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Alpha & Omega. Greece, Athens, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes. Booking  Hotels, rentals, rent a car
Alpha & Omega. Greece, Athens, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes. Booking  Hotels, rentals, rent a car Alpha & Omega. Greece, Athens, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes. Booking  Hotels, rentals, rent a car Alpha & Omega. Greece, Athens, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes. Booking  Hotels, rentals, rent a car
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Safety matters

 



The roads in Greece
Forget everything you know about the roads in your country and get ready for a completely new experience (one that may shock you unfortunately...)

The roads in Greece are plagued with all the problems you can possibly imagine (and with all those you can’t...). The reason is that their construction is always allocated to the company that makes the lowest bid. Contractors will make very low offers to get the job, and then they will go on to build awful roads using the cheapest material they can get.

To make the asphalt they use limestone, the cheapest rock there is. After a year or two the limestone is totally smooth and the surface of the road is glassy and slides like hell.
They also use bitumen of the lowest quality and do not mix the asphalt ingredients in the right proportions. As a result, the asphalt may get softer in the scorching heat of the summer, or it may even melt in certain places, especially under the stand or your motorcycle!

To make things worse, they pave the roads with the thinnest layer of asphalt they can get away with. Naturally, the asphalt cracks and is eroded by water, and eventually it becomes full of potholes. They fix it and keep fixing it while new holes appear, until somebody decides that the road needs repaving and the bidding process starts all over again...

Another very objectionable practice is covering the new asphalt with white gravel. This is supposed to help the asphalt “stay in place,” but in fact it’s a way to cover up their sloppiness. After a while the gravel has disappeared from the middle of the road and gathered in heaps on both sides, especially at the turns. God help you if you miscalculate a turn and fall on these heaps! You can neither manoeuvre the bike nor stop.

Then again there are problems with the way roads have been designed. For instance, you will frequently encounter turns with an outward inclination, pools of rain water in the middle of the road, and worn off edges due to the lack of protective cement bars on the road sides.

You will also see a lot of signs warning you about “road works ahead,” or a detour you must take, or the low speed limit you must observe, only the signs have been forgotten since the project in question finished some years ago. Conversely, when road works are actually in progress, or there is a serious problem (a landslide or a collapse of the road surface, for instance), warning signs are conspicuously missing.

Problems with problem-warning
Too much sloppiness, unfavourable weather conditions, and, worst of all, lack of programming and funds for road maintenance, are the primary reasons there are so many potholes and “traps” waiting out there for you.
The authorities charged with road maintenance usually remember to intervene after the twentieth accident or so. Meanwhile, it is the people living in each area that will try to warn you of any problems, or the victims themselves... This they do with whatever means are available, so if you see any rocks, wooden boxes, trash bags, or cut barrels lying on the road, you should be alert to the possibility of a problem with its surface. Slow down and watch out for anything wrong; it could be a simple pothole or a total disaster!

The icon stands
Oftentimes you will see by the roadside some small, strange-looking iron boxes standing on four legs and having a cross at the top and the icon of a saint and a little oil lamp inside. These serve as shrines and are dedicated to the memory of loved ones who died in a car accident at that very site. Needless to say, it’s always a site where something should have been fixed, where the road needed repaving or a protective bar or a warning sign...
Consider the icon stands as the most reliable danger signals. The more icon stands you see, the more dangerous the road is in that place...

The signs
There are over 500,000 hunters in Greece. They all know how to shoot, or else wild animals would not have become so scarce... Where do they practice? On signs, of course! In the countryside especially, if you see a sign that hasn’t been shot chances are it was placed there the previous day or so...

Shot signs are particularly common in Crete, where it’s practically a custom for every male over fourteen to have at least two guns (from small handguns to 45 Magnums). Here you will no longer see signs with a few holes in them, but holes framed with a bit of sign!

One rifle shot is enough. The sign becomes full of scratches and little holes and rusts in no time, the rust eats up the paint, and after a few months the sign has gone to pieces. Reading it then resembles reading an ancient inscription, since from a few surviving letters you try to figure out the words.

But it is not only hunters who damage the signs. Drivers, too, have a way of destroying them by falling right on them. If that happens their fate is to lie there, since the authorities very rarely care to fix or replace them. Broken signs are an incurable disease with lots of casualties.

Yet even if a sign survives all the above, it will not be of much use to you unless you can read some Greek (nine out of ten signs are written in Greek, you see). If, on the other hand, a sign is in English it may confuse you even more, because you will often see many different spellings for the same word.
Finally, reading Greek road signs requires a discerning eye and a healthy imagination... This is because many of them (especially those at crucial intersections by some dreadful coincidence!) are handmade and found at the most incredible places. You may see them against a wall, on beams nailed on trees, hanging from a fence, lying on some rocks, or dropped on the asphalt!

Road fences
Mountains, hills, or islands, it makes no difference; wherever you travel in Greece, you will frequently follow dirt roads only to stop suddenly in front of a wire fence.
These fences do not mark the boundaries of private lands and are not there to stop you from passing. They simply enclose community pastureland and are there to stop the sheep and goats of the local shepherd. This means you can pass freely, although it’s a pretty cumbersome procedure: You must get off the bike, open the fence, cross to the other side, get off again, shut the gate behind you, and then continue.

