Update 5: 20th September 2013

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At the beginning of September I reached Greece’s Zagori region, at the heart of the Pindos Mountains near the Albanian border. Most famous for its dizzying gorges and spiralling cobbled donkey paths, it’s also surprisingly verdant and home to several 18th-century engineering masterpieces.

Vikos gorge      Western Zagori

Monodendri      Vradeto steps

Voidhomatis spring      Mitsios bridge

Village squares are shaded by fabulous old plane trees, under which equally old men pass the time of day.

Plane tree      Tsepelovo men

But the economy of the mountains is steadily collapsing, and I met few young families and even fewer children.

Greek boys 1      Greek boys 2

The wonderful stone houses have become museums or second homes.

Koukouli house      Tsepelovo house

From Zagori my route took me through the surprisingly lively port of Thessalonica, a city that over the centuries has been Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Greek.

Thessalonica 1      Thessalonica 2

But the biggest surprise was to come. Of all the friendly and welcoming people I’ve met so far, Bulgarians have been the warmest of all. Wandering round a church in the mountain town of Bansko, I blundered into a wedding.

Bansko wedding 1      Bansko wedding 2

I became an honorary official photographer, and snapped the ‘Kate and Will’ shot while old ladies tut-tutted behind me.

Bansko wedding 3      Bansko wedding 4

Then it was up into the Pirin Mountains, famous for their deep green lakes.

Lake Okoto      Todorka’s Eye

In late September I’ll reach the city of Plovdiv, which like Rome was built on seven hills, before continuing through yet more mountains to the Turkish border. Meanwhile here are a couple more characters I’ve met along the way.

Albanian woman      Albanian man

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