Stray cats and dogs

Trip Start Dec 19, 2007
Trip End Apr 16, 2008

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Flag of Greece  ,
Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The flight to Athens was problem free and on the metro ride into the city we met a really nice couple. The woman gave us info about the city and even wrote down her home, work and husbands cell phone number in case any problems arose. They brought us to a decent hotel where we used their internet to find a place more in our price range. We were under the impression that Greece would be an incredibly friendly place...boy were we wrong. We decided on the closest hostel from the loney planet guide and started our treck into a maze of streets. We stumbled across the hostel and decided to stay there as we were lost, hungry and it was dark. The location was amazing, 5 min. to Acropolis, but severely lacked in atmosphere and the orange juice was repulsive...more on that later. We only stayed a night and then found the second hostel from the book. It was called Athens backpackers and was run by abunch of Aussi's. This was an amazing hostel with a bar downstairs,free breakfast, kitchen, and organized tours. We took a walking tour to familiarize ourselves with the city and to meet some people. The first thing we noticed was all the rough looking dogs with collars everywhere. Our guide said that before the Olympics the city put all the stray dogs to sleep to make the city look cleaner. There was huge protests and now all the stray dogs are all protected by law, collared, and vacinated every 3 months or so. There were dogs on every street corner and they out numbered the homeless people. We rarely saw any skinny dogs and they were super friendly. Our first stop on the walking tour was the temple of Olympian Zuess. There wasn't much remaining of the original site, but it was pretty impressive regardless. Hadrians Arch was built nearby to honor Hadrian for finishing the temple. Next we went to the original Olympic stadium. It was a spectacular building, but now only used on the rare occasion... the theme in Greece. Then we went through the national gardens which are probably very impressive in the summer. There were tons of orange trees here. They line the streets of Athens just like we have Spruce and Poplar. We were told not to eat them as they taste more like lemons than oranges... The answer to the disgusting orange juice from the first hostel! Next we went to the parliament building and watched the changing of the guard. Check out the shoes in the picture. It's mandatory for every Greek male to serve one year in the army, and the best looking get chosen to stand guard as they get the most photos taken. After meeting all the people on the tour, that night turned into quite the party. The hostel had 500ml beers for 2? ($3cdn) and they seemed to do the trick. One hangover later we woke up and headed for a day trip into the Peloppenese region. This is area is west of Athens along the Aegean sea. We stopped off at the Corinth canal along the way. An insanely huge canal that you can bungee off in summer. Our destination was Nafplion, home to a huge castle that took ~890 steps to get up. We spent the day walking around the town and headed back in the evening.

We waited 4 days to see the Acropolis since it is free on Sundays. We got up early to beat the crowds, and we are very thankful we did. We basically had the site to ourselves for 2 hours before the masses arrived by tour bus around 11. You can't describe in words how huge the site is. The hill towers over the city. For some reason in the 1920's some genius decided to repair the parthnenon using concrete. Today it is not holding up and it is covered in scaffolding as they rebuild it with marble. Unfortunetly the Greek work ethic is much more laid back than ours and it will likely be this way for years to come. We were told the average greek work day consists of opening up shop around 9 or 10, staying open for a few hours, closing up for siesta between 2 and 5, reopening when they feel like it then closing at some point. This made it difficult on several occasions to try and buy stuff we needed. We went for a walk through the flea market which was an experience in itself. You can buy everything there. Some people had shops and others (gypsies) had blankets thrown on the ground. You could get old VHS's, used clothes, archaic motherboards from ancient computers and an overwhelming amount of porn. Shopkeepers in Athens seem to stand outside their store and call for you to come and see their "very nice store" with "very nice price for you". Once in the store they follow your every step and ignore all atempts to be left alone. At this one store there was a girl trying to sell us everything including her kitchen sink, and when Wendy and I went separate ways she looked perplexed and didn't know who to follow.
The rest of our time in Athens was spent climbing a few of the hills and exploring the non touristy areas. When we went up one of the hills we were followed by a dog for over 45 minutes. Apparently these dogs usually stay by your side and bark at anyone that comes near, but this guy would run off when another dog came close, then would reappear some time later. We attempted to make a trip south to Poseidon's temple but successfully missed the 11:30 bus two days in a row. We could have caught the 1230 one but after a 2 hour trip it didn't seem worth it as the sun goes down around 6ish. We gave up on it and took the metro out to the olympic complex from the 04 summer olympics. The structures were incredible but it was disapointing that these amazing facilities weren't being used. After only 3 and a half years many of the buildings were rusting with broken windows. The pool and basketball courts were in use and the stadium was used as a soccer field. The vast majority of the area was completely desolate. We thought it was pretty sad.

The people we have met so far in the hostels have been great. There is a good mix of Aussi's, Americans, Canadians, Europeans and a few from South America. A few funny things we have noticed is that when meeting someone outside of the states, they will always say what country they are from, like we do. Almost every American however will say their state or city. I've told a few that I'm from Alberta and the typical response is... "uh, isn't that in Canada?". A few know Alberta and most know Vancouver and Toronto. This has actually upset quite a few of the european travellers we've met since they feel as if they are expected to know their american geography. I think it's fun to answer with Alberta and make them sweat before saying Canada. Most of the people openly admit that they know squat about Canada. Second, when going through university the most used small conversation consists what are you taking?, what year?, what are you gonna do when your done? When travelling the three guaranteed topics are: where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you going? This makes for a very easy way to meet a lot of people.

This was our experience of Greece in a nutshell. It is the smoking capital of europe, and very noticeable. We dealt many times with extremely rude customer service, especially at the post office where the lady threw change back at wendy. Sometimes it may be beneficial to know a few choice words in each country!, but the greek language is all on its own. Next time we come here will definetly be in the summer so we can escape to the islands. Wow this was a long post, the rest shouldn't be this long as we were here for a week. Back to italy we go.
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gpugh33 on

Re: Duh
Thanks for your comment...we'll take a wild stab that you are American and take offence to our statement of something we have noticed first hand. Sorry.It has nothing to do with stupidity, possibly ignorance, but definetly not stupidity. we have met plenty of great Americans so far and even one today that knew of Calgary! In general though many that we have met have no clue where Alberta is yet they assume we know where their state is.

If experience means reading nummerous travel books (ex. rick steves, europe on a shoe string, fodors, lets go), renting dvds on different countries and tuning into different travel shoes on tv then you're right, we weren't very educated. Plus, we don't think Athens tourism would want to highlight that their olypic stadium isn't being used, that customer service is sometimes lacking...

Its great to see people are commenting....too bad its not people we know...hint hint :)

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