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The Greece Post

November 3, 2006

By popular demand.  If only I could count this as part of my NaNo Word Count.

Getting out of the Cairo was a trip in itself, after waiting in the main departure gate until the guards felt like working and letting people through to the counters. Then we waited in the “food village” for our flight to be called – almost 40 minutes late. And then we waited again in another waiting area. By this time it was 2:30 in the morning and we were all a little punchy. Like the kind of punchy that ends up with me doing a stand-up routine.

After sitting through the seven levels of airport hell, the four of us got on the plane. I couldn’t sleep, but a large espresso in a street side café in Athens cured the resulting all-nighter sleepiness.

It was a long café wait, as the first hostel wouldn’t let us into our room until 11 a.m. We called it Hostel Unspellable – it was far too Greek to accurately spell. So we bought coffee after coffee and muffin after muffin and people and dog watched on a street-side café. There are plenty of stray dogs in Athens, harmless but constantly on the move, or sleeping on the sidewalk; content with their lives as long as there is food scraps and sunlight.

Finally at 11, we were let into Hostel Unspellable , complete with a grumpy owner and tiny tiny rooms with flooded bathrooms. But we knew what we were getting. For 15 dollars a person a night, it was clean, quiet, and we got free breakfast. Not a bad deal.

While the other girls slept until 4, I woke up. I read and stared out the balcony, looking at some large stone outcropping. Suddenly I realized what I was looking at. The Acropolis Rock. I took a deep breath. I was in Athens.

Later, while the other girls were still asleep, Sheila and I walked along the main avenue looking for real food, not just coffee. For three euros, we found a great sandwich and talked about our love for Europe. With good reason of course, the area where we were staying – Plaka – is the Platonic ideal of Europe. The streets are cobblestoned, cut off from main traffic, the food is good and everything feels safe.  

We walked back to the entrance of the national gardens – Athens version of Central Park, and talked over our coffee about the stylish Greek women while waiting for Christine and Teresa to finish their dinner. There was a fashion show on the main path, in a building that looked a bit like it belonged on an estate. A woman walking by, talking on her cell phone, stopped to ask us something – in Greek. Sheila and I shook our heads and apologized in our best mumbled English. One day in and were already being mistaken for the locals. Ah Europe.

Teresa and Christine bounded across the road without the help of the traffic lights (Cairo-style) and we walked, quite underdressed, past the InStyle fashion show. There was a red-carpet, fabulously dressed people on cell phones, and bouncers. A stray dog slept in the spotlight on the red carpet and no one seemed to mind.

The next day we started our Grand Tour of Old Stuff. First, as it absolutely should be was the acropolis. The sneakers were broken out, the cameras were charged, and we walked up the south slope through the theatre of Dionysus to walk through the Temple of Nike right into the main complex, which houses the Parthenon, another temple of Athena, and the modern museum.

Our traveling companion Stanley the dinosaur (Stanley is pocket-sized) was brought out for his big moment – a skewed perspective shot that had Stanley towering over the Acropolis. I would show you this photo now, but somewhere between this moment and visiting the Temple of Zeus immediately afterward, my camera was lost to the Greek gods, along with the 100 something photos I had already snapped. Good news: if someone stole it, they can no longer use it, as the battery was dying and can only be recharged with a certain battery charger.

Then it was on to Temple of Zeus, and a long-winded attempt to find another archeological site that seemed to be closed off. We walked through a opening in a bridge, walked quite a long city block, and then crashed in our hostel. Unspellable did not disappoint. That night we were treated to three new arrivals, yelling to each other in adjacent shower stalls in English (I could have ignored it if it was in a language I didn’t know) right next to our room. We all grumbled and slept an extra hour the next morning.

The breakfast at Hostel Unspellable was simple, yet something we grew to love over the course of several days. There was baguette bread, jam and butter, and tea. A truly continental breakfast, but when you have four or five pieces, a truly filling breakfast.

We went to the National Archeological Museum, which is supposedly the best museum in Greece. After chancing the bus (and a very nice old man telling us which was the “museo” stop) we spent several hours staring at the sheer wealth of artifacts and information. I had much the same reaction to the Egyptian Museum; however, the NAM in Greece is only one of many, many museums that have ancient artifacts (in fact, as we were leaving, we made one last stop at the Airport Museum, which had more archeological worth than half of a Smithsonian) and everything is organized and described effectively in Greek and English.

 Our next dinner in Plaka was a little slower, but we took the time to enjoy our food and scare the French tourists next to us with some hilarious stories. There was only one waiter for the entire restaurant, and the poor guy was in fact, running at full speed back and forth into the kitchen.

The next morning we spent at the Agora and the Roman Forum, which have some of the best preserved ruins in Greece. Ditto on another amazing museum and the reconstructed marketplace, which really brought what we had been seeing alive.

Our plan was to take a train to Corinth and spend some time there, but when we arrive at the train station we found out that we had just missed the 2 p.m. train and the next one was at 4. Cue much debate over the merits of Corinth, the ability to get there, what the plan was if we got stuck there. We finally decided to go buy the ticket and then we waiting on the steps of the station. I got battered by suitcase and huge bags coming up the stairs and we were all pretty tired.

We got on the train, a commuter one not unlike the Metro-North in Connecticut or the MARC in the DC metro area and talked loudly across the car to each other in our seats. Then the conductor came by and Christine realized she had validated the wrong ticket (the metro, bus, and train tickets all look very similar) and as a result, she had to pay a 42 Euro fine. And then it started raining. Oh yeah, Corinth was going to be great.

