Christina/ April 6, 2024/ Culture

Áfitos, probably one of the most beautiful and oldest places in Kassandra. On the first day of our vacation, we want to treat ourselves to a relaxed day by the sea here. We inquire at the hotel about the bus schedule. We plan to leave at 10:30 a.m. The German-speaking gentleman from the hotel staff also explains the way to the bus station. However, when we try to buy a ticket just before departure, the seller informs us that the bus has already left. We look at each other in disbelief. The bus left early? We should have seen it. After all, these are large tour buses that are hard to miss on the narrow streets of Greek towns. Since we still lack insider knowledge about the central Macedonian bus system at this point, knowledge we will gain throughout the week, we have to accept it for now. The next bus leaves at 1:30 p.m. That’s the one we’ll take. We spend the time until departure at the port of Néa Kallikratia. We watch the fishermen mend their nets and amuse ourselves at how socks are hung out to dry here. They really hang like they’re on a gallows in the sun.

At the bus station
This time we are overly punctual at the bus station, only to find out that the bus is, of course, not punctual. Additionally, we are puzzled by information at the stop. It says that tickets must be validated at least twenty minutes before departure. We are initially puzzled about the purpose of this and, most importantly, where do we validate the ticket? We turn to the friendly ticket vendor again. He reassures us that it’s not a problem at all. We remain skeptical. Finally, the bus arrives. At that moment, the man leaves his place and tears the tickets before boarding the vehicle. So that’s how you validate them? We still wonder.

Where life is bustling
Now we enter Chalkidiki for the first time on this vacation. Crossing the Potidea Canal, we approach our destination. We have been driving for almost an hour when the bus literally drops us “in the middle of nowhere.” We descend from the main road into the village. The further we go, the more beautiful it gets. The center stands out with its renovated stone houses and quaint taverns. Áfitos Beach is also impressive. On this extended weekend (March 25th is a national holiday in Greece), the cafes and restaurants are packed with Greek families enjoying the good food, fantastic weather, and breathtaking views. The nicest establishments are strategically located above the beach, offering excellent panoramic views.

Cats eating chips
We continue to explore the village and are simply delighted. At the central church square (Agios Dimitrios), we settle into a nice café for an aperitif. When the server brings the drinks and a bowl of chips, it doesn’t take a minute before we have a well-fed and groomed cat joining us. At first, the cat snuggles up to us, sits on our lap, and starts purring. When she realizes she’s being well received, she attempts a bold leap toward the chips. We manage to save the snacks on the first try. We place a menu over the bowl, thinking that would solve the problem. Ha, wrong. The cat takes another shot, sweeps the menu off the container with her head, and dives into the chips! We are so perplexed that we just burst out laughing. The cat is almost ferociously munching on the snacks. We struggle to take the bowl away from her and put it off the table.

Waiting for the bus
At 6:30 p.m., as the nice ticket vendor in Néa Kallikratia told us, the last bus is supposed to depart. With heavy hearts, we leave the center of Áfitos and head back to the highway. At a nursery, which is actually closed but still waves us in, Susanne buys a little olive tree. At the bus stop, we stand around for half an hour, twiddling our thumbs. We are just glad to see locals also waiting for the bus. Otherwise, we would have feared that it had already passed or wouldn’t come at all? At this point, we are still trying to understand the bus system. But we are getting closer to figuring it out.

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