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Old 11-14-2010, 05:01 AM   #706
tagesk OP
Tuscan rider
 
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Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Tuscany, Italy
Oddometer: 3,199
Thumb Riding in Greece: From Kavala to Kassandra



It is Friday 19th of March 2010. The 8th day of our vacation. We are
in Kavala with another week to go.



Who can live without breakfast? Not we, at least. But what breakfast
needs to be has changed for us. In the old days, in Norway, breakfast
was a proper meal. Thick slices of dark bread, meat, fish, cheese,
milk (lots of milk). These days breakfast is something sweet and
coffee. No more, but no less. Please.

We are waiting for the charger to arrive at the store (promised at 11 in the morning)
so we have a few hours to spend in Kavala. Some other member of my
family decides that a walk up to the fortress is The Thing To Do.
So that's what we do.

I must admit that it felt good to walk up these hills. After a week
on the bike even I feel a little stiff in my back.

On our way up, in the old city of Kavala, we stop for breakfast.
Technically speaking it is not bad. In fact, the bread is nice, the
honey tasty and the marmalade tastes fruit. But the liquid?

Served in a half-liter beer-glass, Nescaffe which has been whipped to
create some sort of foam on top, well that bare qualify as "coffee".
For the record, it does not quality as coffee. As Douglas Adams wrote
in his famous trilogy: Something not entirely unlike coffee. Even
though he wrote about tea (I seem to recall).



Smoking is ubiquitous. It doesn't bother me, as I though it would.
But it feels strange. We have lived for five years now with a ban on
indoors smoking. I don't subscribe to the fanatics shouting it is a
right to have breakfast without watching someone smoke. Or shouting
that passive smoking is dangerous (doesn't seem to be correct, or at
least, compared to exhaust and other sources of pollution, not
something you should worry about). But after a few years the concept
of smoking at bars and restaurants feels "old fashion" in a way.

The owner tells the typical story: After having been 16 years in
Canada she had saved enough to return home.



We don't ask her about the crisis. The look of the Gentleman on the
next table tells us that not everyone believes the Germans or Eu is to
blame for this. He sits for a long time like this. Reading his
newspaper and looking worried.

I love to photograph people. But I hate to do so. Maybe it is
becauseI don't like that people photographs me (Capa isn't "people"!)
I feel guilty when I direct my camera towards others. I don't know,
I like it but I don't like to do it. If you understand.



From the fortress you have a splendid view of Kavala. No wounder they
placed their fortress here. Full view of the ocean, the harbor, and
the road leading down from the hills inland.



It seems performances are staged here. At light I think the scenery
is excellent with the light from the city as backdrop. The fortress
itself, however, is not worth the walk. I mean, if you're into
fortresses there are many impressive fortresses around. The one in
Kavala has a nice position, and is easily within reach, but not
spectacular in any way. Oh well.



What Kavala does have is a very impressive aqueduct. The foundations
might be Roman, but in general it is a mere four hundred years old.
Which, around here, means as good as new. Note the person placed for
scale.



We stop by our store. Lo and Behold: A charger for my Nokia 6310.
Happy, happy, happy. In 2010 life becomes challenging without a mobile
phone.

He has a Transalp (conveniently parked on the side walk outside the
store) and is contemplating a trip to visit a friend i Switzerland.
We talk a little about different routes. He promises that if he goes
he'll try to stop in Tuscany for lunch. In my garden.

Notice that I have removed my jacket but not the scarf. It is cold in
Greece in March.



For some real coffee (after the "coffee") we go to Bibliotheke bar.
My (girl)friend isn't there. But I'm not having Dry Martini so a
young man who serves an OK cappuccino will have to do. Just as polite
and service-minded, although not so good looking. Also today there is
jazz to enjoy while having coffee.

We read email and I update ADVrider on our plans. We have several
appointments coming up and the need for communication is increasing.



While She does the shopping for lunch I survey our technical
situation. WD-40 is now very much needed for the left indicator. The
GPS is still semi-dead. I study it carefully and it seems as of the
screen has received an impact of some sort. If that is the case, it
is no wounder the touch-screen part of the screen isn't working.



Maybe a "sugekopp" will do the trick. Maybe I can "pull" the glass
out a little to make Mr. Zumo work again. I have no idea what a
"sugekopp" is in English, and in Greek....well, I have no idea. I
venture into the store to try to ask for one. I make sucking sounds
while I lick my hand and pull my fingers to try to make the guy
understand what I need. He doesn't understand. In fact, he looks
offended.



Without a "sugekopp" we continue a little while along the coast. We
stop in Nea Peramos (I think) and find a bench by the sea.

For us it would be natural to have the bench facing the sea. But here
all the benches face the city. People prefer to watch other people
rather than watching the sea. Nothing wrong with that, just unusual for us.

The sun is shining, and it is finally becoming warm. Not hot, but at
least not freezing cold. She remains there in the sun while I go to
find some coffee. I find only "coffee", but I am prepared so I don't
get more than mildly disappointed.

The plan of the day is to ride to Kassandra. That is the western-most
of the three "fingers" sticking out in the sea. We have been advised
to go there by ADVriders. So off we go.



As I have said before the vacation is supposed to be "Museum and
monument"-free. We are here to talk the living Greek, to eat their
food and, well, drink their "coffee". Some other time we'll fly to
Athens to visit Acropolis and all that stuff. We haven't been to the
Vatican either, so it isn't related to Greece at all. In this period
of our lives we're more into people than museums. Nothing more to it
than that.

But I have a secret plan. There is one thing I simply must see. The
visit to Kassandra is part of a plan to ride the old road from Kavala
along the coast. Because there, as you pass the river before turning
south, not far from the ruins of Amphipolis, is the Lion.

I remember when I was a little boy and read about a huge lion that was
so large that it sunk into the ground and disappeared, and then found
again by pure luck. I remember thinking about how large something has
to be to sink into the ground by itself. For some odd reason I never
forgot.
And here it is.

It is a monument to honor one of Alexander the Great's outstanding
generals. We're talking 400 BC now. That thing is made of stone, and
is very, very heavy. The foundations weren't sufficient to carry the
weight and over the centuries is slowly sank. Until it had
disappeared. Living in Pisa we know everything about the challenges
of building on river banks.

