Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Category — Greece

Day 40 (Greece): rest day in Thessaloniki

today’s distance: 0km
total distance: 3112km
riding time: 0km

It was a slow day after a long night out. We eventually found our way around the city, having hunted down the heavenly bougatsa (pastry filled with cream, good stuff!!!). Then we made our way to the hills, taking a look at the old city, the Jewish quarter and back down. Plato had the good idea to head to a specialty store in some mall outside the city and what we tasted there was simply amazing. A large choice of cheeses and meats and the staff was more than happy to let us try all of what they had. When they heard what I was up to we soon had a conversation going.

I couldn’t leave without getting some stuff, sundried tomatoes, a couple of cheeses. I really would have liked to stay there for the night, camp out in the store … The lady we talked knew pretty much where everything was made and came from, which island had the best milk for this and that. It was what food can be like I suppose.


More food goodness in the city and a leisurely night rounded up the day.

May 3, 2008   1 Comment

Day 39 (Greece): Partheni - Thessaloniki

today’s distance: 44km
total distance: 3112km
riding time: 2h

Woke up the sounds of barking dogs and chattering geese, dozed off and eventually heard the church bells ringing. Needed to get up I thought. Then I heard the Pater’s voice over some speakers, singing. My hunch was that it wouldn’t last all that long, but an hour later I was still waiting to bid my farewell. Eventually a lady told him that I was outside and I would have been happy to wait, but the person he was singing with did a solo part and Pater Seraphim and I said our goodbyes.

The ride into Thessaloniki was … ugly sums it up. Traffic, noise, fumes and partially nasty roads. But then I was there and eventually was to meet up with Plato, my couchsurfing host for the next couple of days (rest day tomorrow). Before that I met Nopi however, a student who was working in a photo gallery and we got into a conversation which ended up with the two of us sitting outside the little gallery, overlooking the water and talking about “we Greek people do things differently” (I had heard that before in Macedonia) and “we Greek people are crazy” (the driving that morning certainly was testament to that). She filled me in on the local foods and places I needed to eat and see and what to avoid. Her background is also interesting … her family comes from what is now Turkey and was part of the so-called population exchange that took place between Greece and Turkey in 1923.


I eventually met up with Plato, who had a friend from Canada visit (Curtis) and the three of us were out for the night, letting me head into bed much later than I anticipated.

May 2, 2008   No Comments

Day 38 (Greece): Vevi - Partheni (Greek party and sleeping in a priest’s house)

today’s distance: 112km
total distance:
riding time: 6h

The morning was beautiful, I was on the bike early and had pedaled roughly 55km by 11am. The hilly countryside was beautiful, green pastures and rolling hills (sloping in an upward fashion). Welcome to northern Greece. But what goes up … as I am typing this, I am back to sea level pretty much. The scenery gorgeous and traffic light (5 cars during the first hour or so), I passed two lakes on decent and sometimes not so decent roads. But riding was pure joy.


I arrived in Edessa and finally figured out that it was May 1. I had wondered about the lack of trucks on the roads, but the Socialist Party’s little gettogether on a square in Edessa was the confirmation that I needed apart from every store being closed. The waterfalls were a rather quick affairs, nice but not overly spectacular.

The ride in the afternoon was similarly unspectacular… uninspiring farmland on both sides and strong headwinds made me want to eat mileage, but the wind made for some slow meal. But the sun was shining. And the Greek farmer I wanted to buy some cherries from wouldn’t let me pay for them. Just waved me off after asking where I was from. I eventually called it a day and figured that it would be better to head away from the main road. I ended up in a little town by the name of Partheni.

There, I asked for a place to pitch the tent in a tiny supermarket and everyone agreed that I should go to the church. I looked confused. Not sure that would be my first thought if someone approached me in Germany about this. I did anyway, three schoolgirls leading the way. One of them talked with the priest who eventually came out and talked to me, but quickly said that I should come in and join the party they were having that night. Pater Seraphim was wonderful, offering me a shower and letting me be part of the meal later on. Freshly roasted lamb and grilled sausages with fresh salad and feta cheese. It was perfect. Pater Seraphim is from Syria, studying for his Ph.D. In Thessaloniki and introduced me to everyone and translated all along. Very kind person. Then three Greeks with perfect German come in succession, one of them having worked for Mercedes Benz, the other in Bamberg, the third in Duesseldorf.

