Riding to Turkey and the next day to Kasan, Turkey were 2 of the hardest days. Strong head wind both days. I had to show my passport 4 times to get through the border, plus a 15 euro “fee.”
THERE HAD TO BE 50 OR MORE TRUCKS LINED UP WAITING TO CROSS INTO GREECE.
It still amazes me, even after touring 10 countries, that no matter what, when you cross a border, everything changes, it’s like a “different planet.” I ride to Ipsala
I found this great (cheap) hotel. Private room, shared bathroom and good WIFI, $15.
I COOKED MY BREAKFAST IN THE ROOM AND HAD A GREAT “OFFICE” SET-UP.
I wanted to stay a couple days here. But first I had to investigate taking the bus to Istanbul (200km). No bus for 3 days. I had to ride to KESAN, more headwind, to catch a bus to Istanbul.
I THINK ITS WINTER WHEAT
KESAN IS THE BACKGROUND IN FRONT OF THE MOUNTAINS.
The route is basically on the “highway”, yet there is a huge shoulder that provides safe bicycling. I ride into town to find a cheap hotel. I pass a place, looks too nice for me. I spend about 2 hours looking around, I’m back at the place I thought I couldn’t afford. What a great place, TASKIN OTEL, (not misspelled) was a great (lucky) choice.
BELOW THE OTEL WAS THE HIPSTER COFFEE AND DESERT HANGOUT IN KESAN.
I SOON DISCOVER THAT OTEL’S IN TURKEY INCLUDE A BUFFET BREAKFAST. AT NIGHT THERE ARE NO EMPTY SEATS.
The only restaurants I can find are the DONER KEBEBS. For Lunch and Dinner? I read the travel book and it talks about all the great food in Turkey. Armed with this information I head out on the bike looking for something to eat besides the Doner Kebeb.
TURKISH PIZZA AND SALAD, (the start of something new)
They were so friendly, I tell them I’ll be back for dinner.
THEY BBQ THE MEAT AT THIS END OF THE WOOD FIRED OVEN
AND PIZZA’S FROM THIS END
I have a renewed faith in Turkish food, not just the deserts from the hotel.
METAL RECYCLER USING THE TRANSPORTATION OF THE PAST OR THE FUTURE?
ONE OF THE MANY MANY MOSQUES IN TURKEY
Turkey censors the internet for pornography (I checked). But then the shop right next to my hotel:
HAD THIS IN THE DISPLAY WINDOW FOR ALL TO SEE?
It’s time to take the bus into Istanbul. The buses are luxury rides, WIFI and
OO7 ON THE TV AT MY SEAT.
The bus had a camera on the front of the bus and a channel on the TV so you could watch the road. The traffic was crazy, glad I was taking the bus in. The freeway traffic was nearly stopped I look out the window and see this guy trying to sell bananas, on the freeway! I get out of my seat to take the photo out the front bus window, but I glance at the bus cam
AND TAKE THE PHOTO OF THE BANANA SALESMAN ON MY TV.
TOP OF A MOSQUE
I’m currently living in Istanbul for a month. The town is divided into the european side, asian side and Taskim. (maybe more?) I’m moving around and living in each part for a week. I’m in the Asian side now. The Hostel I’m staying at rents bikes and a local biker has volunteered to show me around by bike, AWESOME!
THANKS FOR READING
NEXT. FIRST FEW DAYS IN ISTANBUL (before Natasa) and some Asian side stuff
MORE PHOTOS ARE HERE
I took Natasa to the airport today after 4 days in Istanbul together. It was awesome!
PLAYING IN TASKIM SQUARE PARK. (yes the site of the recent protest).
I travelled “alone”, but traveling with someone else really makes getting special shots easier. I gave Natasa a quick camera lesson and asked her take this shot!
THIS IS THE HOTTEST POLICEMAN PHOTO OF THE WHOLE TRIP. WOMEN WITH MACHINE GUNS! HOLY SHIT
It’s pomegranate season so there’s fresh squeezed juice on nearly every corner. I’ve been drinking at least one a day.
YOU CAN GET LOTS OF DIFFERENT FRESH SQUEEZED JUICE ALL AROUND TOWN.
We went to the top of the GALATA TOWER. the VIEWSwere amazing.
We went to Istanbuls famous SPICE BAZZAR.
WE BOUGHT SOME NUTS WRAPPED IN DRIED FRUIT, IT WAS THE BOMB.
We visited the TOPKAPI PALACE for an afternoon.
I THOUGHT THIS SMALL BUILDING REPRESENTED MANY ISLAMIC ARCHITECUAL STYLES.