It was found in the 1930'ies, a proper foundation put in place, and it
again looks out over the river. As I did for a (very) long time
before is disappeared. It is more than 2.000 years old. It is
awesome!

The guide everyone has heard about, but few read, the Michelin guide
to places to eat, that guide offers one, two or three stars. The
guidelines are that one star means a good meal. Two stars means that
the meal is worth a de-tour. Three stars means the meal is worth a
journey.
Let it be known that the Lion is a three-star thing.



Being 2.400 years old isn't in itself enough to make something a
three-star place. Most Etruscan monuments and ruins in Tuscany are
at least that old. The 7 kilometer long city wall in Volterra is
older. Larger and older. But there is something with the Lion.

What makes me love this place even more is the "undercommnunication".
You come around a curve, and there is it. No sign, no huge parking
lot, no buses with tourists, no souvenirs, no guides with umbrellas,
nothing. Just us, a discrete sign telling us the short factual
information I have given you above, and nothing else.

The lack of things makes it even larger. Larger in both physical and
in spiritual sense. It is awesome. Did I say it was awesome?

If you think in human terms, 2.400 years is an awfully long time.
Think about what one man can achieve in a lifetime. What difference a
single person can make. A "lifetime" is, let be generous, 25 years.
We are looking at literally hundred lifetimes. So on one hand, we
can't phantom what life was like hundred lifetimes ago. On the other,
looking at the Lion you immediately understand that those who put it up
were like us. This isn't some strange looking monument. It is a
(huge) Lion to celebrate a powerful man.

In 2.400 years it will still be here; still looking out on the river.
Imagine another tourist stopping here. Awestruck by the beauty and
calmness of the site. That person, 2.400 years from now, will try to
imagine what it was like coming here in the year 2010. I think he
will feel what I feel. Because in human terms: 4000 or 2000 years
makes no difference.

Everything that makes it hard to absorb the beauty of the Leaning
Tower in Pisa, all those tourist-trap things, none of them are
present. It is quiet. I am very, very happy I managed to put this
spot into out itinerary.
A cigar would have lifted this moment even further, but alas....



A short distance away the old foundation is waiting someone with
extraordinary talent for puzzles. I guess there are many of these
around here in Greece.

A car pulls up and stop next to Bamsefar. A young man exits. He is
well dressed, and he seems to be on his way to a meeting. Stopping
here for a cigarette, maybe. I would stop here too, if I passed by. A
few minutes to make my day into a good day.

He notices the Italian registration on the bike, and comes strolling
over to us. After a few polite remarks to verify that we all speak
English this hour I had appreciated so much came to an end.

"Do you like the Lion?", he asks.
"Indeed we do. It is marvelous. No less. So old, but so timeless.
We are very happy we stopped here to view the Lion".
"Yes, the old stones tell the truth. The Lion proves to the whole
world that Macedonia is Greek. Macedonia has always been part of
Greece, and will always remain Greek. Those, those, .... people
... who wants to steal Macedonia, they will never succeed. NEVER!"

He spits out the word "people" as if he had gotten an ugly bug in his
mouth. He was looking for a more fitting word, but fortunately he
failed. The place I had looked so much forward to see; now I only
want to leave. Time-less art destroyed by ugly nationalism. Beauty
destroyed by the core of war, destruction and hatred.

He departs. We sit for a while, without looking at each other.
Before he came we were happy, talkative, joyful. Now, silence. We
get on the bike and ride off. We have nothing to say.

Given the potential of this place and the day, the situation is now
really, really depressing. I only own three things: A villa in
Tuscany, a BMW motorcycle and a wife. Even though I am vacation with
two of them, that ugly Greek nationalist managed to destroy
everything. In a few words he destroyed 2.400 years of beauty. The
Lion become my enemy. Something to get away from, lest it sticks on
me. Like getting poo on you hand - you hold it away from you and try
to make it go away. You know it won't go away by itself, but you
wish.



The worst of it all is that while we ride away I start thinking about
my little grand child. She is a mere 18 months. How can I protect
her from all the evil in the world? From meeting an ugly Greek
nationalist? There is nothing I can do. She is so trusting, and the
world pays her back by being full of ugly people.

It makes me sick when I hear someone claiming that their effort to be
born, or their choice of parents, makes them better then other humans
in any way. I want to puke when I hear a Jew in an ugly settlements
claiming he has some right because he is a Jew (well chosen parents)
or a young man saying he is better because he is Greek (well chosen
place to be born). This isn't about politics (Israels right to exist
or whether your neighbor should be named FYROM or Macedonia), but
about the mere idea that you are better simply because you are. There
are so many problems in our world; hunger, poverty, drought, drug
abuse, domestic violence, illiteracy - one can start crying thinking
about it. And then, sitting next to the Lion, we are served that
shit.

My eyes are full of tears, and it is probably a good thing that the
road is blocked by a large sign telling us something. It makes
necessary to stop thinking about ugly things, and focus on reality as
it unfolds in front of us. We are on the bike, pull yourself
together!

Looking at this sign, what to do? Does it say "Road blocked"? If it
did you would expect it to have a "3 km" or some other distance. We
wait for a while, hoping a car will come to assist us. No car. We
conclude it means "bad pavement" or "twisting road".



A little later we pass another sign. It says something about 80.
Maybe 80 km or 80 km/h. Or 80 BC. Or 80 AD. Or something entirely
different. It is like being in Thailand (where, in case you don't
know, they too have another alphabet). You don't need to understand
Frenchto understand the word Paris with an arrow beneath it. But
here (and in Thailand) we're lost. Completely.

The road twists among the hills, through a forest. Non traffic.
None. So maybe the road is closes after all. But it is a nice road
for riding. Slowly we put the ugly episode by the Lion behind us.
Or, at least, we start talking about other things.



In the end it turns out the road was closed after all. We came around
a curve and almost slammed into a road block made by emptying rocks in
the middle of the road. There was no warning sign, expect the one
placed on top of the barrier itself. We rode in about 50 km/h.
Faster and we would not had time to stop.

