Wednesday, November 25, 2009


After a lot of waiting around for trains and buses, we made it to one of the main train stations in Athens. Our hotel was only a 20 minute walk away and we found it pretty easily. I went in and smiled and said hello to the gray haired old man behind the desk. He glanced at me, then looked past me to Chuck who had walked in just behind me. He smiled at Chuck and said "How can I help you. sir?" What??? Seriously?? I didn't think we were supposed to run into this until we were in the Middle East or something. But here I was, being overlooked because I'm a woman. Although I was shocked, I found that I wasn't actually offended. I found his ignoring me in preference for Chuck to be amusing more than anything else. Especially when he had us pay and I whipped out my credit card. And I chuckled to myself when he set the receipt in front of Chuck for the signature and I scooted in to sign it instead. Chuck was getting a kick out of it all too, making jokes as we went to the elevator that we should be walking 6 feet behind him and stuff. Although I found it all amusing, I can imagine how annoying it would be if being ignored in favor of a man was an everyday part of my life. If I grew up in that environment I might not mind so much, but if I up and moved somewhere like that I would get really annoyed really quickly. And he was the only person to really treat us that way as well, so it must not be a widespread behavior in Athens. Might be that he was just an older man stuck in his ways. Anyways! Upstairs in our room we were in another state of shock at our tiny, bare, utilitarian room. But, to Robyn's delight it at least had a bathtub. We settled in, tried to get the very bad internet to work, and eventually got hungry. Chuck and I went out and ate at a place called Goody's - apparently one of Greece's own fast food chains. While out I counted three transvestites that passed us in the streets. One was dressed very nicely and might have been taken for a woman if you weren't paying close attention, while another was in a shiny black mini skirt, fishnet stockings, high heels and a tube top. I didn't realize Athens was such a hotspot for cross-dressers! There might have been a special event going on that night though, who knows.

The 8th was our day to see all the sights of Athens. We headed towards Monastiraki Square first. The walk there was pretty cool. We passed by stores of all kinds, filled to the brim with jewelry, or kitchen supplies, or bags of dried beans and spices, pet shops, clothing stores, etc. There were people all over the place - people who looked like they actually lived in Athens and were out doing some shopping for the day. once we reached the square the area became more touristy and shops turned into souvenir shops. The gimmick being sold in Athens were these squishy balls that were soft enough to collapse into a "splat" when you threw them on the ground, but slowly pulled themselves back together into their round shape after a few moments. I'm not sure I explained that well, but it's the best I can do. So there were guys sitting on street corners all over Athens trying to sell these. We got kebabs for lunch at a place called Thanassis. We had read about it online and was suggested as a good kebab place. It was one of those restaurants where they pimped their food though - you know, they see you just walking by and immediately try to steer you to their tables and offer you deals and say how good their food is. A tourist trap sort of place. The kebabs were alright, but not even in the top 5 best kebabs I've ever had. So, meh. After lunch Robyn guided us down a shopping street, following a walking guide she had printed online. We stopped to share a coconut stick which I liked, but Robyn thought tasted like candle wax. Robyn was like a moth to the flame with the shoe stores we were passing by, and Chuck and I were drawn to a Lego store we saw. I had no idea the Lego kits were so expensive! They had a Taj Mahal for €300 and the Death Star was €550!!! Holy crap!! Who buys that for their kid, just the have them never actually complete it and eat half the pieces??? On the other hand, I wouldn't mind putting together a Lego Taj Mahal... At the end of the shopping street we came to another square that was cross the street from the Parliament building. Robyn read us some interesting facts about the square that I have since forgotten... I think Hitler might have set up camp in the area and there were some protests in the square perhaps? I'm not a very good student, huh. We headed underground into the Metro station to see the artifacts that were uncovered when the Metro was being built. There were various grave sites, an ancient clay aqueduct pipe, bowls and vases, etc. That's some old stuff there: 2500 years old or so. We emerged from the station right in front of the Parliament building. They, like many other countries, have stylized guards marching in front of the building. I have to say, Greece has some of the funnest looking Parliamentary guards. Their outfit consisted of something that looked like a short beige dress over white stockings. They had on a red beret-ish hat with a long black tassel to reached their waist. The best part was the shoes, though. They were like clogs with a big black poof-ball on the toe. Awesome outfit. The way the marched was very unique as well. When the two guards met in the middle they did a little synchronized... dance thing - that's the best way I can describe it - and slowly marched back out to their posts again. We headed through the National Gardens on our way to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. We got a few pictures with what was left of the ruins and then headed towards the Acropolis. I got yelled at for posing for a goofy picture with a nude male statue. She shouted from her chair "Excuse me! Excuse me! No posing!" I figured she just didn't want me pointing to his privates (come on, who doesn't feel the need for at least one lewd photo with naked Greek statues??), but when I tried to just stand with a smile she continued to have a problem with it. So... Ok then. We moved on. We passed by the Theatre of Dionysus and up to the top of the plateau to the most famous of temples. We passed by the Temple of Athena Nike, went through the Propylea, saw the Erectheion, and walked all around the Parthenon. Like so many of the coolest sights, the Parthenon was surrounded by scaffolding. So friggin disappointing! We did our best to get some good shots, but the scaffolding is just so unattractive. At some point while walking around in the incredible dry heat of Athens-in-September (I can't imagine it in July) I got my first ever nose bleed! It wasn't a big one, but it was my first. How exciting. At some point while walking around in the dry heat I decided I'd better suck it up and put on sun screen, lest I end up a lobster at the end of the day. I hate having to put on sunscreen. The Acropolis - like the rest of Athens - is home to quite a few stray dogs. They're so sad and lethargic that you can't help but want to give them a cuddle. The dirt keeps you from actually touching them, although Chuck had me pour some water into his cupped hands and gave one a little drink. After getting our fill of the busy Acropolis we headed down the hill and came to the Ancient Agora, which was like downtown back in the day. One of the best preserved Greek temples can be found here along with the ruins of old shops, homes, statues, etc. Our walk through the Ancient Agora was short and we were soon on the way back to the hotel, passing by numerous tourist souvenir shops and cafes as we went. The day wasn't over yet though! After a few hours rest we were back on our feet looking for a gyro dinner. We went to the tourist-geared restaurant area and after passing by four-or-so places we found one offering a reasonable €2 gyro. We took a seat and ordered three of the gyros. The waiter gave us one of those "shucky darn" looks and informed us that they had just run out of the €2 size pitas. No to worry though! They still had the large ones! We prodded him for a price. €4. We exchanged glances with each other and decided we would go elsewhere. When we got up the waiter told us that they might have some of the €2 ones left and that he would check. We told him not to bother and walked off. Such a blatant attempt to hustle us! No thanks! We ended up at a place called Savvas (we'd read about it online - it's one of the more popular tourist gyro shops, but they had the best price we could find). The gyros ended up being pretty decent and the french fries were awesome. Robyn and I ordered a glass of Ouzo and kept secretly refilling it with a little bottle she had bought earlier in the day. Subtley scoping the area to make sure there were no waiters around, we would hide the glass under the table and top it off. The never-ending Ouzo. I don't think the waiters would have cared if they had seen us though. After dinner we took a stroll in the dark to the Ancient Agroa again and found that it is home to a whole family of stray cats. We played with the cats and listened to some traditional-sounding Greek music being played and sung by a random trio that had stopped near us. After our fill of music and kitties we stopped off for a quick baklava and went back to the hotel for bed. Long day!

