Stef and Anton were the first to arrive in Athens. They met up in a coffee bar to exchange stories about their true love for the Greek dogs. The duo had no clue were to sleep, but a friendly local, Chris, overheard them talking in the bar and pointed them towards the Zeus hostel. “It’s here around the corner, and will only cost you €9 per night.” Knowing this was the cheapest alternative for a free campground, which was nowhere to be found, they settled for this location.
Together they scouted all corners of the city in search of a blacksmith to melt the horseshoe down and forge four lucky rings from it. A fruitless search that lasted a whole week in the end, but they found a knife-grinder whose whetstone made our knives’ edges so sharp they could cut through the very fabric of time. The search also resulted in them knowing the city like the back of their hands, perfectly able to guide their friends and Stef’s sister to all the must-sees in the city center.
On the night before Halloween, while we were enjoying some harmonica jams with Kevin, our french sculptor roommate, we suddenly heard excited barks and screams coming from the open window. We knew what was going on right away, and stormed down the stairs to greet our lost boys and found puppies. After everyone - including the puppies - were installed in their bunk beds, we caught up on stories.
We spent the coming days exchanging experiences with all the other globetrotters in the building. This was the fourth time paying for a sleeping spot, so we made good use of our time to gather inside information from everyone. The rooftop terrace was was the excellent location for this. We met one crazy character after another, coming from and going to every corner of the world. We purposely postponed the touristic stuff and city strolls to share this with our future visitor. Instead, we spent quite some time at the at the hostels’ gathering spot, avoiding the lively city center. When someone left, another took his place with a brand new set of stories. After a while we upgraded our rooms to the hostel’s penthouse, since we already spent most of our time there anyway.
The 2nd of November was the day Caro would arrive. Also the first day since our departure that we had an obligation to get out of our beds in time. Stef and Anton had the power to force their eyes open and drag their legs down the stairs and out the front door. When they arrived at the airport, proud to be on time, they realised today was the day the hour changed. For the first time in a long while they resorted to fast food, but only because it came with a Magikarp and a pokemon card, so worth it. The guys hid in order to suprise Stef’s sister, but they were the ones taken by suprise when they saw Bene (Anton & Oli’s sister) walking at Caro’s side. Both jumped from their chairs and hurried over, lifted their sisters in the air, giving the girls the big ol’ hug they deserved for flying over to their beloved brothers.
We let the girls settle in our penthouse in the hostel as we started unpacking their suitcases for them, because these contained all of our winter gear. After the skiing socks, the boys pulled out their thermal underwear, winter boots and other warm stuff, until they found what they were truly looking for: our looooong lost pepperoni’s! Damn we missed you guys. It’s good to have you back. And thank you for bringing our sisters with you.
The family wanted to make good use of what little time they had together, so after the girls settled we strolled around the city center, exploring the tiny alleyways. We walked through the Monasteraki district with its Flea Market and all its little shops, and a bakery with divine pastries every now and then. We also strolled around the Dionysiou Aeropagou, a road that stretches up and over the hills showing all the must-see historic places, providing more photo material than the average Asian tourist can handle. The first evening we did what we do best: using whatever objects we find to make a game and have a good time with a little bit of wine in our hands. Our last evening with Caro we spent climbing the Likavittou hill to watch a meteor shower that was supposed to happen. In reality, we just sat there on top of the hill, with a astonishing nightly view over the busy, never-sleeping city, a million of lights in the sky and thousands of lights in the streets. Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to wish for a golden donkey, but it was a great night nonetheless.
Bene left the 4th of November and Caroline the 6th, after that it was time for us to make our way out of Europe. Finally. We not-so-carefully went through our stuff to send all the beachy summer things back home to make room for our freshly arrived winter gear. We encountered one huge setback in Athens which left us a little nauseous. During our stay, Yuri’s and Oli’s bicycle got stolen in front of the hostel where we were staying. We locked them with a big motorcycle lock and behind a fence, but this was not enough to stop the persistant thieves. We suspect they just lifted both bicycles and put them in a van while noone was around.
It must have happened in broad daylight, while Stef and Anton were on their quest for ferry tickets. They arrived at the hostel and they noticed the bikes weren’t there anymore. Carrying their bikes on their shoulders to the 2nd floor, they rushed up the stairs. As they saw Oli and Yuri sitting on their beds they puffed out a ‘Oh no you guys are here’, under a loud breathing. ‘Yeah ofcourse we are, why?’ – ‘Because the bikes downstairs are gone we suspected you guys were in town but if you are here that means…’
And so the mess started. Yuri and Oli took the necessary measures and began their search for a new bike. We decided not to dwell on our losses and made the best of our time in Athens, because if the milk has gone sour, we like to wait for it to become cheese. So we split up again, two bikeless cyclers going to Istanbul to find 2 new prime steel steeds, while Stef and Anton made their way there slow and steady. This way we can enter Asia together as a team, and put our tires on the tracks of the Silk Road in ancient Byzantium together, with the 2 new bikes.
So on the 8th of November at 4h00 P.M, we found ourselves sitting in our hammocks on the deck of the ferry, watching the European mainland fade behind us in the distance. We’d reach Chios, a Greek Island only a few km’s from Turkey, at 6 o’ clock in the morning. Zeus tried one last time to bring us down with a 8 beaufort strong storm at sea, but we faced him with a glass of wine in our hand and a smile on our face. Nonetheless, on the 10th of November, 4 Belgians set 8 feet and only 4 wheels on the Asian continent, ready to continue the journey towards Shanghai.