It is Friday 26. March. It is the 15th day of our vacation in
Greece. We are in Kalamata. Tomorrow the ferry departs from Patras
After a night with Greek Parking, I am not alone!, we prepare for
another day of riding. Two things on the agenda: Visiting Olympia (as
suggested by Mr. Castionhead yesterday), and meet another ADVrider.
This time it is Mr. Quicktoys2 who has offered to meet us. And not
only that, he has said that we need not book a hotel because he would
be happy to host us.
An offer we can not refuse.
The general rule says that you can trust someone you pick at random;
most people are honest and mean well. If someone picks you, you
should be more careful. In this case, he has picked us.
Which reminds me of something that happened in Spain last year. We
arrived in the city of Lleida in the evening, without having made any
reservations. We ride up and down the main street following
suggestions from Mr. Zumo. After a while we give up and ride to the
railway station; we have noticed a (boring) hotel there. Capa goes in
to check it out, while I sit on the bike and wait. It is dark and the
railway station is like railway stations most places after dark.
Then, suddenly, a large man appears from nowhere. He asks "Do you
have a problem?" I say "No" as uninviting as I can.
I realize that if this large man gives me even the smallest push I and
the bike will crash to the ground. I see the scene: He gives me a
slight push, I fall, two "friends" appear from nowhere, and suddenly I
have big problems. He is large, that is true, but I am larger.
However, I am seated on the bike, side stand not extended, and I am
seriously stuck. Another figure appears out from the dark; much
smaller. The large man says "We have seen you ride the bike on the
street several times - are you sure you don't have a problem?"
I don't know what to say, so instead I take my gloves off with much
ado, and very discretely extend the side stand.
Then he says: We also have a GS!
, I reply to keep him talking.
[I]We had a R1100GS but had to sell it. Now we ride a VStrom. We are
bikers too. Can we help you?"
Now I notice that the other person is a lady, and I relax a little.
He says This hotel is no good. Come and stay in our house
As you can see from the pictures, if a large man picks you out on the
street in Lleida and invites you to his house, say yes!
Daniel: If you read this, know that you scared the shit out of me :-)
Anyway - for all we know Mr. Quicktoys2 is a predator hanging around
here at ADVrider. But, at the end of the day, we are delighted to
accept his invitation. We know we shouldn't do these things, but we
love to talk to people, hear their stories as it were, and can you
phantom a better place to hear The Story than told over dinner? Me
neither! We decide it is well worth the risk.
We send some SMSes and make an appointment at
the parking at Olympia. He says that he'll find us.
We ride north, and Capa says that one thing is strange here in Greece.
There are letter boxes all along the roads, but you never see any
houses. It takes some time to understand that she is talking about
these things. After having examined one we conclude that the intended
recipient of messages left here don't need a letter box at all. We
only hope they are set up without the need for a fatal accident; they
are all over.
As we ride north from Kalamata we can not fail to be impressed by the
upgrade that is forthcoming on the road. It is now a normal two lane
road (one lane in each direction; is that called a two-lane road?),
but there are huge works in progress to make it into a four or six
lane highway. Yesterday, the Honorable Castionhead explained that the
(relative speaking) poor road makes it harder than necessary for the
business to grow in the Kalamata region. But there is very little
traffic; it is Friday and as far as we understand a normal working
"Greek ruins" with a modern power station in the background. This is
how it is to ride in the Mediterranean: The new and the old lives
The weather is exactly as it should be in Greece: The sun in
generously shining from a blue sky.
We visit the town Karitaina. It has a nice fortress and has a
commanding position. But we fail to locate a store for groceries (not
to indicate that there isn't one, because the town is not a small
village). We want to have lunch outside, and with no food we'll have
to ride on.
The next town is Anditsaina.
It is some sort of vegetable marked. Either there is something we
haven't understood, or the economy here is very poor. The man shown
above, for example, has a single white bag of beans for sale. All the
boxes are from the shop next door.
A lady offers some eggs and two or three types of vegetables.
Check this photo from the marked in Ceccano (first day of our
vacation). I would guess Ceccano is about the same size as
Andritsaina. The difference is striking. Maybe this is an enthusiast
marked for super-bio-dynamical groceries, or something. It is odd,
whatever it might be.
I said the other day that the Greek come in two models: The large and
the small. Here, all seems to be small.
Just outside town we find the perfect place for lunch. Fresh water
from the spring, sun, nice and warm. Can you ask for more?
I don't know how many tourists that come to Greece (or Italty, for
that matter) per year. It must be in the millions. Many of them
travel on tours. In comfortable buses they glide through the
landscape. From one "sight" to another. From one ruin to another.
When do they talk? When, on such a tour, do you sit and lit the
silence sink in? Vacation can't be all happening, and no thinking.
When, on a bus, do you talk to your partner about Life, Universe, and
Everything? Beats me.
