pm (it was then 6 pm) as the rest of today’s travel could then have been on tomorrow’s space. So if planning to transit Switzerland with an overnight it’s best to arrive after 7pm. (At time of writing 1 SwFr =£0.60 ish)


We had a GPS for a Stellplatz in Luzern but the exact co-ordinate had a building on it. However the adjacent office furniture store had a very accommodating and level car park. 47N01’21” 8E17’37”. Another comfortable and peaceful night.


Day 5: A little flurry of snow overnight but roads remained clear. Lots of salt but no grit. Passing through Switzerland we noticed that diesel fuel works out at about £1/litre. The 17km St Gotthard tunnel was included in the pass. Approaching the Italian border we found a queue of lorries and assumed that, because we were a heavy, we should join it. After waiting for 15 mins or so, enviously watching cars and light vans passing in the outer lane, I noticed the driver of the truck behind gesturing that I should join the passing vehicles. So I did. Thank God, - otherwise I think we’d still be there. We passed hundreds of trucks and they were going off into a weighing compound as far as we could tell.


When we got to the border control, I went looking for the signing-out booth. But there is no such thing. The pass is a self-declare system and I learned that before driving that day, I should have filled in Space 2 on my form with that day’s date (17 December). I actually didn’t need to stop at the border. I didn’t enquire as to what would have happened if the Police had stopped me and found my form not completed, but I think I probably transgressed. Mea Culpa. Did you know that the road pass fees raise £4 billion or so for the Swiss exchequer each year? No wonder they can afford such a generous tax system for the natives!


Petra had suggested a Sosta at Soragna (possibly 44N55’47” 10E07’33” but well signposted from the outskirts) Just a car park with a service point, but we endorse it as a nice quiet spot, not too far from the Autostrada and bang in the middle of the Parma region…. Ooh Yummy. The temperature was still -6 or so, so no fresh water to be had, but we could at least dump waste.


Day 6: The supermarket just round the corner from the car park had special offers on Parma Ham and 24 month Gran Pedano, so with fridge now bulging at the seams we set off for the coast. Travelling East along the “Autostrada del Sol” and then “del Adriatica” the snow gradually disappeared. The temp soared to plus 2ºC and we passed hundreds of hectares of cordoned fruit right next to the road. The word “particulates” will always remind me of Italian fruit.


We had a Sosta in mind at a Marina Montemarciano just North of Ancona, but the co-ordinates were another bit of duff gen. We followed signs to a dump point just a few hundred metres up the coast but ruled out parking there, - right next to a high-speed train line. A bit further up Via Lungomare we found shelter from the train noise on the sea side of some holiday flats and parked for the night on the side of the road just a pebble’s throw from the Adriatic. Nice to be lulled to sleep by the noise of the waves. The occasional express that shook the block of flats was no real bother (Mercedes springs are very good). Total toll across Italy was about €17, sorry, - lost one receipt so it might be a bit more.


Day 7: Ancona Port Office, and a useful bit of info that Don Madge has previously posted on, - the Ancona Port Office where you find the ticket offices for all the ferry lines isn’t at the port. It’s off Via Luigi Einaudi near the junction with the SS681 43N36’46” 13E30’00”


Anticipating a system a bit like Dover/Calais we enquired as follows, - “Scusi squire, can we travel a day early, ….er like later today?” and received the reply “Sorry no, the boat’s full” I found this a bit surprising, I mean how can you completely fill a boat??? ……… The answer was to be revealed on Sunday.


So we went shopping, or at least tried to find the Auchan with camper service point, which our GPS reliably informed us, existed at…. (You’re ahead of me I can tell…..)

As we rolled up to the position where we expected to find the Supermarket we realised all was not well when we found instead an Autostrada toll point. Diverting hastily into a council refuse compound we found a lovely chap who understood mimeglish and could use GPS. He soon had us on the right track and I can now confirm that the correct GPS for the Auchan Supermarket with Service Point in Ancona is 43N33’04” 13E31’00” on Via Franco Scataglini, District Baraccola. We topped up our fresh water, dropped our grey and tried to find the “black” hole….. That’s when we realised the grey hole is also the black and there is no separate cassette rinse tap…. yeukk. Anyway we survived without gippy tummies, and spent a nice quiet night in the deserted car park under lovely bright floodlights.


