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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 2 - Crete (in its detail)

Selfie Stick

A big, YES before any of this starts. Yes, I have a selfie stick. Yes, I use it. Maybe I'm proud? Just wanted to be upfront.

Trident

Trident is large in this country. In the United States, we have those piddly little half or third pieces of gum to deal with. HOWEVER, it's Trident, so it's become to be expected. I picked up two packs here thinking it would last me forever, only to realize it was two five-packs of regular sized gum. WHAT IS A GIRL TO DO? Honestly, I found it overwhelming having regulated my mouth to the US version. Trident is not fucking about.

Ladies and Gentlemen


First off. You should know that I did not make much of an attempt to learn Greek before coming to Greece. I'm actually somewhat disappointed in myself that I didn't learn a few phrases. I dislike being that ignorant tourist. BUT. Shit happens. So. On the plane(s) (SO MANY PLANES!) they kept repeating the announcements for both English and Greek speakers. So I learned quickly what, "ladies and gentlemen," sounds like in Greek. I cannot do it justice actually with this alphabet, which proves to me why the Greeks have a different alphabet. Please just look it up. Okay, okay, for you lazy folk. It sounds like, "Keeriskee keeri." But still, look it up. It's a magical language.

Nevertheless. I've been repeating, "[Ladies and gentlemen,]" to myself for the past two days. It's my jam. We'll come back to this later. It's just an ongoing theme.

Driving

Driving here is not as nuts as I was expecting. But it is nuts. As one compares it to Iowa. I am such one. Honestly, no one on Crete is a bad driver. On the contrary, they're all very deftly skilled. Here's the thing I've noticed most. In the US, we have these things called, "shoulders," which is basically an extra lane on either side of the road/highway for people to use to pull over to take a call/change a tire/have an emergency/whatever. But here? Here there are no such thing. They are a separate lane. No, they are not always the appropriate car width, but if you're driving and dragging your ass, you'd better move over into it as much as you can, because the folks behind you want to get by. This was GREAT. 1) It worked in my favor when I encountered slow cars and 2) I didn't have to wait for a pullout to move over as I have had to in other parts of Europe. Now, this does mean that sometimes folks are slightly over the middle line when passing. Phshhh. No big deal.

 

Here's the only time it almost became a big deal for me. I honestly don't know how much over the speed limit is appropriate here according to the police. In the US, basically, if you're 11mph over or the speed limit, they'll let you slide. But here, I have no idea. So I was passing someone, right? And.. I didn't wait for the passing dotted lines. Nope. I gunned it and passed someone while driving over the double center line. I DID NOT NOTICE til later that folks here don't really do that. They respect the double middle lines. I know, my bad. 


But a few cars back was a Jeep. I thought nothing of it as the cars I'd seen that were cops so far had been sedans. Not that long after, I passed someone going the other way getting pulled over by a cop driving a JEEP. I looked in my rear view mirror and there was a Jeep following me. I slowed to the speed limit and he pulled up close to my bumper. In the US, this is code for, "I'm going to be pulling you over very soon and I want you to sweat about it." 

But he passed me. Phew.

However, I wasn't that worried. I don't know why.

Here's the thing. When I rented my car, the guy at the desk handed me my receipt and contract and said, "Hand this to the police if they pull you over." He said it so casually, almost insinuating that I'd get pulled over. So... I kind of assumed I'd get pulled over. And I'd do that stupid American thing I do so well.

 

Music

I didn't bring an AUX cable with me. I meant to, but I didn't have an extra one. And the only one I had was in my car in Chicago. And honestly. I was like, "I'm not going out to my car to get that!" Yep, sheer laziness.

So. I've been listening to the radio here on Crete. It's hit or miss. And it's really difficult because throughout the island you pick up different signals. None of them last that long. And at some parts of the island, there are no radio signals. So sometimes I'd just have SCAN going for ten or fifteen minutes.

I've found that my favorite station(s) are the ones that play EDM (or electronic dance music). They do this in Greek, which I find amazing and hypnotizing. So that's what I search for. I find it depends on the side of the island and the time of the day. But whatever the case, as one does when they are alone in a car for most of the day, I came up with my own words to these foreign sounding songs. 

My Greek EDM masterpiece goes as such:

Ouzo, ouzo, ouzo, ouzo, ouzo, ouzo, ouzo, ouzo. (This is the beat. See? I did it 8 times.)
Keeriskee keeri, (my butchered version of "ladies and gentlemen," but go with it) bring me some tzatziki.
I want some tzatziki, keeriskee keeri.
Baklava is what I want, after some moussaka.
Bring me the moussaka, then bring me some baklava.
Ouzo, ouzo, ouzo, ouzo, ouzo, ouzo, ouzo, ouzo.

