Sunday, April 8, 2018
Happy Easter to the orthodox christians here in Greece! While I am sure all of my friends and family in NA enjoyed their Easter holiday, the Greeks are just getting around to it this weekend.
On Friday night I went to Athens centre to see all of the festivities and watched three different processions for a few minutes, but quickly recalled one of my key personality traits. I don’t like crowds, and especially crowds full of religious people where fanatics are more likely. I watched from a distance really and walked a lot, allowing me to see three different processions at some stage of progress. I didn’t see anyone nailed to a cross so maybe they are not as obsessive here as I had assumed.
Yesterday I skipped the festivities. I saw a lot of fireworks at midnight from the boat and peeling bells, but the crowd thing is a big deal to me.
Today I expected everything to be closed up tight and so planned a longish bike ride. Boy I get these things wrong so much. I am typing this from a Pizza Hut (first time in about 15 years and now I remember why. The pizza is really bad!) having just finished a 180km ride. Half the country is open. And I didn’t see anyone at church this morning and I rode past about 200 of them.
I did get my hopes up for the believers though. I came racing back into the city at almost exactly 6pm and as I turned the corner toward the boat every bell in Piraeus started peeling in celebration. I figured maybe Jesus showed up again, but after a minute or two they all stopped again, so it was a false alarm apparently. I assume they will try again tomorrow for the resurrection. (Okay all you believers, I am joking).
I decided to put in a long ride today, with good weather (it was cold and rainy yesterday for the first time in a while), and my expectations that everything would be closed. Jinhee asked that I take pictures. More evidence that my readers are actually viewers and just here for the pictures.
This dead end was at the top of a really, long steep climb. Good start to the morning!
So I tried some new route ideas and they can be summed up in a single word, ten letters.
My plan was to just go easy and see where the road took me and that saved me from great frustration after hitting one dead end after another and bizarre one way streets. The wind was ferocious again, particularly as I reached higher altitudes.
When I ride, I enjoy not thinking, but routing in Athens and environs requires significant thought. After taking a few pictures and discovering some new areas, I turned south and returned to the boat for lunch to reduce the stress of trying to go in a particular direction. I will perhaps try some new routes again tomorrow assuming light traffic in the morning (as they would take me through the city centre likely).
From there I went back out to climb towards Thiva. Still super windy, but the climbs are kinda fun and the return (descent) is amazing. In the end I completed just under 180km and did enjoy the bike without working too hard. I will probably try to repeat tomorrow because the city will be shut (I am sure it won’t, it’s the most holy day in the Christian calendar, why would the city close. They’re all heretics!)
One of the more interesting aspects of religion here is how ingrained it is in the culture. People cross themselves when they pass churches (year round, it seems not just on holy days). Some do it twice and I wonder what they are trying to make up for, but it would surely be impolite to ask that. Meanwhile it is not uncommon to watch men walking around with a small set of prayer beads. They play with them like fidget spinners,so I wonder if it’s for image or if they are saying prayers.
As I rode today I was surprised by the number of animals that have died for this holiday. It would be an understatement to say that baby lambs were being roasted on spits over open flames at every intersection. It definitely smelled good everywhere. It is clear tonight will involve a lot of family and community celebrations. (No, really I am talking hundreds, possibly more than a thousand were viewed in 8 hours on the bike. Not to mention roadside barbecue sellers, roadside charcoal sellers, and streets blocked for roasting spits with animals cooking at 10am. It’s a big thing.)
Time to stretch and perhaps sleep.