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'99 Poland - Sinai (Egypt) - Poland Trip 

Second Leg: Greece


Mainland
Peloponnese
Crete
Rhodes
Stopover in Cyprus

'99 Greece/Turkey map


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Mainland

 

Wednesday, July 14, 99: Igoumenitsa—Meteora

 

G.: We arrived in Igoumenitsa around 9 a.m. It was nice to see the port again. It did not change much since ’96. We withdrew some cash, ate some Greek cheese mmmmm… feta…), gassed up and off we went.

J.:  The first experience of Greek mountain roads was exciting and fun. 

Mountain roads in Greece

Average speed for the day: 50 km/h: lots of turns and twists. The weather was great. Few times my outside thermometer displayed 40C. We crossed the Katara Pass. 

Katara Pass - 1690 m above sea level

 

Meteora

G.: Seeing the steep and smooth slopes of the mountains of Meteora was breathtaking. As if it wasn’t enough, there were monasteries on top of almost every mountain. Gee…. all these monks… How did they get there? Curious and fascinating.  

Meteora, Greece

At the campground we found many tourists and groups from different countries, including Poland. It was a must to say hi to our comrades. We were invited to dine with them but since they were mostly elderly people we sort of skipped it. There was a group of 20 or so English speaking young people camped beside us. Their behavior intrigued me. It seemed like their activities were very well planned. They did everything together. Later they sat in a circle and either prayed, meditated or discussed something very quietly. Strange. It looked like the AA meeting (I guess it was not).

The French on the other side seemed to have a lot more fun and beer and wine.    

J.: At night in Meteora it was 35C. I like this type of whether. Warm… The chirping of the cicadas made the night “pleasant” and almost impossible to sleep. 

 

Thursday, July 15, 99: Meteora—Athens

 

J.: In the morning we visited the monasteries in Meteora.

G.: Since the footpaths were not sign-posted, naturally we got lost. But once we climbed to the top we knew where we were. Two Americans came along. I think at some point they panicked but when we found the right path they quickly caught up with us. It really was not necessary to visit all the monasteries. Essentially they were all very similar inside, so we saw only two. The views from any of the tops were stunning. The mountains looked like they were drawn by a cartoonist. I couldn’t absorb everything. It was so different from anything I saw before.

J.: We set off to Athens around noon. The road from Meteora to Athens was very good.

G.: Good road but “not so good” pavement on one of the gas stations. The concrete floor was so slippery I could slide 10 meters on it. There Jacek survived his first ever fall on the hard surface. It was enough to slightly accelerate and the bike slid off to the side. Fortunately Jacek displayed a lot of "electricity in his ass" (some call it skill) and he quickly jumped off the falling bike. Long discussion with the gas bar attendant (mostly sign language) followed the incident. Finally the rider of the all and powerful KLR overcame his emotions and we rode off. Ironically, the gas station ran out of gas.

J.: The highway toll was cheap—US$ 1,5. We pitched our tent in Shinias right on the Ionian See, 30 km from Athens. There were lots of Greek families at our camping. It’s true that the mainland belongs to Greeks and the islands—to foreigners.

 

Friday, July 16, 99: Athens

 

J.: A bit disappointing. The only interesting spot in Athens is Acropolis. 

Acropolis

You can see it in about 3 hours. The rest of the city is a modern metropolis. We walked around the downtown area visiting numerous souvenir shops. 

Buying souvenirs? No, just looking...

On our way back to the camp, we came across a church fair.

G.: It was some kind of an orthodox celebration. Priests stood at the church entrance in their fancy and richly ornamented robes and recited holly passages while all the people listened. Around the church and particularly on one of the streets there was a long chain of stalls with every imaginable item. It was a good opportunity for all souvenir and memorabilia vendors to make a “buck” or rather a drahma. It was a very busy and colorful event.

J.:  Right after that, we found a beach bar with life music. They played very good salsa and other Latino-American music. To our surprise, the beer was awfully expensive: US$ 10! I guess that covered the band as well. Later we found out that it was a private party for employees of some kind of wealthy company. So, the customers were rather rich. Most of them spoke good English. In the bar I met some Polish tourists (very young). They had just arrived at the camp and they were going to stay there for 2 weeks! What can you possibly do for two weeks on the beach and not get bored?!


