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Old 03-19-2009, 09:15 PM   #121
V@lentino OP
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Pissed Hot leg

Quote:
Originally Posted by supercub
this report is awsome!!!!

Thanks supercub, the leg is much better now but it got a lot more painful before it got better. When we left the Doc that morning he said to Liliane "that her modeling career was over" . Even now it's still a bit sensitive and the scar ended up looking very much like the map of Greece, kind of a miss-shaped hand with all fingers pointing down.


In terms of souvenirs, it doesn't get better than that
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Old 03-19-2009, 10:39 PM   #122
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Cool2 Athina, just another Greek word for oven

June 23



As I typed these lines, we were patiently waiting for our boat to Crete, port of Iraklion.



The ferry terminal is thank God air conditioned, it is a little bit after 1700, and the blistering heat has only died down by a few meesly degrees, it is about 40 or 41 C, despite the fact that we are just a few dozen meters from the sea.

Our experience with Athina leaves us with mixed feelings, apart from the Acropolis, and the adjacent buildings, such as the ancient Agora, and the still used Dionysos open sky theatre (more then 2500 years old), the Zeus Olympian temple, and the Panathinaikon Stadium, which all were splendid, even under the torrid heat of Saturday afternoon.

Have a look for yourself.



The Acropolis.


The never ending reno-restoration of the temple.



The Dionysos theatre.



Some of the ancient sculpture were magnificent.



And the potteries uh... well ancient.



But overall, for us, the city had not much to offer, in terms of attractions, or much more else for that matter, apart maybe for a myriad of glass faced, and white-wash buildings. We went to a neighborhood bakery and bought so crispy breads, did some ridding in the city. Most edifices are eight, maybe twelve stories high. Even from the top of the Filopappos, and Lycabettus hills, the two highest points in the city, you don’t see much more then the megalopolis spreading its uneven tentacles, while the sun reflects brightly upon the glass of the buildings.





The area south-east of the port is really nice, and definitely the in-place to spend Saturday night. We found a plethora of in-bars, cafés, and discos lining up the marina populated by luxurious motor, and sailing ships. Sure Athens is a European capital with all that it entails, and spending Sunday at the beach working on my tan, and swimming in the turquoise water of the Mediterranean was pure delight, but the city failed to capture our hearts as others did during the trip. Maybe we have been too spoiled by Rome and Barcelona.


Remember I said something about Flight Attendants and resilience, you can't keep a good girl down.



We stayed in hostel Lozanni smack in the center of the city, in a so-so neighborhood. Not that we did not feel safe, but it was quite dodgy especially at night. The place was barely ok, with fairly small rooms atop a noisy street, not so clean, and you always had to call downstairs to get the water heater turned on so you could take a hot shower (actually that was not so bad since we mostly took cold ones anyway).

Yup the heat was on.



The B part of the B&B never materialized, and we never saw the advertised bar. If the staff was friendly enough, the 2 bath-towels provided where the size and textures of napkins, and we did not believe the dude behind the counter, when he said that he could not process our credit card, and would only take cash because the machine was broken due to some obscure strike.



Thinking back to the two months plus we have been on the road, this place was probably the worst in terms of value for the buck... uh I mean the Euro! Overall, I can say that Athenians, apart from a few exceptions were not particularly friendly, nor welcoming.

But the architecture somewhat made up for it.



And a few other hidden gems.




The Olympic stadium.



What a drastic change from the warm friendly welcome we received from everyone we met while we were in Sicily, and southern Italy.

The food was great and the beer cold, we stayed away from the tourist joints.



At this place we had roasted octopus, they were just hanging all over the place and purchased by the pound, it was great.



I think the rule is no more beers than you have wheels...



or something like that...


And while in Greece, might as well



Saturday night before heading out for dinner, we took a ride to the busy port of Piraeus to purchase our tickets for the eight hour passage to Crete. The unfriendly, rude agent was not very helpful, and sold us the only seats available, which were open deck. The good thing about having open deck seats is that we get to spend a romantic night under the stars cruising the Mediterranean. There are worst ways of spending the night with someone you love.


As the agent threw our tickets on the counter, (Greeks kinda like to throw things), I smiled and remembered the words of our stewart on the ferry over from Brindisi to Patras: “F#cki*g agents” he had said!

I asked her our departure gate, and she looked straight at me and said E1. Right there and then, I said to Jackie “let’s go to gate E1 to make sure it’s the right one, I have a funny feeling”. Navigating through the port area of Athens and Piraeus is not easy when you are unfamiliar with the area and you only vaguely remember your Greek alphabet from grade school.



The gates are several kilometers apart, the traffic is dense, and the heat is on, so I wanted to make sure now, as opposed to when we would be loaded with our gear, that she had sent us to the right place. Right I was, the good gate was E3, about 2 km north-east of gate E1.





The agent made a fatal mistake, even if you’re Greek you should not mess with a Spaniard less you’re willing to fall victim to the evil eye. I tell you, these women with dark hair, and dark eyes; you better know what you are doing when you start messing with them, or you may end up in a heap of trouble.


Nonetheless, we found the right gate and marked it as a waypoint on GP.

Lots of flowers.