Without Mr. Zumo to assist us, we're sort of lost. We can go all the
way back, or we can pass and see what happens. We pass. After about
two km we come to another sign like the first one, facing the other
way. WTF? There are no damage to the road and the only obstacle is
the barrier placed there in a curve on purpose. Not pleased.



We stop in Polygyros (I think) for afternoon "coffee". The village
has the look of a tourist place. Well maintained in a way that smells
of "foreign" money. I have no idea what tourists would do here so I
might very well be mistaken.

I would have liked to take a picture with all the smokers together
with the no-smoking sign, but I refrain. Notice, however, that the
text is in English, not Greek. Maybe it is meant for tourists during
summer and not the locals during winter.

The TV is on and it seems to be live transmission from the Parliament
(or equivalent). Everyone is watching, and there is a telling silence.
Are we watching the Greeks awakening? We hear the word euro many
times, and are shown graphs that point both up and down. I dislike
not understanding anything.



The road winds it's way, and suddenly we can see the ocean down
there. Presumably we can also see Kassandra. We stop to enjoy the
sunset.



While we enjoy the sight two cars come up the hill. Notice that the
gray one passes on a fully-drawn line (no passing). Well, in case we
had forgot: We are in Greece.

Anyway - after about an hour we arrive safely at Kassandra. It is
dark so we can't see the fantastic beaches we have come to see.
Instead we find a hotel.

The family inside seems very surprised to see us. They are eating
dinner in the lobby; it seems they have converted the hotel to their
private home. They tell us they're closed for the winter, but, of
course, they'll give us a room. The hotel has this semi-new feeling to
it. Very impersonal; it could have been anywhere in the world.



In fact, we quickly realize that we have arrived in a proper touristic
area. The kind of place that looks alike in Thailand and Greece;
basically there is no difference. Watered-down local culture, Coca
Cola available everywhere, and the menu in English and German. We try
very hard to avoid this, but here we are. We didn't learn anything
from our ride to Psardes (see Riding in Greece: Day Four). If I had
been into those things I would have asked Capa to give me a spanking.
But we're not into those things. Instead we ask for a place to have
dinner.

They say we simply must go to the restaurant across the road.



Going to a restaurant in a tourist-heavy area outside season can be a
depressing event. There are no other guests so we fear the worst.
How wrong can you be?

We feel more than see the ocean outside. Sitting here in summer,
having a Dry Martini (shaken, not stirred) and watching the sun set,
that must be terrific. Not that we're having a bad time, but it could
have been even better in summer.



The wine is boring, but the food is very good. With just the proper
taste of sea. I like simple things. Simple, but full of taste.
Artistic food isn't for me. Just serve me the things you have. If
your raw materials are good, I like it. If you try to be fancy, I like it less.
Regardless of how fancy it is.



And then dessert. Well, I don't know how many times I have been
disappointed here in Greece. Too many. So I am reluctant. But the
waiter says they are all made in house. I ask if they are sweet, and
he says no. I try them.
I am happy I did. They're all wonderful. Fresh, to be eaten now int
he cold season, not to be stored. Not sweet at all.

The waiter asks where we come from, and where we are going. Only
because of the excellent food I manage to maintain a good mood when he
corrects me and says FYROM when I tell him we rode along the border to
Macedonia last week.

We show him our map, and out (very informal) plan. We say we must go
to Volos tomorrow. There we will have lunch with Alex (from ADVrider,
no less). When he hears that he tells us that we should not go to
Volos tomorrow. Instead, we should ride up in the mountains to a place
called Xania. The view is unsurpassed, the nature splendid, and the
ocean more blue than anywhere else. We study the map; we don't want
to make more mistakes. But the roads in the area of Xania looks
promising so we decide to go. We thank him for his advice.



We hurry back to the hotel. There is still much to do before this day
draws to a close.

We rode 236 km today. To see the photos places on the map, follow the
link to Google Maps.
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tagesk screwed with this post 11-14-2010 at 05:16 AM
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Old 11-14-2010, 10:10 AM   #707
Grouik
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Gripping story, as usually, thank you
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Old 11-14-2010, 10:12 AM   #708
tagesk OP
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Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Tuscany, Italy
Oddometer: 3,199
Thumb Riding in Greece: From Kassandra to Xania (Volos)



The sun is rising, on this 8th day of our Riding in Greece; we are
looking at Saturday 20th of March 2010. We have spent the night at
(in? on?) Kassandra in central Greece.
Sol far we have traveled from the west coast along the northern
border (Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria) to Turkey. From there along the
coast back towards west.

It's been terribly cold, but here we have suddenly arrived in the
spring. Capa loves it. And tells me so (in the general style: Why
did you want to travel along that northern border, here in the
south....) You get the idea. But I agree: It has been cold.



Today's plan is to pass Tessaloniki. Not much of a plan, but
absolutely do not want to have a big-city experience with our heavily
loaded GS.
What we do want, however, is to visit the peninsula Pilio near Volos.
We're a little weary, because we have received also this advice from
well-meaning Greek friends over at ADVrider.com. The problem is that
unspoiled nature in itself doesn't have any appeal to us Norwegians.
We have grown up with more unspoiled nature than what you can consume in
one lifetime. Our priorities are different. Or, at least, they are
different now.
Pilio, however, looks nice on the map. Nice in the meaning: Nice
roads. The route we have "planned" looks very twisty on the map, so
we'll give it a try.

And tomorrow lunch we have an appointment in Volo with Alex from
ADVrider.com. We really look forward to that.



But first there is Kassandra. If you pay attention, the first thing
you notice about Kassandra is that the Greek signs have disappeared.
These signs are not meant for Greeks. They are meant for tourists.
Tourists that aren't here in mid March. And, obviously, everything is
closed now.

We road out on the "finger" for a while. I am sure there are
beautiful beaches here, but you can't see them. The road goes several
hundred meters in-land, and the distance between the road and the sea
is filled with bars, restaurants, and so on. It is just like riding
on Pukhet in Thailand. The sea is too important to be used for a
road. Fair enough, and nothing wrong with that. But we didn't come
to swim.



