Greece is a religious country. We notice that the first day we cycle into the country. It is Sunday and all supermarkets are closed. But we also notice it by the many churches, both Catholic and Greek Orthodox. In every village there's at least one, all maintained to a high standard and it seems to us that recently new ones have been built as well. Next to that there are dozens of miniature churches along the roads. Often there are pictures of saints, prayer books, icons and candles in it.
Still, I'm thinking on my bike that a religion teacher doesn't have it easy here. In Belgium and the Netherlands it is easy to describe 'the Heaven’: a place where the sun always shines, it is never cold, the sea is beautiful azure blue and the beaches consist of pearl white sand. A place where people are nice to each other and have time for each other and where there is no stress. A place where the Bougainvillea is in bloom and where you can pick fresh fruit from the trees everywhere: bananas, pomegranate olives, figs, different kinds of citrus fruits and watermelon, although the latter does not grow on a tree. As a Dutch child I would have a good image of heaven and perhaps even long for it. But a Greek child will not be very impressed. He will ask himself 'What's new?' and then take a nice dip in the lukewarm sea with his friends.
For me Greece at least approaches the image I have of Heaven, although in my Heaven there are no tourists on quads. The food is delicious, although I must point out that after two months of cycling my reference is food that is prepared in two pans on one burner and the variation is gone by now.
We decide to cross the Peloponnese in two days. We know in advance that it's going to be tough, it's far from flat and the distance is about 200 kilometres. Soon after we've left the coast, the nameplates are only mentioned in Greek script. Along the coast the names were also written in Latin, but because there are no more tourists inland, the need for Latin names is no longer there. And because there are no tourists, there are no campsites inland either.
After a day of climbing we arrive in Vitina, a village more than a kilometre above sea level. Here we have booked a room in a family hotel just outside the village. The prospect of having our own room after - on the day off - two months of camping, stimulated us to take the last few climbs, albeit on our gums, as well.
A private room, a roof over our heads! What a luxury! Last two months we have always been outside, except for sleeping. We start with a shower. Normally we always have to take care that our clean clothes don't get wet in the shower cubicle, but now we can just leave them on bed! On the same bed are two towels, per person! We each have one towel in our bags, a towel that can best be compared to a large chamois. It folds compactly, dries quickly, can be used - well wrung out - even when it’s wet, but has the comfort of a, well, chamois... And now we each have two large, soft, wonderfully fresh-smelling towels at our disposal. So I take my time to dry myself off. In fact, I just dry myself twice. What a pleasure!
Then we don't have to spray ourselves with anti-mosquito stuff. There are mosquito nets in front of the windows and there is not even one mosquito inside!
And then that bed! Although we wash our paint bags and pillowcases regularly, we can't deny that they are a bit filthy after all and we can't get them completely clean anymore. But now a bed with wonderfully freshly washed bedding and a normal good pillow; not an inflatable pillow that we are used to in the meantime.
In the common room there are several classic armchairs. I sit down in one and intend not to come out for the time being. What a pleasure! Because of our outdoor life we have only been sitting on weatherproof materials for the last two months: stone, plastic and wood. And because of our efforts, the amount of fat on our buttocks, among other things, has been reduced to zero. Hard materials nowadays feel twice as hard, so the enjoyment of an armchair with soft cushions ... Indescribable!
And when we go out for diner, we don't have to ask ourselves what we do with our valuables. We can just leave them in our room; we only have to bring the key and wallet with us!
The latest review about our hotel on Google is by a Dutch woman: 'It's clean, but that's all there is to it'. In fact she's right; it's a simple hotel, the room isn't big and everything is outdated. But for us, after two months of camping, it really feels like a piece of Heaven on earth!