A friend of mine, once told me about “Travel of a Lifetime” and what that meant. He used this term to describe a travel that is very difficult to repeat a second time, for various reasons. I have in my memories a travel of my lifetime. The destination was Kerkini lake. Along with a friend who loves nature, we left Athens before the dawn.
The Kerkini lake can be found in the Serres prefecture. So our first objective was to reach Thessaloniki. With a stop at Tempi for coffee and a visit to Saint Paraskevi, we reached our destination late in the morning. We had closed lodging in Ano Poroia, a village near Kerkini lake. Checking the map, we saw that to reach Poroia we had two options. We would go via Serres, or via Kilkis. Kilkis appearred to be a better choice after we could take the opportunity to visit the Doirani lake as well. So we turned our prow north and began our trip for Kilkis and Doirani lake.
The Doirani lake is about 80 kilometres north of Thessaloniki. Doirani belongs to the Kilkis prefecture and is located precisely on the Greek-"Former Yougoslave Republic of Macedonia" borders, or one could say that the borders are on the lake and separate Doirani in two. The greek part of the lake is equal to the one third of total extent of lake. As my fellow traveller said, Doirani is a wetland habitat that unfortunately has suffered many destructions and today has reached a critical point. The level of Doirani lake has fallen a lot during the last years and thats why you can see sand when you are near the lake. Yet, Doirani still hosts many important and rare species of birds and plants.
The place where we were standing was dominated by an enchanting calmness and quietness. The mountains of FYROM can be seen even without the binoculars, they appear to be very near. Be a little careful when you choose where to park your car. The soil is sandy and even if it seems to be hard, your wheels might stuck. When I was at Doirani the mobile telephones did not have signal, so it would be better if you don't need to ask for help.
When the midday came, the heat had become a little annoying and we, as experienced travellers, have not thought to bring along not even one sip water. And, because as we say in greek "one bad thing is followed my many bad things", I had lost the car keys because my keyring broke. As it was hanging from my belt, the keyring thought to open its clip and scattered the keys, God knows where. While we were searching around the lake for the keys, the quietness was no more. My friend was mad at me and his shouts were probably heard even to Skopje. Thank God we found the keys after few hours (I won't say how many) and thus we 've managed to let this beautiful place rest without our annoying presences (I must anyway note that the other guy shouted, I was a quiet kid).
We left the Doirani lake behind us and began the search for water and food. We found our destination quickly among a thousand trees. Thousand Trees (hilia dentra) is the name of a region near the Doirani lake. It is an enormous forest verdurous with dryads. Hilia dentra is an enchanting and picturesque place that you should definitely visit. In a tavern we ate fresh trouts and drank water from an artesian well. After that thirst we believed that we were found in the Paradise. The Thousand Trees are sure one of earthly paradises. Yet the time has passed and we should abandon our paradise. Thankfully another paradise awaited for us: Ano Poroia.
Leaving the Doirani lake along the road to Promachonas and roughly after 25 kilometres you meet the carrefour for Ano Poroia. You can take a left turn and after a 2 kilometres uphill road, you reach Ano Poroia. The altitude here is 395 metres.
Ano Poroia is a village with many trees and a lot of running waters. The resident population of Ano Poroia is 1500 but the village is full of life. Those who want to visit the Kerkini lake or to explore the Mpelles mountain find lodging here.
The local people are very hospitable and polite. In Ano Poroia there are many beautiful taverns, traditional cafes and shops with traditional products. You have to buy Akanedes. These are the local loukoumia (in english these are known as turkish delights - if you taste an akanes you 'll know better) with wonderful taste. A lot of traditional products can also be found in Agrotoyrist Cooperative of Women of Ano Poroia. Tobacco is one of the staple products of Ano Poroia. In many houses you will see bunches of tobaccos hanging to dry.
Walk in the streets of the Ano Poroia village. The nuances of green and the gurgle of the running waters will magnetize you. Ano Poroia is the best place to stay if you want to visit the Kerkini lake.
First of all, we should say that the Kerkini lake is located at the Serres prefecture. Kerkini is an artificial lake that was created after the operation of dam in Lithotopos village. This dam was built in 1932 and cut the flow of Stymonas river. The dam was created to cultivable lands and to have the ability to irrigate them.
But these aren't the reasons of the Kerkini's importance. According to the Internetional Convention of Ramsa the Kerkini lake is a wetland habitat of international importance. The fauna and flora is compised of about 300 kinds of birds, among them argyropelekanos and laggona two endangered bird species. Kerkini lake is also a station for migrating birds.
At Lithotopos there's an Information Center for those of you who want to learn more. The people working there are very polite and have the knowledge to they give you any information you need.
In westwards of the lake there 's a road that goes along the coasts of Kerkini lake. Drive with small speed and do not use the horn of your car. To take photographs a zoom lens is needed - we should take our measures in order not to bother the animals. After all, Kerkini lake belongs to them. However, their survival is our responsibility.
In Kerkini the first phase of this "Travel of a Lifetime" finished. After Kerkini, Doirani and Ano Poroia we went easternly and reached Ebros, but this it is something that we will talk about another time.