After a while we give up, and cut across to the east side. There, at
least, we find a bar that is open. As we park the bike and start to
remove our gear the owner makes sure he places his "coffee" on the
only table in the sun, before he comes to us and asks what he can do
for us. It is about nine in the morning and not that warm. In fact,
it is quite chilly in the shadow. But there are no other tables in the sun.



So we sit in the chill, drink our "cappuccino" and watch him enjoy the
sun. Let it be known that Capa Superiore della Famiglia does not
recommend this place to anyone.

I do manage to get her attention to the map. We decide that a
high-speed run on the "Autostrada" passing Tessaloniki will be the
thing to do. Then we'll take it from there.

The internal road on Kassandra is a very nice road to ride on. The
quality is good, the cures are many but most are "open" so you can see
through them, and we enjoy Kassandra as we zoom back north and out.
The road connection the east side to the west side up north is closed
so we get to ride some more on Kassandra. We're not complaining (now
that we are riding and not looking for beaches).

We turn on to the Autostrada. It looks brand new, and there is no fee
to pay. How is that possible?



After a while it is time for lunch. My part of the effort is to find
a nice place to stop. I turn off the Autostrada below Olympos. It is
an impressive mountain, towering over the coastal strip where we ride.
The summit is covered in a cloud; this makes it even more impressive.
There is (still) a gas-station here, but here along the old road there
is no traffic any longer. The owner can see the Autostrada a mere 20
meters away, but no-one stops here. A large building used to house a
restaurant and a hotel; both closed. I think the gas station will be
gone soon too.
Who will ride the old road when the Autostrada is free?

I use the opportunity to refuel. The petrol is 1.10 euro/liter. In
Italy it is about 1.30. I refrain from asking if he participated in
the "strike" the other day.

Her part of the job is to make sure we have everything else. Her job
requires more thinking and planning. But she is a better thinker and
planner than me. It is experience that has tough us to split work
this way.

We sit on the stairs of the little shrine and enjoy lunch. The vast
open space used to be filled with trucks and cars. Those who kept the
hotel and restaurant a live. No more.

But life is like this: Changes lead to changes, but also to new
opportunities. I don't know about Greece, but in Italy the latter is
often neglected to the advantage of the former.

I am very happy that I go off to take a leak after we have eaten, and
not before. For that reason I didn't know that on the back of that
Athens-sign someone has written "Macedonia is Greek" (in English!)
with spray paint. It is utterly depressing, and it would have
destroyed my lunch.
This country is heading for the abyss, and some use their energy on
nationalism. I hate it. Let ride away from here.



Not long after lunch we encounter a sign that says that the Autostrada
is closed at Tempi; we stop to consult a map (Mr. Zumo is still
Incommunicado). We talk to some people in a car doing the same, and
they tell us a huge land-slide has closed the road.

There are two alternatives; left or right. As we approach the last
exit we see that 99% of the cars take to the right, so we take to the
left.
It turned out to be a very, very long detour. We enjoyed it, and rode
slowly along the sea. We didn't meet anyone, no houses or villages to
speak about, and we got to see all the beaches we wanted. This, my
Greek friends, is what you should recommend to riders. Not
Kassandra. Tell them to ride from Omolio along the coast to
Agiokampos.

We pass Aghia and we're told by a sign it is 42 km to Volos. Those 42
km are across a large plain. Utterly flat and boring. In the
beginning it is cool to see the road ahead going over the horizon
(after all, this is Europa and not Australia or the Mid-west in the US)
but the thrill soon passes. What is left is to talk with Capa, or
just contemplate the World as it is.

One of the things you can contemplate is why we have Latin characters
and not Greek ones. Wasn't the Greece a major power? It was. But in
197 BC it had an encounter with another major power: Rome. They met at
Cynoscephale.
That didn't go so well for the Greeks, and no-one have heard from them
since.

True, Paulus did pass by here on the via Egnetia 200 years later, on
his way from Palestine to Roma. He probably stayed the night in Drama,
just as we did a few days ago. It didn't occur to him to go south to
Athens. Thus Rome, and not Athens, became the center of the world (as
we knew it) for next thousand years.



On the plain we pass "Rizomylos relating to martyrs village". My Greek friends: Some
explanation would be nice to hear.

We arrive at Volos as the sun is setting. We follow the advice we got
yesterday evening and follow the signs towards Xania. The road stars
to climb. Seriously upwards.



The sunset is stunning. With my 72 euro camera I'm not able to get a
sharp image. But you get an idea of the colors.

The road continues up, up, up. The temperature goes down, down,
down. This is not looking good at all. I can feel She is fiddling
with the cable to turn the heated vest on. Not looking good. Just as
the frost-warning light comes on we arrive at a four-star hotel. It
has an old part on one side of the road, and a newer looking part on
the other side. There is light in the old part.

We can't afford to stay in four-star hotels, but it is very (!) cold
now, and she goes in to see what she can manage. The alternative is
to ride back down to Volos and try to find something. It is dark and
cold.

It is between seasons and we get a room for 50 euro. They have two
seasons: In summer they have guests that wants to cool down. In
winter you ski. We are between them.

No Internet, but the room has a very high quality; it is a four-star
hotel after all. The room is very warm and inviting.



The First Officer shaves, dresses up in a tailor made shirt, grabs an
aperitivo from the mini-bar, and waits for the Captain to be ready.
That takes some time. Life is good.



The waiter says that since they didn't expect any gusts this late, the
kitchen has basically closed. The staff is now going to eat, and the
only thing they can offer is good old traditional Greek food. That's
what we're having, he says, and if you want, you can have it too.
There is no price for guessing what we will have for dinner.

We get another aperitivo. It is local ozo, called Tsipouro (I
think). I don't know if it is better than other Ozo's but I don't
really think if matters.

We have salted milk (yes, you got that right). It is served with
cabbage, oil and vinegar. Then lamb with lemon. With it vegetables
and herbs cooked together. The waiter calls it "pot herbs". Finally
"put pork" with both fried and gratinated potatoes.



