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  Turkey / Greece

Istanbul, Turkey; Saturday 28th February 2009.

   As far as our motorcycle adventure is concerned, we have ground to a halt.

Since January 1st we've only had about five riding days, which wasn't in the overall plan!

Things went wrong when we arrived in Bangkok intending to ship to India. First we both fell ill, then the 'Peoples Alliance for Democracy' closed the airport for ten days, our Thai visa nearly ran out so we returned to Malaysia. By this stage, still not feeling 100%, we decided to give India a miss and ship to Turkey and a short ride home. We will visit India in the future as we plan to ride from England across Europe, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India, thereby completing the missing piece of the Global Trek jigsaw.

I knew our timing was out to be able to ride through Pakistan and Iran due to the winter and heavy snows. India we could have visited, but with health and moral low we changed plans.

After shopping around, I found a shipping company called Wilhelmsen Ship Service in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and as I write this, our bike should be pretty close to Istanbul for a Monday 2nd March collection.

Ironically, after a few weeks rest in KL, a stay in Singapore with friends and a few days on a Malaysian Island beach, I felt ready to take on India with renewed vigour, but sadly the bike had already gone on its cruise!

Arriving in Istanbul hasn't help my moral as it was cold, wet and miserable, just like me!

Lesley meanwhile remained positive, not letting the failure of the original plan get to her. It's great having a mate who's so solid when you're low, even after being together for thirty years!

Anyway, I guess I've taken the bike around the world even if it didn't get ridden all the way, see our route page.

Istanbul has been a total change of culture and climate with both being a bit of a shock to the system. The average Turk is huge compared to the slightly built South East Asians. Where Asian vendors are generally quiet and modest, the Turks have a more up-front approach in selling their wares. I've been pulled by my arm by a man who'd see me pay a street vendor and he also wanted money.  I've nearly been pulled into a shop to look at carpets and lost count of the number of times I've had a restaurant menu stuck in my face. Walking along the busy streets is a battle of wills, rarely will anyone give way, walking here is a contact sport, the domain of rugby players.

After basking in the tropical 30+ deg C for the last six months, we are now a wet 3deg C. This coupled with a change of food and water has seen my body struggling to adapt.

In the ten days we've been here we have visited many of the tourist sights, the beautiful mosques, churches and museums, the Blue Mosque, St Sophia and the Topkapi museum. Like everyone else here we have even got lost in the huge 'Grand Bazaar'. We have even taken a cruise up the Bosporus to the Black Sea even though it was grey, cold and raining.

But then by chance we met two of the nicest people who reset the default settings in this tired old adventurer.  Through the Overland Motorcycle Travellers website, we met Ozhan and his wife Ozge. They live outside Istanbul but came into town to find us. Ozhan is also a keen motorcyclist and he looks after passing travellers and showing them some Turkish hospitality. We met for coffee, walked, talked and exchanged stories of our adventures and dreams. Our meeting was very therapeutic and I’m glad to say I'm now back online. Istanbul is a beautiful city and the people are wonderful and I just want my bike back.

“What a difference a day makes”, cue for a song I think! The sun is shining on a brand new month and I can see on the other side of the mighty Bosporus that a big ship loaded with containers has just arrived. I'm sure I can hear the beast calling out to me from its cage onboard; the time is nearly here to fight our way through a bureaucratic maze with the authorities in order to release my friend from its chains and once again ride towards the horizon!!

Until next time. Nick.

From Les

Istanbul, Turkey; 18th February 2009

   We have arrived in Istanbul, Turkey after a seven-and-a-half-hour flight from KL to Doha, Qatar. We then had a two and a half hour wait, followed by a five-hour flight to Istanbul. It feels like we've been travelling for a couple of days!

After having had an eight-hour time difference with the UK, we're now only two hours in front.

We are staying at the 'Sultans Inn' which overlooks the Bospherous, from the European side, the section of water connecting the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. We have great views from the roof top terrace where we have had coffee while the nearby 'Blue Mosque' was calling to pray, it is all very romantic.

The bike isn't due till after the 26th so we have some time to do the tourist thing and check this place out.

