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Weekend in the mountains

Many birch trees close together on the left side, I am looking at a picture filled with fog at night, a brown dirt road barely visible at the bottom. It looks like a japanese brush painting with the fog almost whitening everything out in the wide landscape format. But the picture is moving, the dirt road consists of many stones in irregular patterns, covered with wet mud. The 2CV's suspension is working hard to smooth out the bad mountain road. Dimitri, the driver of this 2CV, and myself, guest from far away Switzerland, we are paying full attention to the road ahead. The picture frame is the 2CV's windshield. Because of the fog we navigate mainly by following the tracks of the other 2CV's who drive in front of us. Even a small mistake would be catastrophic, the car might drop 100 meters down into the darkness if we took a wrong turn or slid in the mud. Despite the danger I am enjoying the intensity of the moment.

After many months I am again riding in a 2CV. Earlier in the day I had met my friend Aris from the greek 2CV club. At his home he introduced me to Dimitris who took me as a guest in his extremely well kept grey 2CV. His car is in great shape, both optical and mechanically, with the engine purring like a happy cat. Together we drove to the meeting point at the start of the National Road outside of Athens. At this point I also got introduced to the CB fun of the club. After half an hour a small convoy of 2CV's (and some boring modern cars) set out for the drive to the "Katafigio" (mountain shelter) in the mountains near Grammeni Oxia. More would follow on the next day. In the first part of the journey, on the big roads, we went through Dimitris CD collection. When we came to the smaller roads after Lamia, we lowered the volume of the music, paying more attention to the directions on the CB. Then we came to the real mountain roads. The music was stopped and our attention was on the picture of the road in the beam of our headlights glowing in the fog.

We safely reached the last stop, where the 2CV's assembled and we all got out. The last 150 meters to the Katafigio were impossible to drive. The mud was thick and wet. 4x4 Trucks had left deep tracks. The road was steep and the fog made it impossible to see ahead. The keeper of the Katafigio drove us up. Above the fogs line, we enjoyed a starry night and a heated house. What we had passed was not so much fog, but rather low hanging clouds. The stars and the clear moon suggested a sunny next day. Late in the evening it was, but we sat together, talked and ate a heartwarming meat soup.

I woke up to the sun shining on my face. The air was clear and opening my eyes I saw a breathtaking panorama of glowing sky over mountain ranges. I opened my sleeping bag and enjoyed the warm rays of the sun in the cold air. Late at night I had gone to the big sleeping room where I had put my bag into a comfortable bunk. But after rolling out my sleeping bag I had discovered that the room was much too hot for my taste. So I collected my things again as silent as possible, not to wake the sleepers. And then I asked the keeper to let me out to sleep outside in the night. He warned me that he would latch the door behind me, no way to come in again. So I was outside for the night in the mountains at 1740 meter in early November. But don't worry, I slept warm and cozy, my norwegian sleeping bag was taking care of that.

Saturday was filled with excitement. I started the day with greek mountain tea and rizogalo (milk rice). When everybody had woken up, we went on our first excursion. We left the 2CV's parked where they were and started to walk uphill. After a few minutes of walk our group was stretching out over the path. Frontmost were Aris two boys, always exploring the next hill and discovering that we were still not on top. Spooky (the dog of Dimitris Amourgis, president of the club) was running up and down between the small groups of wanderers. After half an hour we reached the point of view with an all round panorama. Below us on one side we saw the clouds that we had passed the night before. On every side the lines of hills and mountains were layered, each one milkier the further it was away. With the trees reaching up to maybe 100 meters below us and the mountain vegetation of herbs and grass it looked almost like Switzerland. I could have stayed at home!

The second excursion gave us and the 2CVs another good helping of mountain roads. This time we enjoyed the view without fog. Stopping a couple of times for pictures, we reached Artotina, where some of us had coffee while others ate in a friendly taverna. The food was simple, but of the good quality of home made food so typical for the greek country side far from the tourist venues. The tsatsiki is creamier, the lamb chops need less salt than in Athens, and with some luck you get an extra helping of mothers home made spinach pie, as we did.

We came back to find the house crowded with newcomers and sounding with happy welcome talk. The meeting of friends and talking went on straight into the evening party. We ate, drank, talked and danced till the early morning hours. I did not feel like a stranger, but more like a new family member. I was dog tired when I again took my sleeping bag to sleep under the stars.

Again we were driving in the darkness. Outside passed the coastline. Lights were glimmering on the "other side", some city on the Pelopones. In 3 hours we had descended almost 1800 meters to the sea level. We were following the coastline to the National Road that would bring us back to Athens. With light traffic we started cracking jokes over the CB. Despite my language problems I had lots of fun. (How many times had I asked Dimitri: "What did they say? What does that mean?")

We had started out as a big convoy, leaving the mountains on a different road. In Artotina we split up. The group I was with ate again in the taverna, while the others went to a road up in the mountains. As our group went down towards lake Mornou, we heard reports of muddy road adventures from the others. Apparently the road they had taken throught the mountains was much worse than they had expected. Even the 4x4 trucks had problems they told us.

The trip ended with reaching the familiar thick traffic of Athens. I was delivered to my doorstop, tired, dirty, but happy and thankful for the friendship and "filoxenia" (hospitality) of the greek 2CV club.