Except the wine, which was thin as water, everything was excellent.
We are very happy the kitchen didn't offer us food in four-star style,
but rather these simple things. We are very pleased.

Is it possible to make wine this thin, or has 50% water been added?

We talk about what type of vacation we want. We have done 458 km
today, and even t5hough it has been a long day on the bike, a boring
day you could say, we are happy. Perfect dinner at the end of a calm
and action-free day. Not all days need to be filled to the rim with
"happenings". Some days should be quiet. Like this one.



As there is no-one but us in the restaurant, there is no point sitting
there. We return to our (warm) room and the things we can do there to
entertain ourselves.

On the way through the lobby I notice we are at almost 1200 meters
above the sea. No wounder it is cold outside.

The view down to Volos is nice.



As always, an interactive version of the map can be found over at
Riding in Greece hosted by Google.

Thank you for your attention.

[TaSK]
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tagesk screwed with this post 11-14-2010 at 10:20 AM
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Old 11-15-2010, 01:19 AM   #709
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Your Greek Holiday

Fantastic ride report Tage.
Thanks
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Old 11-15-2010, 06:57 AM   #710
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Welcome back Tage! Great report! Keep it going.

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Old 11-28-2010, 03:44 AM   #711
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Thumb Riding in Greece: From Xania (Volos) to Chalkida (part 1)

On the tenth day of our vacation, it is Sunday 21th of March 2010. We
are in Xania (for some spelling of that name) in the mountains above
Volos (spelled more or less like that, I guess).

Sorry to step out of the expected path, but I must tell you that as I
write these words I listen to Mendelshon's "Songs Without Words", Book
6, Op 67: 2 Allegro Leggiero. Two small minutes of pure pleasure! Oh
well - back to our show.



I went to bed early yesterday, after a surprisingly nice dinner at
this four star hotel. Surprisingly, because I am in love with the
simple things in life. I am turned off by eye-candy. If you add an
artistically fulfilling arch of balsamico on my plate, I want
something else for dinner. Four star hotels often have artistically
pleasing food. Thus, for me, not interesting. Yesterday we had
simple food. Simple food for simple people. Like me.

Because I went to bed early, I wake up early. And this being a four
star hotel, the room comes with a spacious terrace. Standing on it I
notice that the first thing to get sun in the morning is the big tree
below the hotel. Yesterday we woke up on Kassandra to fruit trees in
bloom. Here, at 1200 meters above the sea, there is not even a leaf
to be seen anywhere. The sea is nice and blue down there but up here
it is very cold. I am naked and see that my built-in thermometer is
showing a very short temperature indeed.
It is tempting to warm the thermometer up in the bed where I see Her
sleeping, but I decide that some restraint might be proper.



After a warm shower I sneak out (with cloths on). I will try my
fortunes as a photographer in the early morning sun. It is quickly
evident that I will remain poor. If not for other reasons, so for
because I need a model who will turn even the poorest exposure into a
fantastic photograph, I a very happy to see that also She comes out to
look at the morning light.

If you ever wounder what a perfect wife looks like before seven in the
morning, check it out!



It is unlikely that anyone, even She, will find it appropriate to use
those terms about me.

We have been married 25 years this fall. I have no illusions about
who carries the heavy end of this marriage. I was lucky to meet her
ages ago. At the time when I was a tall and handsome young man.

I see people all around me being divorced. But not me! I must be
very good at holding a low profile - not letting my ideas and wishes
disturbing the general direction that has been decided on. So, there,
I am good at something; good to know! But her efforts to keep this
boat afloat is never the less impressive!



It is cold, and as soon as the breakfast opens, we are on the spot. A
nice fire has been started to drive the cold away. They maintain it.
Is there anything better in the world that a proper fire to accompany
you for breakfast?
Well, yes there is. But in this context there can be nothing better.

The hotel sports a sign that says Hotel Hania. But Mr. Zumo says this
places is called Xania. Probably "lost in translation". But I find
it odd that 2.200 years after the battle of Cynoscephale (where the
Latin letters defeated the Greek) there is still not one well-defined
way to translate names for the loser's to the winner's character set.
Why is so?



A large TV entertain us with mass (mess?) from a Greek Orthodox
service. I'm not into religion, but this is utterly boring. I've
attended some services in the Duomo (Cathedral) in Pisa. And even
though the message probably is more or less the same, it is, after all,
more entertaining than this.



The breakfast is what I like. I know that I complain about a lot of
things, in particular in the morning. But this breakfast is nice.
But... then it's time to grab a coffee.



Needless to say, this large tank doesn't contain coffee. At best it
contains "coffee". Notice the plate placed beneath the tap: As all
such taps in the world, it leaks a little. How disgusting.
The milk was probably hot, or at least warm, when it was placed next
to the "coffee". Now even "luke warm: is an exaggeration.
Oh my.



Just so that you know that I am talking about: This is what the
morning coffee looks like when it is served at a bar in Viterbo (that
is, in case you didn't know, in Italy). Notice how I am looking
intensely at the foam being pored into the coffee!

Anyway, the setting is perfect: Outstanding view, a nice fire going,
Capa Superiore. But then the "coffee" and the TV. I start to
complain.
She tells me in a rather direct way to shut up. I try a "But,..." but
she stares me down. If you, like me, have been married for a quarter
of a century, you know when to simply shut up.
I walk out and start packing the gear on the bike instead.



We are on the peninsula Pilion. The geography is generally steep
mountains that fall directly into the sea. It is so difficult to
move around here that it is the only place where the Turks didn't get
to build a single mosk (moské)?

In any case: We can report that a few kilometers east of Xania, on the
21st of March, the ski-lifts are happily running. As always when we
show up at ski-resorts in season on the bike (ski season,l that is) we
attract some attention to our self. Also here. But there is something
special about sitting on the bike watching how funny people walk when
they have slalom-boots on.

I suggest that we stop and look for coffee, but she doesn't think it
is funny, She want us down from these snow-filled mountains. Without
delay.

The electrically heated vest is on as never before. If she hadn't
had it, I would have been in deep shit.

As you can see in this little film (less than a minute) the road is an
excellent one for riding. But there is some snow. Quite some snow in
fact.



