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5/28: Day Two, Athens
In order to try to meet our tour manager before everyone else got to her, Caroline and I got up around 6 to eat breakfast. We took a shower in the freakish Greek way: with a handheld head, no place to put it on the wall, and no shower curtain. Brrr. It sucked. (Did you know you're not supposed to flush TP in Greece, because the pipes are so old? Just a tidbit of info for you all.) By 7, not one other person was awake, so we ate some of what was to become standard breakfast fare -- eggs (this place had both poached and boiled, but most had only the latter), some weird breakfast meats, lots of bready products, watered-down juice, plain yogurt (yuck), and milk that was creamier than whole milk. We struck up a conversation with the waiter guy, this dude named Johnny who had lived in New York for a while, so he spoke a lot more English than anyone else we had run into so far. After a while, we got tired of waiting, so we went back to our room to hang out. Or something. I don't know what we were doing, but we wasted time and came back to finally see people sitting at the tables.
We went over to a table to introduce ourselves. Caroline recognized the name of Shayne, this Australian guy who she had emailed a bit with, who managed a bowling alley there. We also met his roomie, Mario, a couple called Steve and Kaylene, and two sisters, Alexis and Jessica. Everyone was really nice, but it was weird being the last people to meet a group. (It turned out okay later, obviously.)
After breakfast, we met Sabrina, our tour manager. Since she lived in Athens, they hadn't allowed her to stay at the hotel, which explained why she wasn't there early for us to talk to. We all went downstairs to get in the coach and start our day, but our tour guide, Dora, was late, so Andy, Matt, Caroline and I headed down towards the Plaka (I didn't know that is what the area is called until later), to look at a statue shop (where I would later make the majority of my Plaka purchases). We also looked at the Church of the Metamorphoses, which had a huge anarchy symbol painted on it and a lot of weird Greek graffiti. (My comment about that: Greek graffiti looks like frat boys and sorority girls got crazy with the paint can.) Eventually, we wandered back to the coach, where Dora had shown up and our bus driver, Pan, was loading everything. We hopped on the bus and headed towards the Olympic stadium. On the way, we heard Lenny Kravitz's "Fly Away," our day song (to be played every morning, argh).
Matt and Andy are smiley in the bus on the way to the Olympic Stadium.
If I never see the inside of this bus again, I'll be just fine. Although I do miss that fab blue upholstery...
On our way to the stadium, Dora pointed out the new acropolis of the city. ("Acropolis" means "highest point"; when the Parthenon was built, Athens was much smaller, so that really WAS the highest point, but as they city grew, it ended up including a new higher point.) I just stared out the window in wonder, not caring to really talk to any bus people, because I was so fascinated by everything. Then we got to the Olympic Stadium, and we found that because Dora had taken so long, the group photographer had taken off, so we weren't going to get a group photo for the trip. That sucked.
Alexis and Alison at the Olympic Stadium. Big sissies unite! (That doesn't sound right...)
Jessica (Alexis' sister) and Caroline (Alison's sister).
Aww, sisterly love!
Group photo! With a statue of a guy! Yeah!
Sitting in chairs that are built into the seats of the stadium. (It is easier to judge than compete. That is my philosophy here.)
We took a lot of pics at the stadium, and then headed to the Acropolis. I was so excited at this point that I didn't know what to do with myself. For some reason, Athena has always been a goddess that fascinated me, and I was happy to say that while I knew every single myth that Dora told us, usually to a greater extent than she told them, I was still listening raptly to her, wondering if she'd tell me something about Athena that I didn't know. When we got up the hill, I could hardly open my eyes wide enough, looking at everything on the Acropolis. I couldn't handle it. I took SO many photos, of everything, even things in the museum. It was awesome. Seeing those temples, even in their demolished state and covered in tourists, was simply awesome. AWEsome.
Approach to the Acropolis from below. Alison is trying not to hyperventilate.
Below the Acropolis...
Temple of Hephaestus in the distance.
Building being reconstructed on the lower Acropolis.
The Propylaia, atop the Acropolis.
Theater below the Acropolis... notice the nice, modern flooring.
More of the Propylaia.
The Parthenon! Temple of Athena!
Front view... or at least, what I saw first.
Caroline and Alison, happy to be in Greece!
From the side...
Theseus and the Minotaur. Ooh. Alison knows her Greek mythology...
Theater of Dionysius
Part of the pediment from the back side (see below).
I think this is Athena. And those are the Caryatids on the Erechtheion.
Caroline, Alison, and the Parthenon
Parthenon, back view.
Did I mention that it was awesome? (Honestly, everything in Greece awed me.)
When we headed down the hill, we were introduced to what would become our first love of Greece: lemonade Fanta. This is the best softdrink ever invented. I have to say that, because they don't have Diet Coke in Greece -- they have Coke Light, which is gross. Lemonade Fanta kicks ass.
