It’s our fifth day in Greece and today our legs demanded a break. In the last days we discovered a whole new site of Greece and it’s filled with beautiful but quite high mountain scenery!
On the way from Igoumenitsa’s harbor to Meteora, where we are at the moment, we had to manage our first high climbs and it was a real challenge. First of all, our bodies are not used to it yet, especially since we didn’t have any training with this amount of luggage, second it’s a whole different story to make 800 height meters when the sun is burning on your head without mercy the whole way up. But we decided to set about it slowly and with tons of water and a rest in the shadow now and then, we slowly fought our way up.
On the second day, when we were again stopping to gasp for breath, we had a first opportunity to encounter Greek hospitality: and older couple stopped their car right next to us and smilingly asked: “Where are you from? Do you want to come for lunch?” Totally surprise we gladly accepted their invitation. Two hours later we arrived at the junction to their village of 50 souls. The way to go down was minimum 17% steep! We were hesitating a long time because it was sure that we would loose all the hard earned height meters of this day within no time. But the joy about this unexpected hospitality and the prospect of a home-cooked Greek speciality made us going anyway and we were really not disappointed. Alex and John served us delicious traditional meals and we soon felt like in our mother’s home where you are also encouraged to eat until you burst at the seams. When they also invited us to stay overnight we couldn’t resist to enjoy a hot shower and a comfortable bed. Additionally we had the chance to try traditional drinks together with half the village, including the “Pope”, in the local bar of Polydroso, which btw means something like “multi-cool” 🙂
The next morning we started rested and packed with more specialties like Lokum, Halva and this special cheesecake Alex had made for us. But this day should hold a less pleasant surprise for us. At 4 some dark clouds were gathering and the first refreshing drops quickly turned into an intense thunderstorm. Totally drenched we luckily found shelter in an abandoned shepherd’s hut where we also spent the night.
The following day we finally reached our first stage goal, Ioannina. We just quickly passed through this less delightful big city to start the climb to Metsovo, a peak of 1700m. Obviously we must have given a quite pathetic picture on the way up so that a friendly farmer offered us a ride in his pick-up and by the end of the day we reached Kastraki and found a great camping with an amazing view on the impressive Meteora rocks.
Off the beaten tracks we discovered the Meteora monasteries today. We found remote and peaceful trails through this remarkable and somehow surreal scenery and spent a relaxed day marveling about the outstanding craftsmanship that was necessary to build these monasteries at the top of so high and inaccessible rock needles.
The last towers of Venice are disappearing behind the horizon while the salty sea wind is blowing around our noses. It brings the smell of something new as we are reflecting the first stage of our journey.
The way to Venice was quite easy going until we arrived in Mestre where we had to ask far more than once to finally find our way out of the industrial labyrinth direction ferry harbour. The last 10 kilometers until the camping turned out to be an exhausting slalom on a packed multi-lane expressway between racing cars and huge trucks. Obviously the Italian bus drivers have similar qualities as in Austria and understand an extended arm as a sign to accelerate to give a high five with their mirror to Martina.
The campground we reached is a really lovely place situated directly at the seaside, right between hundreds of industrial chimneys and the main boat canal on the way to Venice which obviously requires 24h maintenance by huge cran-ships that are digging out tons of mud around the clock. What a dream holiday destination! But at least the bungalows resembling henhouses where cheaper than the price for two persons and a tent and the paper wall protected us a little bit from the surrounding noise.
The good thing about this place was that it’s situated right next to the stop of a public boat transport line to Venice which we took the next day to pay a visit to this venerable city. After an unguided tour through the narrow alley labyrinth leaded by random direction changes and multiple visits to the same plaza (from different directions!) we found a tiny little photo shop. Its owner Marco didn’t have a hard job convincing Gui to get rid of 5kg of camera equipment by introducing him to our new amazing Fuji camera – without zoom. We tried it, we love it!
Next day – new challenge: boarding the ferry! Some things seem to never change for the Italian-Greek ferry companies. As usual the ticket office was crowded with people shouting at the ticket desk employees and it takes hours until they find your booking confirmation. But one thing changed dramatically and this is the security checkpoint for pedestrian or bike passengers.
Similar to the US security entry policy they wanted us to send every single little bag through the x-ray unit. That means taking of all the luggage, the trailer, the bike lamps and the repair kit pocket from our bikes just to afterwards put it on again for the last hundred meters for entering the ferry, where we took everything off again! What a waste of energy… but a really good training 🙂 Along this way, they really considered it necessary to control our passports five times- Eventually, with some friendly chatting even the angriest police officers took off his serious Venetian mask and encourages us for our way with a big smile.
Finally on the ferry it didn’t take long until we found two other open minded fellow travelers to share some funny stories, some cold beers in the sunshine and some card games with. That made the cruise passing by in a flash.
“Der April macht was er will”
The last two days have proven this idiom damn right. We had heavy rain and strong headwind so that after some hours at 10 km/h we decided to take the train from Trento to Bassano del Grappa.
After the first horrible impression when arriving at the railway station this town turned to have a lovely old center and thanks to Federico, the really kind owner of a cafeteria there, we found a unique bike friendly hostel to stay for the next two nights. This break gave us the opportunity to defrost our butts, wash our clothes and reorder our gear. Especially since we already figured out that having place to take some luxury stuff doesn’t necessarily mean that should take it 🙂 So the list of things we gonna send home from Istanbul is already growing… Lele the receptionist also tried his best helping us to find a replacement part for our stove, which in the end Gui managed to repair on himself – as always 🙂 Anyway big thanks again to Lele again for making these hundred phone calls for us.
Luckily the next morning welcomed us with lots of sun and perfect temperature so that after a little tour in town (without luggage, what a relief!) we continued our way through the confusing village cluster between here and Venice.
A kindly farmer offered us his field to camp for the night where we are now waiting for our dinner with the delicious smell of tomato pasta mixed with benzin and fresh cow dung fertilizer, bon appetit!
Although the lack of routine and the enormous amount of luggage we have delays our departure, we start motivated into our second day. Today it’s already a little bit easier to balance our fully packed bikes and even though Martina is still taking medics against her ear infection she is unstoppable!
Our road today leads us through fields of blooming apple trees and little middle age villages with perfect road and weather conditions until we find a cozy place on the river bank for our first night in the wild.
PS: We also got two positive confirmations: we got a replacement for our cancelled ferry, even with a cabin for free 😉 And our GPS device successfully works as intended as you can see here
Yesterday all my travels seemed so far away…
Slowly we begin to realize that the trip we were preparing and dreaming of since months finally started. After an emotional Goodbye to Martina’s family we made the first pedalkick of our long road at the Austrian-Italian border. One last farewell and we roll down the curvy road to Brixen. The bike way turns out to contain more up and downs than expected for the first day but it leads through a beautiful mountain scenery and we enjoy the warm sunrays and the wind on our faces.