Other cyclers warned us to be weary of both shepherd and stray dogs in Greece, so right before we crossed the border we made sure all four of us were equiped with an engraved ‘dogstick’. Lifting our wooden weapon high in the air accompanied by tribal roars should be enough to show our alpha status to any pack of hounds.
We found a huge watermelon on the way to Florina, and discussed whether we would haul it or not. After weighing and measuring the 15 kg heavy green monstrosity, we had a bit of a quarrel dividing Yuri and Stef (the Nay-sayers) and the brothers (the Aye-sayers). The discussion was concluded when Yuri stated: “If you guys want to bring this freak of a fruit, go ahead, but we’re not helping you eat it.”, to which Stef added: “But don’t forget rule number two: nothing is to be wasted!”. All the brothers had to do was look at each other and grin.
We pedalled on a completely new highway that goes from the border to Edessa through the flatlands and valleys. We had a smooth, jet black tarmac that allowed us to make progress effortlessly while only one car drove by every five minutes. Our first night we slept on the hills before lake Limni Vegoritida. Where Macedonia was a little green and damp, the landscape evolved into a more arid, rocky surface in Greece. This drier climate was the ideal environment for hanging up the hammocks without having to worry about our precious sleepingbags sucking in all the moist of the morning dew and lose their isolation.
The next morning we let gravity take us to the lake in Pantaleimon. Upon arrival we saw more than two dozen fishermen hooking one fish after the other, accompagnied by a loud ‘PHÓ PÓ PÓ PÓ’ every time they pulled a fish mouth first out of the water. Obviously, Yuri instantly took out his rods and it was only seconds before he could yell his own PÓ’s. Oli saw this and soon joined in to double the catch, while Stef called Anton for an underwater mission. All fifteen fishes were grilled and eaten later that day around a fire, accompanied by fresh vegetables we received from a farmer. This farmer explained that the trees provided excellent firewood because it is used for the production of paper.
After an extensive brunch with the leftovers of last night’s grill session, we took off towards Thessaloniki. Thirty kilometers before this big coastal city we heard a loud shouting from a roadside coffee bar, but the downhill speed didn’t allow us to see who was trying to catch our attention. Fifteen minutes later, three other cyclers caught up with us and accused us of not stopping for fellow two-wheelers. We were ‘punished’ to follow them at their higher pace to reach Greece’s second largest city. The seven headed, four nation army pressed on to reach their destination, exchanging stories while maintaining the rhythm in their legs. Lewis, an Englishman, had a contact in the city since he wanted to stay there for a while, doing charity work in a refugee camp. The other six went off scouting for a place to rest. We passed through streets of massive office buildings, the lively boardwalk and finally towards the more quieter areas.
Here the locals guided us towards an anarchist community center under care of a friendly Cuban Greek named Elvis. The King is not dead! The center was tricked out with a BMX park inside an abandonned warehouse. Here we also had acces to their cooking facilities and even a beer filled fridge behind the bar. We felt at home and celebrated all night with Lewis, Shukri, the Syrian cycler and Karoline, representing the German nation. For these festivities we found a university party close to our new home.
As we go our first round of drinks, Yuri took out his crystal ball and predicted the night’s events to our new team members. “Three things will happen: Anton’s feet will yearn for freedom, then Oli will want to expose his superior dance moves to the crowd and finally Stef will find himself an exceptional resting place when the night comes to an end.” Soon after Anton passed by barefoot, while Oli took the treetops for a dance and we finished the beer with a good chuckle. Now two out of three predictions had come true, we all looked for Stef, who was nowere to be found as he was enjoying a free night at a four star hotel. For some mysterious reason we always end up together at the break of dawn, so we sewed together the whole story and laughed at everyone’s adventures as the sun came up.