Volos, Makrinitsa and France – All In One Day

Exploring Makrinitsa, Greece, just outside of Volos where Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' EUROPA 2 is docked today. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Exploring Makrinitsa, Greece, just outside of Volos where Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2 is docked today. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bitte.” It means “please” in German, and it’s today’s German Expression of the Day here onboard Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2.

Each day, the printed Programme of the Day offers up a small lesson in the German language to English-speaking guests, which I think is really neat. Bitte not only means please – as in, ein bier, bitte (a beer, please), but also “you are welcome.” So, if you say “Danke” (thanks) to someone, they will likely reply with “Bitte!”

Volos, Greece - as seen from the decks of EUROPA 2. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Volos, Greece – as seen from the decks of EUROPA 2. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

However, as we are docked alongside in Volos, Greece today, a hearty “Kalimera!” might be more appropriate. It means “Good Day” or “Good Morning” in Greek, and what a good morning we had.

Volos is located about 300 kilometres north of Athens, and a little over 200 kilometres south of Thessaloniki. It’s also a very industrial city with modern, squat, and generally unattractive architecture owing to a catastrophic earthquake that ravaged the town in 1955. While it may not have the romanticism associated with its island counterparts like Mykonos and Rhodes, ships like EUROPA 2 call on Volos because there’s plenty to do, just outside of town.

Volos Ocean Promenade. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Volos Ocean Promenade. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Today, Hapag-Lloyd offered excursions to the historic Pelion Steam Train, and to the impressive sites of Meteora. Once again, our little group was taken on a tour by the folks from the Pelion Tourism Association – and we discovered some interesting sights not far from Volos.

Our main stop today was the small town of Makrinitsa, nicknamed “The Balcony of Mount Pelion” thanks to its commanding perch along the mountainside. From the cruise pier, it’s only perhaps a 30-minute drive up the mountain to reach Makrinitsa, though it’s worth noting that almost the entirety of the road takes place on a narrow switchback. If you’re prone to motion sickness, this might be one to take something pre-drive.

Makrinitsa is located high above Volos. Notice EUROPA 2 deep in the background. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Makrinitsa is located high above Volos. Notice EUROPA 2 deep in the background. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The beautiful streets and quaint squares of Makrinitsa. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The beautiful streets and quaint squares of Makrinitsa. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

If Volos isn’t the idyllic paradise you think of when you picture Greece, Makrinitsa most certainly is. It’s a small town – fewer than 1,000 people call this hilly mountainside home – but it’s bustling with tourists who flock here to walk its cobblestone pathways, dine in its cafes, and admire the small streams of water that constantly run off the mountain.

We also had the chance to peek into the Makrinitsa Folk Art and History Museum of Pelion. I can’t tell you where it is, exactly; it’s location is rather hard to describe without saying, ‘take a left at the fountain, walk down past the Cathedral, follow the path through the woods with the trees that are just alive with wasps, and you’ll find it.’ Seriously – it’s the most hidden, out-of-the-way museum I’ve ever seen. If you visit Makrinitsa, ask a local – otherwise you’ll never see it!

Walking down to the Folklore Museum, completely hidden from the rest of town. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Walking down to the Folk Museum, completely hidden from the rest of town. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Folk Museum of Pelion. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Folk Museum of Pelion. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The museum houses a number of important artifacts from the history of Pelion, including working phonographs, ancient Greek texts, and a depiction of how a typical Greek would have lived at the time of the building’s construction in the mid-1800’s.

As with nearly every place in Greece, well-fed stray dogs and cats roam the streets of Makrinitsa. The entire place feels like you’ve stepped back in time by a century or two; here, life moves at a more sedate pace than down in Volos, with its massive container terminals, ferry connections, and busy waterfront that reminds me more of a town on the French Riviera than Greece.

Inside the Folk Museum are historic artifacts and a look at traditional Greek ways of life. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Inside the Folk Museum are historic artifacts and a look at traditional Greek ways of life. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Makrtinitsa has a subtle charm to it. Highly recommended. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Makrtinitsa has a subtle charm to it. Highly recommended. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Heading back to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises EUROPA 2 one last time. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Heading back to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises EUROPA 2 one last time. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Back onboard EUROPA 2, this afternoon was my last chance to really explore this striking ship – and there were two suites that I absolutely had to see for myself.

At the top of EUROPA 2’s accommodations are the Owner’s Suite and the Grand Penthouse Suite. It’s exceedingly rare for one, let alone both, to be empty, but on this short voyage, they are. If I thought it was tough to drag myself away from my spacious Grand Suite, I personally see no reason why anyone in their right minds would ever even venture out of these two palatial suites.

Welcome to EUROPA 2 Grand Penthouse Suite 1003. This is the living area of this 840-square foot suite. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to EUROPA 2 Grand Penthouse Suite 1003. This is the living area of this 840-square foot suite. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

There are two Grand Penthouse Suites onboard EUROPA 2, located on Deck 10 and numbered 1002 and 1003. They’re 840 square feet (78 m2) of pure living space, coupled with a 108 square foot (10 m2) balcony that includes a full-sized table and chairs, and two chaise loungers. That’s the technical data, at least.

Grand Penthouse Suite 1003 bathroom, facing starboard. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Grand Penthouse Suite 1003 bathroom, facing starboard. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

...and the reverse angle, showing the bathroom and whirlpool tub. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

…and the reverse angle, showing the bathroom and whirlpool tub. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Accented with gorgeous dark wood veneers on everything from closets to the stand from which the retractable flat-panel television resides in, this is a tour-de-force of shipboard accommodations. The bathroom – which is twice the size of the average cruise ship stateroom – sports a rainfall shower with built-in aromatherapy steam functions, dual glass vanity sinks, dual mirrors, and a massive whirlpool bath, ahead of which is a day bed for sunning and relaxing within view of the bank of floor-to-ceiling windows that also leads to your private balcony.

Grand Penthouse Suite bedroom. The flat-panel television is stored in the cabinet in the foreground, and can be raised electronically from the bed. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Grand Penthouse Suite bedroom. The flat-panel television is stored in the cabinet in the foreground, and can be raised electronically from the bed. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

If (and only if) you can pull yourself away from the bathroom, you’ll find a separate bedroom with walk-in closet, a work desk area, and the aforementioned retracting flat-panel Bang & Olufsen television.

You’ll also find a living room with a full-sized table, a massive L-shaped couch, another flat-panel Bang & Olufsen television, and a separate toilet for guests. There’s also original artwork in these rooms by artists like Damien Hirst that are not found elsewhere on the ship. It’s a great room for entertaining guests in, as the bathroom and bedroom can be separated via sliding doors from the living room.

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Our Live Voyage Report onboard Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2 continues tomorrow as we disembark in Kusadasi, Turkey and explore the ancient ruins of Ephesus! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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