May 18, 2009

Athens, Day 53: “Do you know how to find the Hard Rock Cafe?”

No updates in the past few weeks; I’ve been busy. I actually posted the London update a week late when I was in Mykonos with my family. That was a nice little break from everything, and I learned to ride a scooter. I definitely like Santorini better than Mykonos, though, as it has actual industry (wine and goats) rather than just a seasonal tourist economy. We were there right at the beginning of the season, and hardly anybody else was there, which may have been the reason for the hotel’s over-attentive maid service (seriously, do they really need to clean the room three times a day? And fold the dirty laundry that I’d left in the closet?)

Anyway, the week before Mykonos we took a three-day excursion to Olympia and Delphi. Delphi was a really great site – the place where the Pythia oracle communicated between the people and Apollo – with a beautiful view. The whole thing is on a steep slope. At Olympia we had a race in the stadium (the original home of the Olympic Games to Zeus) in which I tied for second.

olympia2

That was also the week everyone got sick. Anna and I cough in unison in our sleep. However, we discovered an amazingly strong Greek cold medicine called Comtrex that seems to have a serious painkiller component. On the Tuesday we left for the trip, Vassia (the Athens Centre representative who accompanies us on the trips) gave out the pills to anyone who was sick; we stepped off the bus at Osios Loukas Monastery able to hear nature very clearly and unable to stop giggling. I took some interesting photos.

dog

Like this one.

Last week we finished Alain’s course. Tuesday was an excursion to the Lavrio silver mines, which were clearly marked and had a bus parking lot. However, we seemed to miss those and instead took a 25-minute hike through the woods to a gate suspiciously missing its padlock. We entered the gate and scrambled down a hill that was even less than a goat path, evading bees, mosquitoes, and ancient mine shafts (which someone very inconveniently covered with brush like jungle traps). It was boiling hot and we sat there in misery while Alain lectured, apparently unaware of how unhappy we were. David also came with for that, so I have no doubt he was even more miserable. We also went to Sounion, the southernmost point in Attica where there’s an awesome temple of Poseidon on top of the promontory over the sea. It was also ridiculously hot there, with no shade, but at least a beautiful view. Wednesday I took my family on an evening tour of the Acropolis, and I think I did a pretty good job. It was especially nice as it was in the evening, so there were less people, it was cooler, and the sunlight was perfect for photos (and yes, I remembered my camera this time). Friday we had an exam with an easy essay part (one about Apollo, one about the silver trade) and a torturous short answer section, with words we’d never heard like opisthodomos (a back porch found on some temples) and omphalos (a belly button, namely the navel of the world at Delphi).

This weekend was relaxing; Friday night we went to a nice club in the median of the big highway we have to cross to get to Syntagma. It’s half outdoors with a Spanish/garden theme. Saturday night we watched “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, which makes so much more sense now that we know the Greeks. It’s clearly a movie made for American audiences to enjoy, but it has little jokes that I think it takes a Greek (or someone who’s more familiar with Greece) to get. Last night we went to a hookah bar and Crepa Crepa, and on the way back at 1 am, I suddenly heard my name. I turned around and was, for the first time in my life, literally speechless. I found myself facing a friend from middle school who I probably haven’t seen since 9th grade – and he recognized me. I tried to speak and was unable to for probably 30 seconds, before asking what he was doing here. Turns out he’s vacationing here with his fiancée (???) and they were waiting for her friend to get in from the airport on the bus (hence waiting by the bus stop at 1 am). Small world, small world.

This morning I went to the Plaka and discovered that tourist season is upon us. I helped out two confused tourist groups (one from Brazil looking for the cemetery, another from Seattle for the stadium). I also discovered that it was museum free day and went to the Jewish Museum and the Folk Museum (which had an amazing collection of costumes). I did some shopping, had a gyros, then came back here to my boiling room. Later I might make a recycling trip, then our first class with Christina.

Gyros count: I have lost track. Perhaps 20. I’m giving up the count.

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