Day 14 - Travel to Chicago

My flight was at 9:40am. I woke up around 6:30 and took my time packing, pausing frequently to lean out the window and take in the final view of my little corner of the city. There's something intoxicating to me about the smell of the streets of Europe. I've always thought so. And maybe it's just the lack of vegetation and the excess of gasoline fumes, but I love it.

image.jpg

One last selfie in Greece outside of my hotel. The night before when Elena and Dimitris dropped me off at my hotel they said, "You know what kinissi means? It means movement." Movement is exactly how I would label my entire trip. It was non-stop, it was go-go-go. But I'd have it no other way. If you're gong to travel and explore and see the world, you have to do just that and keep moving.

I took a cab to the airport, checked in, went through security and had my last cappuccino and croissant.

I flew to Istanbul for a three hour layover. This honestly made me a bit uneasy as the day before there had been a bus bombing in the city. I recognize that airport security in such a hub has to be out of control. But living in the states, you only just hear about these places with bombings; you're never actually there and it feels distant and unreal. The reality hit me harder than I expected. But, needless to say, everything was fine for my travels.

The flight from Istanbul to Chicago was ten and a half hours. I had an aisle seat and the two men sitting in my row didn't get up once to go to the bathroom or even stretch. I don't understand this. But whatever.

Landed in Chicago around 6pm. Flew through customs, got on the Blue Line. Arrived home around 7:30. It was in the 60s, a very welcome temperature change from sweaty Greece. Neptune greeted me at the door and I was torn. Should I snuggle him on the couch or take a shower? I opted for couch. Not even ten minutes later, my brother and his wife called.

"What was the best part of your trip?!"

I was in absolutely no place to answer that question. But I've been giving it some solid thought since.

There is no one place I visited in Greece that I particularly loved above all. I had good days and I had rough days, but that isn't reflective of the location. That was emotional. I will say this though, I've never met a country filled with nicer people. Everywhere I went, people were patient, kind and generous. And, at this point, it should go without saying that the food was amazing. Everything I tried I loved. Saganaki remains my true love of the trip, but everything else was fantastic.

Looking back in retrospect. I know I that I had a hard time being in the quiet, by myself. This is not new. This is just how I am. I've spent so much of my life with someone else, leaning and being leaned on. You grow very accustomed to having someone else there, to the point that being alone is something you consciously have to seek out. And somewhere along the line, I stopped doing that. And it's made it infinitely harder for me to just sit with myself and be okay doing so.

image.jpg

So while I managed to temper that on the trip by going out and meeting people and trying new things, I was also avoiding myself. I don't regret how I dealt with the trip at all. In fact, I'm really proud of myself for the entire adventure. But coming home, I've gained new perspective on the fact that I still have things to work on for myself. I need to continue to sit with myself, alone, in the quiet, no matter how uncomfortable it is and just be okay. It's much easier said that done for me. But self-improvement is a constant growing experience and I'm happy to have identified my next challenge.

I waited til yesterday (one week since I've been back in Chicago) to open up the refrigerator magnet the shop owner in Delphi gave me of Artemis. I hung it up, remembering what he said. Cheesy, yes, but I'll remember his words and how transformational the trip was whenever I go to the fridge.

I can't wait for my next adventure, in town and out of town. No matter where you are, there are things to learn, life to enjoy and new ways to grow.

Day 13 - Thessaloniki

Aristotelous Square, Thessaloniki

Aristotelous Square, Thessaloniki

My last full day.

I woke up later than usual, opened the windows to my hotel room and it was raining. No need to get a jump start on the day. I managed to make it downstairs at my hotel in time for breakfast. Greek yogurt with honey, bread and jam, coffee. I had a lot of writing to catch up on, so I brought my computer to the lobby and had more coffee and wrote for a couple of hours. I love that I'm keeping this blog alive, but it's a labor of love. There are so many details to get down and I know I'm failing at getting all of the tiny, interesting ones, but those are the ones that will stick with me outside of pen and paper.

As I sat there sipping my cappuccino, I received a phone call from Elena, my grandmother's sister's daughter. I was going to meet up with her and her husband Dimitris for dinner. Another set of relatives I'd never met before, but who were nevertheless thrilled I was in town and excited to meet me. We decided on a place and time to meet, down by the harbor in the same neighborhood I'd gone out to the night before, so at least I felt like I knew my way around, even a little.

The rain let up and I went out. I walked back through Ladadika towards the harbor. I walked past the location I would meet Elena at later. Full disclosure: it was a Starbucks. #Merica I had no real plan in mind for the day. I enjoyed window shopping (lots of fabric and craft stores - not sure why) and peopel watching.

White Tower, Thessaloniki

White Tower, Thessaloniki

View from the top of the White Tower

View from the top of the White Tower

Scary tiny doorways inside White Tower

Scary tiny doorways inside White Tower

Fried cheese wrapped in filo? Yes, please, forever.

Fried cheese wrapped in filo? Yes, please, forever.

I headed toward the White Tower, which used to be a prison and stood with water surrounding it. I walked to the top and took in the view. Pangs of hunger hit me hard. Should I go to the museum? Nay. I went to go get food instead, of course. This was my last full day! My last full chance to fill up on saganaki! I walked back toward Ladadika and strolled by the restaurants. I settled on one and ordered, you guessed it, fried cheese. This time, it was fried cheese wrapped in filo dough. I have no idea how the Greeks pulled that one off, but it was delicious. As were the olives, my last. I was also served bread (obviously) and a tomato paste. I don't know what I was supposed to use the tomato paste for, but I put it on my bread and all over my cheese, so fresh and delicious. Naturally, a beer accompanied.

What to do after that? I went back to my hotel and took a nap. Being awake is hard work.

I woke up and got ready for dinner. It was unfortunately raining again, but not too hard. I didn't bring an umbrella (I hardly even bring an umbrella in my own country), but I just put the hood of my sweatshirt over my head and was fine.

Starbucks. 7:30. Elena and Dimitris showed up. I'd only seen pictures of them on Facebook, but thank goodness for that. Technology, I'm telling you, it's amazing. They welcomed me with open arms and hugs. Everyone keeps telling me how much I look like my grandmother, which is a compliment. She was beautiful. Elena even told me my laugh reminds her of my grandmother, which I didn't see coming, but that works too.

We went to a restaurant right on the waterfront that they used to frequent frequently. Shared a salad and a bottle of wine and I had my last lamb of the trip - a perfect meal to end on. We talked about family and filled each other in on what we do in our day to day lives. Elena was on a trip to Greece when she was 32 and never returned back to the states. Instead, she married Dimitris. Such a romantic story. I told her I'm 32 also and she said, "Dimitris, who can we introduce her to after dinner?" It was then decided that a man living in London would be just perfect for me. I see a bit of a geographical technicality there, but hey, I'm game.

image.jpg
Ladadika, Thessaloniki

Ladadika, Thessaloniki

We walked around and went to the port where there are warehouses that exhibitions take place. Nothing was open, but it was calm, quiet and the lights of the city next to the water were beautiful.

