Thursday, July 15, 2010

greece: arriving

i know many of you have been waiting for me to post about greece. i can't believe it's been almost a month since i got home. what can i say, i am a slacker. but in my defense, how does one boil down the experience of 12 days in greece to a couple of photographs and paragraphs?! it's almost an impossible task! between craig and myself we took almost 500 photographs. fear not. i'm not going to post all of them, but can you imagine how hard it is to go through 500 photographs and pick which ones best represent your trip? i could post 100 pictures of the sunset in santorini alone and it still wouldn't be sufficient! but here goes my best effort to take you through my journey. i'm going to divide it up so as to make it more manageable (for myself).

we flew out of san francisco on may 30. one of my best friends got married on may 29. we had originally planned to leave a day or so after school got out (may 22 -ish) but had to postpone our trip to stick around for the wedding and reception. our plane left around 6:00 a.m. so after the reception my parents drove us to the san francisco airport and dropped us of. (otherwise we would have had to leave the house around 1:00 a.m. to get there in time). we got to the airport around 11:00 p.m.

me and craig at the san francisco airport

they weren't checking anyone in and letting them through the security gates until 4:00 a.m., so craig and i found a spot on the floor and tried to take a nap. (note: i am one of those unlucky souls who cannot sleep anywhere except a bed. not a car. not a plane. and not the floor of the airport. it is a curse. truly.) i was cold and uncomfortable, but i was going to greece, and i had expected this, so i read a book and listened to music. craig slept. (craig is pretty much a ninja when it comes to sleeping. anytime. anywhere.)

our first delightful experience came as we were in line, waiting to check in. there was a woman returning to lithuania, and she looked exactly like what you would expect a woman from lithuania to look like. skirt that hit below the knees. blouse and vest. knee-high socks with clumsy shoes. coke-bottle glasses and a head-scarf tied under her chin. (all dark burgundies and greens and blues) and the luggage! it was plaid and old and small and plastic coated. honestly, i wanted to take a picture of her. oh how i loved her!

our flight from san francisco to nyc was 5(ish) hours. we were scheduled to have a 50 minute layover in nyc, which turned out to be a run-to-your-next-gate-so-you-don't-miss-your-connecting-flight situation. always lovely. the flight from nyc to athens was 8(ish) hours. all in all we flew about 13 hours and crossed 10 time zones. i think i slept about 2 hours total.

we arrived in athens on may 31 around 10:30 a.m. we had reserved a car online, but when we got there we found out the lot was not at the airport, we couldn't find a phone to try and call them, we couldn't find the shuttle to the lot, and none of the other rental car desks at the airport had heard of them. (not a good sign) so we got online and canceled that reservation there and picked up a car at the airport. it was your typical european car. very, very little.

we left the airport and set out to find our first hostel/hotel. it was in downtown athens.

oh, downtown athens.

the view from our hostel window

craig and i have a firm belief that all the proceeds from the athens olympics went towards spray paint, which they handed out to all of the citizens of greece, and those citizens, in return, went about graffitiing (is it a word?) the entire city of athens. it is prolific. and from the look of things they don't spend any money on graffiti removal.

i'll tell you what else they don't spend money on. traffic law enforcement.

driving in athens is terrifying. terrifying! they don't pay attention to lanes (if you can fit, you can be there), the scooters swarm you every time you stop and a stop light and they go any direction they choose (sideways, diagonal, the opposite direction), you are dealing with mostly one-way streets, it is not a square grid so you never know where you'll end up if you try and circle back, street signs are small and posted on the side of buildings so most of the time you can't find them. we parked our car as soon as we found our hostel and didn't go back to it until we were leaving town.

our little tiny car, we left it in this spot for 2 days

the good news is that downtown athens is relatively pedestrian friendly and you're usually closer to what you want to see than you think. also, it's pretty safe. we walked all over, through alleys, past prostitutes, beggars and street vendors, and never felt the least bit threatened or uneasy.

our first day in athens was the hottest of the entire trip. we wanted to stay up the entire day no matter how tired we were to reset our clocks (so to speak) but walking around in that heat wasn't very appealing, so we headed to the national archeological museum. it was large, and fun, and most importantly, air conditioned.

statue of either zeus or poseidon

mask of agamemnon

we spent a few hour roaming around the museum which is so full of stuff it's hard to comprehend. my favorite things we saw were the mask of agamemnon (above) and a super old mummy (they had an egypt area). some of the wrappings were coming off of the foot of the mummy and you could see it's toe bones.

after we were done at the museum (and by done i mean so tired that nothing was really that interesting anymore) we decided to go back to our hostel and make a plan.

we ended up napping.

and it's a little incredible that we could nap because it was disgustingly hot/humid, and we were disgustingly sweaty, and there was no air conditioning in our room.

but we slept for about four hours. we got up, sent off some e-mails and then went roaming around our little area of the city and ate dinner. i was keeping an eye out for my first view of the acropolis. the guide book said that it's visible from pretty much anywhere downtown, and our hostel claimed to be within easy walking distance, but still, no sight of it. so we finally quit our aimless wandering and went back to our hostel and went to bed. it was still really hot/humid. i took two showers that first day in athens. two! (both of them as cold as i could stand) a testament to the unpleasantness of the weather.

oh but it was exciting to be in such a foreign place!