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Monastery

Headed to Bulgaria, and Karma

Packing up and saying goodbye to our amazing hosts, we headed to Pamukkale.

From Google; ‘Pamukkale is a town known for the mineral-rich waters flowing down white travertine terraces on a nearby hillside. The town neighbors Hierapolis, an ancient Roman spa city founded around 190 BC. Ruins there include a well-preserved theater and a necropolis with sarcophagi that stretch for 2km. The Antique Pool is famous for its submerged Roman columns, the result of an earthquake.’

As we pulled into town, we were greeted by a man on a scooter whom wanted us to follow him to his hotel. He gave us a good rate with breakfast included and a view of the white travertine terraces, so we stayed. Walking through town several restaurant owners met us in the street to tell us a story about their eatery. We will choose one and return later.

The next morning, we walked up the terraced warm pools and swam in the Antique Pool. Just sitting on a submerged column, you wonder who else has been is this very place with 2000 years of history. The theater is very well preserved, and you enter from the top as it is built into the hillside.

Our next destination is Gallipoli, near the southern border with Greece. Anzac Cove is a small cove on the peninsula of Gallipoli. This area became famous during WW1 and the landing of the ANZAC’s (the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) on 25 April 1915. The campaign was doomed from the start after missing the intended landing site and mixed signals from the commanders. Since 1916 the anniversary of the landings on 25 April has been commemorated as Anzac Day, becoming one of the most important national celebrations in Australia and New Zealand. The anniversary is also commemorated in Turkey and the United Kingdom.

We stayed in Gallipoli at a small hotel frequented by Australians coming to this area. We met several, some ex-military, with extensive knowledge of the ANZAC campaign.

The next morning, we entered Greece and rode down to the “Three Fingers” of the Halkidiki Peninsula that stretch into the North Aegean Sea. The third “finger”, furthest east, of the Halkidiki Peninsula is Athos. Unlike Kassandra (#1), and Sithonia (#2), Athos has mostly been untouched by modern development. Most of Athos comprises the monastic community of Mt. Athos. The rules of visiting Mt. Athos are very strict. Only men aged 18 and up can visit since legends say that the Virgin Mary visited Athos and blessed it and therefore the Holy Mountain is considered the Garden of the Virgin and there is no room for other women. Men must get an advanced permit and book a visit up to six months ahead. Visitors must follow the monks’ lifestyle during their stay. We intended to ride around Sithonia but the route south along the eastern coast was blocked by a large forest fire. Disappointed, we rode back across the mountain to the east coast and found a great place on the water.

The next morning, we rode north toward Sofia, Bulgaria, where the Yellow Donkey would be spending a few months sleeping. Our friend in Sofia, Dimitar, had suggested for us to visit the Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Bulgaria. We were given advice of a nice road to follow to get to the monastery. We had just ridden through a small town and some cars were parked along the road. As we slowly passed, we saw a woman laying on the ground in a small pool of blood. Several people standing around her. Quickly stopping the bike, I grabbed my first aid kit. With the language being a barrier, we figured out that she had been walking and had been hit by a car. Several people seemed upset with my decision to assist her. The injured woman had fear in her eyes as I checked her vitals and for injuries. Her injuries seemed to be a gash on the skull to which I applied pressure. Melanie had come by the woman’s side, talking softly and holding her bloodied hand. As she looked into Melanie’s eyes her stoic fear became tears as she tightly held Melanie’s hand. After several minutes an ambulance arrived, and I communicated my finding with them. With the injured woman still holing tightly to Melanie’s hand, she was loaded into the ambulance. With many non-verbal thank-yous, from the ambulance crew and bystanders, we acknowledged and continued our way to the Rila Monastery. The connection made through these gestures helps with other peoples view of Americans, while also refueling our karma bank.

Founded in the 10th century, the Eastern Orthodox Rila Monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments. The hermit, St Ivan of Rila, is whom the monastery is named after. He came to this area in the 10th century. Living in a cave, without material possessions, the monastery was built by his students where they came to receive an education. The oldest buildings in the complex date from this period -— the Tower of Hrelja (1334–1335) and a small church just next to it (1343). It is now inhabited by 60 monks.

We left and stopped for some soup along the road. This was a very friendy pup.

We headed to Sofia where we were met by Dimitar, who would be our generous host for the next couple days and would be taking care of Yellow Donkey for the next several months. Dimitar gave us a tour of Sofia and some favorites pubs, where a couple of his friends showed up. My BILT boots had just fallen apart during this trip so we found a motorcycle dealer in town. I found a pair of Forma Adventure boots at a great price, which, after hearing our story, were significantly discounted for me.  As we were preparing to leave, Dimitar presented me with a bottle of homemade Raki.  We had a great couple days in Sofia and all to soon had to be on our way.

Our flight back took us through London for an overnight, on Melanie’s birthday. Several of our friends came out to the pub for drinks and to help celebrate another trip around the rock. Many thanks to all that showed up.

