Heading into EU Territory

Trip Start Mar 12, 2009
Trip End Sep 02, 2009

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Where I stayed
Classical Acropal

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

As my time in the Middle East wound to a close, I was thankful to be able to look back on all the ancient, historical and Biblical knowledge and sites I had learned of and experienced over the past two and a half weeks. While seeing many places I had read about in books, studied in the Bible and watched TV programs on was a highlight of this around the world trek, I was looking forward to experiencing the homeland of my mother's family, Greece, especially in memory of my pia-piu, Nicky Tsacrios, who had passed away just before I departed the states.

My plan was to arrive in Athens on July 18, explore this capital city's museums and landmarks, and meet up with a friend, Sia, whom I had met in Peru/Bolivia, whose family was from Greece and who was spending the summer there as well.  From there, I hoped to make a day trip or two out of Athens to see some of the mainland's interior prior to flying (or ferrying) to some of this country's infamous islands.  Greece's history, charm and slow paced lifestyle preceded it in reputation and had set my expectations accordingly.

The notes below attempt to summarize the highlights of my time in Greece's mainland:

~Taking full advantage of the city's great public transportation system via bus and Metro starting at the airport and throughout my exploration of Athens (much compliments of the infrastructure built for the 2004 Olympics)
~Walking through and smelling Athinas Street and its Friday fish market shortly after I arrived in my hotel’s neighborhood of Omonia, then strolling down through the nearby streets of Monastaki and browsing its local goods, souvenir and antiques shops
~Sleeping for 10 hours my first two nights in Athens to catch up for all the "on the go early" days in Egypt and Jordan
~Touring the Acropolis, including its amphitheaters, temples, foundries and of course, the Parthenon, in 105 degree heat and loving the (5 Euro/$7 US) frozen lemonade at the end of my four hours of exploring
~Being extremely impressed with the brand new, modern Acropolis Museum (so much glass, stainless steel and natural light in the exhibits and overall museum!) displaying so much great Greek history, sculpture,  pottery, coins, jewelry etc.
~Meeting up with Sia on day three in Athens to take advantage of her company, local expertise and language skills while in the city
~Touring with Sia the Temple of Zeus's 16 huge columns (there once were 104)
~Learning much about the history (and art) of Greece’s Cyclades (chain of islands) via the very modern Cycladic Museum
~Shopping with Sia for food for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the local supermarket and cooking in a real kitchen (for the 1st time in a long time) a Greek dinner of Spanokopita, Tzatziki and Greek salad
~On my third night in Athens (August, not staying in a hotel room, hostel or tent for the first time in over four months, but instead, in Sia's family's flat in Athens' suburb of Petroupolis
~Touring the overwhelming Archaeological Museum in Athens with its hundreds of Neolithic-through-Hellenistic pottery, jewelry, armory, statues and reliefs
~Jogging (in desert trekking shoes) two miles (with Sia, who ran five) through the hilly neighborhood park in Petrupoli where the hilltop views of the city itself (Acropolis, Olympic village and kilometer after kilometer of two and three story buildings) was quite impressive against the surrounding mountains
~Taking the early bus to Delphi and to walk the site of the famous Temple to Apollo, Pythian Games Stadium and Oracle at Delphi (see separate blog entry) before returning to Athens for the night to wake before 3am to catch the early bird flight from Athens to Rhodes with Sia
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