It's great to be back in Europe where we were greeted with a refreshing chill in the air but a bright sun. Hey, if I shout loud enough you might hear me as we feel that close to home!! Nick & Les x

Short Update.      21st February 2009

Hi Guys,

We've moved hostels from the Sultans Inn, and are now staying in the Paris hostel, Sultanhamet, Istanbul. and saving ourselves £15 a night.

It's so cold here and a we even had a little sleet this morning, we're missing the tropics!!!!

The bike should get here on 2nd March, so in the meantime we will just do the tourist thing, then cuddle up and try to keep warm!!

All's well. Globalfolks xxx

From Les

Istanbul, Turkey; 1st March 2009

   The flights from KL were not too bad but as usual we had no sleep and very little leg room. Everything worked like clockwork thanks to the invaluable advice regarding purchasing our visa before immigration /passport control from Matthew, a fellow passenger.

The first lung-fills of Turkish air were crisp, fresh and decidedly cold. It was now 9-deg instead of 34-deg in KL!! The sky was clear and blue as we were taxied to the Sultan Inn in the Sultanhmet area of Istanbul. I had no preconceived ideas about Istanbul or Turkey so this is once again all new to me. We followed the coastline of the Sea of Marmara and I was amazed at the number of large ships on the horizon. Apparently they are all waiting their turn to pass through the narrow Bosporus to the Black Sea. The Bosporus makes Istanbul a unique city in that it is divided in two, one part in Europe and the other in Asia. We are staying in the European side surrounded by large Mosques and other equally wonderful buildings. Part of the city is surrounded by large walls or ramparts originally built in the 7th century but have since been renewed or repaired on several occasions since then.

We pre -booked a hotel for 3 nights with a view to getting our bearings and finding somewhere more economical as the prices have now risen alarmingly. Our new hostel, the Paris Hotel/Hostel is much friendlier and cheaper. The staff are great but they do ration the heating somewhat; the 4 thick blankets on the bed gave us an immediate clue! Mind you, the breakfast of wonderful fresh bread, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, egg and jams are a pleasant change from curry.

The weather changed dramatically with a nasty cold front bringing with it rain, sleet and, believe it or not, a few snow flakes. The temperature has struggled to rise above 3 deg. We have walked for miles braving the elements with our new hats, scarves and other essential layers. Nick’s new mothball-smelling long-johns are apparently doing the trick and our motorcycle jackets cover several layers of tee shirts in an attempt to prevent frost bite. However, “Marvin” has raised his ugly head again as it’s been over a month without his bike. Perhaps he's suffering from S.A.D. Syndrome?

The streets here are mainly cobbled and some are also very steep. The backstreets, as always, hold our interest more as they seem to be filled with all kinds of mystery. We discovered the wholesale area for leather and shoes and alleyways dedicated to musical instruments. Most of the roads seem to be heading uphill towards the famous Blue Mosque with its 6 minarets which I thought would be blue but are in fact grey.

Seeing all these wonderful ancient pieces of architecture made me realise what I had been missing in S E Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Apart from the opulent Chinese temples and of course Angkor Watt in Cambodia there were no other old, substantial buildings like those in Europe or in South America.

We have visited many of the tourist sights around the city and Nick has been reminiscing about his Mediterranean cruise school trip which stopped off in Istanbul many years ago. We saw the original bejewelled knife in the Topkapi museum, a replica of which was displayed in our garage. I found Topkapi more impressive than the Blue Mosque as it was spread around several buildings and commanded a wonderful view of the Bosporus and the Asian side of Istanbul across the water. The mosaics and wall tiles were beautiful and as always I am amazed at the symmetry and splendour of these buildings. It's wonderful to walk along the cobbled roads and marbled pathways feeling the ridges beneath your feet where people, carts and vehicles have passed over hundreds of years.

Taking shelter in the undercover Grand bazaar, we experienced the constant barrage of stall holders trying to entice us into their store to buy their goods. I am finding it difficult at times to politely refuse, smile and say no thank you 50 times in as many metres. I am sure these stall holders are feeling the effects of the world economic crisis as much as we all are. There just seems to be too many carpet shops and kebab cafes to sustain the population in such a small area.

