Please note that the dates for these tours may vary from the guide below. No tours will be offered until international borders are open.
A later start as our first visit was to the Army Post at Niki. This was the start of a very different day filled with many visits but not a day discussing the battlefields around the area. We had pushed ourselves yesterday as on the battlefield area it was out in the open and all indications warned of heavy rain today and we did not want to be caught. However, sleet and rain and light snow yesterday was not repeated today which was a clear sunny but cool day, a relief for us. This Army Post is right up there protecting the Border between the former named FYROM and Greece. FYROM, the Former Yugoslavian Republic Of Macedonia is now known as North Macedonia and the Greek people are not happy with the Political/Diplomatic outcome of negotiations between the 2 countries. North Macedonia are not from a Greek heritage but are Slavic and their previous use of Alexander as one of theirs is not recognised as they came into the area over 400 years after Alexander died. Part of the settlement is to withdraw any reference to Alexander. There are many issues in the Balkans re who owns what and who doesn't own what etc. Much of this goes back to the Balkan Wars of 1912 period and with the EU putting their bib in is only keeping issues alive..
The Post at Niki protects the border for 200 km and the entrance into Greece from the Montasir Gap, the same Pass that the Germans used to invade Greece in 1941. The post is just north of the village of Niki and the Officers and Soldiers were again very honoured to have us visit them and we were honoured to be able to visit. By visiting we keep alive the link between Australia and New Zealand with Greece that was forged on the battlefield in those dark days of 1941. We arrived to be met by the Commanding Officer and his local Company Commander who had come out to the Post just to meet us. Following a briefing of their duties, the location of the actual border and a ground brief, we joined them for coffee and a chat in the VIP Mess in front of a nice open fire. The CO presented me with a lovely plaque from his 1st Hellenic Infantry Regiment "Saggarios", in honour of ANZAC Relatives. A reciprocal presentation was made to the CO of the DVA special book on the Australians in the Greece and Crete Campaign. Patrolling had continued over the winter even though they had much snow. On the way we were fortunate to see a flock of Storks circling on the air currents and then moving further south to their nesting places.
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. The Storks stay for 3 months in time to rare their young and prepare them for the flight to their summer home. At Anna's we had a coffee and also some of her Spinach Pie and special small cakes.
We had an appointment to visit the Bishop but as we were early, we went for a walk through the old centre of Florina by the river that runs through the city. There are many buildings being refurbished and the area is looking excellent and is a very busy area for relaxing in the many coffee shops that are adjacent to the river. Following our walk we boarded our coach and made our way to visit the Bishop. As always he is very glad to see us and through Elena wants to know where we live, where we are going and all our plans for the tour. He said that he looks forward to the Australian and New Zealand visitors who come to visit him each year. He is a very busy man so we said our goodbyes and made our way back into Florina for our lunch date with the Mayor of Florina Mr Ioannis Voskopoulos and his wife.
The lunch was in a very nice restaurant that specialises in Pizza, Pasta and Salads plus Greek Specialties. Much was discussed about the political problems in the area and we also discussed the approval of the Sister City arrangement with Newcastle. The formal way ahead will continue following the coming elections but in the meantime I presented him with an Australia flag and the DVA book on the Australians in the Greece and Crete Campaign. He was most impressed with the presentations. He is not seeking re-election but is running for the National Parliament.
We said goodbye to the Mayor and his wife and decided to take a drive up the mountain through the snowfields to the lake that sits on the Albanian Border, however, time started to beat us so we backtracked to the Chalet and there had, Greek Coffee, warm wine and Shiparo, a very fiery drink made from grapes, the Greeks love it but maybe not for us!! Home then for tomorrow we finally head south.