Syros made a wonderful stopover. Looking at ferry routes, we quickly nicknamed Syros “Frankfurt of the Aegean.” It is a deep water port that has long been a key hub for shipping; just as Frankfurt airport is a hub for airlines, Syros is hub for Greek ferries. This meant that from Syros, with our Christmas plans firming up, we could catch a ferry to anywhere …even during winter when options are reduced. With loaded bikes, we went into town to meet Alexandra for coffee and a farewell. We did a bit of bike maintenance to make good use of the time before our ferry sailing, then went to purchase tickets. The owner of the apartments where we stayed is also a travel agent, and when we had discussed our next logistical move with him, he contacted a reporter from the local newspaper who Came to interview us just before we left. Watch this space: We may soon post a link to an article about us. It will be written in Greek, but that works quite well for Google Translate.
2014/12/9 – 14: Lesvos
We boarded a Hellenic Lines boat toward Lesvos in the dark. These huge boats move fast, and make touch and go stops. Along with an assortment of traffic and cargo, you need to be poised to board quickly. Sometimes transport trucks are moving around the car deck at the same time as we are, which is intimidating. We leaned our bikes, dérailleurs to the wall, as told. We left them unlocked, in case the ferry crew should need to move them during one of several more stops during the night, securing them to the wall only with our own bungee cords that otherwise secured thermarests to my bike.
Returning to the car deck, we could see our bikes had been moved by the crew. I have no problem with this, as long as nobody bends my dérailleur hanger (again), but they had managed to lose our bungees. We believe they genuinely thought they belonged to the ship — a minor problem, and we had a spare cord to secure the thermarests. Disembarking at Mitilini early in the morning, we checked into a room for a quiet day after a near sleepless night. We had contacted Dimitris, a Warmshowers host who lives in Molivos at the northern tip of the island. We planned to ride North to visit him the next day, after catching up with sleep in Mitilini.
The next morning, after averting a migraine with Gravol, we rode North …starting slowly. The route we chose brought us steeply down to the north coast at Skala Sykaminias, and along an unpaved coastal road into Molivos as dark fell. The cell phone was out of time, so we had to knock on doors to get help contacting Dimitris, who kindly came to meet us an lead us to his warm house.
Dimitris, Maria, and four year old Harris (name is Greek, but sounds close to this) are a lovely family, and our time with them was memorable. Harris was excitedly opening small gifts from a homemade advent calendar, and was happy to sing familiar Christmas carols in Greek as I tapped the tunes on his xylophone. He was also happy to jump on our bed, so I taught him “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed” which he gleefully repeated after me. What fun!
Dimitris showed us around Molivos, with its century old stone buildings, and well appointed library. We learned from Dimitris and his connections how a community pulls together in innovative ways during tough economic times. He arranged for friends of his in Mitilini to store our bikes and gear over Christmas, and he took us out to hear live music in a coffee shop that evening. While bazouki, guitar and vocals rang forth, a man well past seventy began to dance. Adonis, Dimitris’ friend, leaned over to me and said “In 1964, this man played guitar here with Leonard Cohen.” I had been getting the feeling that Molivos was an artistic and creative node, a place of international exchange, but this fact brought it home. Molivos came of age in the 1960s. A very special place.
Returning to Mitilini by a different route the next day, we checked into the same rooms, and sorted gear so as to hand over bikes to Titos and Ioulia of the local mountain bike club and prepare to make a non-cycling side jaunt. We are very grateful to Titos and Oulia for storing our bikes, and to Dimitris for making the arrangements.
We have been feeling tired of damp weather, long nights, and constant movement. We are in need of a family Christmas, and since plans for gathering in Crete did not work, we are heading to Oslo via Istanbul, from where there is an inexpensive direct flight. A ferry runs from Lesvos to the Turkish coast, and a fast bus runs to Istanbul.