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.

Arrived-ish

Hated to leave the little guy behind, but it is certain he would not fit underneath the seat in front of me.

Hated to leave the little guy behind, but it is certain he would not fit underneath the seat in front of me.

Currently enjoying/tolerating my layover at Athens airport before taking off for Crete. I have seen all of the duty-free sights including, but not limited to cartons of tobacco cigarettes, a fine selection of vodka, whisky and ouzo as well as all of God's Toblerone. Also cosmetics. Why are there always cosmetics? 

The flight was mostly uneventful. The couple sitting next to me was disappointed in their specialty/vegetarian meal. Not only was it not enough food, but the woman's cookies were lost somewhere along the way. "No cookies! And can I have a salad?" I held back many comments which included, "Have you flown before? You can't just order a salad." Additionally, "Listen, lady. Ain't nobody pleased with the food here." Sweet vindication was mine when she threw up through the duration of descent.

There was a baby sitting in front of me. But he was a pure delight. Hardly cried. What a trooper.

There was a baby behind me also. In the form of a 60-something year old Greek man. He spent the first hour of the flight tapping the touch-screen monitor located on the back of my headrest. I punched him and he knocked it off. 

So now I wait. My flight boards in an hour and a half and, would you believe it? There are no bars open in this airport yet. Believe me, I checked. 

Oh! What luck! As if from the Greek heavens above, a bartender just appeared out of nowhere! I shall befriend him soon as I expect his shift doesn't begin til noon. (I know, can you believe I have to wait until noon? What kind of country is this?) I think I'll open the conversation telling of my sincere adoration for Donald Trump.

Some girl just said something in Greek to me indicating she would like to use the stool next to me. Yes, I fit right in with the locals already, with my everything-blatantly-and-painfully-American. I look like I'm going camping. Rolled up track pants, tank top, men's sneakers. Not to mention my neon green water bottle and burnt orange North Face backpack. Yes, this screams, "I'm a local! Ask me for stools in your native tongue."

Where did that bartender go? Was he just checking things out?

Oh. My ankles are swollen to the size of hefty eggplants. I did my best to wander about on the flight and popped a bunch of ibuprofen along the way to keep the blood flowing, but I fear I have obtained cankles for the duration of the near future.

I am, as of yet, unsure what the hell my phone is trying to do.

I believe I have mistook said bartender for a common Greek sandwich maker.

I haven't been out of the country in so long, I didn't remember what the protocol was for leaving the country. Meaning, they just let everyone on the plane without checking for passports.  As if to say, good luck, suckers, hope someone else will take you in. Maybe everyone works this way. It just seems so relaxed. Like there should be a nagging mother waiting at each gate shouting, "Billy! Did you remember to grab your passport off the entry table before you left?!"

There was a bit of a scare in Newark after I boarded the connecting flight. Everyone was notified not two minutes prior to our scheduled departure that the flight would now be delayed for two hours due to "flight preparation." I'm not sure what that means, but within four minutes, we were back to leaving nearly on time. Salad Woman turned to me and said, "That was scary." Again, comments held.

It's a good thing that the flight was not delayed as I've had time to sit quietly pining for my first Greek vacation libation (vacation libation!) and write out this lengthy and uninteresting story of what it's like to be "on a plane" and obtain cankles.