The 9th was a boring day. The most exciting part for Chuck and me was going out to a no-name place for gyros. We read online that small no-name diners usually have the best gyros, and it turned out to be true. That was the best gyro we had in Athens, in my opinion. Chuck and I wandered back to hotel stopping for Baklava and cookies and looking in pet shops along the way. Oh, we also stepped into a meat market. There were three warehouse-sized rooms; two filled with beef, chicken, lamb and pork, and the other room was filled with fish and anything that lived in the water. It was incredible! Everything was laid out so neatly and cleanly. It wasn't just a mess of meat thrown on display. The stands were small, some seeming to hold the products of just one lamb or cow. And the fish was so fresh! They had large carcasses - maybe 1 foot in diameter - of what I assume was tuna. When someone wanted tune steaks they would slice a piece off. Robyn went off on her own to do some shopping. She came back a few hours later with a few new fun articles of clothing to find us being lazy in the hotel. Dinner was boring, blah blah. All in all, a very laid-back day!

The next morning we did our pack-and-check-out routine. I had previously looked up how to get us to the bus station that leaves for Delphi and we all trudged down to the metro. It wasn't until after we bought our tickets that we discovered that the line we needed to take was out-of-order that day. Just our luck! The metro information man was less than helpful with his vague indication of some bus stop and mumbled bus numbers. We wandered back upstairs, into the bright sunshine and peered around for possible bus pick-ups. We finally found a steady stream of buses to the east and tried asking the driver of one how to get where we wanted to go. He rattled off a few bus numbers, but we were still quite confused. Eventually we resorted to taxis. It took about four tires, but we finally found a driver who knew where we wanted to go. Phew! We ended up at the bus station only €5 poorer (a great price in our opinion) and a great sense of relief. We got our tickets to Delphi and proceeded to wait around. Chuck went exploring a bit a found a gyro shop nearby. We all agreed he should grab us three kebabs for the road. When he still wasn't back 20 minutes later I started feeling worried. I got up and tried to figure out which direction he went and where his gyro shop was. I didn't find him. It was getting closer to leaving time and he still wasn't back. I was getting even more worried. He had probably only been gone 30 or 40 minutes, but it wasn't like him to still be gone when the bus was leaving in 10 minutes. I anxiously looked up at every person who came through the doorway, but none of them were Chuck. I don't know why I got so worried, but I couldn't seem to help it. Robyn could see me trying not to freak out so she went looking for him in my place. I sat there trying to keep my mind blank and control my breathing. I felt so silly. I just knew he was going to be walking through the station at any second. I had stopped looking up at each passer-by at this point. I was just trying keep myself calm. Of course, he came striding up and sat dawn next to me, giving me a big hug. Robyn had found him and told him I was losing it and he came back to reassure me. Man, I felt stupid! But I was soooo relieved to see he was alright!! I really really dislike that feeling... I can't imagine having kids!! I would be freaking out at everything apparently. Robyn, who had stayed at the gryo shop to pay for the order (it had just taken the place forever to get the food ready apparently - that's what took Chuck so long), showed up a few minutes later and we all hopped on the bus just as it was about to leave. So everything turned out fine in the end, despite my overactive imagination! And thanks to Robyn. My mind wasn't functioning well enough to be rational while my heart was in a giant knot. And I have to admit - the kebabs ended up being pretty darn good.

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