THE TREASURY ROOMS WERE AWESOME.
THIS CROWN IS JUST A SMALL SAMPLE OF THE MANY JEWELED ITEMS, A MUST SEE IN ISTANBUL. There was a jeweled throne, I wanted the photo so bad, no post card of it or anything in the many books. The person who designed the throne also designed the Blue Mosque.
THIS IS A PHOTO OF THE FAMOUS BLUE MOSQUE AT NIGHT. MORE PHOTOS OF THE BLUE MOSQUE ARE HERE
I stayed at a Hostel until Natasa arrived. I searched for a special hotel for the two of us. I probably looked at 6 different places. But the ALMINA HOTEL had a great feel to it. This turned out to be a GREAT choice. The whole staff was very warm and welcoming, the breakfast was the best I had in Istanbul.
FERMADIYE WAS AN EXCELLENT COOK AND HOST.
OUR ROOM WAS STRAIGHTENED OUT EVERYDAY WITHOUT FEELING OUR PRIVACY WAS BEING INVADED.
NATASA WITH ASLI AND MEHMET, FROM THE RECEPTION WERE GREAT TO US.
Our time together for Natasa and I were very bonding. (I might have to learn Slovenian). Were spending Christmas and New Years together then WE go to Thailand together.
WAITING FOR THE PLANE.
THANKS FOR READING, SORRY I’VE BEEN BUSY AND NOT POSTING.
NEXT: BIKING SOME IN TURKEY
I’LL POST THE PHOTOS FROM TURKEY SOON TOO
I knew a little about Greece before I arrived. I had heard about the Greek economic crisis and the austerity measures required for them to get more assistance from the European Union, namely Merkel. When I first arrived the policemen all mentioned how much they despised Merkel’s austerity measures as a requirement to borrow money.
I had planned to take the bus to a starting point, Kalambaka, before I learned Greece is 80% mountains, tough on a bike.
THIS IS ONE OF THE 6 MONASTERIES LEFT FROM THE ORIGINAL 24.
I emailed Vincent and asked him to join me in Kalambaka, he shows up and we tour Greece’s remote northern region, together.
HANGING OUT IN MY LUXURY TRAILER TILL VINCENT ARRIVES.
We visit several non tourist non post card villages. We were definitely the talk of the towns. We were in Elassona just 20 minutes , Vincent asks someone if they had seen an American on a bike, yes was the answer. People in the small towns were well aware of our presence.
THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAN TRYING TO CYCLE AROUND ATHENS.
Biking allows for the opportunity to meet like minded folks, like Yannis of Elassona.
THE BIKE GURU OF ELASSONA AND GREECE!
Yannis explained some of the situations that lead to the Greek crisis. People were able to get car loans or any loan for that matter, no money down or credit check, (sound familiar?) As people lost their jobs, the loans went into default. Obama “saved” the American economy by borrowing, at some point it will have to be paid back. America is next for some real austerity measures with real pain, get ready America.
THE MANY ROADSIDE CHURCHES WERE CUTE, BUT
The priest of Greece are paid by the government, including their pensions. Yet the Greek Church has nearly 1 trillion dollars in assets, not just churches but hotels, parking lots etc. They have more than twice as much as Greeks total debt. They are being asked to contribute more instead of taking from the state, we’ll see.
OUR ROUTE AND TIMING WERE EXCELLENT, FALL WAS IN FULL BLOOM.
Walking around Elassona nearly 1/2 the store fronts were closed. Greece unemployment rate is 27% thats 1 in 4 people don’t have a job! They closed the state media, for America, that would be like shutting down NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, think about it.
Greece is full of valuable history and lessons to be learned from, like the fall of the Roman Empire. I visited Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. I loved the city, Greek food is over the top great! I wish I had time to stay longer. The people treated cyclist with the ultimate courtesy and friendliness. Like Albania, many horns and thumbs up from drivers. I can’t wait to come back.
THIS INSTRUMENT WAS FROM THE ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM IN THESSALONIKI, (interesting read)
EVERYONE IS DOING WHAT THEY CAN DO TO SURVIVE.
SOME OF THE ROADS WERE LINED WITH COTTON
THE COTTON CAME FROM THESE “OPEN” TRAILERS
I have a video I shot of these vents spinning in the wind HERE
I HAD A GREAT TIME IN GREECE EVERYTHING WAS AWESOME, FOR TOURIST, BUT THE GREEKS ARE TRULY STRUGGLING. AMERICA IT’S TIME TO GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER OR WERE NEXT.
