Departure for Turkey

November 12th, 2008 by scott and becky

10 km to the ferry terminal

For breakfast, we introduced Michalis to peanut butter and he introduced us to Tahini (sesame paste) and honey spread on toast. We both very much enjoyed the Tahini and honey. Michalis found the “just peanuts” peanut butter a bit dry and salty, and in comparison we would have to agree. Maybe we’ll have to give up the peanut and almond butter we’ve been carrying since Florida?

When we told Michalis about our visit to the cathedral in Patras, he commented that most of the Greek Orthodox churches are not so ornate. This was news to us, as the ones we had seen in Canada also contained large domes with fancy motifs. But with further observation, we noticed that the churches of Athens do not stand out like the newly built cathedral in Patras. The traditional Greek Orthodox churches do contain elaborate wooden chandeliers (or at least the ones we went in did), but did not have the bright motifs like the newer one in Patras. We wonder if the darker colour is partially related to all the candles that are burned throughout the day. As we passed each of the small churches there were always people walking in and out to light candles and pray, even the smallest churches on the quietest streets.

Ever wondered where to get bunny tails in Athens?

Ever wondered where to get bunny tails in Athens?


Since our ferry didn’t depart until 1900h, we had time for one last wander around Athens before getting ready to leave for Turkey. First, we ended up in the market district. We had never seen so many different meat vendors in such a small space. The floors were very slippery, and Becky was terrified of slipping and landing in all the refuse from the meat and fish vendors. Watching one of the vendors hack a goat in half with a cleaver, we wondered about sanitary conditions, but at least here we could see what was happening. In Canada, this is all hidden away in the meat packing plants, but the activities are pretty much the same.

During our wanderings, we stopped to see Keramikos, the ancient graveyard of Athens. It was a tranquil spot, with a small museum, lots of partial walls and houses as well as grave stones and ceramics from various eras. We tried reading the various placards – both there at and the Parthenon, and have found them almost impossible to digest. They are all quite technical and written too much for the archeological student and not for the average tourist. Becky believes the folks running the museums in Athens could benefit from hiring a learning consultant to help with their displays. It would be much more meaningful if at least some were simplified and used to tell a story. Talking later to Michalis, we learned that this is quite a common complaint, but money is not allocated for such things. Perhaps it is so people will hire a guide?

Michalis in his studio with some of his paintings (and Scott)

Michalis in his studio with some of his paintings (and Scott)


After our morning of touring, we headed to Michalis’ studio. Neither of us are close friends with any professional visual artists, so it was really neat to see his studio and some of his pieces he is working on. Scott’s comment on seeing his pieces is that many had a theme of traffic and sexuality. They often involved vehicles of some type and forms of the human body. There was a neat one that was a parking lot that made the shape of a women’s body. Becky focused more on the “coming of age” theme in other works.

His art initiated some discussions on the current situation in Athens and Greece. He is working on a piece called “The Acropolis without Athens”, exploring the possibility of Greece without the focus on being the “Cradle of Western Civilization”. With all the money and focus allocated to tourism (“Greece’s heavy industry”), and restoration of past glory, there is little focus on today. Virtually all the money for arts is going to the restoration of the Parthenon and other ancient Greek glories, leaving nothing for the contemporary arts (dance, music, visual). With that focus, and significant government corruption, there are many problems not being dealt with. For one, Greece has just overtaken the U.S. as the country with the highest child obesity rates. Michalis teaches in the primary school, so he sees this every day. Interestingly, we had not noticed. We certainly saw a few more large women and men, both adults and teenagers, than in southern Italy, but it was still quite a small percentage. The younger children must have been in school during our wanderings.

After our brief visit to the studio, it was time for us to venture to the ferry terminal. The ride itself, 10 km south east, was amazingly painless. Michalis helped us find a route mostly on quieter streets, which was a big help. When we did enter a busier street, Becky had to remind Scott to not be so polite. He stopped behind the last car rather than moving up on the right to the front of the line. This is fine and expected in Canada, but in Greece is causes confusion. The cars expect all the bikes and mopeds to weave through stopped traffic to jockey for position at the light. We need to learn to at least make a token effort in order to not confuse the car traffic!

The Greek ferry terminal was definitely nothing like the terminals at home. When we found our way to the main terminal road, there were at least 30 different ferries throughout the terminal. Our tickets, which we are glad we bought in advance, told us which gate to go to and which boat was ours. It turned out there where at least 3 boats in the vicinity of our gate. We expected there to be someone, somewhere in the terminal to check us in and direct us, but we found no one. We found the boat, so we made our way on board. The loading process is complete chaos. You just find a time when the transports are not being backed in, and ride on board. Then you find someone to tell you where to put your bikes. In all this vehicular chaos, there are people coming onto the boat on-foot with hand trolleys full of stuff and big suitcases. Their luggage is stored in room right by the entrance, causing an increase in congestion during loading.

Safely on board, with our gear stowed, we went to find ourselves a seat. We were hoping to upgrade to a cabin, but that was not meant to be. They wanted 60 Euros for the cabin, which seemed a bit much given that we were only on the boat until 3:30 am. Our previous ferry must have been a particularly good deal at 26 EUR. Instead, we slept on the deck. Unfortunately, we had not planned well, and our Thermarests and sleeping bags were on the bikes, nicely locked on the car deck. We made do with what we had, found a flat corner on the deck, and slept – Becky was asleep by 8 pm! Scott didn’t sleep as well, even with earplugs and eyeshade, since he kept worrying about being told to move, or missing the Chios arrival, or…

At 3:30 am the ship arrived at Chios. The unloaded process was no more organized than the loading process. Scott went downstairs to discover that many of the trucks parked near him had their engines idling. They saw nothing wrong with running them for 15 minutes while the boat was docking. Needless to say, the car deck was not exactly great for breathing! Scott was almost choking on fumes from badly tuned diesels, and had a headache from the carbon monoxide for more than an hour afterward. Fortunately, Becky was a little further forward and on the other side of the boat, so she found it hot, but not as unbearable. With the unloading chaos, we jumped off the boat the moment the ramp chain was removed and were quickly in the fresh air of Chios.

Elevation Profile
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Scott and Becky with Lykavittos Hill in the background

Scott and Becky with Lykavittos Hill in the background

Michalis quickly picked up how to ride Scott\'s recumbent!

Michalis quickly picked up how to ride Scott's recumbent!

3 Responses to “Departure for Turkey”

  1. Dimitris Tzortzis Says:

    In Patras they want to bring down many blocks of flats because underneath there are roman antiquities, like a roman stadium for example. However, above those there are buildings and structures that have been the history of modern Patra, from 1830 till today… I wonder, if we just spend all of our resources focusing on the past and not looking into today, what will be our history in 100 years from now? will there be anything interesting to show from the 1900’s?

    There seems to be the idea that tourism is going to save Greece… It’s true that many many small villages and/or islands have benefited a lot from tourists in their area (if we ignore the environmental effects from the unplanned developement). Tourism however is not an industry that you can rely on. If, on the worst case scenario, a catastrophy happened, many of those places would lose their tourists (like what happened in Indonesia after the tsunami). Instead, in my opinion, Greece should focus on real developement, like on education and tackle other problems, like the one Michalis has mentioned…

  2. becky Says:

    Dimitris, thanks for sharing your perspective on this too. It’s very interesting for us to see some of the issues being struggled with in various countries as we travel.

  3. Rowena Says:

    Ha ha! Yes, that is the “traditional” embarking/disembarking process for a Greek ferry. And the lack of signage/direction is also fairly standard. And don’t bother queuing – just barge to the front. It’s expected.

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