That same night we had dinner at another nice Greek taverna, the food was as delicious as our waiter was unfriendly, he had the shape and demeanor of an angry, mean bouncer from the bronx, useless to say that I did not protest when he brought me a Heineken instead of the Amstel I had requested. After all beer is beer, especially when it's cold, and your hot and thirsty. We ate our freshly caught fish, also bought raw by the weight, as we contemplated the sun setting over the bay, from-which ferries of all sizes where departing for unknown destinations.





Navigating through traffic in the metropolis was a challenge but a lot of fun, ST was the fattest thing on two wheels, and just like other busy European cities, the cagers are used to bikers, and the dynamic is so different than in North America. Valentino was loving it. My lane splitting abilities have tremendously improve since my first tries entering Toulouse, and I know I will be bored riding in the city when I return to Winnipeg.



The only noticeable difference between the Roman and Athenian traffic was in term of two wheeled vehicles, more motorcycles and less scooters, apart from that, if in Rome you had two whole seconds to go at the green before you got honked, the Athenians did not give you more then one.

A real urban jungle, but kind of neat once you become use to it. Driving in Southern Europe is not so much about courtesy, has it is about survival, and self preservation. This said, this afternoon as we were exploring the city, a cab driver folded his left rear view mirror so that I could inch my way to the beginning of the lane. As I passed him, I looked and said "eupharisto", and he answered back "parakalo" with a smile. Maybe those Athenians are not so bad after all, and its just the heat that makes them slightly irritable.



Speaking with Dimitri the shoe store owner while Jackie was shopping for sandals, (she told me she had to do it while she still had one good foot) I found out that the sales tax is 19% (a bit less on food items), and that according to my interlocutor tax money is not well spent (what else is new?).



“Look at this mess” Dimitri said shaking his head, and pointing at the work slowly being accomplished in front of the Monastiraki subway station, “its just a ten day job, and it has been going on for over four months, “do you believe that? We are in the center of Athens, how can that be...”he pondered and shook his head yet one more time with an exasperated look in his eyes.


I have to say that from my humble perspective, it is a bit sad to think that the ancient, once great conquering nation of Greece, the nation that gave us the essence of civilization, great thinkers, philosophers, and mathematicians such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Pytagore, Hypocrates, and so many, many more... seems to have now forgotten the very meaning of the word civilization itself.

A couple more neat factoids about Greece, before I close the Mac, and head for the ship. I had completely forgotten this. Last time we were here, was about thirteen years ago: Yes is pronounce nay, and is done by shaking the head from left to right.

No is pronounce ochi, and is done by shaking the head up and down. It’s quite funny the first few times until you realize what is going on, as someone answers yes or no to one of your questions.

The other interesting thing is about the highways that only have one lane going in each directions, they have a fairly wide shoulder, this extra wide shoulder allows slower traffic to drive across the shoulder line, thus giving way to the faster moving traffic edging to the left. This again took a bit of getting use too, as you are passing a truck on the left at about 145 km per hour while an incoming car in the opposite lane is doing the same to your left. Hence, you now have a highway with two lanes on each side, I told you the Greeks where ingenious didn’t I? Honestly, some of our Canadian and American drivers could use an Italian, or Greek driving seminar. But, one last piece of advice, when driving in Greece avoid stopping on the shoulder to read your map.

Check out where the cars are driving.



Thank you Athina,


Good night, got a boat to catch, sailing to Kriti in a few minutes...

See you on the island.

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Old 03-20-2009, 09:18 AM   #123
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Awesome report and great pics. Keep it up.
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Old 03-22-2009, 11:14 PM   #124
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Kriti

We made it to the island just as dawn was peeking from the darkness of night.



A little more than half a million people populate the Island, and it was key in the Greeks wining their fight for independence from the Turks.



Crete history goes back to the Minoan, their civilization flourished there in 2 BC. Olive threes abound, and the island counts no less than 178 beaches, some just a few meters long.



Smaller only in size to her big Italian sister Sicili, the island of Kriti shares many of its mountainous, and arid landscape.



Kriti was our southernmost most point of the trip, we spent 6 nights in a two room studio for €32.00, our longest stop since we left from Amsterdam. This longer layover allowed us to relax, enjoy the Greek shores, and Jackie’s leg to start healing.





We quickly covered the 20 minutes from port of Heraklion to Villa Bellevue overseeing the resort town of Agia Pelagia,



The place bared its name well.



The mythical island, once the theater of the flight of Icarus, who plunged to his death after the wax holding the wings, build by his father Daedalus, melted as he got to close to the sun. The very same Daedalus who had also build the labyrinth for king Minos, where he kept the Minotaur alive by feeding it human flesh. The beast eventually slain by Theseus, who then escape the maze with the help of Ariadne the daughter of king Minos, the would be queen, she provided her lover with the thread to make is way out of the warren, seems however to be but a shadow of herself.

The grip of Europe is just not the same in this part of the world. And it might be a good thing... or not?



This quickly became a vacation from the vacation.





But something was odd, during our day trip to Venice, I agreeably noticed that the Venetians had manage to somehow maintain their identity as such, this despite, and amid the continuous flow of visitors. Unfortunately, Kriti has fallen prey to the beauty of her sun-bathed shores caressed by crystalline turquoise waters, and sold her soul in the process.

The island is beautiful but alas it is suffering from neglect. Years of continuous and continuing hordes of poorly managed tourist and what seems like careless Islanders all stake their claim for the neglect.