The bike ride to Turkey was one of the hardest days, head wind, attacking dogs, rain, machine gun touting guards ordering me around. My foot problems haven’t bothered me the whole trip, but after biking 2 days into a head wind, I can hardly walk now. I’m taking it easy in Turkey. I’ll be here till Dec. 20th, Natasa is coming tomorrow, can hardly wait.
I realize this blog post rambles, I’m tired. Seven months on a bike, camping, touring, blogging has taken a toll on me. I’m looking forward to 5 months of easy travel.
So in closing visit Greece, WHY? THE PEOPLE, FOOD, SCENERY, HISTORY. It’s a tough bike ride, I’m not sure that will be part of my return visit?
I spent the night in some farmers field. After missing my turn off yesterday and riding an extra 20km I slept great. I charged my phone some at the bakery, so I thought of checking the weather, RAIN. Just as I read that, I could here rain drops on the tent. I like having a good breakfast before riding, but I hate packing a wet tent more. So I hurriedly pack the tent and stuff before everything gets wet.
THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I’VE BEEN RIDING WITH A SUNRISE.
I’m on the frontage road next to the toll highway. I’ve never seen so many dead animals in such a small stretch of road; dogs, cats, birds, some kind of beaver. My frontage road ends and the toll way is my only choice. It’s early, I’m thinking “I can do this.”
WHEN IS THE NEXT TIME I’LL SEE A SIGN WITH THESE CHOICES? (probably never).
I arrive in THESSALONIKI, Greece’s second largest city. I finally get off the freeway and ride along the port road.
AM I IN PORTLAND? MY HOME TOWN OF PORTLAND OREGON HAS THE MOST STRIP CLUBS PER CAPITA IN THE U.S.
It’s only 9am and I’m in town. The advantage of arriving early when you get a hotel room, you get it ALL day and night. I find a hotel can be good value, especially if you use your camping equipment and set up a kitchen in the room. On that note, the Greek food is awesome and a fairly good value. But traveling as long as I am, I don’t feel I can afford to go out for every meal.
I’m going to play tourist for a couple days (since I skipped Athens).
IT’S RAINING BUT THE BUILDINGS ARE DESIGNED SO THE SIDEWALKS ARE DRY..
THIS GLASSES SHOP USED THIS BEAUTIFUL BIKE FOR IT’S DISPLAY WINDOW. (yep another bike image)
I decided to visit a few attractions, I started with the WHITE TOWER that is located along the water front. I told them how far I biked to get here and she let me in for free! with self guided audio tour.
THIS IS THE WATERFRONT SHOT FROM THE TOP OF THE WHITE TOWER.
There were some photos on display from earlier events
THIS AMAZING MASK HAD GOLD MOLDED OVER THE SOLDIERS FACE BEFORE HE WAS BURIED.
I NEED TO RE-READ THIS. WHAT?
THESE MODELS OF WAGONS WERE FOUND IN A FEMALE GRAVE, 510 B.C.
THIS WAS ONE OF THE FEW STATUES THAT STILL HAD BOTH ARMS AND HIS HEAD.
I was joking around (surprised?) with the clerk at the museum, that the statues had lost their arms, heads, legs but they still had their penis. I said “I guess if you only going to have one body part left, that’s the best one.” She agreed, we both laughed pretty hard.
I’m done with the museums it’s time to take the bus to Alexandroupoli. I grab a cheap hotel that I find to be one of the nicest ones I stayed in. There’s cute little pedestrian streets lined with cafés.
I HAD MY BEST GREEK SALAD HERE. (notice the meal came on a piece of paper, no plate!)
I ask the hotel what to do in town, no suggestions (or clue). I bike along the water front,
IT’S THE OFF SEASON AND IT SHOWS
THE ARCADE IS CLOSED BUT I COULDN’T RESIST THE AMERICAN FLAG SHORTS
Riding around I see this road is blocked off with orange cones, “go that way.” Turns out it’s the once a week farmers market and clothes bazaar. You think the lady at the hotel would mention this? Thank you for the bicycle, you can discover so much more.
THERE HAD TO BE AT LEAST 5 OLIVE BOOTHS, THIS BIG AND NUMEROUS LITTLE ONES.
THE PRODUCE WAS GORGEOUS
AND EVEN MORE GORGEOUS!
DOING WHAT YOU CAN DO TO SURVIVE, THE GREEK ECONOMIC CRISIS IS REAL.
There was more hunting going on earlier, around DISKATI and ELASSONA,
THEY CARRIED THEIR HUNTING DOGS IN THESE BOXES, I SAW LOTS AND LOTS OF THEM TOO.
The Farmers market didn’t have much cooked food, so on the way back to the hotel, “home”
I SPOTTED THIS BACON WRAPPED CHICKEN (I got 2) AWESOME!