They drove me back to my hotel. "Remember you always have family here," she told me. We talked about my next trip back because one day was not enough. I'm happy again to have people somewhere who are family and caring and want to connect.

Did I go upstairs and go to sleep? No, of course not. This was my last night in Europe for who knows how long. I found a nearby bar, met a Greek boy named Nicolas and enjoyed the evening.

When I got back to my hotel and set four separate alarms on my phone. One cannot miss their flight back home... can they? That's not insinuating I missed my flight, but I was definitely settling into this nomadic, foreign life. I'd be sad to leave it in the morning and return to my life back home.

image.jpg
Lamb, of course over a bed of chips. My last supper.

Lamb, of course over a bed of chips. My last supper.

Day 12 - Katerini, Thessaloniki

I woke up early and took advantage of the Meteora scenery for the sunrise. The only other sunrise I've been awake for was the one in Santorini after being up all night. I woke up around 5:30 and dragged my ass back to my rock. I was alone there for about 20 minutes before a couple showed up. Sunrise took awhile because I was surrounded by mountains and the light was slow to creep through to the rocks.

image.jpg

I sat there and put my hands firmly on the rock. This would likely be the last time I would ever be here and I felt like I wanted to connect. (I'm getting flowery, I know.) This trip has been a whirlwind and I have to continuously remind myself to slow down and enjoy each moment. Pay attention to the small details, savor it. Be, if you will.

image.jpg
image.jpg
These rocks  know  me.

These rocks know me.

image.jpg

(Cheryl Crow is on right now. "All I want to do is have some fun." Perfect.)

I went back to the hotel, packed up my life and got into the car. As I was backing up to leave, the man who runs the hotel waved at me. I turned off the engine. "You have to pay!"

Whoops. I'd made all of my reservations online. Some I paid for in advance, some I hadn't. I did not remember that I had not paid for this room. Had he not seen me leaving, I would have stiffed him for two nights. I felt so badly, but he seemed understanding.

image.jpg

The plan for the day! I was making my way to Thessaloniki, but on the way, I would make a stop in Katerini for lunch with some relatives!

image.jpg

So, my dad's mother was half Greek. And I was going to visit her first cousin, Elias, and his son, Ignatios, in Katerini. I don't know exactly what that makes me. (But I'm sure after my dad reads this, he'll tell me exactly how man removals I am, etc.)

It was a two hour drive from Meteora to Katerini. The roads took me back to the coast where I pulled off at a beach for a last splash in the sea.

I also noticed a giant cloud off to my left with a mountain behind it. It's the closest look I received of Mount Olympia. Too bad I didn't get to see more than a small peaking through the clouds, but hey, everything else thus far exceeded my expectations, so, no big deal.

I showed up about an hour early. Katerini is much more of a residential town than any other place I'd visited. I parked my car and walked to a nearby establishment. It was a local bar/taverna of sorts. The only customers in there were old men, some talking, most smoking and many playing solitaire. It was a perfect place to sit.

image.jpg
The only view of Mount Olympia I got. 

The only view of Mount Olympia I got. 

My grandmother's cousin, Elias, and Brown Sara.

My grandmother's cousin, Elias, and Brown Sara.

I walked back to meet my cousin(s). My grandmother's cousin is 91 and still lives on his own. With help, mind you. But that's where we all met. We sat and visited for a spell before heading out to a local farmer's market and then off to lunch. Elias stayed at his house. Ignatios, his wife, and his wife's niece went to an Italian restaurant in the town center. It was delightful! After my long journey alone or just with passing strangers, it was good to connect with people.

Mind you, this is the first time I've ever met any of them, but they followed suit with everyone I've met in Greece: so nice. We ate and talked about family, the economy, school and anything else in between. They are a fine, good-hearted couple doing everything in their power to help their community during this time of crisis. I learned a lot.

He's buying me a freshly squeezed bottle of pear juice

He's buying me a freshly squeezed bottle of pear juice

Prosciutto pizza

Prosciutto pizza

The idea of family is a strong one. It brings people together who might not know each other or have anything in common or might not even like each other. But if you're lucky, you find common ground and your bond is that much stronger because of blood. Blood is thick.

I remember something I read by Kurt Vonnegut about family. I believe that the general gist was, just because you're family, doesn't mean you should force a relationship. I completely agree with this. Yes, blood is think, but don't force it. (Not sure if that metaphor held up.) But if you're lucky, you'll find that common ground and make a connection with people. The older I get, the more I'm learning that connections are important. And I'm happy to have found out that I've found a connection with, while distant family, still family.

Ladadika, Thessaloniki

Ladadika, Thessaloniki

Meatball, souvlaki, saganaki, demi-sweet wine, bread

Meatball, souvlaki, saganaki, demi-sweet wine, bread

image.jpg

Then I drove into Thessaloniki. I needed to return my rental car at the airport. Did so. I had hoped that I could take some kind of public transit to my hotel in the town center, alas, such thing either 1) doesn't exist or b) would have taken way too long for me to figure it. I treated myself to the second cab ride on my trip. Checked into my hotel and headed out to find food and explore the neighborhood of Ladadika. 

What a fun part of town! It's near the port and has dozens a bars and restaurants within a few block radius. I found a place to go to town on some meat and fried cheese, like I do. Definitely something I was going to miss back home. This was my second to last night of the trip and I tried to stay out to soak up the city and make the most of my remaining time.

I continued to be surprised how different each city/location throughout Greece had been. They all have different cultures, different aspects, different things to do. People keep asking me what my favorite part of the trip was. I don't know. It's like comparing apples and pizza. I can honestly say that I would re-visit each and every location I'd been to though.

Day 11 - Meteora

image.jpg

I slept in. Slept til 9:30. Yes, that's sleeping in for me. It felt amazing.

Decided to hit up a few monasteries. Grabbed some water, headed out.

So you know when you're packing for vacation and you don't know what kinds of clothes to bring? Can't be just me with that problem. But inevitably, I end up overpacking. Even though all of my belongings fit into a backpack, I brought too many things. I did not foresee that for 12 days in a row, I'd be wearing the same pair of jean shorts. But that's how it goes.

image.jpg

I drive up the hill and decide to just stop at whichever monastery I reach first. First up was actually a nunnery. I park, walk up to the sign displaying the hours and also written is, "Please dress modestly." Um. Jean shorts. Nothing less modest than jean shorts and a tank top. I wondered just how serious they were about this. I mean, I was already there. Maybe I could play the dumb-American card? So I climbed the steps. I passed a literal busload of women, all wearing full length skirts and tops with their shoulders covered. Damn it. I kept climbing just the same. Maybe I could just quickly pop in, pop out?

I got to the top. And there was yet another sign demonstrating modesty. It showed a woman in a full length dress with her shoulders covered. This is not what I was wearing, not even a little bit. So, out of respect, I did not go into the nunnery. Instead, I took a few pictures and headed back to my hotel for a costume change. I did bring one skirt with me. But it hits at about the knee. So I decided full length jeans was the best bet. Wrong again.

