Now were are off to the country where civilization began. You drive up to the passport control of Albania, where they want your passport and bike title. Here they stamp your passport and cancel the computer TVIP.
Next there is a short drive to the Greek passport control. They only want your passport here. The agent was so funny when I pulled up beside Dan at the checkpoint he gave me a big thumbs up and said “Sara you are a long way from home”. As he was reviewing our documents he was asking Dan questions about our trip. Then he grinned and said “ clearly you are spies”. Passports stamped back into the Schengen zone. YEAH!
From the border the things that are first apparent are the fantastic road conditions and the lack of trash on the side of the road. The drivers here seem quite courteous as well. We are destined to Meterora, but will take the long way thru the Pindou National Park. Here we drive amazing winding roads for several hours and saw about 3 other vehicles.
The last part of the high mountain pass the sign says “drive at your own risk”. Here we saw no oncoming vehicles, there were some rough patches and loose gravel, and at the end a huge step down across the entire road. When we got to the other end it is actually blocked from traffic entering that way.
You can see the rocks of Meteora from about 20 km away.
“The Metéora, literally “middle of the sky”, “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above” is one of the most spectacular and unique rock formations in the world. Immense monolithic pillars and hills like huge rounded boulders dominate the local area.
It is also associated with one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece. The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly in central Greece.”
The view is really stunning. We arrived in late afternoon, but did get a chance to check out some of the monastery views.
Our next destination is Delphi, which you could reach in just over 3 hours on the highway. We planned a better route south thru the mountains with a stop in Agrinio. This took us just about 6 hours for 233 km.
I would say for 5 of these hours we saw less then 5 other vehicles on the road.
We did see lots of cows, sheep, goats, and debris on the road. There are hundreds of bee hives as well.
There was a short dirt road section in the middle, but this is civilized Greece and the road is a road and there was even trash cans out at the end of the driveways for what was obviously routine collection trucks.
We went up and over several mountain passes and past aqua blue lakes.
We had picked Agrinio not for its appearance, but for the great deal on hotels here. Our Greek friends say it is the ugliest city in Greece, but it was nice actually. We had a short 180 km to get to Delphi and small village on the side of Mount Parnassus.
We are headed here to see the 4th century BC ruins of the temple of Apollo. We took the small secondary roads for the first half. Again we saw 1 car. There were some very steep tight switchbacks like a mini Stelvio.
You will ride through thousands of olive trees.
Where else do you ride into Olympic Hotel and really mean it. And of course the family run place is owned by Nick the Greek!
“Delphi is a town on Mount Parnassus in the south of mainland Greece. It’s the site of the 4th-century-B.C. Temple of Apollo, once home to a legendary oracle. This extensive mountainside archaeological complex contains the remains of the sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronaia, plus a stadium and a theater. Delphi Archaeological Museum displays artifacts found among the ruins.”
There we some of the artifact from the site here in the museum.
The silver bull of Delphi
This plate is from 450 BCE!!
This bronze chariot driver was preserved as it was buried in an earthquake in 330 BCE.
“Among the Ancient Greeks, it was a widespread belief that Delphi was the center of the world. According to the myth regarding the founding of the Delphic Oracle, Zeus, in his attempt to locate the center of the earth, launched two eagles from the two ends of the world, and the eagles, starting simultaneously and flying at equal speed, crossed their paths above the area of Delphi. From this point, Zeus threw a stone from the sky to see where it will fall. The stone fell at Delphi, which since then was considered to be the center of the world, the omphalos – “navel of the earth”. Indeed, the same stone thrown by Zeus took the same name and became the symbol of Apollo, the sacred Oracle and more generally of the region of Delphi.”
Delphi modern art
Today we are headed to Athens to visit our friend Petros who we met on the Faroe Islands last summer. We planned a wandering route on the small roads thru the villages.
This went well until about 8 km from Thisvi when Daniel found he had a flat rear tire. We pulled over and took off the wheel.
When we took out the “heavy Duty” tube it had a 2 cm rent in it. It looked like a tube failure. We carefully inspected the outside and inside of the tire (especially after last year in Iceland with the buried metal shard when we had to change the tire out twice and patch the second tube).
We replaced the tube.
We set off but found there was still a slow leak that got progressively more rapid. We were now 1/12 hours from Athens and had to meet our friend in 30 minutes. We filled the tire and drove the 8 km to the village of Thisvi. Luckily there was a gas station for fuel and air. Also luckily the attendant spoke English perfectly and called our friend to let him know we would not be there as expected.
We limped along and stopped every 15 km to pump up the tire and made it to the small city of Thivia.
Here we stopped at the first gas station to ask if they knew where we could get a tube for the tire and luckily there was a tire shop 200 meters further up the road. These guys were great and though they had a slightly smaller tube it worked. They were very careful and thorough. Petros the head technician finally found a metal wire buried sideways in the rubber. This had punctured the second tube.
Then we had an hour on the toll road to get to Athens.
Thanks so much to Petros for hosting us here in Athens.
Today we did a ride out from the city to the temple of Poseidon.
We had some needed down time while Petros was working (navigator on the C130). This did not mean we got much sleep as we were out most nights until after 2 am in a bar our friend Nikos works in.
The changing of the guards at the parliament where democracy began.
Saturday we rode into the city to try and see the ruins on the Acropolis. This is very expensive at 20 Euros each and mobbed with people. It was also very hot. So all round we did not enjoy this very much. The hang overs did not help.
The school across the street was having a festival and the kids did some traditional Greek dancing.
Now this is how to serve your iced cappuccino!!!!
Sunday we rode up to the beach for some Greek R&R.
That evening we went to hear Petros’s band “Bad Apple” practice.
Riding north we headed to the home of Petros’s parents in Larissa for some traditional Greek cooking and gracious hospitality.
We booked it half way on the toll road and then got off just before Thermopylae to make a stop at the monuments for the battle of Thermophlae and the monument to Leonidas made famous by the movie “300”.
“Leonidas I who died in 480 BC was a Greek warrior king of the Greek city-state of Sparta. He led the Spartan forces during the Second Persian War, and is remembered for his death at the Battle of Thermopylae. Leonidas was the third son of Anaxandridas II of Sparta, and thus belonged to the Agiad dynasty, who claimed descent from the hero Heracles. A monument to Leonidas was erected at Thermopylae in 1955. It features a bronze statue of Leonidas. A sign, under the statue, reads simply: “ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ” (“Come and take”), which the Spartans said when the Persians asked them to put down their weapons at the start of the Battle of Thermopylae.”
It was all good except for the 45 minutes of pouring rain and several very slick spots with diesel on the road near to Larissa. We were warmly welcomes by Petros’s parents and fed very well!