Wednesday, 27 July 2011


Well, what an experience it's been so far! The sights I've seen and the wonderful people I have met. But after 3 months on the road and having cycled over 3 mountain ranges I have decided to take a short break to recover and prepare myself for the rigours of Asia.

Therefore, I will not be writing a blog for a little while but will start updating again when I have recovered and had a short rest from cycling and touring. So please don't go away, I will be back on the blog very shortly with more tales and photos and resuming my journey from where I left off. Watch this space! That was part one -I have cycled across Europe - now, part two will resume shortly. Back with you all soon,


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Salad Days And Dog Days

Old man of the mountain - Metsova Pindos Mountains

Dogs seem to be a recurrant theme during these travels. I was the victim of my fourth dog attack in the Pindos mountains the other week. An enormous mangy shephard dog charged at me growling and snarling as I cycled a lonely road through the mountain. Up until now none of these attacks have amounted to much. A bit scary but it's been all bark and no bite. They really just warn you off. But this one seemed more determined and got within a few inches of my exposed ankle. I always cycle on as I know they will very soon give up when I am out of their territory and I know its always the bike they dislike not the human. But this one was more agrressive and manged to take a lunge at my panniers causing the bike to swerve slightly out from under me. But I clung on and kept cycling and I knew as I was going downhill that he would eventually give up- which he did. I know these dogs aren't interested in me - it really is the bike they are not comfortable with which is why I cycle on past these charges. However that was a heart-stopping moment and one which I hope I won't have to experience again. I'm buying a water pistol in case it happens again as dogs hate having water squirted at them. But I'm getting fed up with these chases and perhaps now I have crossed the mountains, that's the last of them.
But I bear no grudge, they are just protecting their herds.

old man of the mountain- Pindos Mountains

Then of course there are the cute dogs and animals to compensate for the bad times. While crossing the Pindos I stopped at a cafe and this lovely brown female dog siddled up to me and judging by the look of her, still giving milk to her pups safely tucked away somewhere nearby. She was so affectionate and came up and put her head on my knees, and looked up at me with huge soft brown eyes. But she was so thin, every rib showing through her skinny body. I could have scooped her up and taken her home with me. But I didn't. I spent 3 euros and bought her a cheese sandwich. She devoured it almost in one go - turning her nose up at the bread, but ate it anyway - you never know where your next meal is coming from!But she was lovely and I decided to call her Tessa - as I am now in THessoloniki - a city named after one of Macadonia's most famous heroes- Alexander - and the city he named after his sister - Thessoloniki - so her shortened name is Tessa. I hope she fares well.

Village woman collecting conifer cones by the roadside - Pindos mountians

But along with the dog days there are the salad days. Not only the Greek salads, which are wonderful and tasty but also the sights and places and experiences I am having on this wonderful trip. I stopped off in Kalambaka the site of the Meteora cliff top monasteries.
Perched precarioiusly atop vertical rocks, they are magnificent and stunning to see

carpet seller and her grandaughter in IoanninaVacant possession - unfinished house in Pindos mountains

Alexander's statue on Thessoloniki's harbour

And then there was the mountain town of Metsovo, clinging almost vertically to the mountainside. The houses were reminiscent of an Alpine village with stunning views and sheer 200 ft drops from their balconies. Metsevo was where I had my first problem with my bike. The brakes needed adjusting badly before cycling out the next day. I was heading for the Kavala pass adn knew there were some very long and and steep downhill sections. My brakes had to be in perfect condition, so I caught the bus back into Ioannina where the man in the bike shop fixed them in a few minutes. That meant spending an extra day in Metsovo which I didn't want to do. But out of adversity came good fortune. The first day I had not had the time to visit the art gallery as it was closed by the time I got there, so by having my brakes fixed, I managed to see some of the fine art housed there.

Rubbish fly tipped down the mountainside - Pindos- the only scar on the landscape

Another disgraceful view

The road I cycled over the Pindos - this was only a third of my journey that day. Just up and up all the way to Metsovo - but stunning views.

The top of the mountain - downhill all the way from here.

The spectacular Pindos


Well, I am now in Thessoloniki. I had to save money so I caught the bus from Grevena to here. I decided that the towns and landscape between held no interest and it saved me 4 nights accomodation. That meant I could stay in Thessoloniki for 3 days to see the sights. One of the delights of Thessoloniki are the charming Byzantine churches nestled in between the high rise flats and the Gucci shops. I also took a bus ride to the town of Pella to see the ruins of the ancient town and the place of Alexander's birth and where he grew up. Tomorrow I am taking another bus ride out to Veria where the museum there holds Alexanders's father, Phillip's tomb and Macadonian gold.

While here in Thessoloniki, I have been keeping yup to date with Greek news. Their cumbling economy has been dominating the news and when I get tired of that I flick channels. One channel is entirely devoted to traditonal Greek dancing. Slowly they turn one way then th e other and to my English eyes, it never seems to change. To me its like River Dance on valium.

Oh well, everything else Greek is wonderful - especially their salads!

A few more photos to browse below: cyling on Tuesday towards Kavala.


