Me and Greece, that wasn’t love at first sight, oh no. After being spoiled by Balkan and Albanian hospitality, entering Greece was like a smack on a naked butt. Luckily, I spent enough time here to have an opportunity to give it the second, the fifth and the tenth chance. And now, when I’m sitting in a bar full of smoking men in a village in the middle of nowhere, I feel at home. But there are a couple of things that we need to say clearly:
- Greece is big. Maybe on the map it’s not so impressive, but you need some time to cycle the whole mainland.
- Greeks love their tracksuits. If you dream about French style, Spanish casual outfits or Italian dandies, forget it. This is Greece. Here you wear a tracksuit.
- Welcome to Greece. Greeks like to boast about their hospitality but the truth is it can be difficult to find a place for the tent near someone’s house. In fact a lot of homes don’t even have doorbells so I guess the Greeks came up with the saying ‘My home is my castle’ first. And don’t get me wrong. I met a lot of wonderful people. I’m just saying.
- Crisis in Greece. ‘Maybe this is the crisis?’ – said Aga after a month in Greece pointing to abandoned warehouses near Athens. We searched for crisis with persistence and passion. We searched among summer second houses and among crowd sipping slowly their midday coffee. I guess a lot of people in Poland would like to live like Greeks in crisis.
- Athens – the graffiti city. If you think of Athens and you see pictures of the Acropolis and other ancient ruins in your head, it means you’ve never been in Athens. Athens is the capital of graffiti.
- Greece is in the EU. Theoretically, yes. Mentally, it’s light years away from German order or Dutch development. I will just give you one example: throwing toilet paper to the bins. Really?
- Greek donkeys. Everybody knows this picture: a donkey, an old man, the sea in the background. After cycling over 2000km I met two. There are goats and sheep. There are dogs and cats (a lot of them on dead the roads, killed by car drivers). There are even hedgehogs and turtles. But there are no donkeys. All of them emigrated to Albania.
- Moussaka and ouzo. You’ll read about them in every guidebook. That they are typical food and alcohol, that they are very tasty, that you should try them. Yes, they are tasty. But real Greece is all about pita and tsipouro. Ask the old men in a bar.
- Elada orea? Every Greek will ask you, if you really for sure like his country. Yes, orea, orea. But it’s also very littered. Let’s give the Greeks thumbs up for the fact that they haven’t destroyed their seaside by building hotel cities.
- There’s no paragraph ten because everybody in the bar is screaming to each other. People are screaming, there’s Greek disco on the radio and a football transmission on TV. Greece for sure isn’t quiet.
Once you get accustomed to all of this, cycling through Greece can be a great adventure.