Back at the Hotel room kitchen
IT’S CHEESE RAVIOLI WITH BROCCOLI AND PESTO SAUCE
It’s time to head for the border, weather forecast is windy but no rain. It’s blowing so hard I’m barely moving. The border is only 45 km but in this full on head wind it could take forever. I have a photo for this but something happened so it’s at the end of this blog
I CROSS PATHS WITH THESE 2 TURKISH BICYCLIST, HE TELLS ME ONLY 30KM TO THE BORDER.
I’m never going to get there in this weather. It starts raining pretty hard (on top of the wind). I pull into a roadside bus shelter (only 2nd time on this trip) and have lunch while trying figuring out how to get out of this mess? A bus pulls up, I try to get on, no way, he pulls away, shit! The rain lessens some so I start riding again and take a side road to the border.
I’M GETTING CLOSE NOW
I start to cross the 2 lane bridge into Turkey and spot these 3 dogs, I sense trouble. I stop and remove my water bottle. As I start crossing the bridge they start attacking me, I squirt them with the water which gives them pause as I race to the border check. This had to be a top 5 hardest days day, I didn’t think I would ever get here. If this had been the first day of Jeffs Bike Tour, there might have been no tour, today was tough.
Yep, I’m in Turkey, my final destination since starting in Lisbon Portugal over 7 months ago.
THANKS FOR READING THE BLOG, BIKING ISN’T ALWAYS EASY, BUT IT IS ALWAYS REWARDING!
NEXT? FINAL THOUGHTS ON GREECE
PHOTO GALLERY IS HERE
I’wanted to post his next picture about the traffic in Thessaloniki. It took me forever to ride to the bus station, people literally park anywhere and everywhere. I got trapped on the sidewalk a few times because the cars are parked so close together, there’s no escape.
THERE’S ONLY ONE LANE OF MOVING TRAFFIC EVERYONE ELSE IS DOUBLE PARKED. SOMEONE DOUBLE PARKED AND THAT TRUCK COULDN’T GET BY, WHAT A MESS
Vincent has left for Larissa and I’m in the Hotel working on this Blog (wanna keep the peeps updated).
THIS IS THE VIEW FROM MY HOTEL BALCONY.
I love working on the blog, but enough is enough and I call Yannis, “let’s go for a ride.” The best part of JEFFS BIKE TOUR is unloading your bike and to go exploring, by bike . That’s the problem with bus/train travel, once you arrive your walking and you can’t go as far as you can with a bicycle. Some cities do have bike rentals, but not all.
YANNIS KNOWS THE BACKROADS
For the past week I kept seeing these flowering plants in farmers field, but didn’t recognize them.
IT’S TOBACCO, THIS REGION IS #1 IN TOBACCO PRODUCTION IN GREECE.
Yannis was saying that their are trying to get the tobacco farmers to grow something else.
I LOVE ALL THE STONEWORK
THE TREE TO THE LEFT OF US IS SUPPOSE TO BE HUNDREDS OF YEARS OLD. (there’s more pictures in the PHOTO GALLERY)
WE DO SOME CLIMBING AND YOU CAN SEE THE VINEYARD BELOW TURNING YELLOW WITH WINTER COMING.
CLIMBING WITHOUT ALL THE GEAR IS SUPER FUN
WERE ON A ROUTE THAT WAS USED BY A BIKE TOUR THIS SUMMER, HENCE THE DR. BIKE SIGN.
Yannis took me on 2 awesome tours around Elassona over the past 2 days. I feel lucky to have met him, thanks to Vincent for hooking us up with Yannis. I said “Yannis is the Bike Guru of Elassona” there’s more. After talking with the mayor of Elassona,
YANNIS GOT PERMISSION TO PUT 6 “BIKE PLANTS” AROUND THE CITY.
He painted them, planted them at there locations and put the plants on them. I find them an interesting concept, promoting positive bicycle awareness.
So I´ve spent 4 days in Elassona, it’s time to go. Am I traveling alone? (a frequently asked question)NO.
YANNIS AND HIS FRIEND ESCORT ME TO THE PASS (I walked the uphill, while they road)
A LITTLE SHEEP ACTION! (look closely).
IT’S DEFINITELY UPHILL.
ONE THING ABOUT CLIMBING, THE VIEWS ARE FANTASTIC! (one of many roadside memorials)
We finally reach the top, but not before I’m attacked by a sheep herders dogs. Yannis rides back to see what all the commotion is about, everything is OK.