I don't know if it is the weather but generally things appear to be rather dark and drab. The predominant colour for clothing is black or dark grey and the women either wear jeans or long coats and skirts that brush the ground as they walk. Headscarves used mainly by Muslim women are also needed for warmth. Even fellow visitors do not appear very colourful or am I comparing it with Asia too much?

During our stay here we have made use of the ferries, exploring other parts of the city and discovering the tasty fish sandwiches under the Galata Bridge which spans the “Golden Horn”. The lovely smell of roasting chestnuts and the colourful lighting makes it almost feel Christmassy as we wander about in the evening. The hot tea served in small tulip-shaped glasses and the steaming bowls of Lentil soup keep the wintry chill at bay for a while. The kebabs and local breads are delicious and much cheaper in the backstreet cafes. Nick has satisfied his sweet tooth with the Baklava; layers of filo pastry wrapped around ground pistachio nuts and soaked in syrup ... a calorific nightmare!

Watching the traffic from the safety of a bridge over the road and tramway we quickly noted the use of the warning horn. It's almost as though the cars are talking to each other. The Police ride 2-up on Honda Varaderos and BMWs and often ride into oncoming traffic. I am sure the pillion riders must have nerves of steel as they ride “shotgun” through the busy streets.

Today the sun shone and the temperature rose to 12 deg for an hour or so. We think we spotted our ship across the water, Marvin has disappeared and Nick is sure he even heard the old girl calling us! We are both now anxious to get back on the road to continue the adventure, so, customs and dockside willing, we should be heading for Greece by the end of the week.

Until then ... Lesley

From Les

Mesolongi, Greece; 11th March 2009

   Back on the road again.

We finally left Istanbul under dark clouds which soon became heavy with rain. Everywhere appeared very dark and grey but despite this it didn't seem to dampen our spirits; it was just so good to be back on the road again. I really liked Istanbul and there was so much more to investigate but I feel we just scratched the surface. There are three things I feel obliged to mention regarding Istanbul before I talk about Greece ... The city is full of extremely large cats ... Beware of the carpet seller ... And finally for the females, don't go to the hairdressers and definitely don't get highlights done!!!

The border from Turkey to Greece was easy – “Welcome to the EU”. With the ‘Welcome’ came the weather, as if a border-line had been drawn in the clouds. Turkey grey and wet ... Greece a beautiful blue (to match the flag) and most importantly, dry. It was quite an emotional time for us as we suddenly realised that we are getting very close to home and on a personal level we have both achieved so much in the past 2 years and 8 months. Our celebrations were curtailed slightly by two large dogs; they decided we were worth chasing for 100's of yards ... Welcome to Greece!!

Although the sky was clear blue and the sun shining it was still very cold ... after all it is still winter!!

We stopped at the seaport town of Alexandropoulos and celebrated with “Gyros” pita bread filled with meat, cheese, salad, chips, mayo and mustard, followed by a huge chocolate profiterole. Well it's not every day you don’t have to have to buy a visa or get your passport stamped. We both really enjoyed getting back on the bike again after such a long time and, surprisingly, haven't suffered too many aches and pains.

The North east corner of Greece is very agricultural with a veritable patchwork fields and hedgerows. There are signs of spring in sheltered pockets, particularly further south in the hills and mountains where the alpine flowers are out and trees are beginning to blossom. We hugged the east coast for a while and marvelled at the little towns and villages of small white houses which clung to the hillsides around picturesque harbours and bays. The water was so crystal clear that we could see the fish and urchins plainly. It was tempting to jump in for a swim but that would mean removing at least 5 layers of clothing.

