03.12.2009 - 06.12.2009
Everyone told us that we were going in the low season to Greece. Marah, Ben, and I weren’t bothered, however, because we were going somewhere more southern than Milan, and it was Greece – how bad could their worst really be?
We arrived to ruins in our metro station, intrigued by the architectural sincerity that preserved the ancient artifacts so well. Apparently, when a building goes up, if ruins are found, they must build around them. So much history is preserved by this basic philosophy.
The first thing we noticed were the copious amounts of stray dogs. I wasn’t impressed with their matted fur seeking my attention. I practiced one of the many practical vocabulary words that a Greek girl had taught us on the plane ride over “Evharisto (Sorry) Doggy”!
The dogs outnumbered the gypsies in the streets. But even stranger -the garbage outnumbered them both. Why was there such an eyesore of garbage lingering throughout the streets of Athens? We found out later that there was a strike going on, and the garbage hadn’t been picked up in weeks. By the smell of the place, it seemed more like months.
“This place looks like Afghanistan” were the words from my friend Ben’s mouth as we approached the street of our hostel. Again, it was a lot to do with the amount of garbage that paved the streets.
The hostel itself was a charm, and fittingly is a “World Famous Hostel” called “AthenStyle”. Upon entry into our 6-person mixed dorm room, we met our soon-to-be friend who we now refer to as Maui Mike. He was thrown across a top bunk dropping jelly tomatoes from it in attempts of making it splat like the Nigerian man who sold it to him had demonstrated. Unfortunately, he unaware that it was a faulty, cheap product and likely a one time use one.
He didn’t know that people in Europe will try and sell you anything and everything on the streets. He also had never stayed in a hostel before. He didn’t think that he would have to give up the other four beds that were unoccupied the night before, and that were now recognized as his closet.
He quickly rummaged together his belongings from each bed, and as I reached for some toilet paper to blow my nose in the bathroom, he scavenged some more of his belongings from the sink. His interpretation of the simple tomato toys gave off an optimistic and friendly personality. His Hawaiian way radiated, and each of us immediately recognized him as an ally.
After meeting our first bunk mate, we returned to the streets to find the Acropolis. The sun was setting, and I’ve never seen such a beautiful skyline in Europe to date. We hiked the hill to the Acropolis, and Ben was the most excited because he had brought his fancy camera to film a time lapse shot of the sunset and the Acropolis. He’s a film major, so this was pretty huge for him.
To our disappointment, however, we got to the top and discovered that you couldn’t go in past 3 pm. This might be because of those stigmatic words “off-season”, but we were out of luck regardless. The next day we would surely conquer it.
Instead, we wandered the streets of Athens without a cause. We saw the Temple of Zeus, and Greek Parliament. We finally settled down for dinner at an authentic Greek restaurant. When we couldn’t understand the menu, we questioned our waiter. He kindly asked us where we were from and recommended the cheeseburger. Marah and Ben giggled, but I was actually offended by this no matter how sincere his intentions may have been.
I shook it off after some wine and an amazing Greek (“Village”) Salad. They also gave us free dessert, which although it wasn’t the most delicious thing in the world, was very kind of them. Cheeseburger...why I oughta…
We missed Happy Hour due to a much needed rest, but after recharging our batteries we ascended to the roof. It contained not only a bar, but an amazing skyline including the main attraction – the Acropolis. We were maybe two kilometers away from it, and the lighting couldn’t have been more perfect against the clear dark sky. We chatted with some new friends from Brazil and eastern Canada.
It was after a few “Mythos” (Greek beer) that our roommate Mike decided it was time to whip out his Nasa-quality laser. I didn’t see it until I heard the roar of laughter contagiously spread throughout the gang of the hostel roof. Another squished tomato scam?
The laser pointer could reach the Acropolis! It was single handedly the most hilarious and degrading thing I have ever seen. The beauty of the lit up Acropolis meets a laser toy you are more likely to see in a teen movie at the theater. We all tested the power of the laser throughout Athens.
“Shots fired!” Someone was using the exact same laser pointer from across Athens back at us. They could have been from five to ten kilometers away from us, without exaggerating. We lasered them, they lasered us; it was all out laser wars. What a hilarious way to meet new people. We ventured into the night “in search of the enemy”. We searched at the bottom of a glass in a club – not much success there.
The clubs in Athens were very strange. No one was dancing! They had obnoxiously loud beats reverberating through the sound system, but still, no one danced to it. I mean it wasn’t even possible to talk, but people just casually lingered throughout the club. This was a trend at the many clubs we visited throughout our stay.
The first club had the best idea to get people in more of a dancing mood (well our group anyway!). They had break-dancers. They were straight out of an M.C. Hammer video, it was so cool! The impressive bit was when they played spin the bottle. Only, the rules of the game were tampered a little:
1)spin a bottle of vodka in the middle of the circle
2) whoever it lands on must chug the vodka straight from the bottle
3) break-dance in front of the club
4) spin the bottle and return to your place in the circle
Deadly game, but it sure revved up our group- if no one else!
