I have been in Greece for one week now. I arrived in Patra from Venice after over 33 hours on the rough sea. My friend Kostas directed me to Patras Hostel, where I stayed for 3 nights @$10 Euros in a room for 4 that I had all to myself. Patra is café heaven. It’s like the whole city is one big café. Meeting Kostas the next evening,ee went to an “authentic” Greek restaurant, several blocks from the main area of the city. The next I taught him the Joint Freeing Series as he has arthritis and this series is very good for freeing up blocked energy in the joints.
There is a fabulous bridge (see photos) all white with 4 tent like spires for a dramatic view. I could see the bridge 25 km’s away the next day from my campsite. Another cyclist showed up at the hostel – Ken from Australia. He lived in England for a while, but is now travelling around Europe before heading home. I got some good advice from him on travelling in East Asia.
My first day of bike touring took me a whole 23 km’s to Kato Achaia. I had my first Greek salad in a little café with a view of the sea. The next day I headed to Palouka and Paradis Camping (maybe not quite paradise, but I watched the sun down over the sea from my tent. There is a family restaurant in the sleepy settlement, basically a wharf and fishing boats. I had homemade Mousaka –delicious. The next morning I went over for a coffee on my way out. I settle for Greek coffee, very strong and it takes a little getting used to the grains.
The young man who had served me the night before was just getting started for the day, so we sat down to coffee together and had a long chat about the economic situation in Greece. He said basically the family works all day and night to just keep it open. They pay 23% taxes. He and it seems most people here are not happy with the government’s settlement with the EU. And now my story becomes more grim.
There is garbage strewn all along the roads. For the last 50 km’s I have seen perhaps 20 cafes but none have any food. In Zacharo, a medium sized town, I counted 15 cafés, all occupied by local people, but all they can get are drinks and it looks like most peope are just drinking coffee. People seem depressed and the country appears to be falling apart. The quality of existing buildings is very basic. Places are dirty, many places of business are closed, appearing to be out of business (I’d say 50% are closed).
As I arrived in Pirgos there were huge piles of garbage beside the road. It appears they cannot afford to pay garbage collectors. The highway is ugly with a lot of garbage and everyone drives on the paved shoulders. The route I have chosen does not have any alternative roads, so of the 150 km’s I have done in my first 3 days, only 30-35 have been on secondary roads or back roads leading to a campsite.
Here in Zacharo it appears a little more prosperous, but no restaurant food. I found one fast food place that was not cooking, they just had a pastry with feta chesse. I bought one and then realized I was the only person in the whole town eating. So I stopped and packed it away to eat when I returned home.
It’s probably better in touristy areas, but in ordinary areas, it is very run down with garbage everywhere. Even the rest stops for gas have nothing except snacks (candy and chips) and coffee, pop and beer.
Yesterday I had lunch in Pirgos in a fast food place – souvlaki in a pita. Further dwon the road I stopped for coffee at a gas station with a little café. A few people were sitting outside drinking coffee. I ordered an espresso and when I went to pay, the man said it was free. He would not let me pay. Here is a man who has very little practicing generosity. Last night and tonigh I am staying in a private suite, like an apartment with a loft for – $20 Euro’s and have been doing lots of cooking. I bought lots of food since I don’t know what will be open on Sunday. I am still heading to southern Greece, but if the situation does not improve I may head straight to Athens to stay with Kotsas for few days before going to Taiwan.

Photos flickr:

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