Greece part 2, Patras to Athens, the long way ’round.

When in Patras, we spent some time with Petros and Yorgo, two students living in the city. We had only planned to stay one night, but Petros makes it to easy to stay. A patio on the roof to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes, and a very liberal supply of beer. I would have to say he’s one the most accommodating people I’ve stayed with yet.
Yorgo's place

Yorgo's place

Rolling around Patras one night, Sylvain and I had discovered the squat the was foretold by the squatters in Corfu. We usually walk into these places and find out what they are all about. They never turn out to be uninteresting. This one was occupied by about thirty students, most of them engineering students. They then showed me something very impressive. The sewage for the squat building had not previously been connected to the city sewage system, the effluent simply flowed into the street, and down into the sea. These civil engineering students dug it up (by hand), and connected it to the city. Sort of like a hot-wiring for sewage.
Patra Squat

Petros regaled us with his tales of paradise in the south of the Peloponese, a place called Voidokilia. Sylvain and I had two options, Delphi to the north east, or a 200km detour to the south to Voidokilia. In the spirit of making good decisions, this one was a rock-paper-scissors epic. South wins. This what I like about not having a return date. Blow an extra week in Greece, why not.

We set out from Patra, and covered 200km south to Pylos, the westernmost finger of the Peloponnese. The road there was uninteresting, but fast. The only option was the main highway, and thankfully it wasn’t very busy. We spent a night at Olympia, the ancient site of the first Olympics. We didn’t feel compelled to pay to enter, as it didn’t look like there was much left. Despite the fact some of it was uninteresting, there is always something interesting along the way.
Neat graf along the road

When we arrived at Voidokilia, upon seeing it we knew that we would stay more than one night. It’s a strip of sand, separating a marsh from the sea, with a cave on the hillside, and a castle on the hill. These photos should explain why we lounged there for a while…
The beach at Voidokilia

The most azure

This is the view from the castle at the top of the hill…
From the ruins of Paliokastro

And these are the goats inhabiting the castle that threw stones down at me…
These goats tried to kill me

The view of the campsite from the castle…
Voidokilia

It was harder to leave this place then it was to leave Yorgos. A perfect beach, fantastic weather, and not a soul around. I believe we saw 5 people in two days, with our tent pitched in the middle of the beach.

The following two days were a bit more challenging than we’d had in a while. I can never say that any day is bad, as there is always an experience to remember. Near Messini, we found a military airport busy with army jets, and a collection of Roma along the road the largest I’ve seen yet. Two coal fired power plants added to the ambiance. I don’t think this is the Greece most people see.

The following day, we set out for a big ride to Napflio. Three mountain passes and 140km to cover. Near Achladokabos, the scenery began to get a little more interesting. This was another one of those roads that winds around the mountain, with little loss or gain, views of olive groves 600m below, and very little traffic.
Achladokabos

That night, we found a very nice campsite on the seashore. The sunrise in the morning was easily the most memorable….
Sunrise at Lerna

Eventually, we rolled through Korinthos, and were more or less disappointed by the city. Being the city of ancient conquerors, I’d assumed there would be more to see. The old national highway to Athens was not disappointing. Cut into the steep hillside between the sea and the mountains, it was a very pleasant ride. It was warm enough to ride in a short shirt and short pants, which is nice surprise mid January. Among notable events into Athens…

We passed a man selling Souvlaki on the side of the road out of a van. It’s common to see people selling food on the side of the road. When we came along this chap, he was rocking out to some traditional Greek music, warming his old meat with a hair drier 🙂 Unfortunately, I failed to get a photo of this little gem. When I go to the middle east, I think there will be plenty of opportunities to see things like this.

We passed a large ship overturned in the water along the road. The tugs nearby, and the seamen (ha!) on the boat seemed to be working around it to resolve the situation.
And old overturned boat

The old national highway eventually finished leaving us only with the freeway. It’s a little disconcerting when heavy traffic flies by at 130km/hr, but at least the shoulder was very wide. Athens is located in a valley, which meant that the last of the freeway meant a small climb into the city. As we were working this hill, we came across a downhill mountain biker, also working his way up this hill. He told us that there’s a bunch of trails on the outskirts of the city. Not what I would have expected.
A downhiller, on the freeway

Finding reliable hosts in Athens gave us quite a lot of difficulty. I had arranged to stay with a Spaniard prior to our arrival, and found out two days prior to arrival that he was no longer in Athens. We eventually found a girl who would host us for two days, while we sorted out what we needed to do. Antinea is a cyclist as well, and likely one of the fastest I’ve cycled with. Athens is not a city for cyclists, there are very few of them here. This girl rips. Taking all of the shortcuts, with or against traffic, weaving through cars at 30km/hr… she can be difficult to follow. Especially if it’s 5am, you’re cycling against traffic, and you’re wasted 😉

The following day we rolled around the city again with her friend Marianna. Lets We rolled up to Thiseio park, and took in the city.
Acropolis and Mt. Lycabettus

In the evening, Antinea recommended we go to a nice little bar in Gazi, or the Gas town of Athens. Another memorable night that’s worthy of description.

A small bar, dimly lit, seating no more than 30 people. The girls order a bunch of traditional Greek food, which didn’t last for as long as it should have. I did not know this, but the food was meant to be eaten very slowly, nibbled on, while the band in the corner played on through the night.
These guys played all night

These three musicians in the corner we locals, jamming, and playing traditional Greek folk. The folk music they were playing was called Rebetika, and comes from the Turkish/Greek war in the 1920’s. This war involved the expulsion of many Greeks from Anatolia back into Greece. Most of the refugees were poor, homeless, and took to drinking and music in that era. One of the famous songs sung was of the Greeks returning to Attica and finding that there’s no hash, as there had been in Anatolia. It’s a sorrowful tale. These three didn’t stop for the five hours we were there, despite the food and drink in front of them. A woman from the crowd even came out and sang with them.

It was a very fun day in Athens. Thank you Antinea and Marianna, that was a slice.
Antinea, Sylvain, Jeremie, Marianne

I have many other stories of Athens, but that will have to wait for another day. I’m currently still there. Funny how this happens all the time. Tomorrow morning, I plan to leave for Istanbul. I hope to go inland and see a couple sights along the way. The route I’ve planned is about 1500km, and should put me there for the next new moon. This is the full snow moon, which I can’t say I’d be pleased about it on the bike… (maybe on skis)

Peace.Love.BicycleGrease.
-jeremie