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Peloponnese

 

Saturday, July 17, 99. Athens—Nafplio  

 

J.: It was a short ride. On the way we stopped at Pireas and Corinthos. In Pireas we were supposed meet my friends (Ania, Ewa, Pawel - the captain) who were sailing around Greece on a hired boat. Unfortunately we missed them.  

G.: It was my first time going south on the Peloponessus. Red ragged mountains were the feature here. We arrived to Nafplio in the evening. The city and its setting were just beautiful.

Nafplio, Greece. Fortress in the background.

A positive first impression made us decide to spend an evening in town. We quickly set up on a nearby camping and returned to get a glimpse of the Greek nightlife. Saturday was supposed to be the busiest evening and indeed it was. It seemed like young Greeks from all over came here just for the evening. We walked around, looked, had a few beers, tried to mingle and looked again. Naturally we tried to make some kind of connection with Greeks but honestly it was not that easy. Greeks love their language and they are rather reluctant to make contacts with foreigners. Oh well… tough luck… At least we saw how they partied.

 

Sunday, July 18, 99. Nafplio & Mycenae

 

J.: We spent another day in Nafplio. It was a beach day

Nafplio beach. Fortress in the background.

as well as an educational day: we visited the ancient site of Mycenae. 

Mycenae - ruins of the powerful kingdom mentioned in Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey"

The plan was to stay in Nafplio and its vicinity for a few days. According to the Lonely Planet book, the ferry to Crete to be on Wednesday. Out of curiosity, we asked a travel agent. It appeared that we could catch the ferry the next day in the afternoon. 

 

Monday, July 19, 99. Nafplio—Mystras—Gythio—Kissamos  

 

 

We left for Gythio early on Monday to catch the early afternoon ferry. More fun mountain roads followed. 

Peloponnese

We stopped for few hours to visit another set of ruins. This time it was the medieval town of Mystras. 

Mystras, Greece

 

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Crete

 

 

J.: Before we boarded the ferry we purchased food and drinks for the trip in a local supermarket. 

Buying stuff...

The Ferry from Gythio to Kissamos stopped on two islands for no more than 2 minutes. Two people got off, two got on, and that was it!

We arrived in Kissamos around 1 a.m. It was too late to find a camping site. We opted for free accommodation. This time it was an olive tree orchard by an escarpment a few hundred meters from the seashore.

 

Tuesday, July 20, 99. Kissamos—Paleohora

 

J.: A relaxing day. Beautiful ride from Kissamos to Paleohora. It was quite an inexpensive place. A travelers hangout: we met German (hi, Sarah and company), Dutch and Polish backpackers (czesc Marta i Kacper,). We found an internet place in Paleohora but decided not to pay US$ 10 for an hour.

 

Wednesday, July 21, 99. Samaria Gorge

 

J.: We got up at 5:30. We left our bikes at the camp and took a bus (2½ hours of curves and twists) to Xyloskalo, place at the top of the Samaria Gorge). From there we walked down the Gorge for 6 hours. Beautiful and exciting place.  

The top of Samaria Gorge  The narrowest spot of the Samaria Gorge

G.: The place was full of tourist. Sometimes we had to wait in a line to get through a tight spot or an overpass. At the bottom we got to a village to which you can get either on foot or ferry. Warm.

 

Thursday, July 22, 99. Paleohora—Iraklio

 

J.: The ride through Crete was fun – lots of mountains.

Greg’s mattress was leaking so he bought a brand new one in a supermarket in Iraklio. To his disappointment, the new one was also leaking. Someone affixed a price tag to it a stapler holes in the mattress. Always check the mattress before paying for it. Greg got really ticked off.

 

Knossos. 

Even though it’s believed to be the place of the oldest civilization in Europe, the site was quite disappointing. It was very difficult to distinguish between original walls and those rebuilt by the English archeologist, Sir Arthur Evans. Two thumbs down, unfortunately. 

Knossos, Crete, the capital of Minoan civilization, the oldest civilization in Europe (1900 BC)

We walked around Iraklio, had a nice meal in an outdoor restaurant in the heart of the city, 

Eating and people watching in Iraklio, Crete

did some people watching and headed to our campsite.

