Some long time ago, being only three years old, I was taken to the seaside at the coast of the Bulgarian Black Sea. Even though the stories have been told multiple times and the photos of two little girls (my sister and myself) smiling at the camera, with the sea shimmering in the background, skimmed through, I found it hard to remember that once my feet walked along the beach, having the wet sand stuck between my toes. I kept the desire to once again see the sea coast; breathe the air filled with the scent of sea shells, pebbles, and the fish; wet my feet in the water walking on the line where the sea meets the earth; smile at the first Sun beam and give the salutation to the Sun; be happy and this time – remember! Thanks to the EVS program and the BYF project, my desire, my deepest and the longest dream, came true.
After a fully dedicated time, energy and love invested into putting the Balkan Youth Festival to life once again, we were given six free days to explore the opportunities, take chances, spread our wings wide apart, and fly to our favourite destinations – chase our travel dreams. While some of the volunteers decided to go around Bulgaria and explore as much as they can in the six-days-long vacation, the rest of us opted out for Greece.
Being in Sandanski meant that Thessaloniki is quite near, an hour by bus, so we took advantage of it. Thus, Aniol, Georgi (a Bulgarian volunteer from Sandanski), and I bought our tickets and set on a journey all the way to the peninsula and the municipality in Chalkidiki. There, we found our haven for the dream vacation in a tourist town located in the southeast of the peninsula of Kassandra, called Pefkochori. The meaning of the town is ‘pine village’, named after the pine trees abundant in the mountains of the area.
We got there by bus that we took in Thessaloniki, with a help of a Greek girl. Once in the local bus that drove through all the tourist villages on Kassandra peninsula, we were supposed to buy the tickets using some device where you have to put only coins. Since we did not have any coins, except for the notes in Euros, we stood in front of the machine feeling very worried and confused. Then, something amazing happened! Despite the gap in communication, and the difference in languages, one of the oldest Greek ladies on the bus tried to communicate something to us. What she really wanted to say was that she would give us some change for the bus. I was amazed by this act, considering that no one else in the bus even looked at us. Once we got our tickets, we thanked the lady in Greek – the Greek language lessons I took at the University were finally put into a good use.
The bus left us in the middle of the main street in Pefkochori, and continued on its journey. We set our GPS and soon arrived at the Elsa Apartments, where we had previously books a three-bedroom apartment. The hospitality and the warm welcome by the owner took us by surprise, but what got our attention were a lot of beautiful cats and kittens residing in his place.
Walking through the streets of the village, I started noticing some familiarity with my home town – it was not some traditional part of Greece that resembled my own back home; rather, it was the observation of mine, that everywhere I turned, or set my eyes upon, I could see the signs written in my own mother tongue – Serbian! I was flabbergasted! Then, little by little, with every step I took, I realized more and more that almost everyone there was from Serbia. They all spoke Serbian, and all the shop assistants spoke my mother tongue, too! It was unbelievable. Who would say?
The first day on the beach left me speechless. It was so hard to believe that I finally got there. Everything seemed to be a dream. The beach coast was long and filled with people. Even though I imagined it to be more secluded or less crowded, I enjoyed it the same. I stood there, looking at the palm trees for the first time in my life, having just one thought running through my mind – I was the happiest that I could have been. My dream came true!
Days passed by and we enjoyed the Sun and the warm weather as much as we could have. We quenched our thirst usually drinking the bottled water and satisfied our hunger eating the famous Greek giros and juicy melons.
One of the early mornings was dedicated to the first Sun beams. Aniol and me woke up pretty early so as not to be late for the sunrise at this wonderful seaside. Once we got to the beach, it was still a pitch dark. We sat on the hammocks and waited. The anticipation of seeing the sunrise on the horizon at the sea was as big as the sea itself. Once the Sun began to rise, and the sky brightened, the feeling of peacefulness overwhelmed my heart. I was in heaven.
After the sunrise, we took a swim in the sea, and then spent the rest of the time collecting pebbles. We were lucky to find some sea shells that birds brought on the shore.The time outside of the beach was spent eating in the local restaurants, visiting the souvenir shops, walking through the alleys filled with cafes and small grocery stores, visiting the local fair, and playing games, such as billiards and table Foosball.
The beautiful dock was the best place for pictures and the favourite spot for the fishermen, who would come very early in the morning and patiently wait for the fish to eat the bait.We also paid a visit to the local church and were left speechless at the beauty of it. Unfortunately, it was closed, so we could not enter the building.
After taking photos next to the sculture of Kassandra on the beach, we had a special for the day – dinner for two in one of the restaurants close to our apartment.
However, the peak of this dream travel of mine was the pedalina that Aniol and me rented for one hour. I have never experienced such joy of being in control of something that floated on the water. It was an amazing experience, and apart from taking some nice photos to freeze the moment in time, we had a lovely view at the coast. The pedalina came with a slide, so we took advantage to have a little bit of fun by sliding in the sea.
We left Pefkochori with melancholic hearts. It will stay in our memories until the end of times.