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Getting steps in while traveling to Leros and Athens, Greece

Running & Fitness
Saturday, October 26, 2019

I took a couple of weeks off to go on a vacation. This time I can call it a fitness vacation. A group of family and friends went to the island of Leros, Greece. Leros is an hour long flight from Athens. Leros has a unique history in that it was the second-most bombed location in WWII. The Germans had taken over the island and used the harbors to anchor their warships. The British RAF obliged them with frequent bomb runs. It is also the original site that the movie, “The Guns of Navarone” was based on. The cliffs and some cannon remains can still be seen.

Our first stop after a long 10.5-hour flight from Houston was to Istanbul, Turkey. Someone told me that their airport is one of the largest in the world. When we got off the plan we had to go to another gate to catch a flight to Athens, Greece. We walked for over 30 minutes, including a number of sidewalk escalators to speed things along. Even if we walked a slow 20-minutes-per-mile, it was over a mile to the next gate. The mall section of the airport had more expensive shops and restaurants located in one place than I had ever seen. It was a good stretch for the legs after that long plane ride. Fitness on day one.

On the island of Leros, we stayed in the village of Penteli. Penteli is located between two steep hills, almost mountainous, and built along the steep sides of hills, right on the sea. When you build on the side of a hill you are somewhat limited for space. The limits include building very narrow roads for transportation. Narrow roads do not have room for sidewalks. The roads are shared with cars, motorcycles, lots of scooters, a few bikes, and people. If you are the people part of the road sharing it is mandatory that you walk with your eyes and ears wide open all the time. 

One of our family members is a world traveler and is usually our booking and travel agent. For some reason she likes to select apartments with a view. “With a view” means the apartment is high up on the side of one of the hills. The view of the harbor and surrounding mountains was spectacular. Our host took us outside, pointed down, and said, “The store and restaurants are just down this short flight of stairs to the town.” I recalled something that was said very similar when we visited Cortona, Italy, a couple of weeks ago. Later in the afternoon, my wife and I decided we needed to go shopping for coffee, tea, some food for snacks and bottled water. Going down the steps was not that hard, but I made it a point to count just how many steps were in that flight of stairs on our return. After eating a very nice lunch at a beach restaurant and loading up with some groceries we headed back to the apartment. The walk back started with a gradual incline of a quarter mile small road. Scooters only on the road as a car was limited to only a portion of the road. It led to the stairs that were much steeper. I counted 110 steps to get to the last 15-yard steep incline to reach the top of the hill. The fitness app on my cell phone said we climbed 11 stories. That was one good leg workout for some exercise. We did that climb every day for seven days, and a few times twice a day. Thank goodness I had some leg strength left over from the climbs to the market in Cortona.

We spent most days starting out sitting on the patio overlooking the harbor drinking some morning coffee and maybe a little breakfast. Early afternoon was down the steps for lunch, sitting on the beach, and talking with the local residents. After a late afternoon meal, it was back up the 110 steps to the apartment. I did visit a castle that was built in the 11th century that was located on the top of one of the hills.

The next portion of the trip was to visit the city of Athens. We stayed in a hotel located in the plaka. The “plaka” is the shopping center of the city and has a huge area for almost anything you would want to shop for. Think of several San Marcos Outlet Centers side by side for comparison. Our hotel was about a half mile from the ancient Parthenon ruins. With any trip to Athens the visit to the Parthenon is almost a requirement for any traveler. Of course, as with all things we wanted to see on our trip, it was at the top of a hill. A nice climb up a path to the ruins was a good exercise for the legs. There were an estimated 1,000 people walking up and down that site on any day. Of course, the photo shoots were another essential part of the trip. The walk down the path to the bottom of the hill was followed by an area lined with vendors selling jewelry, caps, ceramic images of the ruins, etc., for a good half mile. A few musicians were also interwoven in the crowd playing for tips. We stopped at an outdoor area for something cool to drink after our climb up to the Parthenon.

The last portion of the vacation was a day in Istanbul for a look at the center of the city. We were just a short walk from the Blue Mosque area. Nearby, a nice bazaar of shops of almost anything you wanted to buy was about three blocks from our hotel. It was a walk with many requests to visit each store along the street. From previous visits I can tell you to be cautious about stopping in a shop that sells carpets. You will be lucky to get out after viewing 100 carpets for a good price. Then one more chance to walk through the Istanbul airport to catch our flight home. Another long walk, three security check points, and a 12.5-hour flight back to Houston. After all the walking, climbing steps and hills, the rest was almost welcome. Now the trick is to keep exercising here at home to take advantage of a fitness vacation.

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