Two things to remember: First, these fences are usually made of thin wire, have no reflectors or other warning device, and are not visible in the night. Second, you are entering a pastureland that’s visited not only by harmless sheep but by raging sheepdogs as well!

The sheepdogs
One hears terrible things about the sheepdogs that accompany the flocks on the mountain. They say that they are vicious and bloodthirsty; that their favourite food is the legs of motorcyclists; that they will jump on your motorcycle, grab you by the throat, and suck the marrow from your bones; and that they are the “piranhas of the mountains.” Of course, all this is somewhat exaggerated...

The fiercer they look and the louder they bark, the more cowardly they actually are. Forced to spend several hours in the wilderness, they are bored to death with the quiet of the mountain and are looking for a bit of action. And what better action than chasing the passing motorcyclist? So what looks like a fierce attack is actually just a game. Up to a point at least! Because if they do manage to frighten you they sense it immediately, and the game gets bolder and more serious, and you may get bitten.

If you don’t want to fool around with them slow down as they attack until you almost reach a stop. Dogs will typically respond by dropping the attack and leaving you in peace. If, however, they don’t go away but keep bothering you, get off your bike and start yelling or... barking at them (and see what happens!) If nothing else works, pick up a stone from the ground and pretend to throw it (or go ahead and do it).

As the Greek saying goes, “a dog that barks never bites.” However, just to be on the safe side, you may want to wear high leather boots and gloves when driving on the mountain!

Sheep and goats
Sheep and goats dominate the Greek countryside. You will see them almost everywhere in flocks that vary in size. If they are scattered about grazing not far from the road (say about 50 metres), or if they move along its sides in a flock, we suggest you slow down. It’s too difficult to predict their next move, and if it enters their sheep heads to cross the road they’ll do it immediately no matter what. And don’t be fooled: they may look like soft downy pillows from a distance, but if you collide with them it won’t be a happy experience!
How do you know there’s livestock in the area? Look for the warning signs with the cow and especially for the muck on the road.

Bees and bugs
In this country it is obligatory to wear a safety helmet. Those who make sure that the law is observed, however, are not the policemen (who will not only let you get away with it but sometimes don’t even wear their own helmets...) but the bees and flies!

They are found everywhere, they fly in clusters or individually, and you don’t see them except when they are already in your eyes! Flies are not really dangerous, but they are certainly annoying: You have to stop immediately and take the tiny thing out of your eye with a clean tissue. Do not rub your eye with your fingers while the bug is in there, or you’ll get it all irritated and probably for a long time.

If you... collide with a bee the price is heavier, especially if it gets you at a sensitive area such as the face or neck. Should this unfortunate thing happen to you, stop immediately, make sure the sting has come out (if not take it out carefully with a pair of tweezers), and put some anti-allergic oint-ment on your skin.

The best way to protect yourself from bugs and bees is to wear your safety helmet all the time (this is advisable anyway, and for more serious reasons). If, however, you do not want to use it for short distances, you must at least wear a pair of glasses and a scarf around your neck. And one last thing: if you are riding your bike and feel like yawning, do not forget to put a hand over your mouth...

Tourists on rented mopeds
The happy tourists on the rented mopeds bear a striking resemblance to bees and flies: they are seen in large numbers during the summer, they move around like crazy, and they’re suddenly in front of you before you have time to notice them. The difference is that colliding with them is much more painful!
Be careful, then, because most of the tourists who rent mopeds do not know much about them and drive dangerously. On top of that, the mopeds are often in a bad condition (worn out tyres and brakes). Attention must be paid especially on the islands during the night, because there are many drunk tourists driving and not always with their lights on.

Turtles and hedgehogs
If you think that those irritating drivers who stick to the left lane and drive like turtles are the only slow users of the road, think again. You’re probably forgetting the turtles and the hedgehogs, which live in this country in very large numbers, in spite of the countless victims they lose to the road every year. Their final speed (in the fastest models) is 1 km/h, and to cross a road that’s ten metres wide they need about five to six minutes including the stops for rest! What’s worse, their colour blends with the colour of the asphalt, so you need to be extra careful in case one of these cute little animals has decided to cross the street; if you run it over you may well lose control of your motorcycle.

Stolen motorcycles
“The swallows are back,” say the innocent bright-eyed school kids when spring is around the corner and the lovely birds appear in the sky wishing to spend the next few months with us.
“The swallows are back,” say the wicked motorcycle thieves when spring is around the corner and the lovely motorcyclists on the very expensive bikes appear in the country wishing to spend their holidays with us. And because of them, some of these tourists will return to their country earlier than planned and with their wings clipped...

Luckily, motorcycle thieves in Greece are few (far fewer, in fact, than their “colleagues” in Italy, Spain, or England) and they are also amateurs. Still, one should not ignore them.
Two basic reasons explain their preference for the bikes of foreign tourists: First, they are an easy target. Second, their victims will not stick around for long once their bike is stolen, but will take their helmet and whatever is left of their belongings and go back home, thousands of miles away. Your chances of finding your bike are extremely poor, unless it was taken by youngsters looking for a ride and was later abandoned somewhere out of the way.

On the whole, however, Greece does not have a very high crime rate. If you take some basic precautions there’s nothing to be afraid of. These include a safe lock and a well lighted parking place.

Source of the information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”, Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of Greece, click here.

 

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