Got to the next monastery. Skirts were required for women. I paid for my ticket and grabbed a skirt out of a giant pile they have waiting for people like me.

image.jpg
image.jpg

Photography is not allowed within the chapel part of the monasteries. But below are a couple examples to give you an idea of what it was like. The walls are covered floor to ceiling with frescoes. Deep blues, reds, yellow, gold. The ceilings are domed and beautiful wooden doors and seats have been intricately carved. My favorite part was the lighting. Metal chandeliers hang from the ceilings... sometimes with dragons on them? The room smells of incense and Greeks kiss placards and genuflect. I sat for a while in one of the chapels, taking it all in. In my rented skirt.

Okay. I have thoughts and feelings about the whole skirt thing. I get it. And I respect it as a cultural whatever. But, let's move on, folks. The lord has seen me naked. While Daisy Dukes are not appropriate in most of life, forgive me father, sometimes I'm inappropriate. Also, while it showed that men should be wearing full length pants, many of them were wearing shorts. Double standards. It's not like they stopped with a sign that said, "Skirts and pants." No, just skirts.

I went to another monastery and they gave me a shawl to put on my shoulders. Heaven forbid the lord see my friggin shoulders. "You must be careful of the shoulders," the man said. Must I?

Yes, customs are customs. But I don't always like or agree with them. So after one failed nunnery and two skirt-filled monasteries, I called it a day and went back for some more grilled feta.

image.jpg
Jesus!

Jesus!

Prior to the 1920s when convenient stairs were built for easy access, monks and nuns used rope ladders to access the monasteries. Scary as all shit. Additionally, how do you think they managed to get things up and down? They have a net. And as this is still the best way to lift things up and drop back down, this is still in used today.

image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
View from hotel room on a rainy afternoon.

View from hotel room on a rainy afternoon.

image.jpg
Grilled feta, grilled chicken and Mythos, my fav.

Grilled feta, grilled chicken and Mythos, my fav.

After feasting again at the same restaurant with delicious feta, I headed back to the hotel and enjoyed a rainy afternoon inside. Luckily the rain cleared up in time for another sunset. When I got to my rock, I was the only one there for about 20 minutes. I enjoyed the solitude with birds chirping and a gentle breeze blowing.

On top of the world.

On top of the world.

image.jpg

I pulled over at one point to take a picture of the rocks. And I was not in a designated parking zone. They take that seriously because you're driving on winding roads with blind corners. So while I'm outside of my car snapping a few shots, I hear a car pull up. When I look over to see who it is, low and behold, it's the cops. Um, I did not have my international driver's license with me at the time, so I panicked. I waved nervously, and got back in my car and went on my way. They did not stop me. Phew.

image.jpg

Skip to later. I'd purchased a couple of Mythos to enjoy while I watched the sunset. After the sun set, I was taking my empties back to the car to make my way back to the hotel for the night. And then I see a cop car blocking my black rental in. UGH! Luckily they were just giving another guy a ticket, but I hung back while they finished up and just hoped that they weren't making a routine stop checking everyone's credentials. 

Short story short, I never had a run-in with the police, thankfully.

Day 10 - Meteora

I left Delphi around 9:30am and set out for Meteora.

Goats outside of Delphi, complete with bells. I kind of wigged out.

Goats outside of Delphi, complete with bells. I kind of wigged out.

There's something sad about moving on from one place to the next. The show must go on, but I have a sinking feeling each time I leave a place that that's the last time I'll ever be there. Will I make a trip back? I don't know. There's so much of the world to see and if I were to go back, would it even be the same? Would what drew me to that place still exist? Or would I rather be filled with disappointment and nostalgia. There's also that fact that the more you relive a memory, the more you destroy its originality from your brain.

I didn't know this was a possible turn the road could take, but it did.

I didn't know this was a possible turn the road could take, but it did.

When I left Athens, right before I got on the train (forgive me if I'm repeating myself, I don't remember what I've said and what I've only thought), the last person I saw was the man at the hardware store who sold me the padlock for the hostel. It was early morning and he was already open for business. You don't see repeats of people when you're on a whirlwind vacation like this, so to see someone that was familiar meant a lot to me.

The drive took maybe three hours? I don't really recall. But it was a perfect drive. Coming out of the mountains, driving along what I would call prairie, it felt like driving in Colorado, just north of Denver with the foothills in the background. Except for the fact that there were mountains all around.

And have I mentioned the air? The air in the mountains is some of the sweetest air I've ever breathed. Aside from being far from pollution, there are flowering trees along the side of the road that infuse the air even as you drive through.

Arriving in Meteora was emotional. I actually even just got goosebumps thinking about it. I had goosebumps consistently for maybe 45 minutes. I cannot believe such a place exists. Dr. Suess was involved, surely.

image.jpg
image.jpg

I just kept pulling the car over to take pictures. And while I am not a religious person, this is a religious place. And I've never said, "Jesus," in succession so much in my life. There currently remain six monasteries, but I overheard someone say there used to be 22 or 26 or something to that affect. These monasteries were built in the 11th century, Greek Orthodox. Prior to that, for thousands and thousands of years (we're talking 5k to 50k years ago), people had been inhabiting caves in Meteora. People have just always been bonkers about it and it's clear to see why.

My favorite spot was a rock overlook (from where most of my pictures were taken). Depending on the time of day, it would either be packed with tourists and photographers, or it would be just me, left alone to contemplate life.

image.jpg

Checked into my hotel. Took a walk about the town to find food. And find food, I did.

Probably my favorite dish of the trip was, "Feta cheese on the grill." It arrived in aluminum foil. Just a slab of feta, olive oil, slice of tomato, sliced peppers and oregano. Greece serves bread with every meal (LOVE) and so I sat myself down, enjoyed some demi-sweet wine, cheese and let the goosebumps subside.

image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg

The grill for the restaurant was open as you pass by on the street. I kept walking by, back and forth, and saying hello to the grill master. He was a sweet man. Lived in Brooklyn for years and he gave me an apple.

I went back to my hotel and passed out. Late night, lots of driving and a stomach full of cheese will do that to you. I did set my alarm though to make sure I'd be up in time for sunset. The sun's been setting around 8:30pm here. I got up, drove back up the hill and found a rock. Not my rock, but a good enough rock. The light was golden.

image.jpg
image.jpg

Day 9 - Delphi

Arachova (on the way to Delphi). Literally stopped me in my tracks with its beauty.

Arachova (on the way to Delphi). Literally stopped me in my tracks with its beauty.

I'm beginning to see a pattern here, Scully.

I'm in Delphi! And guess what... it's a small town and I'm in my hotel room by myself and I feel... alone. BUT! Here's the important part. I know why. Who knew I'd become such a people person? So I'm going to try to shrug that off.

This might be disjointed. I'm now writing 24 hours after I just write that. And I'm feeling amazing. So deal with it.

(Yes, that was an X-Files reference. No, I'm not going to explain it for you.)

Delphi. Delphi will remain in my heart as maybe my favorite spot in Greece. I know it's ballsy saying that when I still have four days and two cities to visit. But I'm pretty confident on it.