WERE AT THE TOP (finally) AND IT’S TIME TO SAY OUR GOODBYES. THANKS SO MUCH YANNIS FOR SHARING A LITTLE PART OF HEAVEN CALLED ELASSONA,
Yannis is planning a long tour and was asking me A LOT of questions. I’m glad to exchange information that encourages people to hit the road on their bike!
My plan is to ride down part of the mountain and find a river and do some camping. Meanwhile the fall colors are amazing!
(this photo is for you MJ)
YOU CAN SEE THE HIGHER UP EVERGREEN TREES IN THE BACKGROUND
I FIND MY LITTLE RIVER AND HENCE CAMPSITE TOO.
THE FALL LEAVES DO A GREAT JOB OF COVERING GREECE’S LACK OF RESPECT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT (tossing garbage wherever).
I LOVE LISTENING TO THE RAVONETTES ON MY I-PAD,
FALL COLORS IN A FRUIT ORCHARD
OLD GREEK WOMEN
GREECE IS STILL USING OLD FARMING TECHNIQUES OF HEAVY TILLING. BBC REPORTS THAT LOW TO NO TILLING IS THE FUTURE OF FARMING TO HELP PRESERVE THE PLANET.
I LITE THESE TO CANDLES FOR NATASA AND I, HEALTH AND HAPPINESS!
BACK IN OREGON, WE HAVE A GAS STATION WITH AN AIRPLANE, YEP AND THEY HAVE A HOTEL WITH A PLANE ON IT.
I’m making great time, I stop for a coffee and chocolate cake. I’m not sure what happened but I missed my turn and ended up 20 km out of my way and worst of all? On a freeway. shit. I finally find the frontage road, it’s nearly dark, I find a spot to camp. Done.
I’m nearing the end of my bicycle tour if you have any questions or comments please post them to this website so others can see them. I will be in Slovenia over Christmas (with Natasa) and then traveling through SE Asia for 3 months (some with Natasa). I’m not sure I will be blogging on this site? Biking is more fun to talk about.
Thanks for reading and posting your comments.
NEXT? DEAD ANIMALS AND GREECE’S FINAL WEEK
PHOTO GALLERY IS HERE
YANNIS RODE WITH ME TO THE TOP, THEN I ENJOYED A MONSTROUS DOWNHILL THAT I SPLIT INTO 2 DAYS.
AFTER A FULL DAY UPHILL, WELL WHAT EVER GOES UP MUST COME DOWN, AND DOWN WE GO
THEY DAY STARTS WITH SOME AWESOME VIEWS AND STILL NO CARS IN SIGHT!
I’m not sure why but the church has mini “satellite” church’s. Their visited frequently, lighting candles, I’ve seen people kissing the image of Jesus.
THEY MAKE FOR A GREAT LUNCH SPOT FOR CYCLIST TOO!
MORE PHOTOS TO ENCOURAGE YOU TO PLAN A BIKE VACATION (your welcome).
I love the stone work and churches here.
THIS STRUCTURE IS BOTH, STONE WORK AND A CHURCH, SCORE!
We stop on top of a bridge and both agree, “were camping along this river tonight”. We take a dirt road (of course) around the river bend so we can’t be seen from the road. While were figuring out exactly where were setting up,
I look up from the river and see Vincent talking to this guy with a horse.
THIS GREEK COWBOY IS ACTUALLY FROM ALBANIA.
I turn away for a minute and yep
VINCENT HAS TRADED HIS BIKE FOR A HORSE.
The Cowboy heads down river and we set up our camp. All the grass land is well trimmed by the many many herds of sheep, goats and cows.
THIS INCLUDES OUR CAMPGROUND.
Vincent and I are very compatible touring buddies (except for his French thing of smoking). We get packed up and yes it’s straight up from the river valley. The fall valley views are amazingly colorful.
THERES MORE OF THESE PHOTOS IN THE PHOTO GALLERY
There’s maybe 2 more cars here than in Albania, I think partially due to the real economic crisis their experiencing here.
WHEN THE OCCASIONAL CAR DID PASS THEY “ALWAYS” WENT WAY AROUND US, I FEEL VERY SAFE BIKING HERE.
Vincent and I get split up as we roll in ELASSONA. I’m on the hotel hunt, he goes to buy a wrench (they gave it to him), he leaves with the name of a local bike guy that host cyclist. We meet up and head to Yannis’s house.
THE SHIRT SAYS IT ALL “WERE AMONGST FRIENDS”
After unpacking and some small chat, it’s time to eat. One of the good things about hanging with a local is they know the best places to eat authentic “local” food.