When the flow of tourism alters constantly the flow of everyday life, than, to me, all is lost, and plunder comes to mind. We know how much we tend to take, and how little we give back, this beautiful place, like so many others is dwindling to not much more then a shadow of its former glory. Of course, you can’t blame tourists, or tourism for all the plundering, it’s just poor management, or mindless carelessness, or whatever else label we can stick on it, we are very good at doing that, plundering and labeling. Champions I should say.





We spent an afternoon at the mystical beach of Matala, a small beach set in an idyllic bay.

To the left.


To the right.


On its western shore, the sea dug mountainside bears the mark of having been further harrowed by human hands.



There, on the hillside are former Roman burial coves, which became during the late 60’s and early 70’s a dwelling of make shift caverns, that attracted worldwide hippies in search of Zen and the perfect beach.



This long before di Caprio took us to his idyllic stretch of sand in Thailand. Wanting to find out from up close what had attracted the pursuers of free love, I swam to the caverns, and climbed the rock facade only to find in the bottom of the alcoves, discarded plastic bottles of water, and empty beer cans, as well as a sand covered pile of damn plastic bags, read modern turtle food). Not that my expectations where particularly high, but I just wish that plunder had not jumped right back in my mind.


The still quite beautiful small beach is now lined by too many sun-shading parasols, where all come to enjoy the warm waters of the Libyan sea.
Later, I resumed my quest for the ultimate souvlaki, browsing the tourists shops and the tavernas, all enticing you with the most authentic Greek cuisine, and handmade knickknacks.



Oh look it’s the Paradise hotel right next to Zeus’ Taverna.





I am not pointing any fingers, we are a naturally plundering specie, Matala, the Baths in the BVI, Hanauma Bay, the rain forest, tar sands, if it looks like plundering, smells like plundering, well you know the rest of that... We love to disregard, use, and discard. Paying so little mind for the consequences of our actions. Leaving less, and less for the next generations. It is naturally human to plunder. However, what did it for me that day, was not the dozen, or so empty plastic water bottles I pick up on the beach, (don’t worry, I do that all the time, even on my way to work in the morning, I knock on cab drivers’ window, and ask them why they idle).

Jackie keeps on saying I’m gonna pay for that one day.

What did it, was something unusual-looking hanging on the stand of a tourist shop next to postcards, and a bunch of other crap.



As I got closer, I came face to face with a dried up blowfish glaring straight at me with its laminated glazed eyes.



Funny the things you notice as you ambulate aimlessly in the quest for the perfect, yet so elusive souvlaki… Well the one in Corynth when we got off the ferry was not bad… But I digress, who the hell needs a dead blowfish hanging from the wall of their flat, to remind themselves how great a time they had getting stone on Ouzo, and singing the locally adapted version of “Haut les mains”?



All they need to do is take a picture of themselves looking like overcookrd lobster, cock it on the bottom left side of their bathroom mirror, and the trick is done. Leave the dam blowfish where it belongs. Plunder, plunder, and plunder...

Having managed to hunt down a pretty decent souvlaki. As I made my way back to the beach, I noticed something else quite intriguing, just near the entrance of the beach, a bunch of hippies, (label right?) now turned bohemian capitalists were selling hand made jewels, trinkets, and other useless gewgaws. Huh...!



That was not the gripping part BTW, what was riveting, was the wooden box perched on a bamboo post saying “Coins for photos”. Hey everybody has to make a living, so I popped a Euro in the makeshift piggy bank, snapped a couple of shots, and thought about it for a few minutes... What’s worst? Them collecting coins in exchange for a trivial image of disregarded long foregone bohemia, me paying of it, or you reading about it on the World Wide Web, sounds a bit like plundering, if you ask me. You know, there are just days like that...



Yesterday, the day prior our escapade to Matala, I watched a very interesting documentary on slavery, where a well known French journalist, who’s name has escaped my blowfish distracted mind, was conducting a discussion between a famous African historian from Bamako, and his equally gifted pupil, an anthropologist from Mauritania, who were polemicizing on the complicated relationship between master and slave and slave traders. How dumb can the concept of institutionalized slavery be anyway? The discussion went on to remark how intrinsically human the concept of superiority based on real of perceived difference is. If everybody would have been green, the ones with the pointy ears would have enslaved the ones with the round ones, or maybe it would have been the other way around, ending in a circular victory instead of a pointless one, who cares anyway, it all sounded like good old plunder to me.


Just another blowfish story, a catcher, a buyer, a seller, and someone, or something left hanging. The discussion went on for several minutes on how Africans to this day are, and have themselves enslaved, and traded other Africans. And that the claim to redemption of the white man for his racist practices, might actually be the ultimate act of racism, interesting... but, it kind of reminds me of plundering. I apologies, I just said that a few lines above, fear not you can read it again, it was not a copy-paste job. Sorry, but for the last few days after noticing all the litter along the side of the highway of the beautiful island of Kriti, I did not have much love for my fellow earthlings.


As I finished my deliciously authentic souvlaki, I was taken out of my plundering reveries, by the Greek chitchat of the four teenage girls sun bathing next to us. Beyond the fact that I could not understand one word of the conversation, it sounded no different than any other girlie-girlie, teenage conversation; actually Jackie said she got all of it,

“You don’t speak Greek!” said Valentino.
“Exactly” answered Jackie.

