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Musings from a Greek Bicycle Tour
Ellen Kolovos

The second day, much like every other day, is my favorite. Eight eager bicyclists, aware of new muscles from our first day on the bikes in the Greek countryside, wake up early. Outside we hear the roosters and sheep bells around the hotel Alkion. Still sleepy, we pull our bikes out from behind the hotel and take off for the theater of Epidore. Less than one kilometer away, the theaterapostrophes 15,000 empty stone seats have survived for 2,500 years in this bucolic setting. We stop at the coffee stand on our way in, pass the guards still huddled over their own cups of thick Greek coffee, lock our bikes at the gate and buy the colorful entrance tickets. By now I’m hoping we are first. We usually are, but I am never sure until we are actually here.

The theater is impressive, never failing to take my breath away. Almost speechless, we scatter throughout the stone seats, some of us jogging to the very top row, others hovering along the stage, all of us wondering why so many seats were needed in ancient times in what seems such a remote setting. We are so few, hardly noticeable in this enormous capacity, our blue biking jerseys colorful dots against the white marble. Itapostrophes cool and quiet and we are very much alone, immersed in the ancient setting of Antigone, Lissistrata, and the other works of Sophocles and Aristophanes.

Our ceremonial begins. One of us stands in the center of the circular stage and drops a coin. Everyone else, still sparsely scattered throughout the marble seats, choruses that they’ve heard it. The one in the center speaks softly, saying there is no need to shout. We hear each other perfectly. Right stage talks to the top row and top row answers back to prove that the perfect acoustics extend beyond center stage. Then we drop a pin. Yes, even that whisper of a noise is crystal clear to everyone. If we are lucky, someone is moved to sing or to deliver a soliloquy and the theater, in all its magnitude, reveals its intimacy. Such perfection. Such eloquent elegance.

Then just as we are about to slip into antics of ancient gods and goddesses, the cacophony begins. Bus number one, usually German, arrives and 60 people invade our sanctuary. Quickly buses number two, three and four follow and the tourists of varying nationalities triple. By bus number five, we have come to our senses and escape the invasion. We return to the gate feeling like we are moving downstream in an upstream flow of spawning salmon. We find the guards wide awake, unlock our bicycles and ride the short distance back to the quiet of our hotel. Yiannina brings hot coffee, fresh baked rolls, creamy country yogurt with honey and nuts on top and some semblance of orange juice. And once again we are alone, far from the crowds of foreigners who invade only a narrow ribbon of the Greek countryside, to see only the most notable sights as they descend for short periods of time from their posh, bubble-windowed buses.

The memory of the morning lingers and I do, too. Yiannina brings me another cup of hot coffee and I watch the first of the cyclists take off down hill to Naphlion. One of my sons rode out earlier, chalking the route. The other is gathering a couple of strong cyclists to climb a hill in the opposite direction and follow a back route into Naphlion along jagged rocky cliffs high above the sea. The boys will meet just outside of town on the rocks of one of our favorite swimming places after lunch. Some cyclists will join them. Others will be on the hill above the city at the castle and a few will be either writing post cards in the town square or shopping at Mariaapostrophes, my favorite jewelry store along the route.

I need to end this peaceful morning. Yiannina and Alekos help me load the luggage into the van. I pay the bill and kiss each family member on both cheeks as we say goodbye, knowing I will see them again next tour. A tear runs down little Dimitraapostrophes face. She felt so special showing her guests, our cyclists, her favorite Greek dance last night. She has learned the art of getting them to join her. Her grandmother (for whom Dimitra is named) reminds me that the baby lambs will arrive in time for the next tour and we can feed them. Last minute, she hands me a gallon of olive oil, pressed from their own groves. It is the very best oil I have ever tasted. My mouth waters just thinking about the simple dinner last night -- fresh garden vegetables stuffed with rice and baked in the oven with this golden liquid of the gods.

The tour will continue winding through the back roads along the sea and through the mountains at a leisurely pace. Mycenae, Old Corinth, and Olympia are among the ruins we will explore in the days ahead. Other special families who own and run their small hotels are down the road waiting to see us. The grandmothers will spoil us and the children will be sad to see us leave. Our muscles will get a workout and that will be our excuse to overeat the wonderful Greek dishes put before us. But it is the human touch found in both ancient and modern civilizations, not the distance on the cyclometer or the hours of peddling, that will remain with each of us on this bicycle odyssey across the Northern Peloponnese.

Ellen Kolovos, a third-generation Coloradan, is a managing owner of Active Adventures. She has traveled around the world five times visiting over 40 countries. Her favorite is Greece, which she has visited regularly for over 30 years with her Greek husband and bi-cultural bicycling family. Together they run bicycle tours in Greece (June/September). Her full-time job during the academic year is in Boulder with Semester at Sea, an around-the-world shipboard education program sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh. Web information: www.activeadventures.com or www.semesteratsea.com. Email: info@activeadventures.com or sas@colorado.edu. Phone: 303-469-2070 or 303-492-5351.or www.semesteratsea.com. Email: info@activeadventures.com or sas@colorado.edu. Phone: 303-469-2070 or 303-492-5351.

www.activeadventures.com or www.semesteratsea.com. Email: info@activeadventures.com or sas@colorado.edu. Phone: 303-469-2070 or 303-492-5351.or www.semesteratsea.com. Email: info@activeadventures.com or sas@colorado.edu. Phone: 303-469-2070 or 303-492-5351.