Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Driving, Grecian Style

While here in greece, and somewhat intoxicated from the beauty and the ouzo, I thought I would take a moment to delinate some of the key learnings from over a week of driving through this historical country, Greece.
Firstly, it isn't that hard. Meaning, like Boston, it has a significant set of house rules. All roads typically lead to the same place or main thoroughfare. And you need balls to try to do it. But, any native driver of Beantown, NYC, London, etc would find it feasible. Now, onto the particulars: the house rules.
a) All street signs are suggestions. For example. they may suggest a stop sign, in english, alongside a traffic light (fully operational). You must obey one or the other, but seldom both.
b) Some street signs are dead helpful. The "turn" arrows that show you that the road is going to curve - those are vital. The arrows that show you where to go around a traffic island, or where the shoulder ends - those too, are vital. Pay most attention to the geographical signposts, more than the behavioral ones.
c) Each road is clearly marked with passing lanes. They are entirely meaningless. Ignore them.
d) Imagine, if you will, that every single road (every one. yes, the mountain road. and the alley. ALL THE ROADS) have a turning lane of the sort you get in the west coast of the USA. That is, a middle land used by either lane to pass or make turns. In greece, you may as well assume that to be true on EVERY road, and operate accordingly. This means that you must almost always be riding the shoulder - to make room for people passing you. Or, alternatively, passing someone going the other direction. Hence, you must be painfully aware of when the shoulders disappear on you and float towards the center.  Use this lane, paying attention to oncoming passers, to pass other cars on the road.
And remember, that despite the fact that you're on a series of switchbacks up a spartan mountain range, on a narrow road that barely qualifies as paved - these rules apply.
e) And speaking of switchbacks, get the GPS maps. the GPS has been our saving grace. Sure, it thinks some gravel roads are legitimate shortcuts (we ignore it), but it also shows you, in advance, what you're up against from a road-curving perspective. And, until you haven't lived till you've seen your Garmin show you a one-inch thick purple line, indicating 5 switchbacks going up a mountain. Priceless.
Safe Travels! Next up: Leggings - the scourge of the eastern part of the western world.

1 comment:

Capt. BS said...

Don't forget:

f.) In contrast to western driving conventions, anyone who flashes their high-beams at you is indicating that they are taking away your right of way, and is likely about to piss you off.

g.) Once you have driven the road to Sparta and survived (in any sense of the word), all other driving challenges become trivial by comparison. (Corollary: riding buses that teeter on the edges Santorini's cliffs becomes a soporific affair.)

h.) When driving through any wooded area, be aware that you could be stopped at any point by a rag-tag group of men who have decided to chop down trees and stack them in the middle of the road for some reason.

i.) To derive the actual speed limit from the posted speed limit for any stretch of road, multiply the posted number by 2 and interpret this value in terms of MPH instead of KPH. Supplement: barreling through police checkpoints at three times the posted speed limit is perfectly fine.

j.) If your Greek driving experience is prompting you to fear for your life, and you cannot locate a nearby church in order to summon the protections of Jesus and so forth, keep your eyes open for one of many ad-hoc roadside shrines, where you can stop to offer your prayers and reflect upon the irony that pulling over to the side of the road is massively increasing your odds of a premature and grisly demise.

k.) As a general rule: If your car fits in it, on top of it, or underneath it, then it is a perfectly valid parking space. The only matter to consider is how much damage your car is likely to sustain whilst parked.