As one of them got up, and nonchalantly used the beach to expertly extinguish her cigarette, this despite the ring shaped ashtray sitting a bit above eye level on her umbrella pole. Well you know what happened next, the word came right back to resonate between my ears yet one more time. I opted to take another swim towards the former Roman tombs -disregarding the commonly known adage about the never to go swimming on a full belly crap-.... Indeed the cliff side was beautiful, and managing to overlook the traces of plundering, I could see why it had before me attracted so many others. I then noticed, in one the very small alcove, a night owl, a Greek night owl, if you care to know, taking her daily afternoon nap, basking in the sun.



Thank God for plundering, without it, we might never have had resilience. I smiled, and thought about the words of Robert Marley:

“Have no fear for atomic energy, cause not of it can change the time”.

Indeed the cliff side was way, way past beautiful, it was extraordinary.



Ciao Ciao Matala.





We spent a whole day resting and lounging by the pool of the studio apartment, Jackie took care of her leg, which consisted of a diet of copious amount of raw onions, EVOO, red wine and long dips in the sea, all the while keeping the burn away from the hot sun.



We also spent a day in Rythmos, and we enjoyed walking around, taking pictures and doing the tourist thing.









And had a romantic supper looking at the splendid sunset.



In Greece, the sky is a little more blue than anywhere else.





And the sun a little more gold.



A couple of days were spent taking ST a few places she had never been before.





It was nice to ride with minimal gear, shorts under ridding pants and T-shirt under mesh jacket.



Yup blue sky.






And that funky Greek driving.





The last morning we sailed to Thira, this is our 5th boat ride and the relative chaos allowed us to imagine how it might really be in a busy middle-Eastern or African port, it was really cool.

Jackie.



Valentino.



ST.



And everybody else.











We sail to Thira...
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Old 03-23-2009, 02:59 PM   #125
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excellent report guys, keep it coming. bad news about 'jackies' leg .

when you said you ate and drank in an area outh east of athens, with a marina full of yachts etc.... i imagine it was the area of 'castella' next to the sailing club where the olympic sailing took place. i was lucky to work in piraus at a factory making galvanized road barrier, i worked on the galvanizing furnaces, then went on to service and install a number of other furnaces around athens, abeoa and thessalonica. i always tried to stay in castella in a hotel calle cavo-d'oro...golden cave. not a luxury hotel and apprently owned by gangsters but it was oposite the beach and just up a hill from all the nightlife. but it was a very expensive place to stay.

i found the greeks the most friendly and accommodating people i have met, people in large cities are always ignorant but i think the greeks are especially friendly to the british because of events in the 1940s. they fought the fascists fiercely and armed only with farm impliments. the legasy of this, as you may have seen in crete, is that cretians all own AK47s and are not afraid to wreak havoc with them...... on the road signs. they are not going to get caught out again!

i dont work in greece anymore but seeing your photographs brought back many memories. i still keep intouch with the customer from alivari in eboa. alivari is just a small fishing/industrial town on a greek island joined to the mainland by a bridge. working rather than being a tourist gives a good insight into the way of life of a place and i would have to say if i could trade my life for a greeks i think i would hands down. they may not have much material wealth but their life is so much richer. wonderful food, swimming in the sea every night, children growing up in the sunshine, strong faimly values, the law is often flaunted (with regard to drink driving, obeying a one way street or wearing a herlmet say) but due to orthodox values 'crime' against people is very low.

one day i will ride my caponord to greece.

please keep up the good work, thanks again!
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Old 03-23-2009, 03:59 PM   #126
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Cretian vendetta, the "local version of this thing of ours"

"when you said you ate and drank in an area outh east of athens, with a marina full of yachts etc.... i imagine it was the area of 'castella' next to the sailing club where the olympic sailing took place."

Yup, it was Castella. No shortage of Euro in that area.

"i found the greeks the most friendly and accommodating people i have met, people in large cities are always ignorant."

Yup that is also the truth, this is our second time in Greece, and we can agree with you on differing the anamability of the Athenians to big city raucus. Indeed we have had nothing but pleasant and friendly encounters with Greeks, throught the mainland -away from Athens- and on the islands.

"Cretians all own AK47s and are not afraid to wreak havoc with them...... on the road signs. they are not going to get caught out again! "

We noticed the damaged , and our host told us many stories of blood wars, revenge and other vendetta that have been going on the island. A mix of truth and folklore, just stay away from the no trespassing signs

"Brought back many memories".

Writing the report as brought back a flood of memorable images for us also. We miss it.

We are now in the pre-planing stage of the next trip, 2012 destination TDF.

"One day i will ride my caponord to greece".
Don't wait too long.



Thanks
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Old 04-12-2009, 11:53 PM   #127
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Thira

July 5th 2008




We left Kriti six days ago and did the 4 hour passage from Iraklion aboard a smaller ferry from the CA line.



No doubt this is beautiful Greece.



The port of Thira



BTW the agent that sold us our tickets in Rethimno was quite cordial and friendly, thus the exception that confirms the rule.



The island of Thira (Santorini) is the southernmost landfall in the Cyclades, it is truly magnificent.

As soon as we got off the ferry we were treated to a nice climb.





The volcanic borne, crescent shaped isle is world famous for its black sand beaches, mountainous landscape, and Cycladic architecture of blue, and whitewash brightly painted houses.





Pic fest.