Every mountain ends, also this one. The temperature rises more than
20°C (um, let's say 40F) in about two hours. When we get down to the
water it is summer again. And the water has this green-blue colour
that I associate with Greece. There is no more talk about the snow
boards we saw not long ago.



Se find a bar, order coffee, but get "coffee", and sit in the sun and
warm up again. How nice! A cigar would have lifted this moment even
further. But what can a man do?



We start talking to a young a very happy couple. Their Maria is two
months old. They are fascinated. Both by her, and what they have been
able to create. They are very much in love. I hope their love last
as long as mine.

He has studied in Napoli, and with his Italian and our common English
we manage just fine. We tell them about our trip. They don't say
anything when we say Macedonia but he makes a "uuuum"-sound that
reveals what he was thinking. They congratulate us with having found
Polio and say they think we will have a nice day. We explain about
ADVrider.com, and assert that we would not have found this place
without the help of our Greek friends there.

We wish each other well, and they walk happily along the beach with
Maria in the buggy. The infant made us acutely aware of out grand
child. Will she forget us in the two weeks are are gone? OK, we know
she won't. But when we start to talk about, it exists in a way, and
we talk even more about it.

Riding on the east coast of Polio can most likely be considered as one
fully acceptable implementation of the notion "perfect road". There
are more curves than I know existed. The road is narrow, but the
tarmac is good, and there is no traffic. The sun is shining, and all
is well. It must be admitted that the snow this morning was a
let-down. Now we're flying high again!

We are heading to Volos. I announced our trip in the "Greek riders
sign in here, please"-thread. We have in fact two appointments
today. The first is with Alex in Volos for lunch. Then with WannaBe
in Chalkida (for some spelling of that city) for dinner. We're
thrilled.



Meeting people in the flesh you have only met on the .Net is exiting.
How can one prepare for something like that? Regardless of hard you
try, you'll be a different person in reality than on ADVrider.
Probalby, unless you try very hard, you'll be a very different person
than the "face" you show on-line. For better or worse. As I said:
We're thrilled.

We exchange some SMSes and agree to meet at the "promenade" in Volos.
Mr. Zumo still refuses to talk to us so we fall back on the maps we
have dug out of one of the side cases. There are quite a few one-way
streets in Volos, and we have far too much gear on (remember, the day
started well below freezing; now we're probably at 25°C), but we find
the seaside, and, Lo and Behold, a table in the sun.

We're early so we start our lunch. The colors in the Greek Salad is
so strong that I feel good even before I start on it.



As she enjoys some small fish that has been fried, as she bakes in the
sun, and smiles, there is little to remind us of the cold this
morning. That's the way, ah-ah, I like it, ah-ah. Oh well.



We've told Alex to look for the single most visible bike you can
imagine. It is no big surprise that he finds it.



We sit in the sun and enjoy life for about an hour. The sun is
shining, Capa Superiore della Famiglia is happy (although not very
interested in our talk about bikes), we have "coffee", he smokes and I
pretend I'm not looking, and all is well. Very well, in fact. It
turns out he has come the 200 km down from Thessaloniki to meet with
us. But we passed there yesterday; argh - again we pay for not
planning

Let me officially say this: It was nice to meet a Greek who doesn't
believe that Germany or EU has created the crisis. In fact, we were
very happy to hear that not all Greek thinks Greece is innocent in
this. We were getting depressed, but Alex saved our day.

Alex: Thank you very much for coming all the way to Volos just to meet
with us. It is very special to be a foreigner and be met with such
gestures! I am sorry your country is in deep shit at the moment. I
hope you make it through without scratches. All the best; a big lunch
awaits you in my garden!



When we are ready to depart we notice that a group of bikers have
parked next to Bamsefar. Bamsefar looks very different, in many
ways.



We tell them about the ride, exchange email addresses, and promise to
send them the link when the report is finished. What is a small six
month delay? We are "friends" on Facebook now so I'll send him the
link to this report tonight.

Thank for reading this first part - next part to come.

[TaSK]
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tagesk screwed with this post 11-28-2010 at 04:03 AM
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Old 11-28-2010, 04:09 AM   #712
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Thumb Riding in Greece: From Xania (Volos) to Chalkida (part 2)

(sorry to split this report over two parts, but it was too long to fit on one).

Anyway - we aren't done with the Greek quite yet. Yet another rider has
come forward and offered to talk to us (so to speak). His user name
here is WannaBe. There is a story behind the user-name, but that
story isn't mine to tell.

Anyway, he told us he lives in the city Chalkida on the island Evia.
We initially turned him down. Now, turning down an invitation such as
this isn't something you do unless you are outright stupid. But we
had decided to stay on the main land. There are enough people that
hop around on the islands. In fact, there aren't many who can tell
you much about mainland Greece. But he says that Evia is only
technically speaking an island. The distance to the mainland is a
mere ten meters. "You can safely come" he says.

A good plan is one which can be molded to fit the trip. Evia, here we
come.



The thermometer shows 22°C (70F), we're cruising down a Greek
Autostrada (free of charge, of course) at 110 km/h (70 mph), the tank
is full, the sun is shining, we've had lunch, and we are on our way to
meet Mr. WannaBe. Can one ask for more?

Well - a close look will reveal that only one of the LEDs are
working. The one indicating that the fogs are lit, has gone dark.
Electrical problems on vacation. I hate that! I still need a
"sugekopp" to try to suck out the glass on Mr. Zumo. The left
indicator is now almost always dead; where can I find WD-40? And,
finally, the rear tire is becoming dangerously worn. As in Spain, it
wears out on teh sides, not in the middle. That is, as you know, the
signs of too little air. But the pressure is a whopping 3.2bar (46
psi). So I think it is safe to say that we're hauling too much shit.
In fact, when we come home I carefully pass everything on the weight
before taking it into the house. As we cruise down this highway and I
worry about the rear tire, we're ticking at 520 kg (1150 pounds;
interesting weight!). That is, to say the least, too much.



Instead fo riding down to Chalkida on the main land we take a ferry over
to Evia up north. There is lots of free space on board. TO say the
least.



