Two weeks in Xanthi

Somehow, in a small campus a mile beyond the town of Xanthi, hidden away in dorm rooms and dining halls, two weeks passed by. Xanthi was a white town, cobbled and dry and winding, set against a mountainess, brown landscape and always the sun seemed to hang low in the sky, hazy and orange. It was like a twilight world, impossible to leave. One night of rest turned to days enjoying the company of Evi and her mate KiKi and days quickly became weeks. Bed’s became free in other rooms and, eventually, whole rooms became free as people left campus for Christmas. I slowed to a complete stop. In Greece, I discovered, for students the tuition was free. The rent was free. The food, breakfast, lunch and dinner, were free. The transport around town was free. There, too, was free wifi and free laundry. In the end I had been in a room of my own, plugged in and slowly falling back into the online world I had left behind, comfortable and inexpensive. A relaxed atmosphere had washed over the whole campus. I only ever remember people sitting, smoking, drinking, listening to music. There was a lot of passion, a lot of talk of the future, of ideas and innovative social solutions, but I never really remember seeing anyone ever doing any actual studying. Day-80-Smoking1 Day-80-Sleeping1 The girls didn’t mind how long I stayed, they had said and so, in two weeks, I left the bike alone and began to put on weight at an alarming rate. Dinners were rich and heavy, lamb chops, steaks, chicken breasts, gravies, potatoes and chips and macaroni, with deserts of cake and rice pudding. It was great food too and endless amounts of it. You could even take tubs down to the dining hall and fill them with portions to take back to your room or munch on through the night. You can forgive someone whose diet had become one of bread and water and chocolate, living in a tent, in the snow and rain, dropping twelve kilos in two months and when your welcomed the way Evi and KiKi welcomed me, with offers of spare rooms and endless meals and Ouzo drinking (greek vodka like wine with an aniseed taste) and shelter from the winter winds outside, well it’s hard to say no and just as hard to keep an eye on the clock. Xanthi was a beautiful place. Old and rustic. Clay buildings. Crumbling alleyways. I tried to start running the two kilometres into town each day but failed to keep it up after the first attempt. Just lying down in one of the common rooms, messing around with my camera, a bar of Milka beside me to much on, seemed so much easier. The day I left Xanthi I felt strangely relieved. It was like a chain I had wriggled free of. In the final days the room became occupied again, I was forced onto a couch in what was basically a laundry room, and the realization came to me that I had been too indulgent and taken too much, more than I was offered. Day-81-Walking-011 Day-81-Walking-021 Day-81-Walking-031 I knew that I had outstayed my welcome, even if no one had confirmed it, I just felt it, a kind of paranoia. I was supposed to be cycling around the world. Evi had left campus and KiKi had begun working again, whilst I’d withdrew into a world of online creativity and so I was basically just living their, Couch Surfing forgotten, now just a resident! I felt relieved to leave because I knew that I was still naturally lazy, that I had stopped for a moment. Day-95-Campus-021 I’d been offered comforts and I’d took them, without a second thought. Lay down for two weeks. My will and interest in the adventure slipping away. It scared me. After three months of seeing so much and travelling so far and hoping to have permanently altered my productivity, when I stopped I had reverted back to the lazy person I had always been. Instantly. Also, I missed the cycling, without knowing it. It was so strange to be so happy to leave a place that I found so homely, it was like leaving England all over again. I could have stayed for months, but for all the wrong reasons, trying to pass as a foreign student, eating all the dinners I could hope for. I knew I would miss Evi & KiKi. It had been great to be around student minds again, their hippyish ways, talking hopeful things, ideologies and of how the world should be. Day-95-Self-Balcony-061 It’s easy to think, as you get older, that thoughts like these, that student times, are naive and wasteful, but the life I had had for two weeks and the discussions that had come from it were a reminder of the passion I had had before moving to London. Real change had to begin from somewhere, often its in the simple desire for change and the untamed and unrefined nature of youthful concepts, no matter how naive. And, so, I cycled on. After two weeks in Xanthi, and so long off the bike, only a day of cycling took place between the last couch surfing experience and the next. The road east to Komotini had been one of the easiest stretches on my trip; seventy kilometres of flat roads, with mountains to my left, dry plains to my right and the wind at my back. After two weeks indoors winter had caught me again. Their was sun, but the wind was cold and only a small window now remained, in the middle of the day, where the light was warm enough for T-shirt and shorts. A classic Grecian landscape, dry, wild and golden for the last time that year. Day-96-Grasslands1 Day-96-Crossroads-Rails-012 Day-96-Grasslands-Shadow1 Day-96-Crossroads-Corn-031Day-96-Crossroads-Self1 Day-96-Crossroads-031 Day-96-Road-Sign1 Day-96-Tree1

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