A beautiful day as we headed out to Niki to visit the Army Post there that protects the route north from the Montasir Gap into Greece. The post is just north of the village of Niki and they are very happy that we visit them each year. We arrived to be met by the Regimental Commander who had come out to the Post just to meet us. It was good to rekindle the acquaintance of a few of the Senior Staff who were there last year. Following a briefing of their duties, the location of the actual border and a ground brief, we joined them for coffee and a chat. It had been a harsh winter for them this year as they had been much snow and for 28 days the temperature never rose above 0° C.
After a while we said goodbye and headed south as we were to visit the village of New Kaucus, the home of Anna, our friend of many years. On the way, we went through Niki and there we saw the Storks high up on their nests. The platforms are erected by the people and installed on the electricity poles. The Storks return in spring each year and when they return, the village knows that winter is over.
After leaving Niki we headed to Xinon Nero we were greeted by a couple of Army fellows who were there to take part in our Service. The Memorial is now kept in a pristine condition and the Bishop told us that he conducts two special Services there each year, March and October. This was good news as the Memorial is now part of the commemoration Services each year but in 2005 when we first came, it had been neglected with graffiti over the walls and completely overgrown with shrubs. At the time, we spoke to the Bishop and the Mayor advising them that we were upset that a Memorial, dedicated to those who had come across the sea to Greece's aid and paid the supreme sacrifice, was in such a poor state. Since then the Memorial has been maintained and now plays a part in the various Services conducted here.
We conducted our small Service and Max and Rick laid a poppy each as our mark of respect. We then returned to Florina for a meeting with the Bishop who has been the Bishop of Florina for 17 years and we have been given an audience with him for 11 of those years. We chatted a while and he blessed an Ikon that Jeff was taking home to his mother.
Following our meeting with the Bishop, we met Anna who invited us to her restaurant for lunch and a wonderful lunch it was. Lunch was followed by a return to the Battlefield for a discussion associated with the placement of the ant-armour and the actual route of the withdrawal of the 2/8th Battalion. We went through the pass and left the road to venture into the village of Keidi to see the church that was originally the Battalion check point during the withdrawal but was discarded as such as the Germans had broken into the pass. The new route took the Battalion across country for 16 kilometres before reaching their trucks at Rodona.
It was a very full day but before we headed "home" we went to see a Sherman Tank turret that as part of the Civil War had been dug in as a strong point. It was a difficult climb to the position and just as difficult returning to the floor of the valley following our visit. Dinner was awaiting us so off we went.
Tomorrow we head south to Kozani.