The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Thursday, July 24, 2014

South Greece

Greece is very, very rugged. The mountains are steep and craggy, and the streams that should flow down the valleys are all dried up.  I rode up a twisty mountain road to get to a highly recommended cog railway.

It went through a very narrow gorge with several tunnels and a deep ravine on each side. I sat up front to watch how the driver did it. I think I could drive one of these trains myself.

When we got to the steepest sections, the train went on automatic and slowed way down. A gear located somewhere in the middle of the train hooked onto the cogs in a middle rail and chugged us along at glacial speeds.

The driver didn't have to do anything after that. The train just sort of went on automatic pilot.

After the train ride, Odysseus and I continued riding on down toward the south of the Peloponnesian Peninsula. This is the land of myths----

Look, Odysseus, we are close to Mycanae---

What's Mycanae, Ron.

Don't you read, boy? Mycenae is where Ulysses'  friend Agamemnon was from.

I can't read, Ron. I'm too young. Besides, who's Ulysses?

Ulysses was the guy I named you after. His Greek name was Odysseus, and he was a hero in the Trojan War. You remember, we went to Troy when we were in Turkey a few weeks ago.

I remember that Paris stole Helen and took her to Troy. The Greeks launched a thousand ships to get her back.

Yes, and the ships were led by Agememnon who came from just up the road.

His city it just a bunch of ruins now, but he lived here almost 2,000 years before Jesus. Like in the time of Moses. Look at this wall around Mycenae.  Nobody could lift those rocks, so the Greeks made up a story: they said that giants with one eye named Cyclops built the wall.

Gotta be careful of the roads around here. You never know when you might go around a hair-pin switchback and hit rocks in the road.

Look at this: my stupid GPS loves to take me down narrow lanes, but in this case it turned out very interesting because lining the road on each side are kilometer after kilometer of orchids, apples and limes mostly.

I was riding along at a pretty good clip when I felt a bug fly up my jacket sleeve. I guess it was a wasp, because before long it got tired of being up there and it stung the heck out of me. I smashed it through my jacket, so I never got to see exactly what it was.

I stayed the night near Sparta. There it is, way down in the valley. This is modern Sparta. The old Sparta disappeared almost 2,000 years ago. Where I am standing, by the way, is near where the Spartans brought babies that they thought were too weak to make good warriors when they grew up and left them to die. Pretty rough bunch, those Spartans.

Up here on the hill overlooking Sparta is a most interesting ruins built by the Byzantines about 400 years after Jesus died.  The name of the place is Mystras, if you are interested.

This place is quite the city. The Byzantines were the ones who built the big Christian churches in Constantinople. They started the Eastern Christian Church. This city on the hill over Old Sparta was so important back in those days that it was called "The Second Constantinople".

Here are some of the temple cats. Cats are everywhere in this country. I guess they like them.

This city is almost 2,000 years old, but it is still pretty cool. I like the old churches in it.

This double headed bird (Eagle?) is the symbol of the Byzantine Empire. I think it is supposed to symbolize East (Asia) and West.

The town used to be very active. There also used to be several monastery's there. Only one is left. It is home to a few very old nuns.

I guess the nuns kind of support themselves by doing needlework and selling it to tourists. I bought this (whatever it is) for my wife, Patrice, but please don't tell her because it is a surprise. Ha.

Eventually, the Ottoman Turks took over Constantinople and this Greek City as well (see how much I'm learning?). They mostly got rid of the Christian Churches in Istanbul, but not here.

I've been moving on south. The road up and over the mountains is interesting, but tough.

I am not sure if I really like, or really dislike switchbacks. I am on constant alert or cars and trucks.

I do think they are pretty.

I am taking my sweet time. I have to on some of these roads. I have been following the Mediterranean Coast, and the roads are narrow, twisty things. I think there is still a lot to see here in the Peloponnesian part of southern Greece, but I think my goal will be to head for Crete.

More later,

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