APPETIZERS, SALAD, BBQ LAMB, IT’S SO MUCH FOOD I HAD TO STOP EATING. I’ve nicknamed Vincent “Jaws” once he starts eating, he doesn’t stop. Well Jaws was in heaven.
EVEN THE LOCAL BAKERY WAS GETTING INTO THE BICYCLE IMAGES
Yannis restores old bikes, basically turns rust into riding jems. We bring the bikes down from his attic workshop.
THIS PHOTO IS FROM OUR CAMPING SPOT, SEE ALL THE GOATS ON THE VERTICAL ROCK LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO EAT.
Vincent is heading to Larrisa and I’m going to stay holed up in my hotel room
VINCENT ACTUALLY BOUGHT THESE FOR YANNIS’S MOM, TO THANK HER FOR HOSTING US.
There is so much going on here with bikes and Yannis I’ve got to make this a 2 part story (sorry)
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to ride your bike, the planet will love you.
YANNIS THE BIKE GURU CAN BE REACHED AT WWW.RESTOREBICYCLES.COM HE’S WORKING ON AN ENGLISH VERSION OF HIS WEBSITE, HE SPEAKS GREAT ENGLISH CALL HIM AT 00306973981979
SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE
NEXT? YANNIS RESCUES ME FROM THE HOTEL.
I’ve been in Kalambaka 6 days and visited the Monasteries 3 times. Vincent wants to go to Larissa, me Thessaloniki. I show him the route I’m planning on taking, he decides to join me. It’s only 30 km out of his way.
IT’S ONLY ABOUT 30 MILES TO DISKATI, BUT UP, THE WHOLE WAY.
I HAVE TO KEEP REMINDING MYSELF I’M IN GREECE. (hence the shirt and flag)
Just as we stop for a nice peaceful lunch break.
THIS BAND SAW TRACTOR DRIVES UP.
IT´S BECOMING WINTER, TIME TO CUT SOME FIREWOOD.
They still burn off crop residue here, I was a little shocked.
IT WAS PROBABLY 1KM OF SMOKE, BURNING EYES AND COULDN’T SEE THROUGH THE SMOKE.
Once through the smoke were turn off our low traffic road to a “where are the cars?” road. I tell Vincent “we’re on the other side of no where”.
A LITTLE FARM ACTIVITY AHEAD.
A sign indicates, restaurant ahead? I tell Vincent I need a shot of coffee, he agrees, he does too. It’s hunting season and they’re dividing the days hunt at the restaurant.
EVERYONE IS LEAVING WITH A BAG OF MEAT FOR THE FREEZER.
BIKING ON THE OPEN ROAD, IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER!
Our destination is DESKATI, I know nothing about this town other than the name. I didn’t have the energy to tackle Athens, so Deskati, “here we come”.
IT’S NOVEMBER AND THE TREES ARE DEFINITELY CHANGING COLORS
THE WEATHER HAS BEEN GREAT FOR BIKING, SUNNY 23C (LOW 70’S F).
We finally arrive in Diskati, the longest last 10 km of the trip. A local speaks French and tells Vincent to follow him, he’s on a small motorcycle, to the only hotel in town. We arrive and it’s closed for the season, the guy calls the owner and she opens up just for us!
WE COOK DINNER IN OUR ROOM. (budget travelers).
IT’S SUNDAY OUTSIDE THE CHURCH AND VINCENT IS SHOWING A GROUP OF MEN THE MAP OF OUR ROUTE.
THE CHURCH IN THE BACKGROUND IS OUR BIKING GOAL FOR THE DAY(eventually!)
WE TOOK A BIKE RIDE AROUND THE VILLAGE (way around)
WE WERE ON TOP OF THE WORLD, LOOKING TO THE NEXT VALLEY.
MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL BACK TO TOWN
OUR ORIGINAL GOAL WAS THIS CHURCH, WE TOOK THE VERY LONG WAY AROUND TO GET HERE.
Back in town the basic question was “what are you doing here?” “this isn’t a tourist town” exactly why we came here. The people are what make a town or country and this is no exception. When I walked down the street the entire town was watching me, they never see tourist. I heard some talk behind me, “American” “American”, this was a very charming place. I wanted to get a few postcards, good luck with that, NONE.
LOCAL CELEBRITIES HANGING OUT AT THE COFFEE SHOP
THE VIEW FROM THE HOTEL BALCONY
BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS (bike riders)
We stayed an extra day here, it was a great experience to see and feel the real Greece, not the tourist mecca of Athens. I may not have seen the Statue of David, but Vincent brought flowers to the lady at the grocery store. It will always be the people that make the travel experience awesome.
