Monday, September 30, 2013

Greece - A Birthday Ferry Ride

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Looking good at 41 years old. Photo taken aboard a ferry to the Greek mainland
with Albania in background.
5 miles - Thursday, October 27

The evening before we had made a snap decision to bypass using the tent to be able to pack quickly and leave. Unfortunately, rain showers and humidity had closed in sometime during early morning. Mosquitoes buzzed our heads. We give up trying to catch any more winks. We rise at 4 a.m., take quick showers, and slip out to hang around the ferry terminal until 6:30 departure.

Andy and I are surprised to see Bruce pushing his loaded bike – until he explained he'd slept behind the terminal. We hug, missing his sense of humor. But Bruce promises to catch a later ferry – not the 6:30 departure time – and meet up with us. By now, Andy and I understand Bruce's friendly, but non-committal style and let it go. Besides, I was only too happy to celebrate my husband's 41st birthday, alone.

On the10-hour ferry ride to Patras, we savor views of dry, rugged, Albanian coastline. It's intriguing, this unknown and forbidden country, to pass it so close without knowledge of it's inhabitants or culture. We write in the journal. Read. I also “butter” Andy's nose (margarine would have to do), keeping with family tradition so the birthday recipient slides into the new year.

At 4 p.m. we arrive in Patras harbor. It's a pretty city from the sea: buildings stacked up hillsides with 2-4,000 foot mountains climbing to increasingly cloudy sky. Patras sits at the entrance to a wide bay with waterway reaching towards Athens. It's cliffs remind us of the Columbia Gorge.

A brief stay on Corfu – an island with long English relationship – initiated us into Greek culture and currency – 228 Drachmas to U.S Dollar, though we equate 225 as easiest mental calculation. On first glance, on the mainland, our big challenges will be language and signs, primarily displayed in Greek alphabet.

Preparing ourselves on land at the terminal, locating map, information, we meet a solo California cyclist getting ready to hop a ferry to Italy. A first time bike tourer, he briefed us on his travels in northern Europe, then weeks spent touring Greece. He shares valuable insights on places. Andy and I take mental notes. As we travel further east, it's comforting to know that others have gone before us.

As the sun dips lower we scamper to locate accommodation and shop for food. Tomorrow is a national holiday and we expect food stores may be closed. We find a closed campground, but the proprietor in the attached restaurant says we can stay for free. The dusty earth, lacking grass, is littered. Bathrooms are unclean, but we stay anyway. I ride on to bring back groceries.

To celebrate Andy's birthday, we eat in the restaurant. I feel under dressed. We sit down, legs snug beneath white table cloths stacked with proper shiny table ware, wine and water glasses, candlelight. It's a far cry from squatting around our camp stove, cooking pasta. Greeks are big meat eaters, but Andy and I share 3 Greek salads (feta cheese, tomato, red onion, green pepper, loads of olive oil with herbs), bread, and treat ourselves to white wine. It's a memorable feast. Loaded with vegetables, yet easy to prepare, we vow to create our own salads in the future.

During dinner we noticed it had started to rain. Nothing to do but retreat to the tent, bellies full of good food.

Happy Birthday, my love.

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