Thursday, 14 November 2013

Greece




Bullet Points:
- We travelled by ferry from Cesme, Turkey to Athens, Greece.
- We rode for five days from Athen to Patra.
- We caught a ferry from Patra to Bari, Italy.

Details:
As our overnight ferry pulled into the port in Athens right on sun up, we arrived in Europe proper! Not without some trepidation, because while a lot of things would be so much easier and culturally familiar, to navigate this highly developed world on bicycles and a tight budget could take more creativity than ever! We also arrived with quite a lot of amazement, Anna and Ollie in Europe, in Greece!! How did this happen?! What a long way from Tibetan China!

A fun day in Athens enjoying some of its ancient wonders, and an amazing evening with our Warmshowers host Dimitris, and we were feeling more settled in. Then four days of wonderful cycling along the north side of the Gulf of Korinthos and we were well in love with Greece! The landscape was a mixture of small scale farmland, olive groves, bush covered hills and pine-clad rocky peaks. The lanes winding through this were narrow but sealed, making for wonderfully fun riding between some picturesque villages. Lots of white painted walls and orange tile roofs, and lovely Orhodox churches and squares in the village centres. The later section of riding was along the coast, again lots of bright blue sea, bright scrubby headlands and a few late-season swims!

We loved what Greek food we tried! “Pita gyros” were soft warm pita breads wrapped around tasty doner kebab pork, tomato, raw onion, hot chips and lashings of thick garlic-herb-yoghurt dressing. Delicious olives, feta (must be pronounced ‘feeeehh-ta’ to ensure understanding! None of this Kiwi speed-talking!), dense but tasty loaves of bread and the thickest yoghurt I’ve ever eaten.

We were of course interested to see how life was on the ground in a country that has been in the news so much with its huge financial troubles. In terms of what we saw, nothing jumped out at us as being very different. But we had interesting talks with a couple of people about it. There was some frustration with the government whose policy seemed to them to be to simply impose one tax after another on the population to pay off the massive debts, without trying any more creative endeavours. Each week they would find there was a tax on something else, electricity bills, buying food, building fences. One man joked that next there would be a tax on his dog kennel! Salaries had been nearly halved, but prices had gone up rather than down. Huge unemployment. We were told that some people were “going back to the land”, growing more of their own vegetables, keeping chickens etc. When were things meant to improve? 2018 was the word out there. Seems rather a long time! But people are keeping on, life carrying on. Kind of amazing really.

After four days riding we crossed the striking Rio-Anttirio Bridge linking mainland Greece with the Peloponnese. It is considered an engineering masterpiece, as spanning a plate boundary it is built to withstand tsunamis, seismic ativity and the 1 cm a year drift of the Peloponnese away from the mainland! So it has stretchable sections! Quite a buzz to ride over! We said goodbye to Greece as we sailed out of the port of Patra on a 15 hour crossing to Bari in southern Italy. We are trying to traverse Europe while staying as far south as possible, to avoid the fast-encroaching winter! Sunset time at present is 4.15pm, and for the first time in five months we are sometimes getting more than one rainy day a month! Horrors! The adventure continues!

Anna

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