Four fifths of Greece is mountainous so it wasn't long before we could see snow-capped mountains in the distance. Mt Olympus can be seen for miles and we almost rode around it as we stopped off at Katerini so Nick could change the oil in the old girl as a treat. We then followed the lovely twisty hilly road to Ellasona. The hills are covered with the occasional pine tree, in stark contrast to the more numerous deciduous trees which look quite stark and bare in comparison. From a distance we can also smell the goat herds which are usually escorted by an elderly local. Talking of elderly, it is quite noticeable that women of a certain age here (of which I am probably one) seem to wear only black; not even a bright coloured head scarf was in sight. Perhaps one might be thought of as a bit of a floozy if they display colour? The older men on the other hand spend much of their time in the local cafe, drinking coffee, smoking and putting the world to rights by day and drinking something a bit stronger by night as they play cards and backgammon.

Meteora is a magical place and reminding me so much of Ayres Rock and the Olgas in Australia. As you round another bend you are suddenly confronted by massive smooth, grey rocks which almost seem alive. Long ago there were 24 monasteries in the high rock pinnacles but now only 6 are used and the rest are in ruins as they cling precariously to the rock face. We spent some time taking in the views and sitting in the pretty village square as we ate lunch.

We missed a turn in the road and ended up in a quiet village where we stopped for a coffee. The old men in the cafe treated us to our hot drink and made room around the lovely pot bellied stove so that we could warm up before heading to the snow fields at Metsovo. At first we got a bit excited as we saw pockets of snow in the shady areas but as we climbed higher the snow at the side of the road became much deeper. Traffic was coming towards us so we knew the road was open but it was very cold. We dropped down below the snow line to Ioannia, a large town by a lake with fortress walls and enclosed village.

By the centre of the town students were gathering and handing out leaflets and we wondered if we would be witness to further unrest within some of Greece’s cities, but it was a quiet night and the bike was safe even though she was parked on the side of the road.

In Turkey, breakfast was a big start to the day with bread, cheese, olives, eggs and meats but here in Greece it is a cup of coffee and pastries filled with apple or cheese and ham. No one appears to be too overweight so maybe the extra sweet coffee and flaky pastries don't carry too many calories ... wishful thinking!

I am really enjoying being back on the bike even though at times it is bitterly cold. Here in Greece nowhere is very far so there is always somewhere to stop for a hot drink and warm up. The people generally have been reasonably friendly although some have been most disappointed that we are not from Germany! There seems to be quite a large German population in the country.

Olive trees, fruit trees, citrus, orange and lemon trees are all grown on the hill slopes beside vines and wild flowers. In another week or two spring will be painting the countryside with its wonderful colours and I am glad I will be in Greece to witness it.

Until then, Lesley


Kephalonia, Greece; 25th March 2009.

   We'd been in Istanbul for two weeks, the ship bringing the bike from Malaysia had arrived and we started to work towards getting it back from the shippers. We took the ferry across the Bosporus and back into Asia and caught a bus to Wilhelmsen’s shipping handlers, Unimar. Here we had to pay a further £575 in local charges! Bearing in mind we'd already paid £704 for the actual shipping; this was starting to get very expensive. With time ticking away we decided we'd start the customs clearance procedure the next day, so we headed back to Sultanhamet on the ferry.

The following day we took the ferry directly to the port at Haydarpasa where we found the customs house and went looking for someone to help us. Several men were hanging around at the door but there was no reception area and none of the signs on the office doors helped us in any way! I did find one office that appeared popular so I hurled myself in. The guy, in a grey suit and with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, behind the counter didn't understand me, nor me him. He shouted across to another smartly dressed guy in a suit on my side of the counter. That man was Eyup Dirice, yes, that was his real name! Fortunately he spoke a little English. I explained what I was there for and handed him my paperwork - then the paper chase started!

With Les in tow we visited various offices in this building. Somewhat heated conversations, accompanied with much vociferous arm waving took place between Eyup and an older guy in a dark suit with a fag and another man sitting behind an old desk piled high with paperwork. These altercations normally resulted in us either getting another piece of paper or scoring a stamp, or if we were very lucky - a signature.

If you can imagine an old black & white Russian spy movie, dull drab offices with equally cagey looking people who could just be detected through a thick haze of cigarette smoke, you would be half way there!

I left Les in an office with some other female secretaries and I chased after Eyup, who in fact was a customs broker. I was hoping to do some of the customs clearance myself and save some money but it would have been impossible for me, not being able to speak Turkish, and Eyup told me he was cheap!!!  Throughout the clearance procedure I didn't see one uniform and the higher up the building we got I found that once again, women were in charge!

