Described as one of the most spectacular routes in Greece, I decide to attempt the Katara Pass instead of remaining on the efficient but rather boring motorway which crosses northern Greece. As a bonus, I get to explore the alpine town on Metsovo which clings to the mountain slopes. I scan for a car park as I descend into the heart of town but find none and so continue along the road as it gets steeper and narrower, eventually emerging into a large square surrounded by busy tavernas. There’s still no car park and the even narrower road where one is signed also has a sign in Greek which seems to imply the road is closed for 3 days. Frustrated, I drive back up out of town and eventually find a suitable place beside the road and walk back in.
There’s a lovely church in the centre with gloomy icons and the scent of incense, and several souvenir shops selling wooden items and local food products including the expensive, local, dry white wine called Katoyi. The town certainly has an alpine feel with wood fires burning in the tavernas and people wrapped up against the cold in woollen hats and scarves.
If I could find a suitable place to park for the night I’d stay and enjoy some local food but I reluctantly leave and drive up to the snowless ski resort and beyond into the desolate mountains. When I reach the road junction for Meteora, there’s a sign which says, ‘Caution – Crossing at your own risk.’ As this is still a main road, according to my map, I wonder what all the fuss is about. A little further on I find out.
A rock slide has recently blocked the road but has now been cleared. Further still, I find areas of road which have been poorly repaired following subsidence and finally, just when I think I’m over the worst and nearing the top, I find snow. Not just a bit of melting snow beside the road, but thick icy snow all over it. I don’t know how far it goes and I don’t have winter tyres so I have no choice but to turn around and head back down the mountain to the motorway, much to the surprise of the fluorescent jogger and the two young chaps who have been Nordic skiing their way along the road behind me.