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Greek Meals on Wheels

Bits and stories about World Bike for Breath. A Bulletin for sponsors. Volume 1. June 2003
Written on the ferry from Greece to Italy June 1, 2003

Feeding a family of four pedaling 30 miles a day over the constant climbs and drops of the Greek coast has been--er-- extremely challenging! I have rapidly developed a very functional food vocabulary in Greek: "Poso kano afto?" (how much is that?), "Meso kilo feta parakalo" (half a kilo of feta cheese please), "Ena litro nero" (a liter of water), or "Tessera spanikopita" (four spinach pies) are becoming the staples of my vocabulary.

We consume on an average day almost two kilos (four pounds) of bread, half a jar of nutella, three tomatoes, one long English cucumber, 100 grams of feta cheese, 2 kilos of oranges, apples, bananas or occasional pears, 1 liter of fruit juice, 200 grams of salami, and a pound of macaroni with tomato sauce, sprinkled with 200 grams of parmesan cheese or Greek sausage. To help us over the hills we add various sweets such as Greek chocolate (somewhat edible), a variety of sickly flavored cookies with fake strawberry, raspberry or chocolate filling (which the kids and Lorenz like, but I find inedible), many types of fun ice-cream bars (Anyas favorite--please note that Italian computers do not have an apostrope hence the lack), loukoum (a very sweet flavored version of Turkish delight), or peanut and sesame honey bars (packed with calories-- they survive the 90 degree days in my handlebar bag much better than chocolate). This has been our diet for three weeks now. All the stores sell the same food and products, although at varying prices depending on the number of tourists--simple, wholesome, and unvarying.

Occasionally we park our tandems in front of a little bakery or snack bar along the way and pick up spanikopita (spinach pies), tyropita (cheese pies) or gyros (meat in pita bread). And for a rare treat we take a shower, put on our cleanest set of clothes (often a challenge smelling which ones are the least offensive) and eat dinner in a local taverna, ordering roast chicken, fish, souvlaki, or a tasty but standard list of Greek dishes such as dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), moussaka (like lasagna), pastitsio (rice shaped macaroni in tomato sauce), or stuffed eggplant and tomatoes. While the menus never vary, the locations and ambiance of the restaurants provide constant new attractions: some on rooftops with twinkling lights overhead and Greek street songs wafting up from the passersby below, others in seculded patio gardens with arbors of grape leaves or brilliant red bourganvilla flowers cascading from above, and yet others on hillside terraces, overlooking the night sounds and sparkling lights of coastal villages strung like the amber and silver stones of Greek worry beads along the Mediterranean. Dinner is never fashionable before seven and oftgen busiest around ten in the evening after the sun has finally ceased its relentless heat and the air is cool and filled with the scent of jasmine, roses and honeysuckle.

Due to their extreme affordability Lorenz and I have tried out various Greek wines, which given their strength and our low tolerance for alchohol, generally get carried in our water bottles for a day or two until we finally finish them. Often, however, they become too potent for anyone but Zeus and get poured out to cleanse the Greek water system-- that like the filthy roadsides certainly is in need of some cleansing. On hot afternoons when the heat becomes too unbearable and sweat pours down from our backs and foreheads, washing suntan lotion into our eyes and matting our hair, we retreat to one of the many outdoor cafes, covered with cooling canopies and sip limonada and frappes (iced coffee) while writing postcards to our growing list of friends and sponsors.

One cafe in particular stands out in the annals of cyclists heaven (sorry about the missing apostrophe). On a 95 degree afternoon pedaling along the windless coastline of Kos Island in the Dodecanes, a lone building with the sign "Pool Bar" appeared along with the enticing subheading "Swimming Free". Intrigued we turned our tandems into a shaded patio with flower decorated tables, and-- to our great joy--a swimming pool for cafe guests!

Indeed while our meals may be simple, predictable and not always completely filling (competition for the last piece of bread, last bite of salami and last sip of juice can reach Olympic proportions), the settings of our repasts are always memorable. Whether a campground breakfast of bread and coffee cooked on our Whisperlite stove and eaten sitting on trash bags while overlooking the sea of olive trees in the valley below the temples of Delphi; a picnic lunch of Greek salad eaten in a pebbled beach cove with a view of the blue and pink terraced houses in the tiny fishing village of Kokori on Samos Island; or a dinner of chicken, fried sardines and stuffed tomatoes on the rooftop of an ancient medieval house perched within the massive stone walls and narrow arched passageways of the beautifully preserved walled city of the Knights of Saint John in Rhodes, each meal, like each mile pedaled has added another unforgettable bead to the string of memories that we count like the old men in black coats, fondling their worry beads at backgammon games in the shade of a street corner on a quiet lazy afternoon.

The Eber Family

Updated: June 7, 2003

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