I HAD TO TAKE THIS PHOTO OF VINCENT WRAPED IN HIS FAKE DEAD ANIMAL BLANKET
The older generation in town are constantly flipping theses worry beads, and with the Greek economic crisis probably flipping them a lot more.
THIS IS VINCENT PRACTICING WITH THE WORRY BEADS.
THANKS FOR READING AND LUBE THE CHAIN ON YOUR BIKE, YOU GO FASTER AND QUIETER!
YOU CAN SEE THE UPDATED GREEK PHOTOS HERE
NEXT? CAMPING & MEET THE BIKE GURU OF ELASSONA
THE POLICEMAN MENTION HOW MUCH THEY DESPISE GERMAN CHANCELLOR MERKEL.
I grabbed the bus at the border. I read that Greece is 80% mountainous. I´m not ready to tackle Athens, so my guide book suggest I not miss METEORA. It´s a good idea, plenty of climbing (in the bus), 5 or 6 tunnels some several kilometers long.
THIS IS THE VIEW COMING INTO KALAMBAKA.
I´m not religious, but religions around the world have made their impact on history (under statement). But when the opportunity arises:
I NEVER MISS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MINGLE WITH THE LOCALS (at the phone store).
I decide to ride the bus to the monasteries and hike down.
THERE USE TO BE 24 MONASTERIES BUT ONLY 6 ARE STILL STANDING.
The hike down was great (yep walking).
IT´S EASY TO GO CAMERA CRAZY HERE.
The monasteries cost 3 euro, but not for everyone. I walk in with a group of 40 people, someone grabs me out of the crowd and asks for 3 euro. I look around and tell him “no one else is paying”. I guess I look like a tourist, later I learn the museums are free for Greeks. I don´t look Greek? I think Merkel needs to hear about this.
THESE ARE THE SKULLS OF PREVIOUS PRIEST.
I write Vincent, the French Cyclist I met in Albania and tell him this is a “not to be missed” tourist attraction. He responds with, “I´ll take the bus and meet you. Meanwhile, camping is 8 euro and a trailer is 9 euro. Since my sleeping pad is dead (leaks), a mattress for 1 euro, OK.
NO KITCHEN OR PLUMBING BUT AWESOME BED AND PRIVACY.
PLEASE NO TRAILER TRASH JOKES, IT ALL WORKS GOOD.
Vincent is not here yet, so decide to ride my bike to all 6 Monasteries. I arrive at one, closes in 10 minutes (it´s 1 in the afternoon!), I ride to the next one, closed on Wed. & Thursdays (winter hours). It´s still an awesome bike ride:
THE ROADS AND STONE WALLS WERE BEAUTIFUL.
I MADE THE RIDE INTO A LOOP, BIG LONG DOWNHILL SUPER FUN.
Being the off season, there is little to no traffic, it’s lots cooler but the pool is drained at the campground too:(
Vincent shows up and we do the whole tour again, this is my third visit to the monasteries. But it’s pretty awesome and so is the biking.
I USUALLY TOUR ALONE, BUT VINCENT IS REALLY FUN TO HANG WITH. (FRENCH?).
I LOVE ALL THE STONEWORK
HE HAS HIS OWN TENT
FRENCH DESERT, NUTELLA ON BANANA.
When your bike touring you can hear the livestock bells, sheep, goats and cows. I remember in Albania hearing the whole hillside valley ringing with bells.
I BOUGHT THIS PIECE OF ART, THE NECK BAND IS CARVED WOOD WITH A CARVED LATCH, IT IS F__ING BEAUTIFUL.THE BELL SOUNDS GREAT TOO!
THANKS FOR READING
MY GREEK PHOTOS ARE HERE
MORE MONASTERY GOOGLE IMAGES FOR METEORA GREECE
NEXT? RIDING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF NO WHERE (no post cards?)
I couldn´t have found ALBANIA on a map before this trip. I had an Albanian ask me “What do Americans think of Albania?”, I had to tell her honestly I thought America doesn´t even know where Albania is, sadly and truthfully. My original intention of this trip was to bike through all the Mediterranean countries, which includes Albania. The Lonely Planet Guide book rated Albania a top 10 place to visit in 2011. In 2005, 500,000 people visited in 2012, 4.2 million people visited, up 840% in 7 years. Tourism is 10% of their economy.
The first city I visited was Shkrodra, the BICYCLE CAPITAL of Albania (the link is a fascinating read) . Being a bike guy, I fell in love with the city.
THIS IS A LOCAL PAINTING OF THE TOWN SQUARE.
I loved all the bicycle images found around the city.
