28 July 2019

Journey To The Sea In Another Country

Yesterday, after visiting the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum, I rode the bike I'd rented to the sea.

Technically, that's true.  But not in the way I anticipated.

Manos, the co-owner of Athens by Bike, gave me a paper and "app" version of a route to ride to the Saronic Gulf, a.k.a. the Gulf of Aegina, which is part of the Aegean Sea.  I am sure he has taken that ride in the recent past.  But, as a New Yorker, I know that road conditions can change on any given day, without notice.  So I don't blame him for my ride not turning out quite as I'd planned.

I did indeed get to the Saronic/Aegean, more or less the way I'd planned. But I didn't quite see the coast in the way I'd expected.

Following Manos' directions, I followed one of the few bike paths in Athens.  For most of its length, it parallels a line of the city's Metro system to Piraeus, the port that serves much of the area.  From what Manos showed and told me, the path goes underneath a highway before reaching the shoreline and, at the shoreline, there's a bike/pedestrian path that follows the highway and sea.

Once I got to that highway, though, it seemed that there was no way to cross--except through an underpass with a side lane barely wide enough for most people's feet.  I took it, and found myself at the Athens Marina.  While it's not meant for folks like me, there is an area where couples stroll and (I assume) poor Athenians and immigrants fish.  I rode out to it.  The views from it, I must say, were pleasant enough.

As I returned to the path along the tracks, another delightful young Athenian woman called out to me.  "Excuse me, do you know how to get to the sea?"

Turns out, her nearly-flawless English came from her study augmented by a trip to the United States.  I guess I shouldn't find that so unusual.  What struck me, though, was that she was, in essence, asking me for directions--only two days after arriving in this city, and country.

She was trying to do exactly what I'd wanted to do--get to, and ride along, the sea on her bike.  She said she'd found the lane blocked.  Hmm...Maybe I'm not such a rube, or so hopeless at navigation, after all!

So, having been stymied, we decided to ride back together.  In another odd coincidence, she lives in the same neighborhood where I'm staying.  En route--about 12 kilometers--we shared a bit about our lives.  While she is an esteemed professional here in Athens, she shares many of the same struggles as other people in her native city and country--and of her age and gender.  

Since I was a somewhat-chauvinistic guy in my previous life, I promised to help her.  At least, I'd promised to help her in one specific way she requested.  When I told her I planned to take a trip to Delphi, I promised to ask the oracle what she should do about a particular dilemma she faces.

How could I do otherwise?  This might not be the best cycling country or city--at least, not yet.  But my limited cycling experience here has brought me into contact with two very intelligent women with whom I enjoyed riding and conversing.  I am perfectly willing to return the favors, however imperfectly!

Oh, and her name is Virginia--as it happens, the name of my beloved maternal grandmother.

1 comment:

  1. A long long time ago I visited Delphi. Arriving with just about half an hour before closing time and a threatening storm I still thought it worth a quick reconnoiter for the planned next days visit. The two of us rushed in and had the place almost to ourselves as thunder rumbled and light splashed through the clouds. Did I grab a camera? of course not, and I missed the best possible images from a four week trans Europe trip! Next day was hot, sticky and crowded and I forgot to ask the oracle why I had been so stupid.