Day 8: Anxious to get sorted for the 4pm sailing we rolled up early to the port and were about No 40 in the queue. This is a good idea when Camping on board is permitted, ‘cos you’ll probably get a nice pitch with a sea view. Out of season it’s a BIG MISTAKE. If you are first onto one of these Ferries you get buried in the deepest darkest bit, and these ships are HUGE, I think ours was the size of Bristol. And when they say the boat is full they mean it - even the ramp to the upper car deck (where we were) had 3 lorries on it and was winched up level, then the space under it was filled with 3 more trucks before sailing. I‘d read a thread that said we’d be able to plug in to a 240volt supply to keep our fridge going but the deck hand I asked said the 240 was switched off for safety. I’m not convinced he was being entirely truthful about the safety thing as he then stuffed 400 volts into a refrigerated lorry.


Regarding camping on board. All the lines had told us we couldn’t from 31 Oct – April 30. It’s Italian law, something to do with elf n safety so we’d booked a 2 berth cabin. The round trip, with the return via Venice, cost €770. We had some picnic supplies for breakfast so it was supper in the restaurant. €32 for a sea bream and a piece of veal without veg struck me as a bit steep even though it was nicely cooked.


(A few days after we reached our destination on the Peloponese we met an English couple who’d crossed at about the same time from Bari to Igoumentista. They had also expected to not camp on board but were plugged in immediately and allowed to stay in their truck on the camper deck. They had been told camping on deck is at the Captain’s discretion. So the only thing that’s certain is that nothing is certain.)


Day 9: 21 December 2010. We slept through the 8am unloading at Igoumenista. When we got up, the sun was shining and we were rolling past the islands. Breakfasted and cappuccino’d we found it was warm enough to wander around on the sun deck until we docked in Patras at 4pm local (Greece = GMT+2) and drivers were ushered back to vehicles.


Now just to make life a little more tiresome, these are not roll on roll off boats like Dover Calais. If you’re lucky, - we were, there’s enough space to turn round and drive off forwards through the same hatch by which you boarded. Pity the poor artic drivers who have to reverse off down a 30% gradient. And also pity the poor mugs like us who had to watch them trying, - waiting for our exit route to clear. The process is made unnecessarily awkward by the lack of light in the car decks. The sun is so bright it casts deep shadows. This means the drivers, who are normally so good at manoeuvring these beasts, are working blind and have to rely on instructions from the deck staff who, as was painfully clear to us, had never driven an artic in their lives and had no idea which way the steering wheels should point, particularly as the ramps are ludicrously narrow with no space to adjust the tractor/trailer angle. Needless to say in Mediterranean fashion, there’s an awful lot of shouting and very little progress. It was 2 hours after the boat docked in Patras before we got off!


We had used the 20 litres of cheap Luxembourg diesel from the Jerries on the last leg to Ancona so refilled our tanks on the outskirts of Patras @€0.90/litre (It was a good price, elsewhere its about €1) Road signage in Greece is also in English. The route to the Korinthos / Athens motorway is clearly marked so exiting Patras was straightforward. Toll to Korinthos €7.20.


Service stations display petrol & diesel prices as in the UK. At the bottom of the list was something at about €0.55 which we thought might be LPG… it’s actually heating oil.


210 kms further on we reached our destination, Palea Epidavros at 9pm, and we have enjoyed the warmest winter in Greece since 1965. Lucky old us.


We’ve done 1820kms since Calais and the truck (auto with cruise) returned 22mpg.


Our observations of life here

1.Above all other European nationalities, the Brits are well regarded and universally welcome. I hope the following remarks do nothing to spoil that.


2.Winter is great in Greece. It’s the time when citrus fruit ripens. If you catch a cold you can get 4 kg of fresh oranges for 50p


3.Don’t be surprised to see pedestrians walking along the motorway. It’s usually quicker and more convenient for them to go that way.


4.The law that prohibits smoking in restaurants is rigorously ignored. As my sister in law explained to me, if we don’t allow smoking in the restaurant our clients will go somewhere else. As I contemplate the hundreds of pubs in the UK that have come up for sale since the smoking ban depleted their customer base, I can’t help wondering why the landlords of those establishments didn’t think of that?


5.The law that requires crash helmets to be worn on motorcycles is also ignored. It sort of makes sense. If Yamasakisuki Honda went to all that trouble to invent the clutchless engine, it would be silly for Greek motorcyclists (who have perfected the technique of safely controlling these bikes with only one hand……..,) to wear a helmet otherwise they wouldn’t be able to use their free hand to hold a mobile phone to their ear could they? Actually it’s not true that helmets are never worn….sometimes they’re worn on the arm like handbags.


6.Don’t be surprised to find a souped up Honda 90 doing a wheelie along the footpath. Chances are the front wheel will hit the ground and the bike will stop before it hits you. Anyway, what are you doing walking when you’ve got wheels? My sister in law’s neighbour uses her car to put the rubbish out.