A true gem, the temperature hovered between 27 to 31 C, with the Sirocco at times blowing quite strongly. When the sea was calm, it became so clear, we could distinctively catch sight the bottom, regardless of depth and distance. During our stay we did not spot one puff of cloud, only blue on blue. If our short week in Kriti provided us with plenty of rest, Santorini was pure relaxation.



A quick update on "the leg". It is much better, the deep blue sea, and lots of red onions can cure almost anything.



Jackie’s back! 



There is nothing like a week spent on the black sand beach of Perivolos to make anything bad feel good.



On the subject of onions, which are particularly exquisite in Greece, last night we had dinner in Thira in a taverna name Nicolas. If such a thing is possible, the owner Nikos has managed to create authenticity.



How do you bring something into existence of undisputed origin, something truly genuine amidst a sea of tourists catered shops, and self claimed bona fide true imitations?

Anything goes.



Easy enough: no menus, just a blackboard filled with Greek script, be rude, but not abrasive, do it with a smile, be kind of pleasant, yet still somewhat unpleasant, you know a kind of semi-smiling-churlish-burliness type demeanor, know the basics in at least eight or nine languages, charge a few Euros less then everybody less, make sure your chef is up to par, and there you have it. A very successful authentic Greek Taverna.



At dusk the light became magical.















After queuing for maybe ten minutes, we enjoyed perfectly grilled sardines douses in a lemony olive oil, cabbage stuffed with minced lamb, a delicious moussaka, and of course an authentic Greek salad. Add a liter of Greek gasified water, and the same quantity of honest to goodness island rosé, and it doesn't get any better. When we left the taverna, after shaking the hand of our host, there was at least a dozen, or so hungry tourists waiting to get in. Go figure, how did everybody know where to go? I think it must have been the explicit menu, and the convivial appearance of Nikos.

We also took ST for a tour the small island. One end to the other (Pharos to Oia) takes about 2 hours at the delightful leisurely pace of 50 km/hr.





Pretty girl all dressed in black.



One more.





Similar to Kona in the Pacific, the island of Thira, over and above its long stretches of black sand beaches, provides the beach lovers with a red and white sand beach.





Truly amazing. The stunning scenery is mostly mountainous, with a few very arid rocky fields clustered by small white villages gleaming against the blue background of the sky, and the turquoise backdrop of the sea.





The light house.






Local houses of worship.







And arches here too.



I meant arches.



Found another nice stretch of beach.





And a nice little marina.



Black on Blue.



And white on Blue.



Our humble adobe for the week.



Nice pool.



Yup you guessed.

Last minute.com € 42.00.

And the road less travelled.





Nice view when you can get it.




For this volcano spawned island, the old adage small is beautiful, could not be more accurate.

Today we are July 5th, sailing aboard the Preveli, heading for the home stretch. Despite another three weeks before we have to be back at work, after those relaxing ten days, we are slowly starting to feel the trip coming to an end. Besides wanting to spend some extra days to chill by the sea, one of the reasons we opted to stay longer, both in Santorini and Crete, is that island hopping in Greece is not what it once was. The ferry routes are served by the mainline companies (Anek, Minoan, and C.A Ferries) which have either purchased, amalgamated, or put out of business the smaller operators. The big fish now controls the routes and schedules, thus making passage between smaller islands almost impossible without going through Piraeus, or some other main transit port.



We had during our Adriatic crossing discussed our itinerary with Doctor Feelgood, and he had suggested that we spent more time in Greece, and keep the Western Balkans for another time. So we did. There are no ferry routes from Igoumenitsa to Croatia. The only way to make it to the Croatian capital from Greece is to do a double crossing, back to Italy, then across again from Ancona, or Venice to Dubrovnik. The only other option would be our original planed route by road through Albania. Which is fine, but to fully enjoy Montenegro, Macedonia, and the remaining Balkans, we would honestly need another month, or at least a good couple of weeks more. Hence, we decided to cross Greece in a Westerly direction from Piraeus, via Kalambaka, make a stop in Meteora, where the famous Orthodox monasteries are, stop in Parga (forecasted to be one of the prettiest spot in Greece), and then hop on the ferry in Igoumenitsa back to Venice, and cover the 1500 km between Northern Italy and Amsterdam in 3 or 4 days. The problems with trips likes this one is you don’t want them to end... Ever end...



Soon we be riding again
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:02 AM   #128
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The road to Parga

July 11, 2008.


Our last stretch of touring before heading back north was crossing the span of Greece in a westerly direction.



So we hoped on another vessel to take us back to Athina via Paxos.

Yup Valentino has now gotten the hang of this.



Jackie too by the way.



Bye Bye Santorini.



Paxos our only station stop.





It was late afternoon and we decided to ride as far as we could until night. As soon as we hopped off the ferry we immediately received a healthy dose of heat. We were back in the Athenian oven. Despite already being quite late in the day, it was hot as hell, the good news is that it took us less then 15 minutes to escape the busy area of Piraeus, and we quickly headed west.

The pics don't give justice to the scenery and it was quite hazy, but the red color of the sunset reflecting on the mountain sides were truly beautiful.







We had planned to ride until dusk; the total distance to cover to our next stop in Parga was just over 600 km.

And then it turn to gold.







Sweet summer night roaming the Greek country side, it was magic.