We sit and talk, we admire the proud profile of the bike against the
town. We are happy we are Riding in Greece and not "Busing in
We ride on, and after an un-eventful (non adventure?) morning we
arrive at Olympia. There is space for many buses on the parking, but
there are none. We're in low season (to say the least). We are easily
spotted by a man on an Aprilia Capo Nord. Mr. Quicktoys is the large
He has seen the ruins before, so we agree that he'll take a coffee
while we submerge our self in history. Now, what to say about Olympia?
I am an engineer and my vocabulary for these things are fundamentally
flawed. For example, in the picture above you see Phillipeion. It
is, well, a monument. I can tell you that it was built 338 BC and
later restored by Alexander the Great (no less!). In the background
the temple of Hera. It was built 590 BC and was destroyed by an
earthquake a thousand years later.
Or this: It is corridor leading to the Olympic stadium. They used to
arrange The Olympic Games (TM) here. In fact, they arranged Olympic
Games for no less than 1.170 years. The current incarnation of the
Olympic Games has been arranged for 100 years. See you again in 900
So there you have it. Just as you need to write a novel to understand
"The End of the World", you need to write one about Olympia as well.
It isn't huge like Colloseum in Rome. Or impressive like The Lion in
Amphipolis. But knowing what it was for many people, for how long,
can not fail to impress. If you don't feel anything at Olympia you
need to have your head examined.
We were not prepared, and that was probably a good thing. Olympia
isn't about facts, I think. It is about people. Like you and me.
I have visited The Mall (a park) in Washington (the capital of
USA). It also sports monuments. The only one that is impressive is
the one that is sunk into the ground. The others are like monuments
all over the world: Probably important to those who are related to the
events, and to those who elected the politicians you can see there.
But for the rest of us, not much.
The same goes for the column on Trafalgar square in London. Or the
hideous independence monument in Rome.
Olympia is a different league. Not (only) because of the age, but
because it was the focus of everyone for a thousand years. And that
is a loooong time.
In my next life I will not work for a decade to obtain a doctoral
degree in electrical engineering. Rather, I will obtain one in
archeology or in history. Then I'll come here and look at the complex
with different eyes. I will be able to look at Olympia the same way
that I now are able to look at the iPad. I know twice as much as you
would ever want to know about how the iPad works, and can enjoy it
even more. Now I stand in front of Phillipeion and see a monument. I
don't know anything about monuments, so I don't see anything "more".
I want to see "more". I find great pleasure in
finding things out
Imagine how much you can "find out" here at Olympia. I get dizzy.
Better go riding.
We turn away from the Old Greeks to get to now a Modern Greek. The
Honorable Mr. Quicktoys2 has a proper name, it is Soto. He is ready.
We are ready. Let's ride!
He rides like most other Greeks we have we have met (with the exception
of Mr. Castionhead on his 1956 BMW). I will never, ever become
accustomed to ride from the 90 km/h into a 50 km/h zone at 100 km/h
without slowing down. Never, ever! Like Mr. WannaBe before him, he
rides far out to the right. Again I refuse to follow suite.
First we go to a hot spring. It is surrounded by Roman ruins. Or, in
other words, we're not the first to come here. The smell of sulfate
is strong, but there is a lot of hot water coming out of the ground.
I would have liked to soak in the water with a large Dry Martini in
one hand (shaken, not stirred) and a long Dutch cigar in the other.
Maybe a hot spring with Roman Ruins is "just a thing" for the Greek.
But I love it. I love such things.
In almost no time at all we arrive at his house. Think about it: We
follow a complete stranger who guides us to a house somewhere in the
vicinity of Patras in Greece. Let us hope he had good intentions :-)
His intentions are any ADVrider worthy: He introduces us to his wife
Dmitra (the small model). As "all" young couples they live in her
parents house. When they got married, her parents moved downstairs
and let them have the upper floor. The house is newly restored. We
get our own bedroom.
Dmitra is just home from work, but has still managed to cook dinner
for us. It is lachanodolmades
- meat rolled in cabbage, and
then boiled. The cabbage is strong enough in taste to make the whole
thing very pleasant. A perfect balance between a meat and a vegetable
After dinner we talk for a while about our trip, about, um, Macedonia,
the crisis (no one here blames Germany!), and about being young in
Greece, about riding an (Italian!) Aprilia Capo Nord, and other
How can I say this: What is the value of sitting in the home of a
young Greek couple, in Greece, talking about Life, Universe and
Everything? In our Western culture the Credo is: If it has no price
it has no value. But being allowed to sit here with them is so
valuable that it can not be priced. Inviting someone you have "met"
on the Internet to your home, cooking dinner for them, and using an
evening of your private life to entertain them - words can not convey
how high we value this.
The evening draws to a close. I look forward to sharing a bed with
Capa. I look forward to get up in the morning and have coffee
("coffee"? We'll see) with our hosts. I look forward to ride around
Patras tomorrow. I look forward to the rest of my life. I am happy!
304 km today.
Tomorrow we'll eat a exceptionally good cake, see a fantastic bridge,
get hold of a sticker, and cross the ocean.
Thank you for your attention!