(Ha. I just wiped a spider off of my mouse pad and all that remained was it's body. Yes, I wiped the legs off of a Greek spider. Shit happens. Separately, I just gave an old lady a beer not realizing that I did not have refrigeration for both of my beers and it's friggin hot. She was so excited, but did not speak that much English. So, we drink in tandem, silently.)

So. I left the hostel in Athens around 8am and headed for the airport. I reserved a rental car to pick up in Athens and drop off in four days when I reach Thessaloniki. I figured airport to airport is the easiest way to accomplish that. When I got to the airport, I found the area where rental cars are kept. The guy at the Avis/Budget counter was nowhere to be seen. But, I'm on vacation time, so everything takes longer. He finally arrived.

"What car you need?"

"I don't know. Here." Handed him a printout of my cute, American rental car confirmation number.

"No, no, no. Did you pass main counter in terminal?"

"What?

"Did you pass main counter in terminal?"

"I don't know what 'main counter' is. So, no?"

At this point, I know we're getting equally frustrated with each other. Does he want me to go to customer service? Why can't he help me with cars? He's the car guy! But I'm sure he's thinking, "This dumb American girl just thinks I can manifest cars! Ridiculous."

"You have to go to main counter."

"I don't know what you're saying."

"Okay. You must go to main counter. You make a contract there. They give you the key. I give you the car."

Now we're getting somewhere.

About, "making." Greeks have this thing about translating the word, "get." When I arrived at ancient Agora and wanted to view the grounds, the woman at the gate stopped me and said, "Your papers?"

"I don't have any papers."

"You must make a ticket."

"I don't have a ticket. Can I buy one?"

"You must make a ticket first. Here. You can either make a ticket for Ancient Agora, or if you are planning to go around to Acropolis and others, you can buy this for thirty euros."

For the record, thirty euros sounds steep for viewing all of antiquity... but I guess not really. So, that's the ticket I made.

Okay. Back to Avis/Budget. I had to go make a contract.

I went to the counter, easily made a contract and came back and got my car. No problem. They are still surprisingly lax about giving people cars.

"Here you go. You can look at it if you want."

For insurance purposes, always look at the car.

I started driving. But there was a problem. I still didn't have an AUX cable and I'll be damned if I'm renting a car for four days and listening to staticy Greek crap. Yeah, I'm over it. Low and behold, I saw a sign for "Athens Mall." Yes, I went to the mall. And do you want to know what Greek malls are like? They are exactly like American malls. Ick. And the store I went into was the equivalent of a Best Buy. I don't know what it was actually called because it was in Greek. But do you know what Best Buy is like in other countries? Best Buy. It took a long time and the guy wasn't that helpful and it was more expensive than he said it would be. BUT, I got an AUX cable and now I can listen to all the Justin Bieber I want to and no one can stop me.

Pulled back, panoramic view of Arachova. 

Pulled back, panoramic view of Arachova. 

So I drove. I drove fora long while. I was driving through parts of Greece that look like Eastern Colorado or southern Wyoming. And then I was in the mountains. And I didn't even realize what I didn't realize until I came around a corner and BOOM! Arachova. It's gorgeous in a classic Greek way. I stopped and snapped a few pics. At this point, I was only about 10 minutes away from Delphi.

Temple of Apollo

Temple of Apollo

Found the ancient ruins of Delphi a few minutes later. It was hot. I know I've already stressed the heat, but Jesus. 

So you hike up a lot of shit in Greece. Turns out the Greeks were all amazing athletes in that this is not easy hiking. Maybe it's the sun talking. I don't know. But everything they do seems to be vertical. Or just the Acropolis and Delphi, but that's a strong showing.

It was definitely amazing to see everything there. As at the Acropolis, they just have signs saying, "Please don't touch." I guess that works here? In the states I feel like we have to put up electric fences to keep people out. Additionally, they have marble steps everywhere. I assume due to the fact that it's easy to get slabs/blocks of marble. BUT, it makes it very difficult to walk on. We're all walking on it and it wears smooth, making it very slippery.

Okay. So I made it to the Temple of Apollo. Apollo, if you don't know, is kind of the god who made all this a thing. He's the god of music and creativity and harmony (more on that later). So there's that temple. And there's an Athenian treasury. I don't really understand why, but why not. After that, you hike up to the main theater. 

Okay. The Theater. I'll be honest. I thought it was going to be bigger and a little more impressive. (Am I right, ladies?) The one I saw in Athens yesterday was about twice this size. But, then you think about the time and think about who the hell was actually roaming around THESE HILLS. And you realize the size is just about right. And maybe size doesn't matter. (No more on that later.) 

Delphi theater with Apollo Temple and Treasury of Athens in the back.

Delphi theater with Apollo Temple and Treasury of Athens in the back.

Some really cool girl at the Delphi theater

Some really cool girl at the Delphi theater

Something not pictured is the stadium. It's about a 15 minute hike after the theater. It's impressive also, yes. But it kind of pissed me off. If you read the placard, it's like, "A place where sports and games took place... blah, blah, blah." Really? We need sports and games after climbing the shit out of this hillside? I think not. But again, good for the Greeks. I don't think I'd have it in me. I'd need to be tented and fanned and fed food in order to keep my robust figure. 

Church in Delphi at night. Rad cross.

Church in Delphi at night. Rad cross.

Checked into my hotel. Guess what I'm about to say about the hotel staff? THAT HE WAS SO FRIENDLY! But he really was. I was supposed to have a "street view," but he put me in a... whatever the view is facing the mountains. I bet it's a "mountain view." Damn.

"Are you alone? Where is your husband?"

"No husband. Just me."

The room was lovely and maybe my first with an actual double bed, and not just two twins pushed together pretending to be a double bed. Because mama needs to stretch out after being dirty in a hostel for two nights. (Listen, I can actually rough it if I need to. Camping is great, etc. But given the options, I want to be alone, in a large bed, in a quiet, clean room with a mountain view. Is that really too much to ask in life?)

I finally showered. And put on clean clothes. The difference was indescribable. But I'm sure for those of you in my armpits, it would be describable. So, at this point in the day, it was maybe 6:30 or 7:00? I decided to go out and grab some food.

I'll be very honest. Up to this point in my trip, I have not. Cracked. One. Guidebook. But I was googling placed to eat in Delphi and our good friend, Rick Steeves, recommended a place. Alas, I couldn't find it. Which is just as well. By the time that trickles down to the masses, it's time to find the next new place anyway. So I found a place with a varied menu and had stuffed tomatoes and peppers. I don't know what I was expecting, but I really wish the dish had done more for me than it did. Probably the first real food disappointment yet. But Delphi is still my favorite.

Balconies of Delphi.

Balconies of Delphi.

Stuffed tomato and pepper.

Stuffed tomato and pepper.

I walked around a bit after the food. Oh, at dinner I met this woman who'd been traveling for like a month. I don't understand this when I come across it. She was from... I think Montana, but had lived in Wyoming for 10 years. Wyoming, I thought! I told her I have family in Casper.

