Thoughts and tales from the saddle - on my own in Europe.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day 170 - Kavala - North-East Greece

I've got a confession: I hired a car and drove 300 miles. And I'm not ashamed to say that, as I cruised effortlessly up hills, surrounded by cool air, I thought, 'I'm glad I'm not riding this'. The miles flew by and I revelled in the fact that the only effort I was making was to press my right foot down slightly - no burning thighs, cramping calves or sweat dripping off my face , running into my eyes. No need to continuously consume endless litres of water or worry about my energy levels. A tank of petrol and an engine put all that behind me, for six days.

My (supposed) 'loyal band of blog readers' (not my words) may be relieved to learn that I dropped the car back at the place where I picked it up from and, two days ago, continued riding, after a ten day break, from the hotel I arrived at (on the bike) ten days previous. I had a visitor, you see, and we've been on holiday, around the coves and beaches of Halkidiki, a peninsula just below Thessaloniki. Nice it was, too - we spent our days on the beaches and in the crystal clear sea, and our nights on the same beaches, eating by the waves in local tavernas.

Unaccustomed as I am to relaying useful or interesting facts about the places I've visited on this blog, the 'third finger' of Halkidiki caught my imagination sufficiently to relay the following: Halkidiki consist of three 'fingers', or pensinulas, extending from the mainland. The Western most is considered the 'party finger' (think Falaraki/Aiya Napa, but not nearly as lively), the middle finger is 'the quieter one' and the third finger...well, this is the interesting one. A few facts about it: Women are not allowed on it. It is inhabited by monks who live in a collection of monasteries. There are no roads (I don't think). If you want to visit it you need a few things: A penis (whether this specifically has to be a naturally occurring one or not I don't know - any post-op transsexuals out there ever tried to get on there?), a permit or pass (which takes weeks to organise, apparently) and three days spare. You buy the permit and are allowed to stay three nights, one each in a different monastery. You are dropped off, and picked up, by boat. You can, I assume, if you want, while you're there, climb the 2033 metre mount Athos that makes up most of the finger. The closest women can get is 500 metres - any tourist boats carrying inquisitive women must stay that distance from the shore. Another fact about this third finger - they produce wine. Now, I don't know, maybe I'm just a cynic or a sceptic or something, but this all sounds a bit like the worlds biggest men's club to me - no roads, no police, wine, beaches, sea, mountain (which, incidentally, probably provides a very good climate for growing a certain herbal plant, in summer)...I've got images of deeply tanned men lounging around the beach, drinking wine, passing joints. 'Quick Nickos, put your robe on, there's a boat coming!'

Another thing I feel inclined to mention is guidebooks. My visitor brought with them a copy of 'Greece' by a certain well known guidebook publisher...actually, sod it, I'm not the BBC - it was a Lonely Planet guide. It was the first guide I'd looked at on this trip (see 'Avoiding Europe' explanation, err, somewhere else on here) and it was crap. Well, the section on 'The North of Greece', that we used, was, anyway. Apart from being completely wrong about a lot of things, it was written with such a snobbish hand that I was inclined not to take any notice of its recommendations anyway - avoiding europe indeed. There is, apparently, a breed of traveller who refer to themselves as 'Independent Travellers' ('Hi, I'm an Independent Traveller'), and they, according to the guidebook, sneer at 'fast food' establishments (which here means the local gyros place that most locals eat from), bars, clubs, people on holiday...pretty much a lot of the things the rest of us consider elements of that mystical thing called 'fun', and spend their time entirely searching out museums and historical sites and monuments. I actually read, in the description of a delightful little place we stayed in, 'There is little for the independent traveller here'. Good, piss off then.

Anyway, riding again after the ten day break has been pretty hard - the heat is taking some getting used to again, my body not entirely happy about the resumption of the dehydration/rehydration pattern and I now realise what resilience I must have built up in a certan aspect of bike riding - after three days in the saddle my bum hurts.


  • At 5:26 pm, Blogger Roger said…

    So you can't sit in the saddle - let me guess, your holiday visitor, does she now walk like john wayne? ;-)

    Anyway you should learn one thing from this - holiday's are bad for you!

  • At 9:37 am, Blogger Perry said…

    Where are you now? we could meet in Thessaloniki!!!!

  • At 10:35 am, Blogger Percy Herbert said…

    Hi Perry

    I'm in Alexandroupolis now, I left Thessaloniki a week ago!

    Maybe next time...


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