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Ride Tales Post your ride reports for a weekend ride or around the world. Please make the first words of the title WHERE the ride is. Please do NOT just post a link to your site. For a link, see Get a Link.
Photo by Mark Newton, Mexican camping

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Mark Newton,
Camping in the Mexican desert



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  #1381  
Old 16 Feb 2017
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The Erechtheion, a temple on the north side of the Acropolis site. The six statue/columns are part of the Porch of The Maidens


Although the bricks have been reconstructed, the contrast between the new and the old is very pleasing


The unbuilt section of bricks in the middle looks like a Tetris game in progress

Acropolis was totally worth it! It was so grand and brought back a lot of my childhood memories of Greek gods and heroes. This is another thing that Neda and I share in common. She's always been a bookworm and she was into Greek mythology as well when she was younger. There's nothing like walking around old ruins to really fire up the imagination! Three-headed dogs guarding the entrances to temples and a minotaur lurking behind every corner!
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  #1382  
Old 16 Feb 2017
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You get a great view of Athens from atop the rock that Acropolis sits on. Mount Lycabettus in the distance


In the distance, I spy our next destination, another set of ruins right in the city


And then another one! We're going to have a field day in Athens!

Instead of just buying a pass for the Acropolis, we ended up getting a multi-site pass to the other ruins in Athens. The guy at the ticket booth said that the rest of the sites were between €10-€15 each, so if we visited at least three sites in total, it would be cheaper to get the multi-site pass for €35. We were definitely going to visit more than three sites today, and I do so like a deal!

I checked to see if the multi-pass ticket was written out in red crayon...


Cat stretches out in the shadows to escape the relentless rays of the blazing hot Greek sun overhead

It's only a 2 km walk to the next set of ruins, but we get lost a couple of times on the way to the Temple of Zeus, so it takes us much longer than it should have. Just like when we were in SE Asia, Neda is not coping well in the heat. We have to stop often to find shade. But she is a trooper. And I sense she wants to make the best of our multi-pass just like I do!
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  #1383  
Old 16 Feb 2017
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Temple of Olympian Zeus, you can see the Acropolis in the background


Closeup of the tops of the columns at the Temple of Zeus. Very pretty.


This column was felled by fierce winds in 1852. They look like the chopped up currywurst we had in Berlin. Mmmm.. getting hungry...


A Roman Bath added just off to the side of the Temple of Zeus. Nice tiling!

Okay, two sites down! "We only have to visit one more site to make our multi-site ticket worthwhile!", I tell Neda excitedly. She gives me a big smile and an enthusiastic thumbs up, but as I turn my head back I swear I could see her smile falter a little. Or maybe that was my imagination.

It was probably my imagination.
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  #1384  
Old 16 Feb 2017
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We walk back into the pedestrian streets of downtown Athens to try to find the next set of ruins


The air is filled with Greek smells and sounds

One thing we have noticed, there are a lot of excited people yelling, "No! No! No!" They yell this at each other with smiles on their faces, which is quite unusual. Until we find out that the Greek word for "Yes" is "Ne". This is completely confusing to English speakers (and probably for a lot of other non-Greek speakers as well). If you didn't know this, you would think Greek people are very negative people that live to argue with each other. "No! No! No!"


There are a lot of pedestrian streets in Athens. Nice not to worry about being run over by cars or buses while walking around

Next stop! Hadrian's Library! Thankfully, there are a lot of sites all within the centre of Athens, so not too much walking for poor Neda. I can't believe I'm the one more excited about hiking now...
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  #1385  
Old 16 Feb 2017
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Hadrian's Library. Well, some columns at the site of the library

I told Neda that I'd like to Check Out some columns at the library. I told her I shouldn't be too long Overdue. I told her not to worry, even if I was Overdue, I'd be Fined.

She just starts walking away.

"I'd be Fined! Fined! Get it?"


