Posts Tagged ‘Greece’


What a day of experiences! Not much cycling, but a lot of excitement and lumps in throats crossing the border into Turkey (at least a lump in my throat). It feels kind of like a coming-of-age as a world cycler. We have left the ‘west’ and are in TURKEY, having cycled here from our European homes – Holland for me and England for James!

Entering into Turkey

Entering into Turkey

But first into Greece. Our passports were thoroughly checked. I was asked where the stamp from Blato was from. I couldn’t remember. James started to say Macedon…, saw the border guard’s ashen face, and then bit is tongue. FYROM – The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. We got our passports back.

Entering Greece

Entering Greece

More long, straight, flat roads in Greece

More long, straight, flat roads in Greece

I may be entering the realm of world cyclers, but, I still scream like a baby receiving a turkish massage. James and I went to the local hamman for a thorough clean and massage. Lying on the marble podium, I stared up at the domed ceiling with the patterns of stars and hexagons letting the light in from outside. There were drips of water which reverberated across the dome. I was called first for the massage. Man it hurt, but if felt good afterwards. I screamed, and also giggled. The masseur also snickered – in a fun way. I felt wonderfully clean and relaxed. James didn’t utter a whimper.

After the hamman

After the hamman

Our kind warm-showers host owns a bike shop, and it is a hive of activity in the shop, and the neighbouring restaurant. People passed by constantly and welcomed us to Turkey. We also met a Croatian couple that have just cycled from China. Lots of stories to hear. Not many to tell – yet. It feels like a different world we are entering, and I am very excited.

The mosque at Edirne

The mosque at Edirne

At our warm showers host in Edirne

At our warm showers host in Edirne

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Take the road to Drama (a town in northern Greece) and turn right – into the mountains. We left the coastal plains, the factories, trucks, straight roads and the stress, and curved our way into a different part of Greece. Muslim. Rural. Beautiful.

Climbing to the Bulgarian border

Climbing to the Bulgarian border

Today was always going to be wet. The question was: where did we want to cycle in the nice weather after today? Along straight busy roads in Greece, or on the narrow, mountainous Bulgarian roads. An easy decision. We left the coast, and left the noise, hectic and traffic stress. The scenery, villages and people changed. We saw more mosques, and it became more rural, and much more mountainous. Granted, we were bathed in cloud, and rained on. And it was steep. But we breathed a sigh of relief. It was not just going from A to B. It was the journey again.

Before the first big climb. Filling up with some pastries.

Before the first big climb. Filling up with some pastries.

Echinos was a muslim town. We were welcomed with 4 simultaneous calls to prayer.

Echinos was a muslim town. We were welcomed with 4 simultaneous calls to prayer.

What better way to celebrate a climb than with the famous Xanthian sweets? Luckily we were able to find a lovely little gazebo offering shelter from the rain, so that we could cherish these Xanthian delicacies.

The blissful moment is imminent

The blissful moment is imminent

Hehe. Calories. Here we come!

Hehe. Calories. Here we come!

The view from our snack gazebo

The view from our snack gazebo

The final climb to Bulgaria was up a small, innocuous road, garnished with a little sign ‘Bulgaria’, that went almost vertically upwards from the turnoff. Entering Bulgaria we took the high road. We are now in Zlatograd, which I think is lovely name. I just love saying it, over and over. Zlatograd. Zlatograd. Zlatograd. Hehe.

Hello Bulgaria

Hello Bulgaria

Day 62. 58km. Kavala – Xanthi

Posted: November 15, 2014 in Cycling, Greece
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I love playing with the fridge magnet game – putting sentences together with the words provided. Here are the words for today: rain, grey, road-death memorial, Petropigi, Paradeisos, Virgin Forest of Libidoitis, screw, rubber gloves, dodgy sauce, musky oregano for young children.

Xanthi - town of the pharmacies in the rain

Xanthi – town of the pharmacies in the rain

It was also a day of singing – in the rain. I can’t sing to save myself, and I pity James who had to listen to it. (My friend Ed from Delft is much better at singing.) My mother used to sing a song about Constantinople. And, in Kavala, we were 460km away from it.

Constantinople

Constantinople

Closer to Istanbul

Closer to Istanbul

A stop near Petropigi turned into a longer affair as James’ tyre was screwed.

Tyre is screwed

Tyre is screwed

Still, it was a pleasant ride passing Paradeisos and the Virgin Forest of Libidoitis.