Until next time…

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

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Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Greece, Horizons Unlimited, Monastery, motocamping, motorcycle travel, Suzuki VStrom1000, Turkey | 3 Comments

Athens

We have learned a trick when riding in big cities. Park the bike securely and do public transportation. The first thing we look for is the Hop On/Hop Off Sightseeing Bus Tours ( https://www.hop-on-hop-off-bus.com ). These buses hit most of the tourist areas of the city and narrate, in your language, what you are seeing. And if you want to explore more on your own, just get back on the bus at another stop. Easy.

In the morning we walked to the pickup location for the bus and rode a big loop to see the sights before deciding which place we wanted to see first. From many areas in the city all you have to do is look up and on a an enormous flat rock 490 feet above and overlooking the city is the Acropolis of Athens. This ancient citadel was built in the 5th century BC. The area contains several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. The Parthenon was dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. The Acropolis is undergoing extensive renovations at the present time.


Theatre of Dionysus

Parthenon

Parthenon

Erechtheion,
honoring Athena & Poseidon, this famous, ancient Greek temple features a porch with 6 caryatids

Back on the bus and to the market. We wandered around looking at the people selling all kinds of things, even food. Finding a little cafe we ordered a great homemade pizza and a beer and chatted with a couple out enjoying the day with their new baby. On the way back to the bus we came across a car show of old Fiat 500’s. Cute little buggies.

The next day we decided to buy our ferry tickets before hopping back on the bus for more exploration. Getting off at a couple locations to look around we finally headed to the Old Market to wander around some. On the way we passed the Presidential Palace. The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was about to take place. We hopped of the bus and were treated to the wonderful ceremony. From the side the three guards entered the square, two officers and the guard. as they approached the spectators parted down the center of the viewing area as the soldiers high stepped through the people to the guarded area. One of the officers narrated what was about to happen and the two guards high stepped toward each other preforming the Changing of the Guard ceremony. It was very impressive.

Our next stop was the old town market and lunch. Finding a cafe with an outdoor seating area we ordered a couple fresh Greek pies with meat fillings and feta cheese. Excellent choice. Sitting on the street the market area filled our senses. All around the sounds of people bargaining with the shop owners for the best price, couples chatting, scooters buzzing, horns honking gave us a sense of excitement.

Ever visit must include the Olympic Panathenaic Stadium. The stadium was built on the site of the original Panathenaic games in 300 BC. The current stadium was built in 144 AD, had seating for 50,000 spectators and is built entirely of marble. For many centuries it sat abandoned until being refurbished and used again for the opening and closing ceremonies in 1896 for the first modern Olympic games. It is also the last venue in Greece from where the Olympic flame handover ceremony to the host nation takes place.

We walked on the field and sat in the chairs of past rulers and just felt the history. We walked through the entryway that the contestants had entered the field through and walked the length of what looked like a long cave carved into the marble leading to the main halls and an exhibition area. Truly spectacular.

The next day we arrived at the ferry port to make our way toward Turkey. We had to cross first to a small Greek Island, Chios, just 30 minutes from the Turkish coast. The ferry took several hours and we arrived to Chios at about 0400 am. There were a couple cafes open so we sat, had coffee and a Greek pastry, hooked up to WiFi and looked for a place to spend that night as the ferry to Turkey didn’t leave until the next morning.

It finally got light and we went looking for the place I had booked on booking.com. It was described as on the hill overlooking the beach and ocean with a pool and a hot tub. After negotiating a terrible broken road down to it we found what was a deserted hotel. Nobody was around and the pool and hot tub looked as if they hadn’t been used in years. I had already paid for it through booking.com Grrrr. They did reimburse my money.

Headed back to town we found a great place place right on the water on the other side of the island. First up, go explore the island. The island was beautiful and ended up being one of favorites, it seemed almost deserted.

On the backside of the island we came across a road that looked like it went down to a beach area. Coming around the first corner we were startled by a group of tanks with soldiers standing near them. We waved and they waved back as we passed and soon we became aware we were on a proving ground and the signage encouraged us to turn back. We took the advice, there is always another beach. The soldiers waved at us again as we passed probably laughing amongst themselves.

Riding back across the mountains to the other side we saw a sign for the Nea Moni of Chios. This was an 11th century monastery that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to tradition, three monks founded this monastery here when they miraculously found an icon of the Virgin Mary, hanging from a branch of myrtle. Constantine was exiled on nearby Lesbos. The monks visited him and told him he would become emperor. He promised them he would build them a monastery if that became true. Indeed, when he became emperor, he built them the monastery. Over time the monastery became the riches monastery in the Aegean with nearly 800 monks. It was well known for it’s mosaics, which are one of the finest examples in all of Greece.

As it got toward the end of the day we found our hotel, a wonderful studio with cooking facilities. The owner couldn’t have been friendlier. He showed us around and took our picture with Yellow Donkey to put on his wall to remember us. There was a market just on the street facing the water. A wonderful man helped up with vegetables and pasta for our meal for the night. Such wonderful people.

The next morning we set out in the dark to get to the ferry port. Our host was at our side wishing us a safe journey and to return to see him again some day.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, Acropolis, adventure travel, Athens, chios, Europe, Greece, Horizons Unlimited, Monastery, motocamping, motorcycle travel, Suzuki VStrom1000, VStrom | 2 Comments

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