She asked the family name and when I gave it to her, she said, "Oh, well they're everywhere." Yes, I thought, and they're probably related to me. But whatever.  We don't need to bond.

I left dinner and walked around the town. Very charming town. You can tell it's mostly waiting for the high season. Staff waiting for customers, hotel owners trying to draw in customers, tourist shops open. I stopped at the edge of town to overlook this majesty...

Overlook at Delphi.

Overlook at Delphi.

Street in Delphi

Street in Delphi

I passed a restaurant on the way back to the hotel that had a sign out front advertising, "Live Music Tonight." That's my jam. Who knows how hoppin' Delphi even gets, but I decided to head back to my room for a bit and hang out before a "night on the town," as it were.

When I ventured out again, things were still pretty quiet. I can't quite figure it out here. Are things quiet because it's not high season yet? Or are they quiet because of the economy and it's a bit more of a permanent lull? I think it's both.

I walked up and down the streets looking at the town, taking pictures. There was one shop that had a weird furry monkey hanging in the window. Nothing Greek or anything, but very silly. I was about to snap a picture when the store owner saw me.

"Hello!" I said in that, no-I'm-not-trying-to-take-a-picture-of-your-window-monkey kind of way.

"Hello, hello! Please! Come in! Come in!" The shop was just another trinkety shop in a pile of many others. But I went in and looked around. Chess boards, jewelry, refrigerator magnets, figurines, wall hangings (some might call them pictures if they remembered how English worked). 

"How are you?" one of asked the other. We were both doing well or good or fine or something very positive.

"Where are you from?"

"Chicago. The states."

"Oh! Chicago, Illinois." This man has a very thick Greek accent, please read it as such.

"Yes!" Very impressive geography skills.

"How long have you lived here?" He didn't understand me the first time, so I tried another iteration.

"I have lived in Delphi for thirty years."

"Wow. Long time. You must love it."

"Yes, well you see. Delphi is for Apollo, god of music and god of creativity and god of harmony. You must have harmony in life."

Preach.

"So I live in Delphi and my life has harmony." I've never heard anyone say that word with such intensity before. And it really drove home how hard he meant it.  Without bringing Webster into the mix, what do we know about harmony? Complimentary tones, accord, just overall balanced. I definitely took what he said to mean life balance. And that's what we're all looking for is life balance.

I'm currently struggling to find that myself. Work, life, love, passion, etc. It's not easy to find. I mean, I guess everyone is always struggling to find the balance. But there are those people who seem not to question it and are just "happy." Not that I'm not happy. Ugh. I'm not even going to try to justify any of this.

Streets of Delphi at night.

Streets of Delphi at night.

I feel/know that the last year and a half have been the hardest of my life. There has been so much growing, thinking, feeling, struggling, crying, laughing, falling, catching, standing, dancing, howling... and learning. I'm finally getting to know who I am. And the best part, I'm finally getting to like (dare I say love) who I am. That is no small feat. And I know I'm not all the way there yet. And maybe no one ever is. And that's okay with me. Because right now, I'm in the best emotional state I ever have been. And I think it's only going to get better on that front from here. Yes, I will stumble, yes I will make mistakes. I'm good at those. But it's the keeping on that I need to remind myself to focus on.

And somehow, through all of this, I'll find my harmony.

So I looked around the shop. The owner's name is Dimitrios. So I looked around his shop. I didn't want anything. I'm not really into collecting things as I used to be. Better to collect experiences.

"Well, thank you so much!" I said as I was about to leave.

"Wait," Dimitrios said and came over, like really close to me. "I want to make you a gift." (Again with, "make.") Honestly, I was afraid this 60 year old man was about to kiss me. Because that was not the harmony I've been looking for. Instead he walked over to a display of refrigerator magnets.

"Yes, I make you a gift. Let's see..." He looked over the different characters depicted on small plates stuck to magnets. "Yes. This is for you," he said showing me the trinket. "This is Artemis, the sister to Apollo. This is for you."

I can't say why he picked that one. I think it's because he's in love with Apollo (and rightly so). I looked it up though. Artemis, yes, sister to Apollo, is the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth and virginity. I can only claim two, maybe three of those depending on how you define them. But I love the spirit of Artemis. She's fearless and brave, with a good heart for her fellow woman. I'll take it.

"Are you traveling alone?" Dimitrios asked me as he gift wrapped my beloved present.

"Yes."

"Good. It's the only way to travel." I've been on and off the fence on that statement this entire trip. But for now, I'm in his camp.

"Where are you going? Back home?"

"No. I was on the islands for a week. Then in Athens. And tomorrow I go to Meteora." Now, I've been saying it, "meaty aura." And Dimitrios had no idea what I was saying. He corrected me with, "meet youra." (Please pretend that, "youra," is a word.) Or was it, "met eh youra"?

We chatted a bit about the islands. I took his picture (sorry on my camera, not phone) and was walking out the door.

"Thank you so much. This is so nice!" I said.

"You are welcome. You are beautiful and kind. You are everything."

Holy shit.

Once upon a time, there was a Greek man named Dimitrios who gave me a refrigerator magnet and made me cry on the streets of Delphi.

I can't even say how much everything that man said means to me. Find harmony and don't forget how amazing you really are.

I left the shop and cried as I continued to walk back towards my hotel. How could the night get any better?

I'd nearly given up on the night when I passed that restaurant again and the music was on. It was two guys. One with a guitar, one with a bouzouki? Whatever the lute looking thing is. They were good. I walked in and the waiter seated me by the window in the back side of the restaurant.

Enter Stefos.

Day 8.5 - Athens

Plaka, Athens

Plaka, Athens

Okay, so, last night's dinner in Athens.

Well, let me back up. So I finished up writing, and as mentioned, an Australian asked me if I was Jackie. There was an entire slew of Aussies actually, mostly female. I ran into Denise (the actual name of the American girl I'd been talking to earlier). She and I grabbed a couple of drinks and sat at a table with the Aussie guys. Then we were soon joined by three Aussie girls. I guess they were all going on some kind of organized tour of the islands, though they didn't all know each other.

Regardless. We're sitting there talking and Denise asks the girls how old they are. They are all 20. As is Denise. Then the four of them look over at me and say, "Oh." Because they thought we were all just going around talking about age. Then they saw grandma here. So I said, "And then there's the old lady at the table!" They laughed, but no one actually asked me my age. Now here's the thing, I've never been ashamed one way or another of my age. It is what it is. I told them I'm 32.

"32 is young! My mother's 50!" 

Okay. Thanks. It's the first time I've had younger girls look at me like I'm ancient. And then try to compare me to their mother(s). It didn't make me feel old, per se, just angry. Come on girls, have some respect for your elders.

Plaka, Athens - my restaurant

Plaka, Athens - my restaurant

Dinner! Then I decided to scoop up my grandma ass and go out into the city to find some dinner. The Greek gentleman we'd been chatting with earlier asked if I'd been over to the Plaka area (very nearby) and gotten something to eat or drink on the stairs. No, no I hadn't. And I didn't really know what this meant. So, I just started walking in the direction he had pointed. I should mention that the reason there are stairs in this part of the city is because it abuts the hill of the Acropolis. Which is badass.