LIKE THESE BIKES IN FRONT OF THE LOCAL FLOWER SHOP
There is NO bike infrastructure: bike lanes, sharrows or anything. What I found was that car drivers give bikes the right-of-way. I rode in a Taxi, (usually they´re the worst), he braked for every cyclist and patiently waited for an opening to proceed.
EVEN IN A RAIN STORM THE STREETS WERE FULL OF BIKERS DRESSED FOR WORK, INCLUDING LOTS OF WOMEN.
VENTURING JUST 5 MILES (8km) OUT OF TOWN, HAD IMAGES THAT TIME HASN´T CHANGED.
I took the bus (with bike) to the capital, Tirane. The bike culture here is competing with the car culture.
THE BIKE LANE IS CONSTANTLY USED AS PARKING
THE GYPSIES/ ROMAS WERE PUSHED FURTHER FROM TOWN
RIDING OUT OF TIRANE WAS CRAZY, BUT ONCE YOUR 5 MILES FROM TOWN THE TRAFFIC IS NEXT TO NOTHING.
FRUIT SMOOTHIE WITH SLICED APPLE
THIS IS ONE OF THE 700,000 BUNKERS BUILT DURING 40 YEARS OF COMMUNIST RULE.
FOOD WAS SO GOOD AND INEXPENSIVE, IT WASN´T WORTH COOKING YOURSELF.
MORE CAR-FREE TOURING
THE MUSEUMS HAVE PAINTINGS THAT PORTRAY THE MANY ASPECTS OF ALBANIAN HISTORY.
The big ride was Vlora to Saranda, following the coast. Albania´s coast is 611km (380 miles). One third of Albania is forested
VIEWS ONTHE WAY TO LLOGARA NATIONAL PARK LOOKING BACK TOWARDS VLORA.
THE RIDE WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING, BUT WORTH IT.
EVEN IN OCTOBER THE OCEAN WAS VERY INVITING
EVERYWHERE THERE WAS SUN DRYING CORN ON MANY SIDE STREETS AND PARKING LOTS
Albania is the 13 largest producer of figs in the world.
THESE ARE FIG DISKS, SO AWESOME AND BETTER THAN A SNICKERS BAR.
THE BEST BREAKFAST DEAL IS THE EXPENSIVE HOTELS, $7 FOR BUFFET AND UNLIMITED COFFEE DRINKS!
I´ve reviewed the good things about Albania, but it still has it´s problems. The ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT is ranked the most corrupt in Europe. The ALBANIAN MAFIA is the most feared in the under world. The garbage and sewer problems permeate nearly every city I visited.
THIS PICTURE DEFINES THE PROBLEM, GARBAGE DUMPED INTO AN OPEN SEWER, VERY SAD.
We give billions in “AID” to Israel, to stuff into their bank account, when countries like Albania really need help. America has given less than $25 million a year in Aid. I heard many times how much the Albanians love America. I saw the American flag everywhere and people dressed like an American flag.
I CAN´T COUNT THE NUMBER OF TIMES I HEARD “AMERICA #1”
America gives Egypt money to buy our tanks. Why not give Albanians money to buy our sewer technology? Not only will we build good will, but we can protect the planet for future generations.
WOULDN´T THIS LOOK GOOD WITH AN AMERICAN FLAG?
If you want to explore a fascinating country that is trying to shed it´s brutal history of isolation under communism, Albania is for you. The biking away from the big cities is virtually car-free. I got more thumbs up, waves and horn toots than anywhere on this trip. Albanians are very honest and hard working. When I visited farmers markets, I spoke no Albanian, I would just hold out a handful of change, they always took the smallest coins and many times would give me something extra! This is from people who have virtually nothing.
Put Albania on your must visit list.
Thanks for reading
ALL THE ALBANIAN PHOTOS ARE HERE
NEXT? FIRST WEEK IN GREECE
I GOT THIS LETTER THE OTHER DAY FROM A READER:
Hey we met in šibenik outside the kaufland with my Columbia friend. I read some of your posts… Just wanted to to say that it has inspired me so much that i also would like to ride some day. Possibly, this summer… Keep having fun and stay safe! My buddy digs the idea. Thanks for the insight and inspiration.
all the best,
This was really exciting for me to get. If you have the time (& money), the bicycle is a GREAT way to travel. This is my second, year long, trip with a bicycle around the world,
WERE NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER, GO FOR IT!
THE BIKE IS GOD (for sure)
I hope that everyone who reads this blog is inspired to hit the road, at least once in their lives. This trip has been better than advertised, in every way. So save some money and vacation time and hit the road on two wheels. You don´t have to RIDE THE SOUTH POLE to have fun.