Cycling Athens!

Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Flag of Greece  , Attica,
Friday, November 27, 2009

And alive to tell the story!

After hearing the story of the cycle-tourist who had been going around the world and clocked 1000’s and 1000’s of kms, finally got to Athens and was killed by a car.  Seeing the streets and the traffic made that seem like a definite possibility!  But after walking with the bikes all day yesterday, and the terrible experience with transit the day before, we decided to brave cycling to the ferry port. 

With only a little tourist map of the central core, I asked for directions at the hostel before we left.  Desparately trying to hide expressions of shock, we were given pretty direct instructions that seemed easy enough.  Get to the road names Pireaus, and take it all the way to Pireaus! 

It’s very strange how perceptions of traffic have changed over the last few months.  What used to seem hectic and  scary, is not pretty normal.  Driving may be crazy compared to North American standards, but at least I feel like a legitimate participant of the road-way.  Unlike many 1st world countries where we’re shuffled askide and expected to get out of the way, here cars veer around and wait for us to pass. 

Even with all the chaos, you just jump in and go with it.  I can’t remember the last time I actually stopped at a STOP sign, but still everyone pays attention and traffic functions (not necessarily fast or efficiently, but still functioning).  I have yet to see any accidents, but evidence of them is all around. 

My favourite part is how each green light is like the start of a Formula One race.  All of the moterbikes and mopeds who have worked their way to the front while the light was red, shoot forward like a jumpy caffeinated ferrets before the light is even green.  Thus ensuring that they stay at the front of the pack while jockeying each other for position before the next light holds them back. 

Things were going well and we even received a power salute from a fellow cyclist.  You don’t see too many on the streets here, but we support one another!  All over the TV right now and pro-cycling commercials.  There is a movement beginning here…

Movement doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy.  No cycle lanes you’re directly a part of traffic.  But bikes are more maneuverable, and when traffic’s jammed you might not be. 

A taxi pushed through his red light and blocked the flow of traffic in the other direction since he was left in the middle of the intersection.  Everyone was weaving around the obstical one way or another.  When I tried to get past his front end, by pannier bags fot stuck in the space between his front bumper and the rear bumper of the car ahead!

Through that obstical and onto the next.  Soon the directions peetered out as signs could not be found and roads changed course.  At one junctions with about 5 different roads I accosted a bus driver stopped at a red light to make sure we were choosing the right road to take.  At first, he thought I wanted on and just shook his head with the door tightly closed.  But my signing must have been effective enough (no ride, just question) and he eventually opened the door. 

Confirmed we were heading in the right direction, we were off again.  Brian seems quite pleased with his new bag set-up.  A little different feel manoevering the front end, but he says it feels very stable. 

Stable enough to roll us into the port.  Only 13km and 49min from the hostel, I think we did much better than the transit system today!

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