By nightfall we had made it to Lamia about 275 km west of Athens. We found a nice hotel in the center of town, and being Saturday night, close to 2200 by the time we left for dinner, the small city of one hundred thousand was bustling with nightlife. We were pleasantly surprised to find the ladies dressed to the T in sexy gowns, and their equally sharp looking date heading for the busy bars populating city center. The town square of Lamia is quite nice, and although we have been on the road for over three months, we are still pleasantly surprised when discovering small towns with a big city feel. Europe strikes again as quite civilized.

We found a grill house, and had a mixed platter with a Greek salad, and 2 cold Mythos to wash it all down.


After our copious meal, we walked around the pedestrian center to help the medicine go down, to finally head back to the Astor, our hotel just a few yards away. The most unforgettable aspect of this quick evening somewhere in the middle of Greece, was first the warm, comfortable summer night air, it must have been at least 28 C, the friendly people, no stressed out Athenians here. But, even more memorable was the very loud, strident staccato of the cicadas. It was piercing enough to be clearly heard over the city noise. Louder even than it had been in Kritti. Sometimes we had to shout to understand each other, quite incredible. The next morning after something very sweet accompanied by a Turkish style coffee we took the road to Parga.



Good thing that we were heading West, because the aromatic coffee only tempted us to head southeast to Istambul.

Time to get the packing done.



Before we go, a quick pic of the three amigos



A few old friends getting together on Sunday morning before church.



On the road again.



And the view to the left.


We went through several small villages, this one, had nesting resident at the local house of worship, it was frequented by storks. Greek storks that is





We crossed these friendly coppers, I saw them from way back...



...and slowed down uhum... to the approved speed limit and followed them for about 5 km, keeping my speed and distance in check...



....then I thought screw that and, and after this curve, passed them at about 30-40 km over the speed limit.

They both smiled and waved as we blew by, gotta love Greece .


And we made it to the edge of Kalambaka, heading for the Monasteries.





After a fairly long ride through wide valleys the change was quite impressive.



The life at the Monasteries has changed very little for centuries it is quite impressive to see the massive structures built atop the rocky platforms, simply linked to the mainland by trolley cars, the view was breathtaking.





These sacred fortress were impregnable during past raging wars.



ST insisted on being in the picture.



The cliff sides plunge down over a thousand meters.



Birds eye view of Kalambaka.



Hard to imaging how long it took to raise the material to build the structure. Real pious devotion.



Jackie had to wrap a dress around her jeans to get in.



The grounds were meticulously kept.



And there was running water.



The road after sacred Meteora was just plain amazing, through alpine peaks and gorgeous passes, we zigged, and zagged until the monasteries overlooking the city of Kalambaka were far behind.

After the visited of St Edward’s monastery, and a rode around to see a couple more, we headed back on the road for the last 150 or so km that would take us to Igoumenista, and then Parga our next port of call. If you would have told me after riding in 42 C heat, that you could put the words Greece and alpine in the same sentence, I would have at best giving you a dubious look, but more likely laughed in your face.



Plenty of critters, time to slow down.



Yup alpine.




And more critters, how do they know to come exactly were the sign is, they could teach the American deer a thing or two about respecting bikers.


But, by the time we had reached 1768 m, and the temperature had dropped from a blazing 39 C to a coolish 19 C, I was indeed convinced. At times wondering if maybe Heidi, whom we thought while in the Stelvio Park to be an Italian invention, might not be Greek after all.



The highway between Athens and Igoumenista is yet to be finished, as we came to the end of the stretch of tarmac, which covers the last 75 km to Igoumenista, we had to stop and ask for direction. A friendly Greek showed us the way, and his parting words, as he gave a quizzical look at our license plate, sounded something like: “be careful on this rode, the Greeks they’re crazy drivers”!



Oh well, after so many passes, and pretty crazy city traffic, I had already opened up the throttle, and was far gone, leaving his words hanging in the air before he even had time to finish his sentence.

The twisty road had Valentino's name on it.





2 hours later we were in Parga, looking for a place to stay, but mostly looking forward to a swim in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.

Parga sounds a lot like paradise.



More to come...
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The Southern Episode

V@lentino screwed with this post 04-22-2009 at 09:07 PM
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Old 05-04-2009, 09:20 PM   #129
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Parga




After our visit to Meteora, and its monasteries, we were glad we had followed the advice of Doctor Feelgood. But, when we landed in Parga it was unequivocal that we had made the right decision.




The time now beginning to run short it would not have been possible to truly enjoy the Adriatic coast of the Balkans, without feeling like we were in the final episode of the amazing race.


Instead we enjoyed several nice rides in and around quaint villages and hours at the beach.....



Some blue.




Some red.




Jackie’s leg is still not pretty but at least the sudden lashes of pain have mostly subsided. It will take a long time to heal fully.

Nothing Greek sunshine can't cure.




Parga, a small municipality that sits about 50 km from Igoumenista in the region of Epirus, has a history that goes back to 1200 BC. The township is tightly sandwiched by mountain, and sea.



Many considered it to be one of the most beautiful coastlines of mainland Greece.



At times occupied by the Venetians, the Turks, the British, and the French, it was them who eventually sold the city to Ali Pasha the Turk, for the modest some of about £150.00. In exchange for which he promised to safeguard the inhabitants of Epirus. Despite the agreement, the Pargians were widely prosecuted, and many left the area for Kerkyra (Corfu), and some of the other Ionian Islands. In 1912 when during the Balkan war, the Greeks defeated the Turks, many return to the small fishing village.

The castle.







The Turks are coming.