Um... guess you had to be there. But it's amazing.

More about driving.

I'm always amazed with road signs about the world. Some of my favorites:

Exclamation point on a yield sign: EXTRA CAUTION! (Maybe. I couldn't quite find a pattern. But I love punctuation. And the exclamation point has gotten too much flack lately.)
Sheep: Cool. I actually saw some. So, I'm happy with this.
Roller skating car: I assume this means, "Watch your shit on this turn," but I also miss roller rink limbo, so I had some nostalgia and didn't pay too much attention.
Wind sock on a yield sign: WINDY. This is amazing. In Colorado, they have a sign on Highway 93 that says, "Gusty winds may exist," and that always felt too existential to me.

What the hell did I do today?

Drove.

I went to two beaches: Preveli and Elafonisi

They are not  near one another. I saw a picture of the amazing palms and strange lagoon area at Preveli and headed that way because it was closer to where I'm staying. Showed up. You have to hike down. It was actually quite the hike. I had one of those moments where I was wondering about by myself and thought, "Well, if I hurt myself here, there's no one to help me and no one knows where I am today. So..." But all turned out fine. Picture will help. I left this beach after about an hour, however, due to the fact that it would hurt my feet to go in the water and there were boxelder bugs all about. Ick. As I was putting my shoes back on to climb back up the trail, a shirtless man I'd seen jogging about said, "You are leaving? You just got here! Is this beach not beautiful?" It is beautiful. But I want to swim and not have my feet hurt and not have to swat away BUGS. So, I climbed. It didn't take more than 20 minutes, but this one woman and I passed each other a few times, both taking turns to rest and breath. At one point I just laughed at her and said, "YEAH!" which is understandable in any language. Translation: I'm out of shape too. Good luck.

So. I then decided to go to Elafonisi, which I was afraid was too far away... because it's at the very southwest corner of the island, while I'm staying near the northeast. BUT, when in Greece. So I drove. Along the way, I got stuck behind a semi. A semi on twisty-turny mountain roads. It was friggin amazing. Annoying because I was going slowly, but amazing nonetheless.

That beach was totally worth it. You can't even imagine a more pristine, beautiful beach. White, black and pink sand. Blue and clear water. And such a friendly crowd. Families and couples and friends playing games. The water. The water was cold. I can't lie to you. I dunked down a couple of times and it actually did take my breath away with how chilled I was. BUT, when I got out, it was still 80 degrees, so I can't complain.

After lounging there for a bit, drove back. Along the mountain roads, there were all kinds of local restaurants. "Taverns." I stopped at one and frickin feasted. I hadn't eaten all day. It was my first real Greek feast. I ordered a 1/2 liter of rose wine, bread, olives, tzatziki and moussaka. I lingered, enjoying it, as one would/should. There were couples about and it was really beautiful.

Before... 

Before... 

Drove home. 

Highlight of drive home: heard Wonderwall by Oasis.

Now I've been here at the hotel for three hours concocting all this friggin writing. My ferry to Santorini tomorrow morning has been cancelled... so I have to figure that out in the morning, but so it goes!

Getting down to the wire

I had a dream a few weeks ago that I had last minute invited my parents to join me on my upcoming trip to Greece. It did not go well. In the dream we were six days into the trip when I shouted at them, "I regret ever inviting you! This was supposed to be my trip so that I could discover me!" There was nothing to be done about it really because logistically, what would they do? Fly home early? Nay. I was mostly upset because they were taking over the itinerary and had managed to leave behind a beautiful Greek man/god with whom I had become romantic.

Luckily I woke up.

The trip is still on and I leave in nine short days. My parents are not coming. And fingers crossed that I find that Greek god.

A word on blood clots

I had two blood clots in 2015. One in my left leg. Then another about four months later in my right arm. Thus far, 2016 has brought me no new blood clots. Knock on wood, fingers crossed and all that shit. 

I have a layover in Newark on my way to Athens. The second leg is nearly a 10 hour flight. I'm somewhat nervous about the possibility of obtaining yet another clot. The doctors can't really explain why I had two. The first one was likely explained away by the hormonal birth control I was on. But the second one? They said, "Since you've already had one, you're likely susceptible to more." Which isn't the best news, but at least they couldn't find anything seriously wrong with me.

So I'll be doing what the flight attendants have been saying for years. Get up frequently, do weird seat exercises. And I'll be taking some ibuprofen in an effort to keep that good old blood flowing.

The only saving grace of all of this is that I now know and can identify what it feels like to have a blood clot in one of my extremities. 

This all sounded very severe.