I lost count of the number of offices we visited all over the port, some of which Eyup would walk into, push the guy on the other side out of the way and jump on the computer to get what he wanted.

After a full day spent tackling Turkish bureaucracy I had my stamp and signatures in the carnet, all be it in the wrong place! For first time in a month we saw the wooden crate which hopefully contained our bike. My heart skipped a beat when I noticed the end of the crate had been broken, but the important goods inside were thankfully unscathed. A fork lift brought my box outside to a team of Dockers, one of which told Les he was a good screwer! I didn't need a screwdriver, I needed a crowbar! He ripped open the box for me and there she was, cobwebs and all. I connected the battery, replaced the screen and mirrors and with a press of the starter button she fired into life, it was a beautiful sound.

The whole procedure took seven hours. It cost us another £150 in dockside fees - so Eyup told me! In total, the shipping by sea from Malaysia to Turkey cost us £1433, and we were bike-less for a month. For another £600 we could have flown it over, which I suppose is a lot of kebabs!!

It was fantastic being back on the road again as we zigzagged through Istanbul and back to the Paris Hostel where the bike was locked up for the night just around the corner.

We spent one more day in Istanbul which gave me time to replace a headlight bulb and pump the tyres up, then 'Pooleglobaltrek' was truly back on the road once again!

On a cold wet day we headed west out of Istanbul in the rain and hugged the coast as we rode through rolling green farming countryside to the border with Greece at Ipsala. The bike appeared to be running okay, although a little lumpy after its lay off. I'll get the throttle bodies balanced as soon as I can and all will be well with the old girl once more!

The border crossing into Greece was quite straight forward. Exiting Turkey there were a series of kiosks to visit. At the first I handed our passports and carnet to a police check who took the index number. Next, the immigration department stamped us out of the country with our passports, and lastly the customs dept. The customs officer looked at my passport then the carnet for the bike several times before calling over a couple of German custom officers working here? They explained that there was a discrepancy in the dates of our arrival in Turkey with that of the bike, which had only arrived a couple of days ago. After explaining the situation to their satisfaction we were soon through.  Then a most unusual experience as I rode up to the Greek side of the border. The Immigration dept took a quick look at our passports then handed them back. The customs officer walked around the back of the bike, saw the British registration plate and I thought he said, “Welcome home to Europe globaltrekers”, I could be wrong! We rode out of the covered area and into the Greek sun, stopped the bike, got off and hugged each other. We'd been away from Europe two years/nine months, and had covered 83,904 miles, (135,329 klms), it was an emotional moment.

After composing ourselves and blowing our noses we followed the E90 to Alexandroupoli on the coast of the Thrakiko Sea. Here we found the Hotel Beptina at £32 for a double room, prices we were going to have to get used to now that we are back in Europe!

Next day we had a short 97 mile ride, our first full day’s riding in Greece. We headed south on the E90 through gently rolling countryside of olive trees and vineyards with snow-covered mountains in the distance to Stavros and Stratoni, where we stopped the night at the Hotel Markos in Lerissos - I just love these names.

Roads here are generally good and the signs are, for the most part, in Greek first, then further away from the border in English. Unleaded petrol is 99pence a litre and dogs chase and bark at us as we pass which makes it all feel so very Latin American!

After such a long break off the bike I feel I’m struggling to get back in the grove. The saddle feels uncomfortably high after the rebuild and I'm struggling with balance! I’m sure it’s only a short-term problem which will hopefully settle after a few days. The bike is also finding the going tough as her starter motor still squeals when the motor catches. Finally, the Autocom communication system is crackling so much that we've pulled the plug and have to revert to the good old days of shouting to each other above the wind roar!

After a week in Greece we eventually arrived in Athens. On the way we have ridden through some spectacular countryside on some equally spectacular roads. A light smoke rising from the olive plantations indicates that it is the pruning season here. Since crossing the border we've met some really nice Greek people. In one village high in the mountains we stopped at a cafe and found a pot-belly stove to warm ourselves by, and we were even bought coffee by one of the local old boys. We were also made very welcome at a small motorcycle dealership where I'm given a corner of their workshop to do an oil change and again supplied with coffee.

