It's All Greek to Me

Trip Start Sep 11, 2005
Trip End Dec 13, 2005

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Saturday, November 5, 2005

November 5, 2005 Athens, Greece

I now understand the meaning of the phrase, It's all Greek to me. We made it down to Athens. The city here is very unique. It has been nice to step away from the European scene and get a new flavor. Greece seems to have it's own way of doing things.

Our initial experiences were coated with chaos. We stepped out of the metro in search of a place to call home for a few nights. It was Friday afternoon and there were people everywhere. We had our packs on and crammed in to the masses of pedestrians headed in various directions. A few times we headed the wrong way, but after awhile of wandering we figured out that the street signs have crazy spellings and that the spelling of the word might change randomly but it is most likely the same street. The alphabet being different from ours is somewhat challenging, but we are making do.

It seems every street is lined with various shops trying to sell something. I have no clue how they all stay in business. The people haven't haggled us much and I have really appreciated that. The feel of this town is very different from any other I have been to. Sometimes I feel like I am roaming through the side streets of a third world country and then a few steps later I am greeted with the illumination of an ancient ruin. The old columns remind me of why we came and bring a smile to my face.

Although the city seems quite rundown in areas, we feel safe here. Police are always nearby and the night scene somehow brings life and charm to the place. All of the ancient sites are fenced off after 2:30 in the afternoon, but it is still good to see them nearby. It reminds me that this place has been active for longer than I can imagine.

To this day I cannot wrap my mind around Greece. Although I have walked the ancient sights I still cannot fully understand all that has taken place here. I feel like I need a semester of Greek history to help me put it all in perspective. In my mind I was expecting beauty and splendor in all directions. Athens has not given me that. Instead it has shown me that history and culture can have many different faces.

When I think about Greece I thought I would see things the way they were in my history books. I forget that many of the Greek stories my mind clings to are stories of mythology. Although they most likely have strong connections to many real life places, they are exaggerated and not realistic. I think that is the same for my assumptions of Greece. I also have to remember that Athens if one tiny piece of Greece and I still have a lot to see. I like Athens for all that it once was and for what has taken place here. I want to understand more about that and understand the feelings of the people who live here.

Our first night we set out on the ever dreadful task of finding a place to eat. We found a pita place that we thought was cheap. We planned to grab something quickly and do a little evening exploring. After we were sitting two minutes, we realized we were going to try to get taken advantage of. They thought we were silly Americans and they could steal our money. They did catch us off guard at first. We accepted their recommendation for dinner, which of course was the most expensive thing they sold. I was thanking God that they didn't have anything too pricey on the menu. I then was brought my coke which had ice in it. I had flash backs to my first meal in Rome and knew they were going to try to charge me five bucks for ice. I took my coke back up to the counter and kindly asked if they would be charging more for ice since I didn't request it. They said yes and allowed me to have a drink without ice. I was glad I had caught them in their game. Our meal was fine but when the bill came we knew we would be challenging them. We found a few errors and got away the cheapest we could. I learned that if they don't offer you a menu, make sure you ask how much it will cost. My $3.00 pork Pita turned into $13 when I took his suggestion. Oh well, their goal is to rip off tourist, so we decided to be more careful. So much for a cheap pita.

The sights of Athens are lit up at night and it is fascinating to roam the streets and run into various elements of history. We are on the winter schedule and everything basically closes at 3:00 pm, so we admired the ruins from a distance.

This morning our first stop was the Acropolis. It housed the ancient ruins of Propylaia, the Parthenon, Theater of Dionysius, and the Theater of Herodes Atticus. After much confusion at the ticket office we were allowed in. Since we were from America it cost more, but I guess that is just the way it goes sometimes. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed climbing the grounds in pursuit of the Parthenon. The white columns stood tall and many wanted to snap their pictures in front of what remained of the ancient temple. Greek workers dressed in street clothes were eager to blow their whistle at any behavior they deemed inappropriate. They were a bit controlling but we managed to only get blown at once, when Charlie stood on a rock to take a picture. It seemed perfectly normal to us, but they didn't seem to like it much. We noticed many Greeks doing exactly the same thing without getting in trouble. Oh well, that is all part of being a tourist in someone else's homeland. One group of Americans got their camera confiscated because they did a handstand in front of the Parthenon for a picture. They took the camera, deleted the pictures, and then sent them on their way after much heated discussion. Despite the rude workers who you can't tell are workers except for their loud whistles, and the high price, we enjoyed the ruins. We hope to experience more of them tomorrow.

Where we go from here is also something that is unclear in our minds. We want to see parts of this beautiful Greece we have heard so much about. Yet we have little money to play with right now. We hope to catch some ferries to the islands and then somehow make it up to Istanbul in the next few weeks. Internet is harder to come by, so bear with us. The phone calls and post cards home have had to be restricted because of the amount they were costing. We do love everyone dearly and will do our best to be safe and keep you posted.

Right now we know we will be in Instanbul sometime around November 15th. If you don't hear from us until then it's because we are stranded on some Greek island hopefully having the time of our lives.
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