At least this guy was busting out in laughter

I think I've lost Neda. I walk all over the site and finally discover her in this climate-controlled room where they keep these statues and artifacts that need to be kept out of the sun. There's a security guard here and Neda is pretending to be interested in every single artifact in the room, lingering for minutes on each one as she soaks up the air-conditioning.


"So what did you learn in here, Neda?" I ask. This was her response...

"Ready to see another set of ruins, Neda?"

She looks up at me and yells, "No!" Which as we now know means "Yes" in Greek. Neda was always so good in picking up new languages!

"Okay, off we go!" With every new site we visit, we're practically *making money*!
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  #1386  
Old 16 Feb 2017
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Ancient Agora

An Agora is a gathering place or assembly. Somewhere where people can meet up. It's also the root of the word agoraphobia, which means fear of wide open spaces. There's a gift shop here at this site, which sells some specially made clothing. They're called Agora Sweaters.


The Temple of Hephaistos at the Ancient Agora. Very well-preserved!


Finally found some shade in the museum at the Ancient Agora.

We ended up visiting five different sites around Athens! Totally got our money's worth for that multi-site ticket. Poor Neda has melted into a puddle next to me. I'm going to have to scoop her up into a bucket and pour her onto the subway to go home...
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  #1387  
Old 18 Feb 2017
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/336.html



Athens is on another peninsula called the Attika and as we get back to the mainland, we complete a loop that started at the Peloponnese peninsula and ended up back near Delphi again. We ride through several familiar towns in the area before we start to cover new territory.


Back on the road


Our route takes us through small Greek towns, nice to get away from the big city of Athens.
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  #1388  
Old 18 Feb 2017
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Road hugging the curves of the mountains


As we get further north again, the weather seems to cool off a bit. Still hot (low 30s), but less muggy


I love riding in the mountains!
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  #1389  
Old 18 Feb 2017
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Hey! A blue-domed church! Memories of Santorini.


We're stopping for the evening in a town called Litochoro, right at the foot of Mount Olympus


We ride around trying to find our AirBnB. Turns out it was owned by a lady who runs this convenience store
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  #1390  
Old 18 Feb 2017
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She told us we could park here. Good thing we are not cars... I think...

I hope our bikes will still be here tomorrow morning...


The next morning, riding through Serres, just north of Greece's second largest city Thessaloniki

While the highway between Greece and Bulgaria runs from Serres straight to Sofia, I found some nice roads in Southern Bulgaria that I wanted to explore, so we steered north-east away from the main road. It takes us past Mount Vrontous, and the hilly area around the foothills turned out to also have some great twisty roads:


Scenery around Mount Vrontous
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  #1391  
Old 18 Feb 2017
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Wonderful hills in the background


Exochi, Greece border crossing into Ilinden, Bulgaria

Most of the traffic takes the main highway to Sofia, so the Ilinden-Exochi crossing was empty when we got there. The Bulgarian border guard came out of his booth to greet our stopped bikes. He takes Neda's Croatian passport, glances at the cover then the picture and waves her through. Then he walks over to me and takes my UK passport and makes a big show about flipping through all of the pages. He sniffed and gave me a stern look. "Visa?"

What?! As far as I knew, despite the Brexit vote, the UK was still in the EU... At least for now. Wasn't it?!

The border guard kept his steely gaze on me for a moment. Then he broke out in a wide grin. "Just joking, my friend!"

Grrrr. I hate border guard humour. It's the lowest form of humour out there. Even lower than puns...
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  #1392  
Old 18 Feb 2017
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Once clear of the border, the weather in Bulgaria turns ominous...

But hey! We're in Bulgaria! New country!

"What do you know about Bulgaria, Neda?"
"Nothing."
"Me too..."

Maybe we should have done some research before crossing the border...


At our first gas stop in Bulgaria, Neda makes a new friend. She's got a whole pet store's worth of treats in her tankbag

We had the option of filling up our tanks in Greece before we left, but the gas prices there were so expensive that surely Bulgaria would be cheaper. Surely...