Any pre-conceived ideas of a warm Greece in winter have been quickly dispelled as it’s been generally cold, although dry and sunny. When touring the world I like to immerse myself in local culture so it came as no surprise to me that I should suffered the fate of the Gods and have my very own Greek Tragedy. We found one of Greece's ski resorts and, while stopped to take pictures, I lost my footing and dropped the bike, breaking the indicator and cracking the crash bar. Poor Les rolled onto the road for the third time in 85000 miles! Thankfully everyone is fit and well and we all lived to tell the tale.  We've seen mount Olympus up close and personal at 2911 meters and marvelled at the ruins of Delfi.

Greece is big-bike country. I think most of the Honda Africa twins ever sold must have come here - I've seen so many; big trail bikes appear more popular than sports bikes.

In Athens we stayed at the Marble House Pension close to the Acropolis,

The bike needs new rear brake pads so we found ‘The Brake Shop' and the very friendly Varvarigos. I explain what I need and tell him what we've been doing for the last couple of years. With this he gives me a set of pads saying it was an honour to have us in his shop and they're free to us. We will add his web address to our site as a thank you,

By way of total contrast we then met the seedier side of life in Athens as I’m robbed! Well, not exactly robbed. We were sitting in a restaurant and I was acutely aware of someone sitting close behind me so I pull my jacket closer to me which was hanging on the back of the chair. Later I found to my horror that my phone was stolen from my pocket. I must be more careful, after all we are now back in Europe!!!

We've walked around Athens, the Acropolis and a museum and think it’s time to move on.

Leaving Athens was relatively easy, even through its chaotic traffic. We headed south to Nafplio, a coastal town with narrow cobbled streets, and then on to Sparti where we visited Mystras, the scene of Helen of Troy and her lovers’ liaison which kicked off the Trojan War - isn't LOVE wonderful?

Another milestone was passed as the bike also clocked up 85,000 miles for the trek so far.

We enjoyed a beautiful ride around a southern peninsula with mountains on one side and crystal clear water of the sea on the other. The verges of the roads were full of vibrant colours from spring flowers. Under welcome blue sky and sun we stopped at the little coastal village of Stoupa where we found the Netpos Nikoadeas Apartments. With a crusty baguette, cheese, salami and a bottle of wine, we chilled out and watched the sunset.

Next day we headed north again along the spectacular coast to visit Olympia, the venue of the first Olympics which were held here in 776 BC.

At the port of Patra I called into the local BMW bike dealership and got the throttle bodies balanced for free by the very friendly staff. Once again there was great sincerity shown by previously unknown people who were genuinely interested in our adventure, and what a difference it also makes to the bike, she is smooth once again. Thank you all at -

From Patra we caught the ferry over to the island of Kephalonia. In recent times the island has gained world attention through the film Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which was filmed here. But the reason for our visit was to catch up with our old friends, Graham and Rachel. I worked with Graham and we retired within months of each other. I pursued my dream to ride around the world and he followed his, with his wife Rachel, to the beautiful island of Kephalonia. They've built a lovely house on the side of one of the many hills with wonderful views down the valley to the turquoise sea below. Olive groves and rocky land is grazed by herds of goats, the bells on their necks can be heard across the valley; it’s a perfect place to retire to. They also have a beautiful daughter, Sophia who is ten months old and as content as her mum and dad; there must be something in the Greek air? Rachel has spoilt us with her home cooking. We have also been shown around this lovely island and visited the film locations of Capt Corelli's Mandolin.

On the “Man front” I've had the crash bar welded and replaced the rear brake pads.

Meanwhile on the “Girlie front” Lesley has got Sophia in her arms and looking all gooey eyed, I think its time to move on!!!!

Until the next time, Nick.

