Let’s meet in Belgrade has a cold war, spy thriller ring about it, don’t you think?
When Nigel and Bernd agreed the rendezvous on Whatsapp, their motive was less John Le Carre however, and more Carry on Camping.
At the start of our EU odyssey we spent six weeks with Bernd and Anni in Afrodite’s Waters Camperstop in Ancient Corinth.
We shared Christmas lunch with them, drank tsipouro together, gathered olives with Vassili, who with his son Spiros owns the camperstop, and bonded over our love of all things Greek.
When we left Afrodite’s Water just after that glorious Christmas lunch – cooked with expert flair by Fatoula, Vassili’s wife – we promised to visit Bernd and Anni in their home in Lower Saxony in July.
Luck would have it that our vans were to cross sooner than that, as Bernd and Anni were heading home to Germany for a few weeks, while we were heading east to Bulgaria and Hungary.
So last night we met up in Camp Dunav on the outskirts of Belgrade.
We had a lovely evening. Vassili had given Bernd and Anni a ten-litre box of his latest batch of wine, a rich rose colour – almost an orange wine – with which we toasted each other’s health, Vassili and Fatoula’s health, Greece, and Greece again.
We ate noodles and big beans, feta and olives, salad drenched with Annie’s secret-recipe dressing, which is to die for, and fresh Greek strawberries with rose Greek delights.
We swatted off mosquitoes, marvelled at the double rainbow that appeared over the Danube, which meanders along the edge of the campsite, and reminisced about Greece.
Bernd had a distinguished career in the German Air Force and spent two years working in Greece, where he learned the language.
He has travelled all over Europe, many times, but each time he kept going back to Greichland.
“It is a very special place,” he says. “Even the sky is different, the colour of the sea, the mountains, and the people…the people are what make Greece.”
He is right. The culture of filoxenia – love and friendship towards strangers – runs through the Greek people like streaks of ancient marble.
Strangers are not to be feared or sneered at, but to be welcomed and offered help, and a glass of tsipouro or a slice of home-made revani.
It is fast becoming a popular destination for motorhomers, as southern Spain overflows with vans. Once people discover the glories of a Greek sunset over a hidden bay, and experience filoxenia, they are smitten.
We will meet up with Bernd and Anni again in July when they will show us the area around their home in north Germany.
Then, in August, they will travel back to their spiritual home, to Ancient Corinth, where St Paul preached his epistles of love and where Vassili and Fatoula will be waiting to welcome them with fresh veg, home-made wine and of course, lots of hugs.
We don’t know when we will be back in Greece, as our plans for 2018 are still…fluid.
But we do know that we too will return to Ancient Corinth.
- Afrodite’s Waters was Greece’s first camperstop. It is also the best.
- We stayed at Camp Dunav, a short bus ride from the centre of Belgrade. We first stayed here nine years ago and it is a great base for exploring Serbia’s capital.
- Our short guide to motorhome stops in the Peloponnese
- The Lonely Planet’s guide to Greece
- Tsipouro is one of the oldest spirits in the world, and revani is a semolina cake, drenched in sugar syrup. Gourmed is a great resource for Greek food, as well other Mediterranean cuisines.