On one hand, cycling through Greece is very much like taking a cycle ride through an oil painting; you’re never too far away from a hillside olive plantation, a beautiful sandy cove or a picturesque terracotta-topped village. Indeed, this is an undeniably pretty country. On the other hand, it does seem a little rough around the edges at the moment.
Greece’s financial planners from the last decade have not exactly showered themselves in glory, and their politicians not stayed entirely free of ineptness or corruption charges. As a result, Greece took a particularly hard fall during the world economic meltdown, and the subsequent austerity measures have certainly not gone unnoticed for the carefree visitor to the country. Abundant empty shop fronts, partially completed buildings and abandoned industry make some areas feel rather like a hurricane passed through a few years ago and no one has bothered to return yet. Undoubtedly, a few jobs could be created to perhaps mend a fence (or two), cut the grass, or clean graffiti from all the road signs (though ironically, a sign which had escaped such vandalism was one that read: ‘semi-finished house for sale’). It would seem not so much that the purse strings have been tightened in this part of the world, rather that the purse strings have been rendered utterly useless by the enormous hole at the bottom of the purse.
Our pace of riding has certainly tapered since crossing the border from Turkey, though we are thankfully still occasionally turning pedal, which is almost a prerequisite for a national cuisine where you either go full-fat or you go home. However, we’re hoping for a return to the old routine as we head towards Athens, a city which boasts even more history than the Bible – although encouragingly for the Athenians, theirs is a history based on actual events.