As some of you may already know, [tac.bomber.dbs] recently made his voyage to the wonderful country of Greece. Here is [tac's] wonderful "little" synopsis of his adventures.
I have always had a strange and unhealthy obsession with Greek culture, Mythology, and history [not to mention an unhealthy obsession with their fine cuisine and wine]. I flew into Athens from London after my best friends' [Mark & Petra] wedding [which took place in London] and my immensely strange trip to Amsterdam. It was a cool 62°F when I left London and upon landing in Athens, it was a daunting 97°F. The shock soon faded as I wandered through a strange, foreign, and unusually efficient airport bombarded with loud anouncements of flight arrivals and departures, delays, and security measures, only a quarter of which I could understand. Customs was a breeze... they looked at me and waved me through. Hehehehe.
I stepped out into the glaring sun and hopped a cab with this silent cab driver named Nikos. We cruised through some desolate areas, old bombing sites, places destroyed by riots, run down ghettos, quaint little corner cafés. About 2/3 of the traffic was on two wheels, bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles, and motorized dirtbikes. Most of the billboards were selling motorcycles too, rather than cars. Nikos had little to say through all this, but he did tell me that I would love Greece... which turned out [go figure, huh?] to be true! Nikos dropped me off at the hotel Arethusa in Syntagma Square in the heart of Athens. After handing Nikos 20€ and wishing him a happy day, I stepped out of the cab and was instantly offered a hand with my baggage... a bit fishy.
I dragged my huge bags into the hotel and was greeted by a man calling himself 'Jack' which made little sense as he sounded about as Greek as they come. I hauled my bags up the stairs to the third floor [after a little confusion concerning my accomodations] and entered my room. Everything looked well enough... so I tossed my bags into the corner, grabbed my camera, and set out to explore.
One of the first things I came across was a dead dog, laying on the sidewalk. I could only hope that did not foretell things to come. ;o) I wandered and saw the guards at the Parliament Palace marching, saw the Acropolis dominating the skyline... I could hardly believe I was there. Where I had always dreamt of being. It was a very surreal feeling, I was energized... to say the least. After hours of sweating and poking my head where it didn't belong... I wandered into the Plaka.
The Plaka assuredly is the most 'touristy' area of Athens, but despite that, I loved it. I was beset by hundreds of Grecians hawking their wares or beckoning me to come dine in their cafés. I settled into a cozy outdoor café, ordered a bottle of wine and the dish that I later learned to be, by far, my favorite Greek dish... Lamb Lemon Sauce w/mixed vegetables. The feeling of a surreality, dispelled as I began to partake of the wine... some of the best wine I have ever had. It was a red wine, Kouros Vin de Sec, made on the island of Crete. I gazed fondly at the delicate illustration of a bull and envisioned a mythological world full of strange beasts and heros, such as Aggamemnon, Hercules, and Lionidus. Then the food came... and with it, the beginning of the best experience of my life.
The rest of the trip was filled with a vast exploration of nearly the entire country of Greece, Delphi, Poros, Hydra, Aegina, Mycenae, Epidauros, Thermopylae, Meteora... and of course the meeting with my wonderful and amazing friend Sofia. For years I have known Sofia Z. [dioxide under :de.la.friends:] as a sequence of ones an zeros, but in Athens I had the opportunity to solidify that the person I had chatted with for years was in fact flesh and bone.
On the evening of the second day of my trip, I called Sofia. I picked up the hotel phone and after fumbling with the awkward dialing system for a few minutes, I finally got the number to go through. As the phone rang in that strange foreign tone, I wondered what she would sound like... then came what sounded to be a hello in what I took to be Greek from a mature sounding female voice. I timidly asked, "Is Sofia there?" And back came a suspicious and reserved, "Who's calling?" After a slight pause, I said, "Benny... her friend from..." Before the word Chicago left my lips a scream and slight giggle blasted into my ear. "OH MY GOD! BENNY HELLO! I cannot believe you called!!!!" My mind raced to decifer whether it was a good or bad thing, but again before I could say a word... I hear, "Where are you?!?" I casually replied, "In Athens." "Wonderful!!! What are you doing?!?" my female conversant shot back. By this point I assumed it was indeed Sofia. "Well, sitting in my hotel room and talking on the phone with you." I replied a bit more confidently. "What hotel? I'll come get you."