I wandered around and easily found the neighborhood. I passed one restaurant, but it seemed overly crowded, so I kept walking. Found one that was just adorable. As the tables and chairs that are actually on the stairs are different heights, they cut the legs off of the chairs. It looks silly, but it's a great experience.

Had a glass of wine, bread and spaghetti bolognese. I'd been shying away from having spaghetti, but it's been everywhere since I got here. So I gave it a shot. Delicious. The sauce/meat still had a Greek flavor to it. I think it was the perfect meal for my last night in Athens. Rounded it off with an espresso.

image.jpg

Cats everywhere. They were actually begging for my food. As you know, you don't feed the feral cats. But some woman at the next table put down a plate with some food still on it and the cat started licking the plate. Feral plate.

Tiny chair

Tiny chair

A useless feral cat

A useless feral cat

Me being creepy

Me being creepy

I asked for the bill from one of the available two waitstaff. About 20 minutes later I decided that he was either too busy or forgot, so I asked the woman. While I was waiting... I saw two roaches. The cats saw them too, but couldn't care less. What?! That's the only reason feral cats makes sense. I shouldn't be surprised about the roaches, but it's still gross. And I then became very aware that I was sitting very close to the ground, surrounded by food.

Paid, walked back to the hostel. Lots of people were out walking around. There was a band playing in the street with the Acropolis it up in the background.

Got back to the hostel around 10:30. And people were already asleep. Which is fine, I get it. But I took my stuff out into the hallway to repack it so as not to make noise. And once again, slept in my clothes. In case you're counting, I'm disgusting right now.

image.jpg
Invisible band in front of random ruins and Acropolis in background

Invisible band in front of random ruins and Acropolis in background

But as luck would have it, I'm a clean, quiet hotel room and am about to take a shower and change my clothes. And maybe have a nap. There's a chance that I packed in way too much activity into this trip. But hey, if I were just sitting idle, I'd want to do something.

Day 8 - Athens

Chapel at Agora

Chapel at Agora

There's a demon rooster in Athens.

Which is the beginning to any good story.

It lives somewhere above the fourth floor in Athens near my hostel. Who keeps a rooster this high? #europe So I woke up. And there were a couple of people that had wondered into the eight-bunk room after me at around 2am. Their beds are much quieter than mine though. Mine is just the loudest. Anyway, they were still trying to sleep while I, and the rest of my roommates, were trying to get ready for the day. My belongings were still in a locker in the room, packed tightly in my bag, so I took a shower with the bare essentials and did not change clothes til later so as not to cause a ruckus. (I just learned how to spell ruckus.)

It was something stupid like 7am when I was up and at 'em, so to speak. So I went to the lobby of my hostel with my computer and got caught up on some writing... which has already been posted. It's like the future and the past all at the same time. Or it's all the past. Yeah. That.

Then I went upstairs for breakfast just after 8am. And this was my frickin view:

View of Athens/Acropolis

View of Athens/Acropolis

After breakfast I headed out. The hostel is nice enough to provide a suggested walking tour, which I followed, not on purpose, but to a T. I first hit the ancient city of Agora, which if you are unfamiliar, was a large square on the northwest slope of the Acropolis, where social and religious activities, commerce, outdoor theatrical performances and athletic contests were held. (Yes, this is all completely plagiarism. Roll with it.) In other words, it was the heart of the ancient history. But above all it was the center of Athenian democracy, since it was there that the most important administrative and judicial functions and political assemblies took place. And so on. 

It was actually beautiful and so strange to imagine in all of its glory. I'll come right out and say it that most of the day, with each site I visited and each picture I took, it felt like I was reporting directly from a world history text book. But this time around, it wasn't so boring. Remember just looking at column after column and trying to differentiate between Roman and Greek gods?

Ugh. Today was the first time it ever hit me that I named my bulldog after a Roman god and not a Greek one.

View of Sara at Pantheon, Acropolis, Athens, Greece, The World

View of Sara at Pantheon, Acropolis, Athens, Greece, The World

Despite what my photos show, the Acropolis is fucking crowded. So many tourists from so many different places. In a way, it was refreshing to hear other European languages.

My favorite, by far, was this French couple. I was just walking by one of the ruins and this woman pushes her camera, still dangling from her wrist, into my hand.

"Vouz pouvez?" You can? 

(Which I could go off on for a while and point out how meaningful that phrase is to me on this trip as a whole, but I'll refrain and simply let that live within this parenthetical.)

 "Ah, oui!" I responded, without hesitation. Beyond English, French makes me the most excited/makes me feel the most at home. Speaking mostly broken, present tense from high school, I still love everything about it. And I can understand a great deal more than I can speak.

They went and posed for the picture. The husband returned to me.

"Merci!"

"De rien," I responded, like I was the shit. Because I was. Yup. Thank you, mom and dad, that's what private school bought you. Four words from me, but excitement that is priceless.

Ancient theater to Dionysus at base of Acropolis

Ancient theater to Dionysus at base of Acropolis

Accordion player in the street (clearly)

Accordion player in the street (clearly)

Had to stop here for obvious reasons

Had to stop here for obvious reasons

Something I love. They always serve you something salty with your beer. Either chips or mixed nuts of some kind. And also, their stuff is way salty, even for my American tastes. Even at the concert last night, I was standing outside and bought a beer from a street vendor. He then went around to the front of his cart, pawed a handful of peanuts and came around to hand them to me. Yes, I ate them. I don't care. I assume all nuts are dirty. (What?)

Temple of Zeus (the Olympian)

Temple of Zeus (the Olympian)

So. There's an Acropolis museum. As well as an artifact museum... or something. But, I'm in charge. There were no museums today. Because while I'm sure it would have all been very interesting, I wouldn't remember anything except, "This shit is old." And instead I used that money to buy beer. That's better, right?

The accordion player pictured. He was wandering from cafe to cafe playing. I took his picture (not the one pictured, but you get the idea). And he looked at me, said something in Greek and rubbed his fingers together. The international symbol for, "You should pay me now." So I paid him a euro for his photogenic generosity.

My walk continued and I saw more amazing things. Hey. So. In Christianity, there's just the one god. And they've spent centuries building churches and shrines and statues to this one god. BUT, the Greeks? The Greeks have so many gods and so much to build and so much to worship and so much to do. When you look at all the time and effort, it seems beyond exhausting. I don't even know how they erected those towers. I mean I'm sure there were scaffolds involved for each tier, but Jesus... (so to speak).

The Zappeion

The Zappeion

Okay. Then my walk took me to this place called the Zappeion. Now the great think about traveling without a guide or a teacher or your parents is that I have absolutely no idea what this place was about. Except that it was beautiful. It also looked like it was built in the 1950s, so I don't feel that badly for not knowing. But out front, there was a beautiful fountain and these beautiful walls of flowers. I saw a middle-aged couple stop. The woman motioned for the man to go stand by the flowers. And stand he did. He draped the flowers in his face, jokingly, but very romantically.