7.Don’t be surprised if you see cars / bikes with unreadable number plates or no number plates. After all, if the guy’s only doing a couple of thousand k’s a year why bother to fix plates?


8.Greek cars only go forward. If you meet a car in a narrow road (when you and I might think it appropriate that if the other driver had been paying attention to what was happening beyond the end of his/her bonnet, they might have seen you coming and stopped to let you pass), - YOU will have to demonstrate how to reverse. The exception to this is in Supermarket car parks when cars may reverse suddenly at high speed just as you are walking past.


9.Don’t for a moment think that if you’re on a roundabout, you’re on a roundabout…… You read that right. Here are 3 good reasons why you should never assume you have right of way on what “appears” to be a roundabout. (1) There aren’t many roundabouts in Greece and few people know what they are yet. (2) It is unlikely that there is a Yield sign on the approach road. (3) It is unlikely that any road markings indicating priority exist, - see below. So - just because YOU know how a roundabout should work does not mean the farmer loaded with 7 tons of tangerines crossing from your right has any thoughts about letting you circulate in front of him, just assume that he is going to cut straight across your path. Near death moments with freshly squeezed orange juice are common.


10.Given that the nation likes plastering (verb chosen with care) white paint all over some public areas, it’s surprising that the roads get such little attention. Road markings are seldom visible / faint / worn out, - or do not exist at all. Most “major” roads are pretty narrow so unavoidably the centre markings get worn out by traffic, - add to this the choice of non UV resist paint and the infrequent renewal, and it’s not hard to see why. Kerbs / side markings are also infrequent. Driving after dark requires considerable concentration as you’re never quite sure which side of the road you’re on, or where the side of the road is, or even where the road is.


11.Where the crown of the road is (or was) marked with 2 solid white lines, it means er… um……….er….. Just expect to be overtaken by all and sundry.


12.Road junctions that SHOULD be roundabouts … aren’t. There’s one with 5 routes in Nafplio that is particularly crazy. Locals adopt the policy that the faster you get through it; the less chance there is of anyone hitting you. They introduced traffic lights 30 years ago but it led to so many accidents they took them away.


13.Out of season campsites are closed and the best places to wild camp are the ones clearly marked with the no camping signs. Just do the right thing and spend some dosh in the local restaurant or bar.


14.Water at high pressure is available at nearly every garage and outside loads of buildings. We’ve never had problems filling tanks but we would only use bottled stuff for drinking.


15.LPG in Greek translates as Hen’s teeth. It does not exist locally. To avoid using our European bottles I’m using a Greek propane bottle. We found one on a pile of rubbish and took it to the supermarket and got a refill (€16). The connector is the same as French and German bottles. A new bottle would have cost €23 but we couldn’t sell it back.


16.Losing the contents of the Thetford has concentrated our minds. Greek sanitation is based on pump out pits and it’s not the done thing to put paper down the loo. If it settles in the pit it goes solid (or it might gum up the works on the way there). So for now we are doing it continental fashion and disposing of paper separately. The Hymer has a special bin in the bathroom for the purpose otherwise I’m not sure whether we’d bother. But I think we might continue with the scheme as I’ve noticed that the emptying “moment” is far less splishy sploshy and it’s because there are no lumps of soggy paper in the mix.


And on that note may I wish you all Happy New Year or Kali Kronia (approx)as they say here.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

As someone who has travelled all over Greece and knows it, and its ways, well, brilliant. To see it from a motorhomers point of view is wonderful. You either like Greece and its ways or you don't. To like it, you have to understand. You, obviously do. Many thanks. Enjoy the rest of your stay.


Kali Nikta



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest JudgeMental

great report!:-D


what is the weather like? temperature rain etc...Not to interested in temp inside your van :-S


Re toilet. On another thread Lenny suggests using a water spray and clean bowl with that rather then use flush.... it can apparently double length between emptying :-|

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the nice replies. We're off to Athens tonight on a family errand then back to Patras tomorrow for night ferry to Venice. Will try to post from the Dolomites if we make it up the hill. Carrying rather a lot of the bro-in-law's olive oil , Greek delight (don't mention the Turks) and cheap Metaxa.


Just to update Judge on the weather. After 4 days of rain last week a chilly Northerly wind set in. Still OK while the sun's out. but it's very variablenow. We were walking along the beach in shorts 3 days ago then within 3 hours sheltering from the most violent thunder storm. Temps vary from 6 ! to about 19. Sun/cloudy about 40/40 with 20% showers.






Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...