We should have taken the road to Paradise

We should have taken the road to Paradise

We saw lots of road-death memorials. In Australia we call them ‘black-spots’, where people die on the road. A few days ago we passed where people can buy these memorials – just out of Thessaloniki next to the Titan Concrete works.

Road-death memorial

Road-death memorial

James, the carnivore, was keen on some flesh for dinner, so we went and had some at the local Greek restaurant. I didn’t order the dodgy sauce, though, or the musky oregano for young children.

Greek delights

Greek delights

Our hotel room looks like a bomb hit it.

Bomb

Bomb

Tomorrow the weather forecast is – drumroll – rain. After that it is going to clear up. We have decided to head off to Zlatograd in the Bulgarian mountains. There they are bound to be some curves in the roads, and a few less trucks.


A day on the road. Cycling along the border between acceptable weather and crap weather, we missed the rain, but didn’t swim either. James passed the 6 megametre mark. We are staying at an almost closed camping ground near Kavala. A rather uneventful day.

The Greek coast

The Greek coast

The cheesecake James made to celebrate his 6 megametre (6000km) mark didn’t set, so, we had to settle for 2 chocolate milkshakes, a chocolate milk, a salty yogurt drink, a coffee and a salty cheese pastry instead.

James' 6000km mark

James’ 6000km mark

Our camping ground is rather abandoned, only patrolled by hoards of cats that fight amongst themselves to earn the right to torment us having our dinner. Tomorrow up with the chickens on the way to Bulgaria.


The mist and grey skies have returned. As have the busy roads and factories. Onwards as fast as possible watching the death wishes of the mad Greek drivers.

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‘I’ve had it. I’ve cycled 15000km around Europe and once I get to Istanbul, I’ll throw my bike into the Bosphorus.’
The English cycler we met today wasn’t enjoying his trip. James and I found it hard to say why he is doing it. While removing layers at a bus stop I spotted him. A long distance cyclist with lots of luggage. My squeal of excitement didn’t last long as he proceeded to cycle right past us. Later we saw him and heard all his misery. The whole trip sucked. He had cycled a big loop around Europe from Scandinavia to here. He didn’t ask where we were going.

We are camped on a football field at the beach patrolled by a white cat. James revealed some ouzo, and then made a cake to celebrate his upcoming 6000km mark.

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Day 59. 24km. Thessaloniki

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Cycling, Greece
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We ended up staying in Thessaloniki, not that it was planned that way. A slow start, cycle down to the centre, and an extended stay in the bike shop resulted in 2 happy cyclists, 2 repaired cycles and a lovely evening in Thessaloniki with James contemplating life, the universe, everything, and how amazingly happy we are with life.

Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki

A great evening with Ioanna in her local restaurant resulted in us meeting Lefteris – the cook of the wonderful food, who had a friend Akis who is the best bike mechanic in Greece. Today we found ourselves having a bike repair, basking in the sun, and watching the beautiful people walk by day, generally enjoying life. Drahtesel is now fitted out with a new tyre and brake pads, ready to stop (which was almost not the case) in the next torrential downpour.

Akis and Drahtesel

Akis and Drahtesel

My ex-colleagues at AUTH (University of Thessaloniki)

My ex-colleagues at AUTH (University of Thessaloniki)

Lunch waiting for the Drahtesel repairs

Lunch waiting for the Drahtesel repairs

Approaching sunset in Thessaloniki

Approaching sunset in Thessaloniki


Sometimes it is not about the journey, but about the destination. Today was not as wet, and the road was straight and flat. Extremely uninspiring landscape under grey skies. We moved into overdrive, and steamed along the semi-freeway, though industrial areas to Thessaloniki. It is great to see Ioanna again from my past life working for Philips and the HeartCycle EU Project.

Some industry

Some industry

We caught our first glimpse of the sea since Montenegro.

On the Aegean Sea

On the Aegean Sea

Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki

James and I bought a little gift for Ioanna. Something to tweet about!

Something to tweet about

Something to tweet about

Ioanna and Tweety

Ioanna and Tweety

Looking out over Thessaloniki with Ioanna

Looking out over Thessaloniki with Ioanna

And we practiced our camp cheesecake. We are now all ready to celebrate Jame’s 6000km and my 5000km.

Cheesecake

Cheesecake