I shouted, "Bella!"

They laughed.

Because that's the thing about Europe. You can pick your language and yell. And then be gone!

But here's the thing. They yelled back. I have no idea what they said, but they sure enjoyed me calling him beautiful. I laughed knowingly and moved on. Yeah. I don't speak a lick of Italian.

And onto lunch!

image.jpg
image.jpg

Okay. I was walking down the street back to my hostel thinking, "You know what I haven't had yet? Meat on a stick!" And then I saw meat in stick form and pulled over. The place was called Meatropolis. I like puns. And I like meat. Donezo.

I ordered "Kebab" and "Homemade sausage [on a stick]." I don't remember what they called it. I don't know what kind of meat a kebab is. It was so tender, I like to think it was lamb, or some delicious pork. And that sausage? That sausage was delicious

But as I said, "kebab," to the waiter, all I could think about was Flight of the ConchordsPlease click on that and watch it whether or not you know what I'm talking about. Because that is how I pronounced, "kebab." And for the rest of the meal, I just kept saying to myself, "You're a legend, Dave."

I love how all the dishes I get here in Greece come with a half slice of lemon. Because you know what? Lemon is an amazing taste that we should use more.

The men at the table next to me had a long conversation about genocide. #currentevents

image.jpg

Walked back to the hostel.

Something about the homeless. I don't know how widespread this is, but I found it in Santorini and now here in Athens. There are homeless people selling travel packs of tissues. (Which, given my runny nose, I find very useful! Thought I haven't actually bought any from them yet.) In Chicago, we have Streetwise, which is a local periodical of some sort that homeless folk can sell for $2. I've definitely bought it before, but never read it. I find selling tissues to be much more useful.

Athens

Athens

Street crap, Athens

Street crap, Athens

Creepy toy store mascot, Athens

Creepy toy store mascot, Athens

Oh! In the square by my hostel there's a toy store. I had to go in. They have a very creepy mascot. I would liken it to our Geoffrey the Giraffe. So I was in that store for maybe 8 minutes. And the entire time, they were playing some version of John Paul Young's Love is in the Air. Which is a very long time to hear that song.

When I got back to the hostel, I met a new roommate. Another girl also traveling alone. (Girl power! Yep, I said it.) She's from Australia. Lots of Americans and Australians here.

I went to the roof to 1) write all this and 2) charge my shit as last night was lost to the wind for charging. Below is a picture of that. I sat with a beer discussing travel, life, politics, Game of Thrones, etc. with two Greeks and one American. All the while, the Acropolis is in the background.

It's pretty amazing.

An Australian just walked up to me and said, "You're not Jackie by any chance, are you."

"I could be Jackie if you need me to be," I say. Cuz Greece.

image.jpg

Hopefully more from tonight later. The night is young.

Day 7 - Athens

Milos airport, tiny prop plane

Milos airport, tiny prop plane

First of all, I forgot to mention that my phone is not all dead. Just somewhat. I think I mainly just need the charging port replaced, but I'm making it work for now. At least until my upgrade is available in August. (Did you want to know about my cell phone contract? I thought so.)

As promised, the rental car guy drove me to the airport. And, as he said, it was a five minute drive.

"Did you do schvimming?"

"Schvimming?" I repeated. Honestly, I thought there was some activity on the island I had missed out on.

Then he pantomimed with his arms. Oh.

"Oh yes! Swimming! I did."

"Was it cold?"

"Not too bad. It's so hot out it feels nice." And it is hot. And the sun is unforgiving. I don't know what I mean by that, but it sounded dramatic and feels true when you're wandering through a landscape parched.

"Yes. I went two weeks ago and it was too cold. Now, it is nice."

The airport is tiny. As it should be. And when it came time to "board the plane," we walked out on the tarmac to our tiny prop plane. I do believe this was my first time on a prop plane. At least in recent memory. Which was fine... but it's so vivid. The flight was a half hour, which beats the three(?) hour ferry it would have been. The magic of ferryboats has faded. Mama wants to get things moving.

Got into Athens. Wasn't really sure where to go, as is normal.

"Which way do we go?" said a man behind me.

"Just follow the masses," his wife replied.

Yup.

I finally found signs to get to the train. The magic of buses has also faded with this one. Luckily it's like Chicago in that you can't go the wrong way when departing from the airport by train. And double double lucky for me, I was smart enough to book a hostel that was next to a train station. And triple lucky (and also probably planned by me a month ago) was that the other train line I would need later on was the same stop. Yes, ladies and gents, I'm amazing.

I actually do feel particularly lucky that I haven't (knock on wood) gotten lost at any point. No, I didn't always know where I was going (shit - I think that might be the definition of "lost"), but it never took me too long to figure it out. That's something I think makes it easier about traveling alone. There is no one else's opinion on which way to go.

Which reminds me. Back on Santorini, I was using a bathroom at a bar. When I came out of the stall, a woman held down the water while I washed my hands. (So nice.) And then I went to get a paper towel out of the dispenser, which is identical to the ones in the states that are "motion activated." So I stood there waving at this dispenser. Then a different Greek woman comes up and pushes a button where the motion sensor usually lives. Oh.

"This is Greece! If it doesn't work, try something else!"

#truth

So I step out of the train station into Athens and this is the first thing I see:

Monastriaki Center

Monastriaki Center

Are you kidding me? Amazing. I was a little disoriented and didn't know which street my hostel was on. So unfortunately, I walked through the square. I have a lot of thoughts on cities and more on foreign cities and even more on tourist destination cities. Basically, walking through a square with your giant backpack and a meandering way about you sucks. "Hello, hello! Would you like? Where are you from?" Men trying to sell things approach you like crazy. But, so it goes.

I found the hostel, checked in and dumped my stuff. However, I needed to obtain a padlock for my locker. Wouldn't you know it, there was a hardware store right across the street! I walked in and asked the man behind the counter, "Do you have a lock?" pantomiming how I both lock and unlock a padlock.

He hurried over to show me the different sizes he has. "For valise?" Yes! Valise! I've noticed a bit of overlap between Greek and French. And by "a bit," that's all I mean. A guy on the train yesterday was also trying to sell pens, or stylos. I thanked the man very much. He handed me the lock and said, "Louketo," and waited for me to repeat. This is, "padlock." He just doubled the amount of Greek I know.

(I just received notification that I have a new order on Etsy for a greeting card. I updated my shipping times to 2-3 weeks before I left. That guy's just going to have to cool his jets.)

My big plan for the day was to make it down to near the ferry port to go to a music festival. I'd been looking forward to that part since I booked this trip and actually planned my itinerary around it. But first, I hadn't eaten all day. I've accidentally taken to just eating one meal a day. I forget to do anything in the mornings and am typically exploring around lunch. So I'll have a mid-afternoon feast that will keep me stuffed through the night. Yesterday was no exception.