The color of the sea is as it always is here. At least that is our
experience. They sell "coffee" on board but we're not that desperate.
And there is no need to put a stain on this memorable moment. The
trip takes 20 minutes. Not too short, not not long enough to become
boring. Perfect. Having forgotten all about the snow, this is indeed
a perfect day.

We have SMSed with Mr. WannaBe. He proposes that we meet in the town
of Prokopio; there is a gas station with a bar and trattoria just
outside of town. Easy to find. We agree. Only later, on the ferry,
does it become evident that we can't pronounce Prokopio in a way that
makes anyone understand. Fortunately we find the village ion the map.



We find it without problem. It is a tiny gas station but with a large
trattoria. There is a large bus parked outside. We can hear typical
Greek music being played inside.

I park the bike out by the road to make sure Mr. WannaBe will see it
when he arrives.

The trattoria is full of people. Here are young and old. They have
evidently eaten. Now the music is playing, they are dancing.
Enjoying life. Capa sneaks in and takes a few pictures. That wasn't
very smart; she is a large woman (for Greek standards) and she is immediately
spotted.



No excuses are understood, and would not have been accepted in any
case: She is dragged onto the floor. She must dance!

The lady in riding gear becomes the focus of everyone's attention, and
they all want to dance with her. The music is "Zorba's Dance" over and
over again. Or, more likely, they don't play the same over and over
again, it is only us who fails to hear the difference between them.



The clapping, singing and dancing goes on, and on. Her cheeks are red
from dancing. I am (very!) happy I held a low profile, so I can stand
outside and watch.



A V-Strom (what else?) passes as what I believe is well above the
speed limit, turns and comes back. A large man introduces himself as
Mr. WannaBe. He has a strict No Internet-policy so I will not show
any photos of him. Not often I have the pleasure of meeting someone
with such a policy, and even enforcing it.



I ask if he can be so kind as to ask who these people are, and what
they are doing here. He proposes not to, as it might not be a good
idea, but I insist. As he suspected, we're dragged into
the party. We're only a hair's width away from begin dragged into the
dance as well. But Mr. WannaBe uses his Greek to save us from that.
Thank you!

The Greeks are much bigger than I had expected. Or, to be correct:
There are two "people" living here. As if two different people met
here once. One people with large and tall men. Not tall as in "Dutch"
or "Norwegian", but large and tall never the less. The other with
short men. Italian style, of you like. Mr. WannaBe is the large
kind. There are also a few larges ones from the village, but most of
them are the small type.

It turns out that they all come from a village up north. They've
rented the bus just to go all together for a Sunday lunch. They came
here, have had a big lunch, they're dancing, and enjoying themselves.
No more, but no less. How nice it must be to have a culture where it
feels natural for all ages to go away together on a Sunday for
pleasure.

We're offered food, beer, cigarettes, everything. We try to depart,
but we're held back. We decline more food, more beer, more wine, more
digestivo, and what not. Mr. WannaBe tell us "I told you so", and he
is right. But it is nice, too.



Even though we try to leave, more and more people come to talk to us.
WannaBe is wise and stay away from us. We, on the other hand, don't
use the word Macedonia and we don't ask about the crisis.

The crisis makes it into the discussion even without our assistance.
One man asks if we think rich Norway will help Greece in this
difficult situation? Fortunately he English is about as good as my
Greek so the answer doesn't make much sense.

And that is a good thing. I don't think anyone in the world would
step forward and help Greece unless they are forced to do so. And,
help with what, exactly? Make it possible to forgo paying back loans?
Sorry, but I don't think so.

But I don't want to say such a thing. These warm and friendly people
are, technically speaking, part of a culture that must be rooted out.
But they are innocent. They have been robbed to the skin by their own
politicians. Is it conceivable that there exist even a single member of
parliament, government official or anyone at all who has had anything
to say in Greece the last decade, who doesn't know that the numbers
reported to EU and the world at large are false, that astronomical
debts have been pushed on to the State Railway to make sure the
"public sheets" seems to be in order. And so on.

It is so unfair that these people sitting around me will have to pay
for it. They will have to pay with their pensions. With their health
care. With their education. But don't get me wrong: It is even more
unfair that my German friends will have to pick up the bill. Or me!

But my hart goes out to these people! It is very depressing. Imagine
how disillusioned they will be when union-bosses calling for strikes
and ugly politicians no longer can hide the awful truth. What will
happen to these people?

There is nothing I can do.

When we "planned" this trip we asked all our friends if they knew
anything about Greece. Many said yes. When we made it clear that
we were only interested in the main land, the number of knowledgeable
people dropped to zero. I am sure it is nice to have vacation by the
sea in (on?) Kreta. But we're very happy we chose to come here
instead.



Finally we manage to make them understand that we really, really have
to leave. They wish us a safe journey, and we wish them al the best.
I sincerely hope you are all doing well and managing through these
hard times.

We follow Mr. WannaBe to Chalkida. As "all" Greeks he rides on the
ritght hand side of our lane. Almost on the white line. I feel like
a huge barge there I float along in the middle of the road.
I'm sorry, all you Greek drivers, but my place in the road is near the
middle. I want to have space on both sides as I ride. If you have an
irresistible urge to pass me, you must either do so at your own
peril, or wait until there is sufficient space for you in the opposite
lane. I will not allow you to squeeze by when there isn't enough
space. Sorry about that, but that is the way it is.

Mr. WannaBe rides too fast for my liking. Not very much faster than I
do, but enough for it to be uncomfortable. Obviously, a man alone on
his bike has more leeway than our 520 kg (1150 pounds) Goliath. But
when I see him go into right-hand corners, on the white line, leaning
out over the grass, and with absolutely nowhere to go if an obstacle
should appear, I feel uneasy.
I ride further ahead before starting to turn, brake harder, then cut
the cure as much as I can, before using my power advantage to catch up
with him before he dives into the next one. Capa comments the riding
style isn't as smooth as it usually is. But we agree that the price
to pay for a smooth ride, that is: Not seeing through the curve, isn't
worth it.

