Week 5: Final Europe countdown in Greece

When writing this I’m no longer in Europe. Let’s say I’m not yet in Africa either, there’s still a couple of countries including a desert to pass first. Since yesterday, when I arrived to Cairo, I’ve also become a part of a little cycling team, which feels wonderful. But more about that later. First I’m going to give you a short review of my last week in Greece. 
I had a real good time in the country with the longest shoreline in Europe and with about 8 % (according to wikipedia) of the surface consisting of montains. Greece is a beautiful place. But there is also another side of the idyllic holiday paradise. Riding through a part of the country made me see traces of the economic crisis and of former tourist paradises. I’ve passed hundreds of abandoned and halfway constructed hotels, meant to become luxury resorts but now empty and almost ghostly looking. 

The shortest way from Kastoria, the first city I passed in Greece, to Athens is not the shortest in time, because of the hilly and sometimes even mountaneous landscape in central Greece. The newly constructed highway to the capital goes along the northern coastline instead, and takes a little turn to avoid the highest mountains. But greek infrastructure is not adapted to cyclists at all. There are alternative roads that more or less follow the highway, but those are also quite big and mostly trafficked by trucks. I had one really challenging day when the road I had planned to take suddenly ended. I had to lead my bike besides the highway, and take several strange small walking paths. But I managed to get to Athens after all! 

In Greece, like in every country I’ve passed through so far, there were helpful souls when I needed them the most. Like Nikolas and the other people in the little village Agii Theodoris, who let me sleep in an old school building and offered me some good food when the nearest supermarket was too far away. An interesting thing for a swedish like me was that despite the tiny population in that village – only about 250 people – they had 3-4 bars/cafés where the majority of them gathered almost every night to talk, have a drink and play cards. I thought of the place where I grew up, with 2000 people and still no similar place where the locals actually hang out regularly. 

And there were people like Kostas, in the little town Sofades, who accomodated me in his car repair shop. That night I could not find any convenient place to camp, it had rained the whole evening and it was about to get dark. Kostas barely knew one word in english: ”crazy”, but he was a great host! He ordered pizza and took me for a sightseeing in Sofades (a pretty fast one) where we met some more kind people and hanged out at the ice-cream café. 

Friday I reached Athens. I decided to stay at a hostel for three days before my flight to Cairo. But instead of just crashing in my bed and resting after arriving I ended up at dancing through the streets of Athens almost the whole night – thanks to my greek room mate Herodie who convinced me to go there. There was a group of canadians staying at the hostel, and they happened to be the organizers of this so called decentralized dance party, which was an unexpected and really cool experience (as you might see in the photo below)!

When leaving Athens monday morning I had spent three days in Athens and felt more than ready to move on to a new continent. My bicycle was also ready for the flight – after some good caring in a bicycle store (thanks guys!) and after being packed in a box of course. I was very relieved when I finally got it back again at the airport in Cairo! 

And then I was even happier to reach the hostel in down town Cairo and meet my new travel buddies Sam and Tom yesterday! It feels great to be a part of a little team (at least so far). And now a new chapter will begin. Stay tuned!