In the spring of 2017, for the first time we set out into the cradle of our culture – Greece. And for the first time, we have a new challenge, homeschooling, because one daughter is already going to school.
Greece was the last major country in the south of Europe, which we have not really explored with our caravan. We were looking forward to good food, lots of historical sites and friends. We were afraid of the refugees, but in the end we not seen any. Perhaps all of them are already in Paris.
The Journey to Greece
We set off a bit earlier than usual and stopped by Croatian campsite Stobrec, which we always visit when we have a trip around. It's a place where we've been with the caravan abroad for the first time . We also traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania where it was cheap and safer than expected. Only in Albania, cards are almost never accepted at gas stations, and if so, only VISA cards. So we took cash from local ATMs, but they are very scarce, mostly in the centers of larger cities. In fact, you don't see many ATMs in Greece as well, but they are used to accepting cards.
With a Caravan to a Greek Island
We went to my friend's dad Zdena, who runs a camp Pávov in Jihlava with his boyfriend Martin. The island of Thassos is one of the northernmost islands. We were heading for the town of Potamia. The ferry trip was as fast as the trip to Sicily and cost € 60 per one way. Return trip was only €50 because were not charged for persons, even though we went with the same ferry company (one put of three). The ferry is paid only in cash at the port.
We had some nice dinners and learned some local people and habits. Finally, we then imported honey and oil directly from the producer in Thassos to the Czech Republic.
What We Did Not Made
One of the excursions I had planned but eventually did not take was a cruise on Crete to meet a local expert Lenka Kuběnová . The price of € 600 for a return trip with a caravan seemed to me too high, and unfortunately we would have been there only for a week or two. We have also missed with the Eagles and their van by 2 weeks and they know Greece in detail on their video.
Also, we have failed to make efficient use of paid motorways. I always felt that the toll gate was in a really tricky spot, and at the same with our caravan (a trailer over 2.2m in height) we were in third category out of four. In other words, the same price is for two regular cars. So I recommend avoiding the paid sections in Greece.
Places where it did not pay off to avoid paid section: The Peloponnese bridge to Patras for €20 (cars €13.30) and one underpass under the sea (€5 for our towed caravan and car, €3 for just a car) near Lefkada.
Healthy & Fresh Food
We enjoyed Greece very much. Ordering in English went well almost everywhere. It was easy to get your hands on gyros for as low as €2 or a Souvlaki skein for €1.3, but we went to pubs even though it was significantly more expensive than in our country.
Typically, we had Greek salad, Tzatziki, sometimes fried Gavros fish, from time to time we had wine or Retsina and fried zucchini. We often drank Greek coffee, which is actually Turkish coffee with a finely ground coffee and cooked in a jujube. The Greeks have lot of lamb, but it came to us fat and, moreover, Renča could not get rid of the image of a lamb and his gay fate.
Boondocking & Campsites
The same as last year, we slept outside of camps (wild camping) for about a third of the nights, and we never encountered a problem. We slept for example in Olympia, where the Olympic Games were founded, or right at the Meteora monasteries. So we had quite a lot of landmarks with a walking range.
We Remember 3 Great Boondocking Spots
Campsites → The Top 3
- Camping in Albania at Lake Shkodra
- Sikia camp in the bay with a restaurant
- Favorite campsite Stobreć
Albania Was Surprising
The biggest experience for us was Albania. We have not been here before so we could not guess how well and safe it would be. Eventually, it was cheap, safe and the whole country, though not rich, is full of colorful mountain nature. As a result, expedition vehicles were very often seen in the campsites, as opposed to regular camps where luxury RVs dominate.
Homeschooling — Learning at Home
Many of you ask how we manage school. So far we have only theorized and expected that it would work. And finally everything went well. I'll mention a few key places that you need to be careful about.
- Time schedule – It paid off when we adjusted to the current situation and did not enforce learning at all costs because it was time to learn. Sometimes we had a slip, but we were mostly ahead, because when it was good, we did not say “let's finish, we are done.”
- Engaging learning into the environment – as with time, we have been able to involve learning in the current activities where we were. Sometimes we counted the trees by the road, sometimes drew in sand or chalk on asphalt. We cut the words out of the paper and then hid them behind the caravan and played a game with learning and other activities.
- Sometimes writing works, while at other times reading is better – for some weeks, we managed to be better at reading and write again. We cannot say that the result would be balanced, so in these cases we tried to spend at least some minimum time with the unpopular activity. And always to revive it or explain it. We never put girls into activity in the style “you do it, just because have to” or “you do it because I have said it”. We always try to explain to them what they get when they put an effort into it.
- Distractions – the most difficult challenge, of course, was a constantly new environment and constantly some more fun distractions. We solved it so that both girls were learning together even though the younger one is still going into kindergarten. Or we divided the activities for the two girls so they did not interfere.
Overall, we are pleasantly surprised by homeschooling. The lessons can easily be dealt with within 2-3 hours a day and the for the rest of the day the things to learn can be easily connected to what you can see around you – food, beach games, city tours. By knowing what is just a to be learned, we are more easily linking theory to practice.
This is a crucial difference to the rest of the year, when we let school more or less teach the girls, and at home we just barely ask what they were learning at school, and if they are making it. Involvement is therefore smaller because at home we have a bunch of routine duties that take our time.
Check out also: Complete photo gallery from Greece
Bonus: We're Building an Expedition Vehicle
After a few years with the caravan, we said that luxury was enough and we could try another level of minimalism. First of all, we considered the expedition extension of made from laminate (Gazell , AeroOne , Ossewa), but in the end it seem to me too much money for essentially a box with a cooker and a mattress, so for the start, a tent and a shed of aluminum will do.
We ordered a family roof tent iKamper Skycamp, in Germany we let the AluCab box with the awning mounted on Toyota, and we will consider equipment for indoor, that will provide us with at least some basic comfort. For example, instead of a bathroom with a shower, we will have a new folding shovel and water cans. Perfect, right?
September 2017 – we are in the process of preparing. We have finished drawers made of plywood, inspired by Youtube. We have purchased the SnoMaster expedition refrigerator and MSR DragonFly gasoline / diesel cooker. We also bought the premium Camping FrontRunner chairs and the BioLite CampStove cooker with a phone charger powered by wood and fire.
Our Sources of Inspiration
- My idea of Pinterest equipment
- Andrew and his YouTube Channel 4x Overland
- Michael and the American YouTube channel Overland Bound
- Martin's Czech Group Reconstruction of vans and Housing on the Road
Graeme and his family with LandRover