After the Acropolis, we drove around Athens in the bus for a while, and Dora pointed things out to us. They dropped us off near a money exchange place (I spent lots of money on that cab ride, ah! And a soda. And I guess I bought something else, or I felt like I needed more currency. Anyway. Don't question me.) and this restaurant called Neon. I was tired and still not feeling great, so Caroline and I split a club sandwich (with fries -- everything in this damn country came with fries!!) and a soda. We sat down to eat with Matt, Andy, and Jenna, this chick who had up and quit her job, put all of her things into storage, given her mom power of attorney, and decided to travel the world for 5 months. (Nice!) She is the tannest person I have ever had a conversation with. I went upstairs to use the restroom, and found this woman standing in there, sort of like you see people doing in super fancy restrooms, but she wasn't handing out cloths, or cleaning, or doing much of anything. Since I had no idea if I was supposed to tip her or not, I feigned being in a rush and ran out of the bathroom and back to the group. Not five minutes later, she comes down the stairs, looking like she was looking for someone. So, I hid my head. :)
After lunch, Jenna took us to the Internet cafe from which I sent my second email message. The proprietor was this old dude who said about 2 words and didn't find it necessary to keep more than 1/2 of the machines in working order. The bandwidth there was crap, too. And this would be the first example of Caroline's email habits vs. Alison's: Alison mass emailed everyone she cared to write, and Caroline emailed Josh. Okay then. :)
I will mention here that there are a lot of narcoleptic stray dogs in Greece. They just sorta sit down on the ground and go to sleep, and that's it, buddy. You have to walk off the sidewalk to get around the furry oafs.
After the Internet cafe, we headed back to the hotel, because we wanted to see the Temple of Poseidon, which was an optional excursion. On the way out there, I got extremely carsick, and we learned about these little memorial boxes that were sitting along the sides of the freeway to commemorate accidents (whether or not they were fatal). Caroline looked out the window and saw a white butt sticking out of the ocean (we drove along the sea). The ride was interesting.
When we got to the site, I was falling over on myself. Dora told us a bit about the site and then we hiked up to it. It was stunning, because it's set on this outcropping of hill overlooking this incredibly blue sea. The color of the water in Greece is unlike anything I have ever seen in my entire life, and it makes everything around it look more beautiful. On the temple I saw the first example of graffiti done by people in the old days (just wait until Egypt!), and I was pretty stunned that anyone would do something so lame. Either way, the temple rocked, and at this point, I had seen 2/3 of the "Sacred Triangle" of Greece. All in one day!
The Temple of Poseidon. You can't see the graffiti from the 1800s carved into the pillars, but trust me, it's there.
Alison, Andy, and Caroline pose.
On the peninsula where the Temple of Poseidon sits. Too bad it was overcast today :(
At the foot of the hill was a cafe, where Caroline joined everyone in coffee and I tried not to feel ill anymore. She ordered a Nescafe, which is an actual choice on the menu -- you can order instant coffee on purpose! Yuck. Anyway, 2 sips later, Caroline pronounced it undrinkable, and that was that. We headed back to the bus and I conked out, under the influence of lots of Dramamine. Andy tried to take a picture of me sleeping and Caroline valiantly stopped him.
Icky Nescafe Cafe. Yuck.
When we got back to the hotel, Caroline, Matt, Andy, and I walked back to the statue store, and I bought a statue of Athena holding the winged Nike. I was going to barter, but the statue was mismarked, so I took a 10% rebate on the real price and didn't haggle. (For some reason, Matt and Andy thought this was funny.) When we got back to the hotel, we met up with Jenna and walked through and past the Plaka to this restaurant on the other side of town. I had saffron chicken with olives, and we all drank a bunch of beers and talked. Shayne told the story of how he got bar scammed.
Shayne Gets Bar Scammed
Shayne got to Athens days earlier than the rest of the tour, so he took the first day to wander around on his own. This Italian guy with a map stopped him and asked him for directions, and he admitted that this was his first day in the country and that he didn't know his way around. He helped the guy find his way, and the guy invited him to a bar, which he had no problem leading himself to (weird... wasn't he lost?). They went inside and these two women came up and sat down with them, chatting them up, just as the bartender took their orders. He asked them if the women were with them, and the Italian guy said yes, so in an effort not to be awkward, Shayne agreed. Two drinks (each) later, the bartender gave Shayne a bill for something like 50,000 drachmas, which is almost $150 (or $300 Australian, since Shayne's an Aussie). Since Shayne didn't know the exchange rate, and only had 15,000 drachmas on him, he told the guy that he didn't understand why it was so expensive and that he didn't have that much money. The guy took what he had and ESCORTED him to an ATM, which happened to be near an exchange place, so Shayne looked at the exchange rate and figured out how much it was. In shock, when he got back to the bar (still being escorted), he refused to pay his bill, and the man said, "Well, you did buy this woman 2 drinks, no?", gesturing to the woman. She nodded, "Yes, he did!" And he agreed.
Turned out, according to the bar, that she had purchased one bottle of their most expensive champagne, each time. Interesting how they fit that all into one glass!
So, Shayne refuses to pay, and the guy picks up the phone and makes like he's calling the police (who never show). Shayne tells them to call anyone they want, call the Aussie embassy, he's not paying!
They let him go and tell him that he's lucky, this time, and that he'd better not come around there again. Turns out that things like this happen all the time in Greece, because it's a country aimed at tourism, so that there are actual TOURIST police that automatically believe anything the tourist says over the local.
In the lobby of the hotel, right before going out to dinner.
Dinner past the Plaka. Left to right:
Carrie, Jessica, Alison, Caroline, Shayne, Alexis, Matt, Andy, Jenna, Mario
After dinner, we all walked back towards this club near the hotel. Mario, who is super quiet and smells like Chris (because he wears John Paul Gautier... yummy!), was telling me about how he wants to get into IT, and I was recommending programming books to him. It was nice. When we got to Lava Bore, the bar, I was dead tired, though, and I wanted to go back to the hotel, but I didn't want to walk by myself. Instead of being cool about it, Caroline was totally lame and got mad at me for wanting to leave, so I had to deal with 30 minutes of her having total attitude before other people decided that they were leaving too, so she felt that she could go. (She didn't want to miss anything interesting and social. Argh). And we went to sleep.