For us there was no conflict, during the five days we frequented the beaches of Parga, Piso Krioneri, and Valtos, but by far the most beautiful was Lichnos. Easily two kilometers long, as you walked, or swam from one end to the other, the pebbles grew in size, from small, microscopic grains of white sand to large hand size round pebbles. It was spectacular, proportionately the sound of the wave grew louder echoed by the large cave at the end of the beach. We found one of the nicest dwelling of the trip, just before the high season starts, we were able to get a fully furnished street level apartment, with a full kitchen, complimentary breakfast, and internet for 55.00. Steeper price than most of the places we have been but considering we were mere meters from the beach, and mostly ate at home, it was well worth it. If we thought the cicadas were loud in Lamia, they were mute compare to the resident homopterous population of Parga.



The proximity of a dive shop allowed me to do a couple of dives, and although the 2nd diving site, a small calm cove 10 to 15 ft deep was incredible, the marine fauna sadly shined by its absence. I brought back two plastic bags, a discarded net knotted with fishing line, and a deflated football that had been shamelessly discarded. At the risk of allowing the word “plunder” once again to creep up between these lines, I’ll pass on any further comments on the topic. I will however report on the somewhat hopeful discussion I had with the dive-master, who during the winter is a elementary school teacher, and closely works with young kids to sensitize them to the precarious state of Gaia. With a sad look he said: “I do all that I can in the hope they bring back the notion of preservation home, so maybe we can change the old mentality”. A bit sad, a reality, truly not much different from the carelessness and waste we are responsible for back home.

Life is hard, this adventure as turned into a real hardship.

Valentino playing Navy Seal for the day.




Drop of point.



Ahum... seemed like a good idea at the time.




Above and beyond all that we experienced in Greece; man made, and natural beauties, what will remain the most vivid in our memory to help us cope with long Canadian winter, will be its sensuous appeal: the sound of the cicadas, the smell of the flowers, laurels, olive groves, and eucalyptus trees against the background, and beauty of its black, and white sands lining the coast of the crystalline Mediterranean sea.












And we finally found what might just have been the best Souvlaki in the world, mission accomplished.



Alas we must say goodbye to Greece, tomorrow we sail back to Venice, and head north to Amsterdam. The Dolomites are in the cards…

ST is resting for the road ahead.



Yup nothing but smiles.


Eupharisto Parga.

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The Southern Episode

V@lentino screwed with this post 05-10-2009 at 07:43 PM
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Old 05-05-2009, 07:47 AM   #130
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I just found this thread about 2 weeks ago. The weather was starting to turn nice and my month long struggle to finish painting my bike was drawing to an end, so of course I get the itch to get out and ride. You know that feeling dont you? But alas, one has to work to ride, so here I sit at my desk and dream when all of a sudden I find a thread about some dude named Valentino and his hot chick Jackie and their trusty ST. All of a sudden I find my self reading about their cool riding adventure across Europe, now I am hooked big time. Thank you both for letting us into you awesome adventure. Looking forward to more. Since I found this thread I have forwarded to everyone I know that rides and some that don't. True ADV to the end.
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Old 05-05-2009, 09:45 PM   #131
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Thumb Soon to be heading North

Thank's for signing in and forwarding our adventure Coots, we really appreciate the contribution, just a couple more legs before I wrap it up.
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Old 05-06-2009, 07:02 AM   #132
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Nice journey. Enjoyed the read immensely. Loved how you kept including ST as a team member, made her one of the family. Thanks for sharing, it has perked my interest in Europe even more...so of course, it is on my list. Sorry about the burn, I smiled when you mentioned "toothpaste" as a burn remedy. I was told the same thing as an "adventurous" kid, and got myself burnt pretty bad. Stung quite a bit but felt better. The healing really is the worst part.

Oh yeah, "Freewill" is pretty good too. Cheers! and keep on riding. Looking forward to the final posts.
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Old 05-10-2009, 08:24 PM   #133
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Wicked Membership has its privilege

July13


Yesterday was our earliest wake up call of the trip, the alarm sounded at 05:00, and we quickly got ready to head to the port of Igoumenista for our last ferry ride of the voyage. 18 hours to Venice. For this leg of the journey, we reserved on Anek lines a single deluxe cabin for two, we have about 1600 km to cover from Venice to Amsterdam, and wanted to make sure we would be well rested for the final ride back to Holland.

Valentino definitely got the hang of this.



Yup all good.





Jackie also has her technique down pat. Ahum.....

What's taking you so long Valentino ?



Once the boarding procedures completed, and ST securely tied, we headed for our cabin. Of course Greek ferries on Anek, and Minoan are nowhere near as luxuriously decadent as the Holland-America, Princess, and other vessels of that type. This said, our entire previous crossings were great, comfortable and clean accommodations, but a little luxury never hurt anyone before, so we were really looking forward to this one.

This was going to be perfect, Jackie even had minty chocolate on her pillow.



As we walk about the upper deck looking for our cabin, we saw dozens of teens bivouacking on deck. All were huddled together, not really knowing if it was morning or night, or if they should be hot or cold.



One thing for sure was that they were damp and did not look comfortable, some were shivering many were wet from the mist of the sea.



As we covered the last few meters through the first class lounge to reach our cabin, that’s when it hit us, look at the sign! Says Jackie, Membership does have it’s privilege.



