Total distance biked: 3226 km
Since our last post we have entered our 9th country of the trip and have sadly said goodbye to Turkey – easily our favorite country so far. We are now nestled in Athens staying at our BeWelcome (a newer/smaller/non-profit version of CS) host Nico’s place.
Ben, Andreas Greg and I enjoying a delicious brunch food circle together at Nico’s (he is taking the picture).
We left Turkey on a high note in regards to both biking and company. Our ride into Izmir turned out to one of the best city entrances we have had!
Amazing bike path into Izmir
After a great tailwind and an unexpected bike lane along the entire coast of the city, we arrived at Tugce and Cem’s place where we settled in (after some necessary showers..) and got to know them. We discovered their love of Harry Potter – they are the most devoted fans I think I have met yet, and watched the 6th movie after a hearty dinner together. It felt like a little bit of home away from home. The following day, Tugce guided us around the city at a leisurely pace as we enjoy some Turkish coffee complete with fortune telling, and lunch at a pretty hipster place (the vibe reminded me a bit of the Foundation in Vancouver including slow service). You can order two things 1) pasta or 2) manti which is a turkish type dumpling dish. We made pizza that night – something Greg and I have been missing about our life in Vancouver – and finished off our stay with them with full bellies having shared lots of good conversation and knowledge of each other’s countries. Thus we filled the missing gap Greg and I had felt after not staying with couch surfers in Istanbul.
Tugce and Greg looking over Izmir from the free historical elevator
Our ride to Cesme was easy and particularly scenic as well which made for a great last full day of biking. Confused? Keep reading to hear about our new change of plans for our trip!
At some point over the last few weeks, Greg and I started to feel like maybe our original plan to bike from Vienna and back in 3 months (or until the weather got so bad that we had to stop) was maybe not the best. All other bikers we have met so far on this trip were generally heading east towards Istanbul and beyond to follow the good weather and generally no one had any strict time frames. I started to think, “maybe we are doing this wrong”. Generally our pace over the past two months has slowed due to a concious decision on both of our parts to take more rest days in an attempt to be less tired and enjoy more of our stops. Unfortunately our looming deadline of winter as well as our hopes to make it to at minimum Sarejevo by the end of November by passing through the most mountainous terrain we have seen yet were making our tummies feel a bit nervous and un-excited about the task ahead.
While sitting in the town of Assos having just decended what was one of my favourite stretches of biking I stated – why not take the winter off biking and then come back and finish the trip after? From there we formulated what is now the new plan and have now solidified the last piece of the puzzle by finding a place to store our bikes in Athens for the winter. In summary:
-Leave our bikes with Eleni, a rock star couch surfer, who has amazingly offered to store our bikes for as long as we want in her garage. She doesn’t own a car so she has ensured us it is no problem or inconvinience to her. We will head there tonight and leave the bikes and camping equipment with her.
-Make our way back to Vienna via Thessaloniki where we hope to spend a few days olive picking at a nearby grove and then likely head to Sofia, Bulgaria. There are currently no international trains in or out of Greece so a bus to Sofia followed by either train or flight is looking like the best option.
-In Vienna we will hopefully reunite with Johanna, Paul and our backpacks (yay a few more clothes!)
-From Vienna we will make our way north towards Russia where we will obtain visas
along the way and then carry on with our original plan to take the tran-siberian railroad to Beijing and then explore South East Asia for a while. In this new plan we will have a slightly reduced time frame in this area of the world and will definitely not make it to Nepal. We have agreed this will have to wait until another trip entirely (maybe a Nepal/India adventure).
-With the goal of April 1st in mind, we will fly back to Athens, pick up our bikes and continue on our original route through the balkans, up along the coast of Croatia towards Slovenia and then make our way over to France where we hope to cycle at a casual pace (some train will likely be required). Our end location at this time is to make our way to visit Stuart and Anita in Brighton by mid to end of June! If we are lucky they may even join us for a leg in France.
This means that the minute we start biking again, the weather and mostly the hours of daylight only get better! On the down side our muscles will get a rude awakening after 5 months off when we set off straight into the mountains! On the bright side for me – I can burn off the beer, bread and generally tasty foods I will undoubtedly gain in the next few months…:)
And now back to Greece where we have been for the past 5 days – first on the island of Hios where we did some fun local scrambling and now Athens.
The top of our scrambling route (we came up a different/easier way..)
We hadn’t originally planned on coming here but the boat to Thessaloniki was having engine problems and no one knew when it would be fixed so we hopped on a ferry here. We spent a lovely morning in Piraeus swimming in the clearest water I have ever seen where we met a lady who swims at that spot every day of the year! Yesterday we wandered around the acropolis which was a first for Greg and a second visit for me. It brought back some great memories of my trip 6 years ago with the one and only Lindsay Vine. It’s hard to believe it has really been that long.
View from the Acropolis
We also visited the olympic stadium area which is quite near where we are staying right now. It was one of the most unusual places we have been yet. It is essentially a ghost town of athletic facilities. With the expection of the indoor pool where there seemed to be a swimming lesson going on, the entire complex is completely deserted and run down. It was really sad and Greg and I weren’t sure how to feel about it but it was definitely a surprise to say the least.
The Parthenon – almost an identical picture to one I took 6 years ago.
Our next big adventure involves an attempt at the 2917 m summit of Mt. Olympus (don’t worry it is completely non technical) so stay tuned for what we hope to be a successful trip report on that.
Love and hugs to everyone,