Tour Guide - Itinerary

Central Europe & Greece 1980-1981

Started 12/12/1980 Finished 31/01/198151 Days ITINERARY

Day 21 date 01/01/1981ALBANIA to CORFU, GREECE

↑ Day 20 ↓ Day 22


It's the 1st of January (HAPPY NEW YEAR!!) but what year is it? The Julian calendar is the 365-day calendar Julius Caesar made official in 46 B.C. It replaced the Roman calendar, a lunar calendar based on the phases of the moon. The Julian calendar, designed with the aid of Greek mathematicians and astronomers like Sosigenes, is based on Earth’s revolutions around the Sun, which is measurable because a solstice occurs when the Sun reaches its most northerly and southerly positions. Two solstices occur annually, around June 21 and December 21, called the winter and summer solstices depending upon which hemisphere (southern or northern) you are in.

There are two types of years in the Julian calendar: a normal year and a leap year. A normal year has 365 days, divided into 12 months. Every four years, there is a leap year with 366 days. They added this leap day to February (29th), which was then the last month of the year. This makes an average "year" 365.25 days long. However, this is more than the actual length of a solar year – 365.24219 days. Therefore, the Julian calendar gains a day every 128 years. After centuries of use, the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar in many countries, but parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church still use the Julian calendar.

The Gregorian calendar is the calendar most countries use today. It was introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, modifying the Julian calendar, reducing the average year from 365.25 days to 365.2425 days. To correct this drift caused by the Julian calendar, the date was advanced ten days in October 1582. Therefore, Friday 15 October 1582 followed Thursday 4 October 1582.

Orthodox Christmas day occurs every January 7 because the Orthodox Church still celebrates the birth of Jesus as per the Julian calendar. The Gregorian calendar led to a new Christmas Day on December 25.

During the break-up of the Byzantine Empire, Corfu island was occupied by the Genoese  (1197–1207), who in turn were conquered by the Venetians. In 1214, Corfu passed to the Greeks, who gave it to Manfred of Sicily as a dowry in 1259. At his death in 1267, it passed with his other possessions to the French house of Anjou.

Corfu island was one of the first places in Europe in which Romani people ("Gypsies") settled, from about 1360. From 1386, Corfu was controlled by the Republic of Venice, which in 1401 acquired formal sovereignty and retained it until the French Occupation of 1797.

Why did I join Top Deck Travel and what was the training?

I was in London in late May 1980 looking for any job which could help me travel.

I walked into the Top Deck Travel Office at Earls Court and was sent on a "Weekend in Amsterdam" training trip.

I arrived back in London in early June, returned to the Top Deck office, and asked if any work was available.

Dillon said I could take the next bus, Knackers, to Kathmandu, with Gary Hayes as my driver, departing in less than a week's time, on 12 June, 1980.

Dillon said the itinerary was in the overland brochure and gave me one -

I said I haven't been east of Venice.

Dillon said to head to Monte Carlo and pick up the Kathmandu signs.

The pay is 40 pounds per week for a first-year courier and 50 pounds per week for a second-year courier.

Dillon said I should head straight to the yard at Woking to help Gary Hayes get Knackers ready for the overland drive.

So I took the next train to Woking and met Gary Hayes, up to his knees in engine oil, with parts of Knackers' engine spread all over the bus and the yard.

Gary and I finally managed to put Knackers back together.

But we still broke down 7 (seven) times in the yard at Woking.

I cleaned a bit of the engine oil off the inside of Knackers, put the old, tattered curtains back onto the windows, and did some shopping for 20 punters for an 11-week trip to Kathmandu.

We broke down about 10 more times in Europe before we realised the fuel line had a leak which could be welded to repair the leak.

The mechanics in Türkiye were great - all speaking German, which I also speak, so we fixed the fuel line leak somewhere around Pergamon, in Türkiye.

We didn't have another serious mechanical problem all the way to Kathmandu (which I enjoyed), apart from running out of brakes in a ravine near Goreme (which I didn't enjoy).

After that, Knackers ran like a gem, all the way through eastern Türkiye, Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal, up the Himalayas to Kathmandu.

On the first day I took Corrie Searle to see Knackers in Kathmandu (for the return trip to London), I suggested that the curtains might need a wash.

But Corrie said the curtains were "disgraceful", so she took them down and used them as templates to make brand new curtains in Kathmandu!!

I think the curtains Corrie had made in Kathmandu were the only Top Deck fixtures or fittings which were new!!

What I enjoyed about working for Top Deck Travel was EVERYTHING.

Even the many problems we had to overcome.

My dad was an aircraft maintenance engineer for Ansett Airlines, and taught me that everything could be fixed/maintained by taking it apart, repairing what needed fixing, and putting it back together.

Perfect advice for an untrained Top Deck courier.

My "Weekend in Amsterdam" training trip came in very useful at the end of the return trip from Kathmandu, as I was able to show the punters all the highlights, coffee shops, bars and live music in the Red Light area. As well as "free camping" at Central Station, which even included toilets with running water and toilet paper!!!

Our 1980/1981 Trip Book records New Years Day 1981 as follows:


“Dale caused yet another sensation on New Year’s Day, 1981, when Mr Steve Beikoff (FLEX), was awarded “Dale” under countback conditions, after an 8-8 tied vote.

The major controversy involved the nomination of FLEX, who had lost control of his motorcycle in the eyes of Rowena, who was the current title-holder and assistant stunt-woman in doing his daring and Evil (Knievil) deed AND his partner-in-crime, just as he was approaching a hairpin bend and a 26’ on-coming semi-trailer. Unfortunately for Flex and Rowena (riding pillion), having jammed on the brakes, Flex managed to lock up the wheels AND drift the bike across the road, AND threaten both Rowena and the driver of the on-coming truck with a cardiac arrest. Flex managed to manoeuvre his motorcycle towards the cliff, which just happened to be on the wrong side of the road he was meant to be on. Notwithstanding the fact that Rowena had shat herself, Flex saw the gap between the edge of the cliff and the on-coming vehicle, and deftly managed to manoeuvre his vehicle, which was still at right angles to the truck, and still heading towards the 100’ cliff, between the 100’ cliff and the on-coming truck.”

↑ Day 20 ↓ Day 22

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