We danced on and met a couple of the dancers. One of the guys, who I personally thought was the best one, told us that he won “So You Think You Can Dance”! I was impressed because my mom and I watched a season of it together. After he told me it was the Greek version, I was a little less impressed.
After the bar, I met a skateboarder from Vancouver. Seemed pretty cool that he was from so close to me, and I proceeded to tell him how I was from “near Vancouver – Kamloops”. He snorted back at me that it wasn’t Vancouver. I was highly disappointed after meeting the closest person to my hometown in Europe, especially since I spend a lot of my time representing Canadians because I am only one among so many of my new American friends. What a jerk.
Gyros made it a little better. Gyros is a pita stuffed with any veggie you can think of, tzaziki, and either lamb, pork, or chicken and sometimes FRIES. Yum!!!
On the way home, one from our group fed a stray dog some of their gyros. I ended up naming it Lassie because it led us all the way back to our hostel. It was like we had just paid it for a 25 minute journey back home through our Afghanistan-like streets with food. I’m really not a dog person, so this was highly amusing.
I woke up with Canadians vs. Dogs written sloppily on my left arm. In my belligerence, my world had been shattered because I was disowned by a Canadian, and loved by a dog -what a night. Luckily, I later found out that our hostel receptionist was from Kelowna, so I can forget that loser and count her as the closest person I’ve met to home in Europe.
We woke up to our new friend Mason from Seattle cursing for sleeping in. We felt bad for him, but went right back to sleep without a problem. By the time I took a shower and scrubbed off the previous night, Mason was back. He took a bus to the airport, and then decided to come back because he had such a good time. Mike was also supposed to leave that day, but the two of them withheld their flights until the same day that the three of us left.
They had standby tickets so the flexibility was possible. Our adventure had only just begun.
We split up for the day because they had already done the “touristy” bits of Athens. Ben, Marah and I headed for the Acropolis, round two (without any protection of a laser), and the day embraced us. It was beautiful weather with clear blue skies and sunshine. We even sweated a bit climbing the hill to the ruins. Ben was able to film for a while as we soaked up some sun and adored the history that we were walking through. We even had a little time lying on the walls surrounding the Parthenon before being yelled at “Excuse me! Excuse me!” by some underpaid lady at a distance. If only she knew how pasty Marah and I are.
We met up with our new Brazilian friend Gabe and explored the Acropolis museum. After a stroll through the surrounding streets, we ventured into a meadow-type garden at sunset. The view was unbeatable. The city of Athens looks a lot like Kamloops with its rolling hills. Athens, in contrast, has an extremely populated landscape, and looking at the city from a distance – it looks like Bedrock City in its pale rocky appearance.
After shopping for some hippy attire, we returned in time for happy hour. Marah and I went round for round so that our beer wouldn’t get warm, as we taught our new friends some drinking games with my Canadian flag cards. It was my turn to buy the round, and I patiently waited at about ten minutes to nine for the two discounted drinks. The bartender served a couple others before me, and then called downstairs to do his liquor order. By the time I was served, he tells me that it was regular price now. I looked down at my watch to see 9:02 – and my watch is fast.
I paid for the beer. What a nice bartender! He had just given us such a good deal – pay regular price and you are actually buying the “Mythos” mugs! Marah and I took ours downstairs to our hostel room immediately. That was the deal as far as I knew, but that thing sure was heavy to get back to Italy!
The next day we woke up to rain – so it WAS the “off season”. It was cold and ugly outside, but we visited the Agora, had spanakopita, and just buggered around the city in the rain. The rain lured us into a three hour nap to regain our strength for our last night in Greece.
We partied perhaps harder than the two previous nights combined, and I unfortunately had an issue when I attempted to pee in the dark and was in bed by 12. I’m getting too old for three nighters!
The next day, I was convinced to find the amazing gyros I had near the bars on the first night. Unfortunately, after our 30 minute trek, it was closed! This was because it was St. Nicolas’s Day – the holiday they also have in Amsterdam (the first of two Christmas’). What was worse was that the garbage mixed with the rain had created a pungently tangy aroma that didn’t cope well with my hangover.
In the end, we settled for the gyros a block away from our hostel. It ended up being amazing. I tried lamb though, and it was weird. I can’t decide if it’s my childhood pal “Lambchops” or all the salt that made me feel a little uneasy about it, but nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed it.
We dwelled in self pity as we finished our last gyros and made our way back to the airport. Best trip all semester – bar none.
We met so many amazing people in Greece. I have learned from the last two trips that I prefer to travel in smaller groups with one or maybe two companions. Marah and I have been gallivanting together, and we have met some awesome people because of the sink or swim intuition that kicks in.
I can’t wait to go back to Greece (notice the assertive tone). I want to go in the summer to see the difference that comes with “high season”. All I know is that if the Greeks are complaining about weather in December, they should come and live in Kamloops for a winter season!
Love and Miss You Always,