A beautiful train ride later we arrived at the Corinthos station, looking for some sort of sign that said “old stuff this way!” Instead, the best option to get from the train station (which was nowhere) to the old city (not the new) was by Taxi. We finally got one and was treated the driving and musical stylings (Black Eyed Peas, for those curious) of a female Greek taxi driver in a BMW. They know how to do things in Greece.

 We arrived at the actual archeological site at 6, fearing the worst. We had until 7 and then it was closing. So the four of us closed that place down, after walking on the Roman road past the temple of Apollo and then into another amazing museum. We made the 7:18 train ride back to Athens and had yet another night of Greek salad, gyros, and wine.

 We moved from Hostel Unspellable to Hostel Loud a few streets down in Plaka, so we could store our luggage. After a nap, our next stop was to get on a boat and go to Aegina, a residential island an hour from Athens. But lunch called.

 We ate gyros and the sauce dripped onto Sheila’s skirt. I told her I had shout wipes.

 “You’re the most prepared one of this trip!” she said. “Everyone else has had problems.”
And yes, at 20 and a half, in one regard, I had become like my mother. I had shout wipes.

To get to Aegina, we needed to make our way to the port of Pireaus. Metro time. I have now been on metro systems in three continents. The metro in Athens is clean and retro. Day-glo orange retro. I was wearing my green halter and my bathing suit underneath and the lady next to me on the Metro looked me up and down (to the point of her head moving up and down) disapprovingly. The man on my right crossed himself everytime we passed by a church.

For 6 Euros, the ferry ride was comfortable and enjoyable. I read and enjoyed the Mediterranean view after the smoking in the cabin below got to be too much. Without a plan, or a lot of time to explore (the last boat left at 6) we wandered about Aegina, dipping our toes into the water, eating ice cream, playing on a playground, persuing the port-side shops and generally just taking our time. I ate a lot of pistachoes.

The next day, the group save Sheila made way to Delphi, the ancient navel of the world. This was the one “must-see” of the trip for me, as it played both into my love for all things archeological and any sort of mythology associated with Battlestar Galactica (I tried denying that for a while, but its really not worth it).

We woke up very early to make a coach bus that was leaving for the archeological site, but we got stuck in traffic on city bus 24, so when we finally arrived at the bus station, we ran to catch the bus in a Home Alone- inspired flee. The bus was pulling away, but I banged on the door and we made it, exactly on time.

What happens next is a story that’s details do not have a place being published on the internet. Suffice to say, I got very very sick, there was an unfortunate incident with a drunk Greek man, and I had to sign a ambulance register saying that “no, in fact, I don’t need an ambulance.” Ask me about some day, many years from now, and if I haven’t blocked it out, I might tell you.

Aside from that, I was determined to see Delphi, so Teresa, Christine, and I made the climb to the top of the site. It was the single most beautiful site I saw on the trip. Nestled in between mountains, the stadium, spring, and temple at Delphi could indeed be the navel of the world.

On the way up, Teresa tripped and hurt her knee. On the way down, we were befriended by some Americans who turned out to be beneficiaries/alumni of my school: The Fungers. Of Funger Hall. In terms of statistics, striking up a conversation about mountain goats with people who gave large sums of money to your university, on the side of a hill in rural Greece should be impossible, but it happened.

In order to get back on the bus to Athens, we had to flag it down on the side of the road. Fortunately, we were helped by another coach bus driver, and the traffic that day.

 Our last day was “free day” so we climbed the Fillaponos Hill (free!) and went to the Benaki Museum (free on Thursdays!). We had our last dinner in Greece, and our last gelato and then realized we had forgotten to confirm our tickets. We took off right away, an hour and a half earlier than planned, but when we got to the airport, ready to plead with Olympic Airlines to not cancel our reservation, the lady looked at me and said “it’s not a problem. Don’t worry.” We had forgotten that this wasn’t JFK.

The flight took off at 1 a.m., and as these things go, according to Murphy’s Law, there will be a screaming baby. And there was. There was 3 screaming babies, and a large number of children. Sheila looked like she was going to cry. Teresa and I made friends with two “world travelers” from New Jersey, who later went all the way through the custom lines without getting a visa, for which they were turned back to buy one. You need to pay to get into Egypt.

After losing Christine (“How do you lose a short white girl in Cairo?”) and bartering the cost of our taxi ride in Arabic we arrived back at the Cairo Khan at 3 in the morning. I sent an “I’m home, I’m alive” email to my parents and then fell asleep.

 New life plan: move to a Greek island.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie permalink
    November 3, 2006 1:03 pm

    the fungers?!? that’s nuts! your adventures on this trip definitley beat out the same sex adventure stories… though i couldn’t help but think of our near death atop mont royale 🙂

  2. Faith J permalink
    November 3, 2006 9:28 pm

    oh jeez you not telling what happened in delphi is making me think of extremely ridiculous things that could have happened. and the fungers? WHAAA? you should have asked them if they knew duquez, since they are neighbors now (hehehehe). tay bone your adventures sound amazing. i cant wait until i see you this winter (cause, um yeah, im coming to visit you so THERE). too bad about the dinosaur pic. I MISS YOU! really random things remind me of you. like i saw someone with small hands and i missed you. xoxoxoxoxox talk to you soon

  3. Karly permalink
    November 10, 2006 9:47 am

    Taylor! I love reading about your adventures…you have a much more eloquent way of phrasing things..maybe it’s because of your major. Either way I miss you and hope you STAY SAFE and have a great time!

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