From Les

Kefalonia, Greece; 25th March 2009

   The mainland and Islands of Greece are packed full of ancient ruins and amazing places of interest. The sea is incredibly crystal clear and at this time of year the wild flowers are flourishing. Unfortunately the Greeks have also discovered spray paints and the desire to “Make their mark”. Nothing is completely sacred it seems as graffiti “decorates” the countryside. We have tried to overlook this factor but I imagine that this will now be the expected form of vandalism within Europe. I hope that I will be proved wrong in the near future.

Most of Greece is closed for the winter so finding accommodation has been a bit tricky at times. We rode up the twisty roads to Delphi with a view to visit the museum and ruins of the Temple of Athena. Museums close at 3pm and we got there 5 mins too late!! We did manage to walk around some of the ruins that cling to the hillside and, as always, are amazed by the architecture and the similarities with places like Machu Picchu.

Athens left us with mixed emotions. We did the main sights such as the incredible Acropolis towering above the sprawling city, The Parthenon, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Theatre of Dionysus and spent time browsing in the very informative National Archaeological museum until we were all “templed out”. As we walked by Parliament buildings we were lucky enough to see the famous Ebzone guards by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In their white short skirts, red waistcoats, white tights, black shoes with large red pompoms, they looked as they were performing a scene from the Monty Python school of Silly Walks. It was fascinating to watch as they balance on one leg, the other outstretched sole to sole with their opposite soldier. Apparently it is a very sought after position and looks good on their CV.

The loss of Nick’s phone and associated numbers was irritating and frustrating so we were glad to leave the city and head south.

At first glance the town of Nafplio appeared to be a rather modern sea resort. However, beyond the expensive cafés overlooking the clear water and castle on a small island, the streets are narrow and lined with pretty Venetian houses with balconies draped with flowers. Palamidi Fortress rising above the sloping streets lends itself to endless photo opportunities. Thank goodness for digital cameras! As one of Greece's most scenic villages most small shops are filled with souvenirs and expensive trinkets and a cup of coffee will set you back 5euro's ... the equivalent of a 3 course meal for 2 in SE Asia!!

It seems that almost every village or small town has its own historic site. The roads are often very narrow and twisty following the contours of the hills and shorelines. We stopped off at Mystras to view the Byzantine ruins of palaces, monasteries and churches built between 1271 and 1460. On the foothills of Mount Kronion we could see some of the ruins of the Temples of Zeus and the site where the world’s first Olympics were held in 776BC.

Eventually the real history blends with the myths of Greece and it becomes difficult for me to distinguish between the two. What is real can be see around almost every corner in the form of ruins, stone walls, terraced fields, narrow streets and old churches.

I enjoyed the Lakonian Mani, the central peninsula in the south of the Peloponnese. Spring had arrived bringing blossom to the trees and carpets of pretty wild flowers. As we stopped to stretch our legs the only sounds were bees and insects buzzing and the distant jangle of goat bells across the valleys ... isn’t nature wonderful? Looking down into some of the small bays the water was so clear and the colours fantastic. I used to think that postcards had been “touched up” and had extra colours added but now I know the Greek colours are very real indeed.

We took the 3-hour ferry ride from Patra to Kefalonia to visit Graham, Rachel and 11-week old Sofia. It has been lovely catching up with them and having our own personal tour guides. Kefalonia, an Ionian Island, became famous after the filming of Captain Corelli's Mandolin and we have visited many of the places where filming took place. It was nice to watch the film again and recognise various the places.

In 1953 a major earthquake struck Kefalonia and many villages were destroyed. Graham took us to one of these villages, Old Vlahata. A number of the houses were still standing although many of the roofs have caved in. Old brick-lined bread ovens could be clearly seen in one house and the whole feel of the place sent a shiver down my spine as though the inhabitants were still there and watching me. The whole of the country is steeped in history and mythology and is well worth a visit.

The bike seems to be much happier now that she has fresh blood and had her body parts balanced, she positively purrs. Tomorrow evening we should be on the ferry to Bari in Italy to continue our travels but in the meantime I shall enjoy the company of old friends and continue to snuggle up to the sweet Sofia as I know I can hand her back ... very quickly when she squawks ...!

Until next time, Lesley

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