From now on, just call us "Distinguished guests". We had a bottle of wine in the cabin, a nice meal in the dinning room, I added a few lines to my blog, and we retired to catch some Z’s.





It was around 07:00 when we awoke to the up soft and friendly baritone voice of our Stewart...uh not really. But, no doubt we were awake, we peeked outside the porthole, and there was Venice allowing us a last glimpse at her magical, mysterious beauty.











This been our fifth crossing aboard the Greek and Italian ferries. I thought I had the disembarking procedures down pat, something like enter last, tie the bike at the front of the line, and get off first. You don’t really get any help from the onboard personnel; it’s every man for himself. As I would soon found out, this was not going to be that easy. This ship had both a forward and aft entry, which meant that we would really be exiting with the last group. Greek organization at its best; it was a real mess. By the time we got out we were soaked with sweat and blackened by diesel pollution. Not the best way to start the day when you need to cover 1500 km.


But ST was as ready to go as ever.



We exited, the port area, changed our clothes, put our gear back on, put on a healthy dose of ACDC and headed for the green and white palette of the Italian alps, it was nice to finally inhale some cool, fresh air. Heading for the Dolomites...

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Old 05-10-2009, 09:07 PM   #134
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Run for the hills

July 14 to 16

The last stretch of tarmac would take us in a North-Westerly direction from Venice all the way back to Amsterdam via Austria and Germany.



Despite signaling the end of the trip, we were looking forward once again to crossing the Italian Alps. It had been one of the nicest stretch of road we had covered in the last three months.

Can you say Italian Alps, memories of the Stelvio came rushing back.





As before traffic was a real problem.



Well there were cars going the other way.



Majestic peaks.



We got so rain soaked on the inbound part of trip, that we were excited about the forecast. The weatherperson (politically correct) had promised relatively clear skies, and getting out of the ferry, aka the convection oven, we felt free, liberated, nothing could slow us down. With Baba O’reily blaring in our headsets, and fresh air hitting us full front, we truly felt free like the wind, the ST effortlessly climbed to 160 k/hr on the straightly laid runway that would guide us to the foot hills of the Dolomites’ national park, although we did feel a melancholic tinge stinging our heart, as we waved good bye to Venice, there was a sweet zen quality to the moment, as we raced back to the mountains.



Needless to say that, several passes were on the menu.





Just love the alps, one of the things that make riding in Europe so great.









Still trying to figure out this Heidi thing, she might have been Italian after all.



And we took note of a few local houses of worships.





Ciao Italia, grazie mille per tutti.



As we made our way to Austria via Innsbruck,





then north of Stuttgart through Southwestern Germany, and the mystical Schwarzwald (black forest) in Baden-Württemberg, on the East side of the Rhine. We did not see any werewolves, sorcerers, or witches, but the rolling hills, giving way to dense forests, leading to magnificent highlands were superb.







We took the side roads, and enjoyed a few more twisties until dusk snuck up on us.

Chocolate milk producers.



We halted for the night somewhere in the middle of the German country side, in a small village, with a name far to long and complicated for me to even attempt to remember.



For dinner that night, we shared a traditional schnitzel and bratwurst platter, accompanied by a couple of well deserved cold German “bier”. After our supper, we stumbled back to our room, crawled under our thick, soft, duvet filled quilts, and as soon as our head hit the pillow we fell deeply into the arms of Morpheus.



The next morning, bright and early, we were the first and only one lined up for the buffet breakfast and, guess what? It was poring rain out. After our copious feast, looking outside at the densely falling rain, we just felt like going back to bed. I asked our gracious host when was our check out time, I think he took pity on us, and said: “how about 14:00”, “perfect” I answered back. We still had about 700 km to cover to our favorite B&B in the cosy neighborhood of Sapharti Park in Amsterdam, and I was a bit disappointed that we could not get an early start.



By about 13:00 just as the weatherman (politically incorrect) had predicted the sun started to burn its way through the clouds, and we headed out. As soon as Valentino started the engine, somewhere deep, deep in the background, amidst the familiar whine of ST, he heard what at first was hardly more a than a faint whisper, a quiet murmur, a feeble dulcet that slowly grew to a resounding voice, finally to emerge as a loud commanding roar; it was saying:

autobahn, autobahn, autobahn, autobahn, autobahn, autobahn, autobahn...



By the time the quiet whisper had beget this roaring cry, his right turn signal was flashing more brightly, and intently that it had for the whole trip, and I had now a clear idea on how we were going to make up for time lost due to the earlier whims of Zeus. The Valentino dood took the first ramp towards the autobahn, and let it rip. ST climb to 178 k/hr, (on the GPS) and both of us marveled at how steady, and comfortable the ride remained. Of course this is to say nothing of the German made automobile zooming past us on the left lane at speeds, I was guessing to be far above the 240 k/hr mark. Valentino realized that their was plenty of power left in the V4 of the Black Beauty, but at almost 180 k/hr, and with the rear tire pretty cupped, it was fast enough for today.

More to come...
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The Southern Episode

V@lentino screwed with this post 01-31-2010 at 01:52 PM
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Old 05-19-2009, 01:40 PM   #135
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just amazed at europe's beauty!

simply wonderful u 2!
i dont have much time when i read your RR, but need to take an evening and sit back and try to blend into your pics.
i too ride an ST1300 and its cool to feel how it rides through your words.
am waiting for the next installment



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