I figured that I would be sleeping on the couch, but to my surprise Pater Seraphim put me in his room and I couldn’t really object, he was pretty much out the door by then. Slightly surprised, I spent the night in his quarters.

May 1, 2008   No Comments

Day 37 (Macedonia/Greece): Treskavec Monastery - Vevi (there is too much history in the Balkans)

today’s distance: 47km
total distance: 2956km
riding time: 2-3h

Considering that I was in a monastery the day began very late. I was awake at 5 am, but slumbered on and off until roughly 8 am. The weather was fantastic, the sky a deep blue and the view stunning. Not a bad place to build a monastery for sure. Hard to get to, but that is the point I guess.


Kalist needed to do a lot of clean up work as it was a big day for the monastery. A commission from Skopje, the capital, was expected and he needed to show them that this place is worth putting money into. But despite this and the clean-up from Orthodox Easter celebrations happening a couple of days before, Kalist and I talked for a good hour and a half and I am grateful to him for having taken the time to do so. We touched so many topics that it is hard to summarize our conversation, but I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, ranging from politics (mainly involving Greece) and the need to restore the church as the centerpiece of the monastery.

Kalist told me how the local population had rebuilt the monastery with their own funds after it burned down almost entirely in 1990. The church itself and the outer walls remained unscathed, which for him was a miracle. The people wanted the monastery to be restored … and in times of extreme financial hardship because of an economic collapse still came up with the funds by basically going door to door to collection donations. The conservationists weren’t happy, but eventually gave in to the new construction plans. The people had basically demanded it and carried the day. In order to save the church and the truly amazing frescoes (the images don’t do justice to what’s really inside), experts estimate that what is needed is EUR 1-3 million. Given what is shelled out in other places and given the awe-inspiring inside of the church, I hope that the funds come through, either governmentwise or through private donations. Kalist summed it up as this “what’s in the ground doesn’t matter that much, there may be lots to be discovered, but the frescoes are falling off the walls and this is what we need to take care of.”

I was also interested in his take on the increasing number of people (me being one of them and lucky enough to be the only one that day) that came to the monastery. His answer was rather straightforward: he doesn’t mind the increasing number of people, but it will change how he interacts with them – the tea were enjoying would no longer be possible. And that would be a loss for everyone going up. Kalist was a major part in what made this place special to me. As he is so busy during the summer months, one of his statements struck me as particularly poignant. “In the winter months, when the snow is so high that you can not leave this place, I can try to be a monk.”He also spoke about the relationship with Greece, a recurrent theme with everyone that you enter into a conversation. Apparently the day before, Greece had blocked the air traffic from Macedonia Air Transport, arguably because of the name of the carrier. This was enraging people quite a bit as they feel that they are doing whatever is necessary to settle things, but they are getting the short end of the stick.

Eventually it was time to leave and I headed down the mountain on a different track. After some unintended bouldering, I was back on the main trail and headed to San Marco, a little detour.

Back to Prilep and Bitola it was. I didn’t leave the place until 4 pm, as Elena, working in the tourist information office, and I chatted about this and that (including politics and especially Greece again, but also on tensions between Albanians and Macedonians within Macedonia).

After leaving Bitola I passed a lake with a great number of birds, including pelicans circling overhead and eventually reached the Greek border. Not a major affair and off I was, back in Euroland. First stop in a store to buy some supplies for dinner and the prices couldn’t have been worse. Sure, it was a small town and an even smaller store. But hey …

I asked some sheep farmers (major dogs on the way to get to them) whether I could pitch my tent somewhere and things were difficult for a while, then I finally got the point across that I had a tent with me and they just said to find a good spot. Pretty heavy winds and no flat spots eventually led me to an unused garage in the middle of nowhere, which seemed cosy enough. So, I am now in the Former Independent City States of Athens, Sparta, Thessaloniki and Mykonos.

I am also happy to say that two newspaper articles appeared in Croatia (thanks Sveto for sending the link) and Montenegro (thanks Sven for sending this one) and needless to say I can only hope that they say good things about the tour.

Moreover, more pics are as always on the flickr page.

April 30, 2008   3 Comments