It must also be said that WannaBe has spent a fortune on springs and
chocks on his bike. It is thus reasonable to assume that it handles
much better than our overloaded GS. But still....
Be careful, will you!



WannaBe helps us find a hotel, we change and meet at a bar. We start
with "coffee". Sorry WannaBe, but what we drank wasn't coffee it was
"coffee"

Then we find a restaurant. I believe the above picture shows the name
of the restaurant; it is hard to not even be read the signs.



We eat both salsiki and meat. Both grill and giro. Normally, we
don't eat much meat. It is a long time since we had a meat-only
dinner, but it is nice and tasty. Can't ask for more. With the food
we get a thorough introduction to Greek food and "methodology" of
eating. I am sorry to say that I over estimated myself. I didn't
take notes because I though I will remember it all (we're talking
about food, after all). But, obviously, next morning when I wanted to
write it all down I had forgot the names of it all.
So, Mr. WannaBe, we'll have to dine together again soon!



We talk about the crisis, the issue of Macedonia ("Not a good word to
use here" he says), the price of petrol, strikes, and other things.
He has no illusions about who has the problems, who will have to pay
for it all, or who are to blame for getting into this mess. But as
everyone else, he is worried about the future. I wish I could say
"Relax, all will be fine", but I don;'t think all will be fine. And
he knows it.

We start to talk about motorcycles, suspension, where to ride on the
road, and stuff like this. The eyes of Capa Superiore start to glaze
over, and she goes back to the hotel.

We talk for about an hour. When we got up to leave I tried to pay the
bill but WannaBe abused his mastering Greek to talk to the waiter
"over my head" (not literally speaking :-). When I tried to explain
that I had invited that Greek man for dinner, and should pay, the
waiter smiled politely, and left.

Thank you for dinner, thank for a nice afternoon and a nice evening.
I hope to see you again. Preferably in Tuscany. For reasons you are
aware!

When I got to the hotel I noticed I didn't have a key. Reception not
manned at this hour. No other option than calling Capa. When she had
returned she had seen my key on the table. Knowing I would have to
call her, she had keep awake. There are certain advantages in finding
Capa Superiore awake as I go to bed!



We rode 308 km today.

Interactive map showing Riding in Greece can be found over at Google Maps.

Thank you for your attention.

[TaSK]
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Old 11-28-2010, 08:20 AM   #713
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Great read! More please!
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Old 11-28-2010, 01:58 PM   #714
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Enjoying your trip vicariously, as usual. Abbie and I will be back in Italy in May riding Milano to Marches to Abruzzo to Roma in a week with a group, then staying another two weeks somewhere south of Roma. I don't know how we will fit a visit to Pisa into all of this but will try, especially if it's fish Friday...
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Old 11-28-2010, 04:11 PM   #715
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Thank you for giving me an enjoyable Sunday afternoon read
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Old 11-28-2010, 04:36 PM   #716
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tagesk



We eat both salsiki and meat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzatziki
hard to pronounce but not that bad for your mouth


Both grill and giro. Normally, we
don't eat much meat.


I was quite surprised that neihter Task nor Sissel where familiar with gyros/souvlaki. I'd thought that by then they would have had the chance to try somewhere, since it is really really common. maybe they allready had but didn't made the name connection. we will never know. anyway, modern Greece isn't known for very many things, but gyros is one that is mostly known of. crisis is another.


[TaSK]

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Old 11-28-2010, 11:21 PM   #717
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tagesk
my place in the road is near the
middle. I want to have space on both sides as I ride. If you have an
irresistible urge to pass me, you must either do so at your own
peril, or wait until there is sufficient space for you in the opposite
lane. I will not allow you to squeeze by when there isn't enough
space. Sorry about that, but that is the way it is.


[TaSK]
In a perfect Greece or maybe in other countries that concept works, but here in Greece if somebody is going faster than you they WILL pass you one way or the other even if it means in a corner or from the left or right ... they WILL PASS.
Just this week 2 motorcyclists (separate incidents) were killed by head on collision with a passing car. So ....... we keep right (drive in the shoulder) when we going slow so that the faster traffic can pass by without making things dangerous for US or ONCOMING traffic.

In a way I like that the police don't bother us, but sometimes a little law and order would be nice.

Enjoying your report. Give regards to Mrs TaSk.

Soto
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Old 11-29-2010, 12:00 AM   #718
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Laugh

Quote:
Originally Posted by quicktoys2
In a way I like that the police don't bother us, but sometimes a little law and order would be nice.

Soto


[TaSK]
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Old 11-29-2010, 04:57 AM   #719
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to be honest I didn't really thought driving on the right side is that bad.
what quicktoys2 says is true, and I have carried on this approach from bicycle riding where you are an "enemy" on the road and everyone squeezes you literally off the pavement, they honk etc. so you must be on the right and ready to abandon ship.

BUT when someone with 100+k of bike riding experience across multiple countries gives an advice you ought to somehow incorporate it in your driving style or you are plain stupid.
so I have managed to stay on the middle or left for 80-90% of the time. that doesn't mean you're absolutely safe, especially in city traffic, but let's hope it drives the possibilities down.


MrZumo's illness has introduced Task to another bizarre phenomenon of life in Greece. I'm talking about different spelling of nameplaces in English. that get's really out of control when the letters ,Φ,Χ,Y (you fraternity boys n girls can go nuts now )are involved because they can be translated as F,X,Y or PH,CH, I or F, respectively. same goes for the liberal use of C instead of K etc.
so Χαλκίδα can be Chalkida, Xalkida, Khalkis or whatever rocks your boat and resembles the pronunciation. that is a recipe for chaos, .mayhem and a little detour if you are doing the map n signs approach and you don't know the sounds of the language (Sissel has kicked Task's ass on that front).

what did you end up doing with Zumo?what about the life long maps you've bought?

atermon screwed with this post 11-29-2010 at 07:42 AM
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Old 12-02-2010, 01:35 PM   #720
zakou
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Joined: Apr 2003
Location: Almyros Magnisias, Greece
Oddometer: 984
Great

Thank you for the report! too bad I didnt see this one earlier !!! maybe we could meet I live near Volos !!!
Its very intersting to how you see things!!! :)
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