Volos

Volos is a small provincial Greek town situated approximately halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki. Notable for it’s stunning location; as the principal town on it’s huge and sheltered bay; it’s history and it’s modern life as a port and lively university town.

The city of Volos is, for Greece, actually a very modern one, developing after the liberation from the Ottoman Empire in about 1840. Previously it had been an insignificant Turkish hamlet but of course before that in ancient times it had been an important centre under the names of the old cities of Demetrias, Pagasae and Lolkos and in Neolithic times there had been the city of Dimini just to the west of where Volos now sits (Jason – of the Argonauts fame – was supposed to have come from the city of Lolkos).

The modern city being born at such a time led to the ideal conditions for the planning and construction of a perfect neo-classical city and this is what took place. Laid out on a grid plan with wide straight boulevards, Volos was regarded as being a miracle of planning and an architectural delight. Unfortunately the devastating earthquakes of 1954 laid waste to this lovely town and most of the buildings were destroyed. That, combined with the usual problems of developers with concrete box fixations, has left the town, as with most Greek cities, somewhat faceless. Having said that the number of neo-classical buildings left do break up the modern buildings and the long straight avenues are mixed in with pleasant squares and the waterfront is a nice place to watch the evening Volta (stroll).

There are seemingly endless cafes (some with the luxury of outdoor air-con!) and restaurants to choose from and as Volos is a major commercial centre for the area of Thessaly and the Sporades islands it has all the services and hotels you can imagine.

The Archaeological Museum, which is housed in one of the remaining neo-classical buidings is well worth a visit as despite its comparatively small size it has an excellent array of exhibits. Its painted grave stellai are fairly unique and it has very good collections of neolithic figurines, pottery and jewellery.

Just outside Volos there is a beach area and of course the delights of the Pelion peninsular are near with the narrow gauge railway still going there sometimes from the 19th century painted station in the centre of town. This picturesque station is also a real working rail hub with several trains a day to Thessaloniki and to Athens (mostly via Larrisa). Phone +30 24202 40056 or www.ose.gr

The airport is now undergoing new development works and a train service to the city is planned  and work is also underway on the runways providing a greater capacity to receive flights from a greater number of countries. Already Ryanair, Air Berlin, Lauda Air, Belle Air and Monarch fly in and there is a bus service to Volos town and the port.

The bus station with regular coaches from Athens and Thessaloniki is about 10 minutes walk from the port but there are usually taxi’s if you are loaded down or feeling lazy and the main part of the town is around the port so if you get off the boat you are there already!

The hotel you confront as you exit the port is the Aegli which is a very nice neo classical building and has lovely views from the front rooms but there are many hotels both budget and slightly more plush. www.hotelscombined.com is an excellent site which compares the prices on all other sites and gives you the best deal. Or just use it as a search engine then contact the hotel direct. We haven’t had a bad experience in a hotel in Volos-yet!- so just take your pick.

Similarly the restaurants there are very good, just wandering off the street hasn’t led to any bad choices so far so it’s best to explore yourself. The Poseidonos on the front near the Aegli is seemingly very popular with the locals but maybe the owners just have lots of relatives!

There are also bars and pubs and clubs all through the town – most music clubs are out toward the railway station- and as befits a town rife with students you are never far from a drink.

For the more traditionally minded though Volos is famed for its ouzerias (tchipora being the local ouzo variant they are called tchipourias here!) where you get a little plate of food with your drink. Tidbits, as you may call them, bits of cheese, olives, octopus, fish, cucumber whatever, it’s something you should try but beware tchipoura has a magic ingredient which makes you believe having another one is a really good idea. This can lead to slight problems with vision and ability to make any sense when you talk! One is good, two is plenty, three is “knees up mother brown”- but certainly worth trying.

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