Kalamaka, Greece - July 18, 2010
I'm now in the Meteora region of Greece... where there are several monasteries and convents on the tops of natural rock towers. Guess it was to keep the Ottomans from getting to them. Seems to have worked to some degree although it is not for the faint of heart. Drove up there today and visited one of each. They're pretty strict. No short sleeves or shorts and women are not allowed to wear trousers or “pantaloons”. I took my WalMart 100% polyester suit jacket, stuffed it into the tailbox and just put it on before I went in. Seems to have been much appreciated by what I could make out from the nun was trying to tell me.
I had a beautiful ride over the past several days from the camp in Bulgaria. Came through the mountains of southern Bulgaria, over a few really great passes and then came over the shoulder of Mount Olympus yesterday in a long series of 1st gear- 2nd gear- 1st gear- 2nd gear switchbacks. The mountain itself was all shrouded in cloud, but it would definitely be a good place for the gods to hang out... can't see what they're up to or what they're planning. Also, the bike was really excellent in that kind of terrain. If I didn't get down into 1st when I should, it didn't matter. It just sort of chugged along. The 100 octane unleaded that they sell at the gas stations here probably helped too.
The Gods Are Angry On Mount Olympus
In general it's been pretty hot. Was 41C the other day in the early afternoon... not sure what it finally got to. But being in one of the cities on the plains in northern Greece is definitely not the place to be... or to go. Ugh. Not quite sure where all the touristy things you see on the travel posters of Greece are... but they're not in the north I take it. Only just late yesterday did I start seeing any signs to small ruins. It would help if they posted signs that said “2,500 years ago, on this spot, nothing happened”. At least I would know I'm not missing anything. Just seen a lot of Greek countryside... and Meteora of course. Have stayed out of the big cities and tried to get into the foothills at least for sleeping. A bit cooler.
Hilltop Monasteries, Meteora, Greece
Fate of the Faithful
Having lots of trouble with the language. Have to rely on latin spellings as the only Greek I know is what I learned in math class. That works sometimes. I was able to decipher a pizza joint last night. It was spelled like p-i-t-s-a... you know with a pi, iota(?), tau, sigma and an alpha. Looks like a complex formula. Makes me want to multiply everything together. Anyway, it equaled pizza. Not good pizza, but the first I had in a very long time. Also found chocolate milk yesterday in a supermarket for the first time since Germany? I must be almost home!
Sorry to have had to leave Niels back in Bulgaria. He actually seems to have come through with only a few stiff joints. I stayed an extra day to see if he might be able to arrange for a rental but was not able to do so. He had some special insurance that is shipping his bike back to Germany and is flying him home from Sofia tomorrow or Tuesday. He's glad he had the insurance as they seem to be making all the arrangements too. I think Doug or Poly or someone from town is going to drive him to the airport, about 3 hours away. Very lucky boy he was. Being rear-ended is #2 fatal situation... someone turning left right in front of you is #1. To get up and just walk away is kind of unusual.
I am having trouble finding an internet connection. The town here has free internet but it won't serve up any pages. Doh! So I stopped at an “internet cafe” that doesn't have any computers. It's just a cafe and you can log onto the city's unsecured site. OK. But that doesn't work. Anyway, I ordered a “milkshake” believe it or not. I watched the guy make it... chocolate ice cream and milk. Blender. Fountain glass and everything. Had a sip and it was warm! How can a milk shake be warm? Everything here is hot.
Anyway, will try to get onto the internet to post this and to make a ferry reservation for the trip from Igoumenitsa to Brindisi, Italy for tomorrow night. It is an overnight ferry and so should save a night of hotel by sleeping on deck. Then north towards Venice and the Dolomites. Need to get into the mountains to get cool. Might drive up the spine of Italy in the Apennines to be cooler... but I've heard that it is very slow going. We'll see how the spirit moves