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Rhodes

 

Friday, July 23, 99. Iraklio—Sitia—Rhodos

 

J.: We got up at 5:00 to catch a ferry Sitia to Rhodos.  

Ferry Sitia - Rhodes

The ferry was quite pleasant. We entertained ourselves with a Greek beer, Mythos. It was nice to meet some Poles again. This time it was a young couple on island-hopping vacation (czesc, Kasia i Bartek). They taught us how to play this very popular Greek game, a pleasant time killer. We got to Rhodos after midnight and decided to sleep for free again. This time it was a paradise-like beach just few kilometers south of the town of Rhodos. We slept till 9, and there still was no sign of an owner of the deck chairs we used for the night.

 

Saturday, July 24, 99. Rhodos

 

J.: Finally we found a decently priced internet cafe. It was US$ 3,50 per hour.

Now we were stuck in Rhodos waiting to the ferry to Israel. This was actually good, because we could enjoy sunshine and nightlife in Rhodos.  

Rhodes at night

We placed ourselves on a campsite in Faliraki. Nightlife in Faliraki was very British. British tourists were arrogant and wild, painfully wild. Broken beer bottles, garbage, and drunk British. Bars were loud. I think my hearing got damaged. The only English girls you could strike a conversation with were the hostesses who were trying to persuade male tourists to enter bars. Italians, Dutch and Germans on the contrary were great to have fun with.

G.: We actually met a group of Italian tourists right on our camping. They liked to have fun so we partied with them a bit. They all spoke some English and most importantly I had a chance to practice my Italian. I have not spoken so much Italian in 10 years or so.    

Italians in Greece

J.: On a cultural note: we visited the medieval town of Rhodos with its fairytale-like buildings.

The Castle in Rhodes

 

Sunday, July 25, 99. Rhodos

 

G.: While on the island we also visited the town of Lindos. In the past it had a similar role to Rhodos but the old town is now mostly in ruins. There I saw a BMW motorbike that looked almost the same as Junak, the bike I imported to Canada from Poland last year. 

BMW

We also visited the Valley of the Butterflies. Millions of insects occupy the whole valley but they are actually colorful moths, not butterflies.

To get to remote places we used our bikes and in order to match up to other bikers and mopeders (mostly rentals) we decided to ride without helmets. Some might say “not a good idea” but really it was quite OK. You can’t reach high speeds anyway because your eyes will tear if you go over 60k/h even with sunglasses on. We tried the cool Greek biker look riding through town at night with sunglasses on…. Ohhh….yeah!  

Fun riding in Rhodes

J: It was “cool” but I wouldn’t ever do it again. It was trying the fortune.

 

Monday, July 26, 99. Rhodos

 

J.: Beach time. Relax time. Party time!!!

Beach time! 

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Stopover in Cyprus

 

Tuesday, July 27, 99. Rhodos—ferry to Haifa

 

J.: The ferry to Israel was expensive : US$ 100 per person, US$ 75 per bike. Altogether we paid US$ 350 each. 

Waiting for the ferry in Rhodes

G.: We were not too demanding if it came to comfort but this ferry had the worst conditions on deck of all, considering the distance the boat covered and the time one spent on it. Dirty, oily, smelly and loud environment. Luckily we managed to sneak inside and got ourselves some seats without paying extra. I guess, no one cared. It was very exciting to meet young native Israelis (Jews), very smart (J.: rather arrogant) and also extremely proud individuals. On the deck we met again Jeffrey, the cyclist we met on the other ferry (Gythio-Kissamos). It was a nice surprise.     

 

Wednesday, July 28, 99. Ferry to Haifa (stopover in Lymasol, Cyprus)

 

J.: The question was, what to do during a 36-hour journey. There wasn’t much to discover after we walked the deck several times, so we just vegged out. During the stopover we went with Jeffrey to see Lymasol. Not an interesting place but it was worth to see what it was. We hit the internet café and later had lunch at a street food place.

G.: We met some very pretty Russian girls, accompanied by a very large man. The girls claimed to be dancers. Personally I think they were more than that… We proposed to take some pictures but they were reluctant to agree. One more picture on the harbor with Jeffrey and our visit in Cyprus ended. It was time to board the ferry again.    

American cyclist, Jeffrey



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To continue the story, click Dahab & Israel or go back to Poland - Sinai - Poland trip.