(paintsandpedalsblog and all photographs copyright Deborah Anne Brady: all rights reserved)

My 'Alpine' hotel - Metsovo

my view from hotel in Metrsovo


aRT at Ioannina GREECE

The Cloth Hall -Ypres

Artist painting Van Gogh scene - Auvers sur Oise France

Metsovo art

Art from Mestsovo Greece

Donatello's Magdalene

Donatello's Magdalene

Venetikos River GREECE

Monastery at Kalambaka Greece

Mateora Monastery - Kalambaka Greece

Colosseum Rome


monastery carved into rocks - Meteora Italy

Meteora new town - Italy

Meteora at night - ITALY

free runner in Thessoloniki

Dog days

humans imitating dogs or the other way round?


fishing boats Iougiminsta Harbour GREECE

Meteora - Italy

Brindisi Harbour Italy

My favourite Byzantine church Agiois Georgioius in Thessoloniki

Not all the roads are good

Thessoloniki Harobour

Thessoloniki Harbour - the last photo in this blog

Friday, 1 July 2011

Does It Get Any Better Than This?...

And so into Greece.....
Ioanninian street Greece

My Brazilian friend, Ana, who I met on the train to Rome

Fishing boats at Igoumenitsa -Greece

Brindisi harbour Italy. Next stop - Greece

The long and winding road. I had cycled from beyond the mountains in the distance. And this was only 23 miles into a total of 57 miles that I eventually and very slowly cycled that day from Igoumenitsa to Ioannina.

The columns marking the end of the Appia Antica in Brindisi harbour , Italy

Ruins of a monastry in Ioannina Greece

Byzantine church in Ioaninna with the mighty Pindos Mountains behind

my favourite combination, a gorgeous Greek, (Constantinos), a camera shop and a fellow cyclist.

Ioaninna Greece

The long and winding road: top of the mountain from Igoumenitsa onward to Ioaninna


Well, I had to transport the inflatable somehow by bike to the beach!

I thought that cycling the Appia Antica, the original Roman road leading from Rome to Brindisi was the highlight of my tour. The history of the road was all encompassing with the cobbled surface, the ruins of elaborate Roman tombs lining the road, this, the Queen of Roads, that the Romans built to travel south east to Brindisi on the coast. The Via Appia Antica was also the scene, now marked by a small church, St Peters, where the apostle was escaping from Rome

Does it get any better than this?

along the Appia, when he saw a vision of Christ and uttered those imortal words, 'quo vardis domine' (where are you going Lord?) The road was full of history but even this has been surpassed by other sights as I travel further on my journey. Every day there are new

Left to Right: Connie, Hollie, me, Peggy Rose the Pickler : my lively and wonderful American dinner companions

experiences and everytime I think to myself, 'it can't get better than this' : it does!

But this journey is a cycle ride and its not always easy. Sometimes, as in Tarranto where the temperature hit 37 degrees, I wondered why I chose to cycle. However, that feeling doesn't last long especially when, as yesterday, I cycled over the mountains up from the Greek port of Iougmenitsa, savouring the spectacular views. It was a very slow journey yesterday, as out of the 57 miles I cycled, 47 of those were uphill, with some very steep hair pin bends in oppressive heat in the afternoon. But I am a much fitter and stronger cyclist now and although tired by 7pm when I reached Ioaninna, I loved the ride, stopping to look at the mountain scenery, and having lots of refreshment breaks to give myself a breather and cool down.

When the cycling does get hard, I just cheer myself up with thoughts of all the great people I have met on the trip so far. When I hit a particularly long uphill section yesterday, I just thought back to when I stopped in Brindisi in Italy before catching the ferry over to Greece. On my last afternoon, I went to my favourite ' Betty's Cafe', a lovely harbour side restaurat and was invited over by three lively American ladies, Connie, Hollie and 'Peggy Rose, 'the Pickler' . We all had such a good laugh and I really enjoyed their company for a couple of hours.

I eventually arrived in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa at 3 am in the morning, so I spent a couple of hours chatting to the bar man in the terminal cafe until dawn and decided to catch the ferry over to Corfu. Just a day trip but needed more time and I had to get back to Igoumenitsa to book a hotel. Then I decided I needed a day off and found a lovely little sandy beach just a mile away from the hotel. So I spent the day on the beach (very unusual for me - I am not a beach person) and had the most wonderful day. While I floated and bobbed around on the clear aquamarine sea on my newly aquired inflatable,letting the sun coat me in its warmth,and then drying off on the beach, I just kept thinking to myself , 'does it really get any better than this?'.
I had probably one of the most relaxing days I've had in a very long time that day, finished off with a long cold beer and a club sandwich at the beach side bar.

Then arriving in Ioannina - a bustling charming town with a beautiful lake nestled beneath the mighty Pindos mountains- my next challenge -I am having a few days rest here, enjoing the lakeside cafes, the shops and the Byzantine churches.

So I'm resting up in preparation for my crossing the Pindos Mountains tomorrow. It will be 35 miles uphill with some steep hair pin bends: the roads cutting through the sides of the mountains. A hard day ahead. I'm hoping to leave just after dawn to get to Mestevo by early afternoon. Looking forward to the spectacular views. I'm really enjoying Greece and yet again, the people are so friendly and helpful. I bought a small camera here today and met the lovely Constantinos, the shop assistant who sold me the camera. Tell me somebody - does it get any better than this?!


(paintsandpedals and all photographs copyright Deborah Anne Brady; all rights reserved)