11 December 2016 – 3 February 2017
After a very cold ride from Istanbul, I arrived in Lefkada where I stayed with my couchsurfing friend Sonia in her grandmother's house on a hillside above town – a nice and fairly primitive house with stunning views of the Ionian Sea against the background of several mountain ranges.
December offered a cool and dry late autumn with mostly sunny days and blue skies, so it was lovely biking around town. However, not working on my blog since Uzbekistan, I spent almost all my time updating it until Istanbul to send out the New Year’s newsletter. Around New Year’s the weather changed radically and we suddenly got 10-15 cm snow and many consecutive days of frost (the most, locals could remember for at least 50 years). The house was built to stay cool during the hot summers and certainly not for staying during a cold winter. It was as cold inside as outside and the only heating sources were a woodstove and a fireplace. To conserve wood, we didn’t start fires until late afternoon, so the coldest days necessitated 3-4 layers of clothes even inside. Not exactly the pleasant warm wintering that most people (including myself) would expect from Greece. For me however, it was still luxury compared to being in my tent and I actually enjoy this primitive kind of life. The cold weather lasted some weeks and mid January, the temperature increased to 5-10C with mixed weather – some days sunny and others overcast with much rain.
A few days after arriving in Lefkada, I woke up with a numb right half of my right foot. It felt like having slept on the arm, but it didn’t disappear. Quite strange as I had experienced no twist, and it wasn’t swollen or bruised. The only unusual thing, was the foot being extremely cold while biking from Istanbul and many evenings it took 2-3 hours for the foot to get warm in the sleeping bag. Mid January, I went to the public hospital in Lefkada, which was quite an experience. The hospital looked like something from the 1950s and was completely run down. Three young doctors pierced my feet as pincushions so blood flowed. They assessed it was a minor blood clot and signed me up for x–ray, ultrasound and blood samples. It seemed unlikely, so I was relieved when an older, experienced doctor cancelled the “diagnosis” and asked them: “are you trying to kill him” (referring to the blood). He sent me to a neurologist next door and after a 3-minute examination, she sent me to an external neurologist for a test of my nerves. The 2-hour long EMG test revealed no conclusive results, so the only recommendation was taking B-vitamins for some weeks. As it didn’t help, I decided to go to Athens for a second opinion, this time asking my travel insurance to recommend a private hospital c.f. the following section.
Sonia’s grandmother – Miss Poppi – is 85 years old and still going strong. She has come to Lefkada most of her life and was a bottomless well of information and stories about the island as well as on Greek mythology. Very interesting and especially helpful when we did a daytrip around the island. A beautiful day that took us all the way around the island including to the most southern point as well as the highest point at around a kilometre elevation, where there was still snow. It was a pleasure going sightseeing at this time of the year with little traffic and no tourists at pleasant 15C. The island comprises a diverse nature with many small villages, open mountain landscapes, pine forests and many beautiful white beaches with turquoise water.
16 February – 12 March 2017
Back to Lefkada from Athens to early spring. Still a number of days with rain and thunder, but mostly sunny (and very windy) days and as the temperature went up to 18-20C, the garden came to life with bees, birds and blooming flowers. A good opportunity to do some garden work including cutting down some trees to improve the views and replace the used wood.
My initial thought was staying a fairly short time in Greece before continuing to Southern Italy, but the cold winter made me reconsider. I enjoyed my 3 months here which – besides sightseeing, blog, foot examinations and other practicalities - offered a chance to recuperate both mentally (in a peaceful place) and physically (gaining around 20 kg).