Anticipating our journey to Greece, we were expecting to see the whitewashed buildings with blue rooftops clinging to the coastline—the scenes that we knew from pictures. But those iconic sites are found only on two specific islands, and Greece has literally thousands of islands. We traveled the mainland and got to know the real country behind the postcard images. It’s mid-September when Fabio and I arrive in Athens, Greece’s capital and largest city. Some 5 million people live here; that’s half of the country’s population. It’s a bustling place. There are no high-rises along the skyline. Instead, faint-colored buildings with flat roofs dominate the view. Towering above the city on a flat-top rock, 492 feet above sea level, the Acropolis citadel, crowned by the Parthenon temple, can be seen from far away.
On the first morning after a hearty breakfast, we put on our walking shoes to explore the city. No trip to Greece would be complete without visiting the famous Acropolis. Once getting to the site, we walk up the many steps to the top of the rock. It’s a hot day and lots of tourists have come to visit. This great architectural and historically significant site is fascinating to see. The still standing mighty columns give a certain idea of how powerful and impressive the Parthenon must have been when it was completed in the 5th century.
In the shadow of the Acropolis and its ancient temples is the district of Plaka. Its narrow cobblestoned streets are lined with small shops selling jewelry, local art, and ceramics. We stop at one of the many sidewalk cafes to have our first Greek salad, made from vegetables, cheese, and souvlaki (grilled meat on a skewer) with tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber, and garlic sauce). We soak up the experience and the delicious food, and watch people walk by while we enjoy the beautiful day.
First Day of Riding
The evening before, we met with our guide, John Kapelakis, owner of MotoGreece. We had dinner with a group of guests from Australia that we’ll be riding with for the next 10 days. There were three couples who decided to explore Greece on motorcycles with us: Rebecca and Marco, Suzanne and Richard, and Fiona and Philip. It’s an adventurous group, and we are looking forward to riding together.
After a short briefing we get on our BMWs, heading northwest. We’re leaving Athens’ traffic behind; the farther we go, the less traffic there is. We ride through a big plain of farmland, passing potato, onion, and tomato farms. Olive trees line the road, and the landscape changes to rolling hills. We see windmills on the crests of the hills as we serpentine up the mountain. We’re heading to Delphi, located on the mountain, with a gorgeous view of the Gulf of Corinth.
The ancient town of Delphi, with its well-preserved ruins, is a popular tourist destination and has hotels, restaurants, and shops. A must-visit is the Archaeological Museum of Delphi. We walk through the museum and its excavations in the late afternoon, after most of the tourists are gone, and we have the place largely to ourselves.