Last Sunday Molyvos was filled with
cyclists instead of with refugees. Big and small, old and young, it seemed like
every bicycle owner in the village was participating, under the burning sun.
The steep mediaeval streets, the bumpy boulders and sharp bends are an ideal
challenge for the village ride which was running for the second year.
For centuries the donkey served as
transport in Greece. Until last century when they were (sometimes literally)
parked beside the road to make room for the car. Lots of Greeks still see an aftekineto as a motorized donkey, thus
creating dangerous traffic situations. It still is very common to stop in the
middle of the road in order to greet a friend coming from the other direction.
And passing another car on a bend is also very common because on a donkey you
did the same, without taking too many risks. And I won’t even talk about all
those sidelined donkeys that are parked on the streets in order to eat the
green green grass at the side of the roads.
There is a new road user, seen more
and more often emerging from a difficult bend or on winding roads: the cyclist.
Cycling in Greece is getting hot and drivers now should seriously get used to
this group that might come sailing down a slope or bend in the road at full
speed. Do you recall ever seeing a cyclist many years ago in Greece? It seems
that a first one was seen in 1880, according to a book about bicycles in
Greece, from 1880 to 2012 (ΤοποδηλατοστηνΕλλαδα).
Cycling is not expensive and the
bike is a very good way of transport in these times of crisis. Although I can
imagine that not all Greeks have the money to buy one. But bike lovers are
doing their utmost to promote this vehicle: in the big cities as well as on the
islands more and more bike events are being organised, like the Athens Bike Festival, this year taking place on
September 18 –20, and also Mytilini, who, in spring for some years in a row, gets a
part of its inhabitants onto two wheels, so that its streets are crowded just
Probably due to the mountain stages
in the famous tours, sport cyclists also love to go around on the island. For
years now the Lesvos Brevet event is organised for some tens of
fanatic cyclists who are more than amateurs. Throughout the year they go to
different islands and places on the mainland of Greece to obtain another brevet
and the distances grow longer and longer. This year in the Lesvos Brevet there
was a choice of two distances. The 400 km race has already taken place in March
and the 200 km (with the start and finish in Molyvos) will take place on Sunday
June 7 (last year the distance was 300 km). The course clearly is not for
foreigners (for years my brother is the only non Greek speaking participant)
because all information is only in Greek. Which is a pity, because this tough
course leads you in one day all over this beautiful island. Imagine if the Tour
de Lesvos becomes as popular as the Tour de France?
The very newest road user however is
the refugee. They trudge over the many roads of the island towards the capital
of Mytlini, protecting themselves against a burning sun with t-shirts on their
heads, with all the belongings they have left carried on their tired backs. For
them, there are no checkpoints where water or a bite is distributed to revive
their spirit in order to accomplish this two (or three) day tour. And you will
see them everywhere: going to Plomari, Sigri, Mandamados, Kalloni or Molyvos.
They are not difficult road users, but in the night I can imagine that they are
at peril, because they are difficult to see on the dark roads of the island.
Do we have to wait until an accident
occurs, like the one in Macedonia, where 14 refugees were run over by a train, while they followed the rails in
order to find a safe place? Is it humane that we let women, children, elders
and wounded people make this long journey on Lesvos?
I live at the border of Europe. In
the south this border is flooded by refugees. But the northern countries don’t
care about their own borders. When the refugees safely reach the shore here,
they cheer because they think they are in Europe. Well, I don’t think so. They
have arrived in Greece and there will be another long journey before they reach
Europe. Europe is ruled by its northern countries who loaned so much money to
the southern countries, who now can no longer pay their debts and will soon
become as poor as most of the refugees. I bet the northern countries would love
to install an iron curtain across the middle of geographical Europe between the
poor south and the rich north (was the European Union not created just to have
this frontier disappear?).
All that those very well paid people
in the European capital Brussels have come up with, is to catch the smugglers
in Libya (no one talked about smugglers in Turkey) and they even intend to
destroy the boats the refugees come on, afraid they will be re-used. Well, here
that job is already done by the refugees themselves: all boats reaching the
Greek shores are destroyed. How stupid is Europe?! Put international police at its
frontiers to take in the refugees, to register them and give them a ticket to a
country they can go. Show everybody that it is Europe’s border, and not only that of
Greece, Italy or Spain.
I am afraid my country (the
Netherlands) is one of the worst. They do not want to take in more refugees
from the southern countries and the government will take ages to decide if they
agree with what is decided in Brussels. The Dutch government behaves like a
class of little children and I bet they first want to go on holiday before
taking any serious decision (hoping that this flood of refugees might be over
Well, all European politicians: I
challenge you to come for a holiday to Lesvos and bring your bicycle with a
little cart, in order to be able to distribute water and bread to all those
refugees who have to walk for days along Lesvos’roads, looking for Europe.
PS I am happy to tell that there are
some exceptions: Norway has announced to help and will amongst others finance a
new refugee centre (on Lesvos). Bravo Norway!