I wandered down to a nearby neighborhood of where the concert was going to be and just searched for a restaurant. And I'm so glad I found the one I did. However, I did have one slip-up. There was definitely waitstaff visiting each table. But what I didn't realize is that you had to place your order at the counter. And (as my brother just astutely pointed out to me via text), they'll just assume you don't want to order if you just sit there. Eventually an irritated Greek man came over and said, "Please. Order," and motioned to the back counter. 

And boy, oh boy, did I know what I wanted. I wanted the rabbit with onions. The woman serving it up asked if I wanted rice with that. Meh. Not really. Chips? Yes please. (I'm stopping the show to tell you that by chips, I mean fries. I'm so European. I may even speak with an accent when I come home and ask you where the water closet is.) What I did not expect would be that she'd serve me a mountain of chips topped with rabbit and onions. I've never had rabbit fries before. 

So, from there. took a train to a tram to the venue. Tickets said show started at 4pm, which seemed weird to me. Who's free on a Wednesday at 4pm? I am though. They let people in around 4:30 and the first act started at 5pm. There were... five or six bands that played for the next seven hours. The last two were the ones I came to see. Daughter and Beirut. I've been lucky enough to see both of them in Chicago and it made the experience, while foreign, still feel like a bit of home.

I have to give it to Greek crowds also. They're very polite and forgiving about people walking through. I feel like the past few shows I've seen in Chicago, I'm shoving past, if not getting pushed into an accidental mosh-pit. You know, how shit happens.

Daughter

Daughter

Beirut

Beirut

Took me til about 1am to get back to the hostel. And I hadn't yet claimed a bed in my room because they weren't finished cleaning them when I originally checked in. So, flashlight time on the phone it was. I managed to find the creakiest bed in the room. And with all my stuff locked away and packed up in my bag, I didn't want to get anything out and be any noisier. So I just laid down in my clothes and went to sleep.

A great day.

Day 6 - Milos

Hammocks find me in life. They just do.

Hammocks find me in life. They just do.

I slept for 12 hours my first night on Milos and it was just what I needed. I woke up still feeling somewhat blue, but determined to have a good time, damn it.

Made my way over to a rental car place. This is becoming my routine:

"What kind of car would you like?

"Cheap."

"And you need automatic?"

"No. Maunal is fine."

"Okay... I can do... thirty Euros."

Done.

Then I realized that I no longer had my credit card or license. Which is strange to be missing two things I haven't used since I left the states. Had to go back to the hotel. I'd stashed them elsewhere in my backpack so as not to take them out and lose them when I was on Santorini. Clever girl.

By the time I got back to the rental place, a ferry had arrived and it was filled with a new batch of tourists. So I walked down the dockside town to the next storefront with rental cars. The girl inside was frickin lovely. And her English was very easy to understand. I didn't know why that was until she told me she's actually Italian, which is apparently an easier accent for me to understand.

"You came all the way here from Chicago?" Yes. People continue to be surprised, but in like a, why would you bother to come here, sort of way. "I've been living on Milos since I was 8 and... it's fine, but it's so quiet." Apparently in the off-season only one bar/restaurant on the waterfront stays open. "So I'm sitting with my friends who are 17 or 18. And next to us is a group of 50 year olds. I want to talk about boyfriends and things like that and they're just sitting there talking about flowers or something." She was sweet. Showed me where to go on the island.

"Who are you here with?" 

"No one. Just me." 

"You came alone?! Why?" 

I have no answer for this on the spot.  

"I don't know." 

"Next time you should come with someone." 

And maybe she's right. But maybe not. I'm having my ups and downs, but it's mostly ups. And I'm learning a lot about myself.  

Also, for me, finding someone to travel with or spend any extended amount of time with is not easy. I get irritated and I tend to want alone time anyway. So who knows.  

"It's a very different experience being on your own," she said.  

"Yes, it is." 

The guy who helped me with my actual paperwork was very sweet as well.

"You only need the car for today?"

"Yes."

"Are you leaving on a ferry tomorrow?"

"No, I have a flight."

"A flight? Oh, well come back in the morning to return the car and I will drive you to the airport. Only five minutes that way. But you can't walk it."

Everyone is so nice! So I'm meeting him in an hour to head to the airport, to head to Athens.

But, yesterday is what I'm here to talk about.

"You can drive a standard?"

"Yes. I get that most Americans you see don't.

"No. They all want automatic. Automatic Jeep is what they all ask for. And there are maybe... mm.. one automatic Jeep on whole island! I get the one guy who calls me and I think he is from Texas. He says, 'I need an automatic Jeep that seats seven people.' That's like three different car categories in one!"

Sarakiniko

Sarakiniko

Sarakiniko

Sarakiniko

Caves at Sarakiniko

Caves at Sarakiniko

Plaka

Plaka

Kilma

Kilma

So clearly, I took off exploring. The white rock at Sarakiniko were amazing. They were also very soft and not gravely, so I took my shoes off when wandering around. Then I passed an old Greek man who had done the same. I went inside one of the caves which were all connected, but I was too chicken to actually walk in the dark part of the cave. I think I've seen Pirates of the Caribbean too many times. (Yes, I understand I'm on the complete opposite side of the world.)

I drove to Kilma. In fact I nearly drove into the sea at Kilma. The road stops right at the water and I didn't realize how close I was getting. I parked the car and walked back down. This is basically all there is to see in Kilma. I had been hoping for a seaside taverna to stop for a beer, maybe some food, but there wasn't anywhere to go. But beautiful nonetheless.

I stopped for lunch in Plaka. Had me a beer (Amstel is what was on draft), some bread, fried cheese (my new lover), fries and meatballs. I have no idea what kind of meat those meatballs are, but it's amazing. I couldn't finish all the food, so I had the rest packed up for take-away.

At this point I decided to take it easy and went back to my hotel to lounge at the pool. This was the part in the story where I broke a bottle of Fix beer. Yes, despite what I said about it being pure piss, I'm still drinking it.

I decided to go out a bit later to find a secluded beach to watch the sunset. And so I did. I hadn't really been paying attention to what time the sunsets happen around here, but I left the hotel around 5:30 or 6:00. I took my leftovers to munch on at the beach.

Found an amazing above ground cemetery along the way. 

Found an amazing above ground cemetery along the way. 

Driving to said beach was a bit tricky. The roads aren't always major roads and often you have to maneuver through the streets hoping you're going the right way, At one point I came around a corner and the road split down two alleys. Who knows?! I'll tell you. Three little Greek women who were sitting outside all pointed one direction and waved and smiled. (Have I mentioned that everyone is so nice?)

Plathiena beach

Plathiena beach

I got to the beach and the sun was still quite high in the sky. But no matter. This girl won't complain about it. Sunset happened around 8:30. Good to know. So I sat on the beach, watched some families play in the water and took a dip myself. I munched down my meat and cheese and waited. The sunset itself was a bit of a doozy - there were clouds by the horizon, blocking the majesty itself. But this girl won't complain about that either.

Plathiena beach

Plathiena beach

Adamantas

Adamantas

I grabbed my things and headed back to my hotel. Little did I know my town (Adamantas) is hopping at night. I dumped my things and ventured back out for one last Mythos beer at a sidewalk restaurant and watched the people.