The ferry dropped me off at the usual hard standing at six in the morning. It was light but no one was awake just us sturdy travellers, me with my bike, the truck drivers and a small platoon of people pulling wheelie bags. The cycling icon on Google Maps doesn’t work in Greece perhaps because they have no cycle paths. Having ridden from Igoumenitsa on the 18 to Plataria and then onto the coastal road, my first impression was the lack of relationship between the Greek motorist and me. It shouldn’t have to be so primarily subjective but I was the only cyclist on the road that I was aware about all day, so it was about them and me.
Until midday the road widened then narrowed with overspills of laid asphalt allowing me to scavenge a little more separation, but at worst I was balancing on the white line that separated voluminous amounts of traffic and a corridor of shrubs and bushes decorated with limp litter. The morning ride was like a celebration of torn plastic and squashed tin cans.
On the radio - phone to earbuds - architect Thomas Heatherwick is telling us that the way cities get built is a quiet global catastrophe affecting all our lives. Buildings he reports are too flat, too plain, too straight, too shiny, too soulless and too boring. The damage being done by the identikit modern urban environment, scattered across the world, is something I will start to see. You only have to look at nature to see how we have got it wrong so badly.
Coherence, homeliness and fascination describe the agenda he seeks in his building world and I was struck by the concept of ‘biophillic design’. Do check it out.
A Bit of Info
A 5 times greater polluter than that of aviation, 11% of all carbon emissions released into our planet biosphere is from newly constructed buildings most of us don’t like, many of which need to be rebuilt after 40 years. The Great Pyramid of Giza otherwise known as the Pyramid of Khufu took 78 million hours of construction, it’s still standing and there were less carbon emissions than that of 7 contemporary American homes. (Nb - need to re-check this extraordinary fact)
A billion square feet of buildings are demolished each year and yet here we are in Greece, cottages on the beach over a hundred years old and between here and Athens the narrative for antiquity - Ancient Corinth, Venetian Castle of Parga, Temple of Apollo still stand proudly and better than crumbly cement; 40 years v 2000 years, no contest.
After the town of Kanali I stumbled on the Amvakikos Wetlands National Park and because I’d done no specific route planning before I left, everything I saw came as a surprise.
Greece like Italy and others before is full of bland and demoralising buildings, classical effects such as Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian not only label a style but refer to the aesthetic development of Greek architecture itself. From what I see, thankful exceptions being isolated temples and the footprints of classical towns being dug up beside the road, it’s all cheapness most of which will be pulled down.
The bike is all about duration and it’s ability to withstand the treatment I give it to take it around the world. In the way concrete does not allure, the bike does. It has a sleekness and a style rapidly become an expedition machine. Operating a ‘U’ turn up a steep incline to record a piece of video I fall off and narrowly escape from fracturing a hand or arm. There are so many ways this trip could end badly and only one way where it will succeed.