Thursday, March 06, 2008

The One Leg Lift

The Greeks. They are known for the Olympics. They are known for muscular Greek Gods. Not to mention, they are known for the marathon. But what happened between ancient times and today?

The main exercise in modern Greece appears to be the one leg lift. Once on the motorcycle, there is no turning back for the average Greek. Who needs to walk down a sidewalk when you can motor down it instead? Everywhere I went in Greece I had to dodge motorbikes and cars—even on the rare “pedestrian only walkway”. There are still streets in Greece that actually still have lanes painted like running tracks, but the only things running on them are engines.

Motorcycle driving and also motorcycle parking take place on sidewalks, making pedestrians forced to walk anywhere but. Some places, like the island of Mykonos, don’t even bother with sidewalks, because really, what’s the point if they are just used to drive on?

It’s really quite the switch, after getting used to Switzerland, where, if there’s a pedestrian within 2 feet of a sidewalk, a car stops dead in its tracks to let them cross. And there are more hiking trails than roads.

But in Greece, even dogs don’t go for walks. They go for rides. See the above photo taken in Athens for proof.

And they start the kids driving young. As you can see by the first photo, taken on the island of Aegina.

If there’s a mom and three kids and only one motorbike, no worries. They all ride together, the youngest kid perched precariously on the very back of the bike. It makes U.S. seatbelt laws seem rather anal. I’d add a photo of this, but the bike was going too fast for me to capture it.

So if you want a muscular Greek, head to the museum. That’s the only place where you can do two things—see a Greek not on a motorbike—and walk a few kilometers without getting run over.

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