So that is where the evening began... she was to pick me up in front of the McDonald's [yes... I know.] in Syntagma Square at 8:30pm. I waited for a few brief minutes before I saw her. She looked just as her picture did [I later learned that she felt the same way about me... if not more so] as she sauntered into view. As we stepped toward each other there was an awkward pause as I had set to the standard American greeting of a handshake and she to the beginnings of a big hug. We decided non-verbally to go with the hug. It seemed better that way. So she drove me around Athens pointing to this thing and that, rattling off facts and reccomendations of whether to go there or avoid it like the plague. All of her suggestions and facts were interesting and quite helpful... my surreal lone wanderings had suddenly become a cheerful and solidly real experience.
After our tour, we pulled up at what looked to be her house. We continued our conversation of disbelief going into detail of how odd it was that we were actually together in the flesh. The door swung open and I strode into an interesting and airy home... her parents sat in the livingroom and instead of watching television [as it was apparent they had just been] they were staring at me like an alien. Well I guess I kind of was, what with my blond hair parted in the middle and my strange black garb. Her father came over and shook my hand roughly after a succinct introduction by Sofia. "So you are from Chicago? I worked there once... very busy. Very busy indeed." I nodded my head markedly phased and said, "Yeah sometimes a little too busy." He grinned and nodded. Sofia then pulled me toward her room as I waved in parting toward her mother who remained seated in her recliner, just looking. Did I see amusement in her eyes?
Once in Sofia's room I saw her cacoon of internationality... pictures of film stars from all over the world... posters of things, some of which I recognized, some of which I did not. Nick-knacks of hundreds of various types... shelves with hundreds of books... a great deal of which pertaining to web development... a chime of familiarity rang up inside me. She gesutred to the bed and said, "Sit please." I sat and she plopped down emphatically, facing toward me. She wrapped her arms around her knees with her feet up on the bed and looked at me with an air of wonder. I grinned back at her... and said, "Weird... huh?" She concurred. So we sat there discussing our lives and interests and the big "What's Up" with our mutual internet friends. We must have talked for hours, when suddenly she says, "Do you like Frappé?" I gave her a concerned look and said, "I have no idea." She laughed and said, "Come... let's go to the coast." So we hopped back in her car after I waved again at her parents who looked at me with eyebrows raised. Yes. Definitely amusement in their eyes.
On the way over she explained that all the tourists hung out in the Plaka [my heart sank a bit realizing where I fit in... hehehe.] and that all the real Greeks frequented the series of Frappé joints on the coast. So we pulled up at her favorite outdoor Frappé joint, in her little blue Volkswagen. But instead of us going there, she blurted, "I have to get cigarettes." And proceded to drag me to an outdoor cigarette stand on the other side of a busy street. The night had definitely took all of the heat out of the air... and a cool breeze came off the sea with a scent of salt and freshness. After a harrowing voyage back across the busy street, we finally settled into a little table right next to the Aegean Sea. We ordered two Frappés, which turned out to be coffee and milk whipped up into a frothy and slightly unusual drink. I looked up from analyzing my drink as she lit up a cigarette. She handed one over in my direction. I said, taking the cigarette from her, "I haven't done this for a while. Been years since I last had one." She looked at me with more than a bit of skepticism. Having quit in high school, I did slip back into smoking a little over there in Europe... I grinned and said, "Well, since I've been in Europe... I have had a few. Would that be an understatement?" Who knows why I was trying to be witty. She did not seem to pick up on it. "So I've been writing a story, Benny..." she began and the so went the rest of the night... the two of us dicussing art and comic books, video games, and writing... mostly mythology or fantasy.
By 2am, I realized I should get back to the hotel to catch a few winks before my tour to the islands of Hydra and Poros started at 7:30 the following morning. So she drove me back to Syntagma Square and the Hotel Arethusa... we hugged and kissed goodbye [on the cheek, sheesh folks], looking at each other as if staring at someone on the other side of the looking glass. I opened the door to her Volkswagen and began to exit, and realized that we still held on to one another's hands. I turned back to look at her and she smiled. "It was wonderful finally seeing you." I said. She replied, "Yes, wonderful indeed." I then made my exit, knowing that my friend was indeed a living breathing human being, not very much unlike myself.
After this, I began my solo trek again to see the country. I went by bus, car, and boat all over Greece seeing ruins, temples, shrines, Othodox monasteries, beautiful countryside, interesting people, strange plantlife, giant centipedes, quaint shoppes, museums, burros, more things than I can muster the energy to expound upon. I ate at amazing restaurants, surfed the net from internet cafés, hiked up mountains, dabbled my feet in the sea, haggled with seasoned merchants, drank wine, and took photos.... OH so many photos... and that is the reason I made this here site... to pay homage to Greece and to give others insight to the wonders of such an amazing and important culture and people. So please take the time to browse through my photo journal of Greece, I would explain all the photos, but I think they speak for themselves.
diameno makrys kai kaloperno