After topping up both our bikes, I checked the total on the pump's display. A bit over €60... WHAT THE...? Holy crap. Even more expensive than Greece. My heart sunk. The gas station lady came to take my very large-denominated Euro bill. Then she handed me a stack of strange bills. They were Lev, the local currency. Bulgaria hadn't converted to the Euro yet. Our gas bill was 60 Lev which was €30. My heart bounced off the floor of my stomach back up to the top of my head. Cheapest gas bill yet in Europe! Whohoo!!!!!

I think I'm going to like Bulgaria.
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  #1393  
Old 18 Feb 2017
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Looks like one of those Disney castles, but a mini version

Although Greece may be going through a financial crisis, it still is very prosperous when compared to its neighbouring countries. The houses in the villages that we ride through are in rough shape, similar to rural Albania.

One big difference though. Instead of stolen Mercedes-Benzes everywhere:


This is the most popular vehicle on the road


Also the most popular fashion for older Bulgarian women: A headscarf

The headscarf is a holdover from the days of the Eastern European Orthodox churches, when they encouraged women to cover their heads like the Virgin Mary did. This is not just a Bulgarian thing, pretty much every country east of Italy has this traditional look for the older women.
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  #1394  
Old 18 Feb 2017
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We're in the Rhodope Mountain range in Southern Bulgaria and headed down a road that leads into a gorge.


Rounding the corner, the steep walls of the gorge all around us

The dark clouds overhead manage to contain their waterworks until we reach our destination. Our luck is still holding out!

We are staying at the end of the gorge road, in a town called Buynovo. The area around here is very popular with hikers and we see a few of them walking up and down the winding road in and out of town. We've booked an AirBnB here and I pull over in front of a large map of the town to try to find our accommodations. The GPS co-ordinates that I have seem to lead us to the middle of a river and the map is of no help. Buynovo is tiny, so Neda goes off to ask the locals, surely someone must know where our place is.


After 15 minutes she returns. Yes, those are cows just wandering the streets... It's a common thing around here.

She walks up to me excitedly and exclaims, "Hey, I understand Bulgarian!" Apparently, Serbo-Croatian is very close to Bulgarian. It's like that scene in the Matrix when Neo gets information downloaded to his brain and wakes up: "Woah. I know Kung-Fu."

So I say, "Show me."
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  #1395  
Old 18 Feb 2017
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We ride back over to the group of people that Neda was just talking to. They were motioning us into a barn. Neda exchanges a few words with them and notifies me, "We can park our bikes in here".


This barn is owned by the AirBnB's owner's neighbour

The locals that Neda found were so helpful. They not only located the AirBnB owner, but when they saw that we were on motorcycles, a neighbour told us we could leave our bikes in his barn. It was like the whole village was helping us. Very cool!

Turns out our place is on the river, not on the main road. We had to hike down a little bit to get to it.


Our Bulgarian hostess prepares dinner for us

It was so very homey and so Eastern-European! The Bulgarian language is very similar to Serbo-Croatian. Neda says even more so than Polish and Czech, but not exactly. Our host had to call her daughter on the phone to translate some of the finer points in English. In fact, our online contact was the daughter. This is a very common practice with AirBnB in foreign countries. The older folks may own the property, but it's their kids (or grandkids) that are more technically savvy and can speak English. They're the ones who advertise and communicate with the tourists.

Although I've taken the lead in planning our route through Eastern Europe, I'm still glad that I'm traveling with the human Universal Translator when the tires hit the pavement.


Our first home-cooked Bulgarian meal. This fish was caught in the river beside the house! Delicious!

So that evening, I'm on Facebook scrolling through my newsfeed. Turns out that a couple of my traveling friends with UK passports also had stories of EU border guards jokingly asking them for their "visas".

Seems like in light of the Brexit vote, there was an internal memo circulating amongst all the border guards in the EU titled, "Hey, wanna f*** with the British tourists?"

Bastards.
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