September 20, 2009 GMT
Leg 1: London to Athens

Unbelievable, but it actually takes 2 days on the road to reach Ancona, Italy from London.

I left London on Wednesday the 16th of September 2009, 07:40 in the morning. Quikcly, before I thought too much about what this meant, what I was doing etc. My plan to make a quick escapade was quickly thwarted by one wrong choice - not to use the M25 to get to M20 to Dover. Instead I took the manly option and decided to drive through London... An hour and a half later I was THIS CLOSE to turning on the GPS, which would have dealt a deadly blow to my explorer/navigator self esteem, but then I saw that lovely sign for Peckham and I knew I was on the right side of town.

After crossing to Calais, I enjoyed paying EUR20 for my first toll - a warm welcome by the French motorways, which turned out to be a bug in their automated vehicle recognition system - it turns out motorcycles are recognised as cars by the automatic system, so a word of warning for all motorcyclists out there - USE THE MANNED BOOTH or pay twice as much. Of course there is a (byzantine, user-unfriendly) system to get a refund. Whatever.

I set up my tent in a lovely Aire-de-something-or-other just after Metz (FR) with a beautiful patch of grass, tree coverage and about 50 truckers spending the night there, hence a feeling of safety. I collapsed around 21:00 after asking the GPS what time the sun would come up - the answer was 06:01. So I set my alarm for 6 and slept.

Nine hours later I woke up fresh as a rosebud (okay, poetic license [ab]used!), packed my stuff and was on the road again by 06:50. The truckers were also waking up and continuing their journey and I remembered the affinity I used to feel for these nomads of the roads in previous trips. It's good to know they're around and they're also just travellers.

Thursday 16 Sept 2009 I crossed Strasbourg, crossed into Switzerland from Basel, crosses Luzern, Lugano and entered Italy above Milano. From there I took the Autostrada till Rimini, where I exited and took the SS-16 (Via Adriatica), the coastal road south towards Ancona. I knew the boat would be the next day and I thought I'd call it a night in a seaside camping.

Indeed I camped in a place called Riccione (very posh), did a nice 6km stroll around the beach/town, maintained my high protein meditteranean diet (pizza/nutella crepe/ice cream) and went to bed.

Friday, 18th September 2009. Left Riccione around 8, heading South to Ancona. No rush, so took the busy coastal road, passing through villages, getting lost down alleys, asking for directions etc. It's all good fun. After two days on boring motorways, it was nice to be floating through truly beautiful land:

South of Rimini, Italia

Hopped on the SUperfast V for Greece which left Ancona at 13:30. Started a movie marathon (who can watch more than 7 trash movies in a row? I challenge thee!), with the sun setting sweetly on the Adriatic...

View from Superfast V

Saturday, 19th of September 2009

After sleeping for less than 4 hours (the CamelBak, for all its talents, is NOT a good pillow), had my cookies-based breakfast on the boat and waited to arrive to the port of Patra.

Breakfast @ Superfast V

Reached Greece around 12:30, hopped off the boat, weird feeling... the jukebox of my brain was stuck on "Bittersweet symphonie" (Verve). On the road back to Athens I got a good contestant for the "most scaringly idiotic diplays of nationalism" competition:

Civilised bloke

The translation for the very few of you that might have slept through ancient Greek class is roughly:
"GREECE: Anyone who is not a Greek, is a barbarian"

Lovely, eh?

Sorry it's so fuzzy, the dude was doing 110km/h and I had to fish out the camera and take the shot with my left hand in motion on the bike. But dammit, it's worth it, otherwise people just shake their heads in unbelieving scepticism when I rave about the poo for brain that some people have in this country, and the silent acceptance of such views as "harmess and graphic" by the rest of the population.

The coastal road that twists its way to Athens offers some spectacular views of the sea and sky. I had to stop to take a few snaps:

View from National Road @ Corinthos

After less than an hour, I was back in the house I grew up, with all the usual suspects (close family) there, buzzing around. It's good to be home.

Posted by Alexandros Papadopoulos at September 20, 2009 10:23 AM GMT

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