Giannitsa, Greece: Still freaking out after yesterday’s two vicious dog chases, today I hustled across Northern Greece with a power and tempo unlike any other day on this Euro Cycle. Last night I dreamt about dog chases; I awoke this morning to the distant sound of howling dogs. I was warned by the inn keepers where I stayed that dogs are a problem in this part of Greece. In fact, tonight in the city center of Giannitsa I passed eleven dogs sleeping on one street corner.
So today I hustled, acutely scanning the rural farming landscape for any sign of danger while I pedaled fast and hard. I didn’t stop for photo opportunities. I rarely stopped for wee wee breaks, and when I did stop I chose strategic locations such as the middle of bridges. I even cycled through some red lights. It was stressful and most unenjoyable cycling.
Today I only saw a handful of untethered dogs, including a mean-looking pack of three, while I cycled. Thankfully, all ignored me. Perhaps they got the memo that I am armed with stick and stones and an extra water bottle (a greek cyclist told me yesterday squirting the dogs with water is a good defense). Or perhaps the dogs respect the sabbath. What matters is I covered 118 kilometers incident-free, crossing the cumulative 5,000-km mark early in my day.
I am still trying to form a balanced opinion on Greece. This is my third visit to the country but my first visit to the Greece off the tourist grid, outside of Athens and the islands. The landscape is mountainous and not particularly stunning. The towns I have passed through are all unremarkable and uninteresting to me. But the people are generally friendly and welcoming as I get further from the Macedonian border. Many motorists honk in support and drive responsibly around this cyclist. This morning the owner of the inn gave me an extra discount on my hotel stay because he respect my ride. In one town I went into a bar, the only open establishment on this Sunday, to buy some bottled water; it’s on the house, the owner said. And the food has been great — hearty and fresh and healthy. I have not eaten this joyfully since Italy. I am still trying to reconcile the Greece of the news headlines with the Greece I pass through, because life in the country appears unhurried and unconcerned.
Day 72: Florina — Giannitsa, Greece
Distance: 117.51 kilometers
Ascent: 568 meters
Weather: Just beautiful. The morning chill quickly dissipated.
Terrain: Hilly and rocky, with much bush and foliage along the road
Countdown to Istanbul:
Remaining Days: 10
Remaining distance: ~ 730 kilometers
TransEuropa 2011 Trip Summary:
Distance: 5,115.58 kilometers
Ascent: 37,307 meters
Countries: 15: Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece
Incidents: 6: flat tires on Days 45, 53 and 56; police reprimand on Day 2; two dog chases on Day 71