The first stop on my RTW trip has always been Greece. Why? Because I fell in love with the movie Shirley Valentine and have always told myself that when I could, I was going to see that part of the world – and here I am!
I must say that my arrival on Saturday was not an auspicious start to my travels. I was robbed of all of my identification by a gang of 3 on the metra train riding from the airport to downtown Athens. They surrounded me, and while they were jabbering in my face, one reached into my bag and stole my document wallet and also grabbed my jewelry bag. So the first thing I did, even before checking into my lodging, was find the local police station to report my loss – a total waste of my time.
To say that the police system in Greece is antiquated is an understatement – they didn’t have a computer to enter my report and there was no wireless so I could bring up photos of my lost documents for them. By now I have been awake for 24 hours and am stressed to the limit. I started crying and the young man taking the information could not have cared less. He dialed a phone number, handed me the phone and said ‘Here – talk!’ ….and I was chatting with the Duty Officer at the American Embassy – praise the Lord!
He apologized for rushing me, but it was a weekend and I was the 8th American he had talked to that day who had been targeted and robbed at the same station on the metra. I was told to come into the Embassy on Monday morning to begin the process of getting a temporary and then a permanent replacement passport – oh happy day – and this will only cost me $147!
Oh well, nothing to do but return to the Athenstyle Hostel (my first, and perhaps my last time in a dorm-style room in a youth hostel). Not that it wasn’t a memorable experience. It was very loud- thank goodness I had invested in really good earplugs – as there were 5 young ladies sharing my room, besides myself. Over the 4 days I was there, I had roommates from India, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Korea, Brazil, Bali, Germany and Portugal. They would come in for a night or two and then were gone. The mixture of languages and hand-signals used to understand each other was really hysterical, but it all seemed to work. It was the first time I had slept on a top-bunk in a 1000 years and as you might imagine, the mattresses were not Sealy Posture-Pedics! I have decided that from this point forward I will use AirBnB and enjoy a private room all to myself for the same amount of money!
Did I let the loss of my stuff and little sleep get me down? No way! I had made an acquaintance before I left Chicago who very generously offered to be my private tour guide and show we around Athens – and that’s exacting what he did for two full days! OMG – I’m sunburned and have very store feet – but boy have I had a great time.
Here the very, very old (10,000 BC) is still standing right next to a brand new high rise apartment. To wake each morning an have a of the Acropolis and Parthenon is just mind-blowing! As you can see, the never-ending task of keeping these ancient monuments upright is a on-going process – therefore the many large cranes and scaffolding.
Then there are the churches – which are everywhere!
And did I mention the food! On Sunday we took a tram along the coast to have lunch at a taverna that was near the water’s edge. The fresh calamari, fried sardines, eggplant spread, fresh bread, white wine, and a Gruyere cheese from Naxos that made your taste buds sing…I had a very happy tummy.
And least I forget the fabulous art works in the museums ….
And then there was fabric stores everywhere and even a very weird fashion statement I still have figured out what they were saying….
The final picture is a colorful bar filled with all the different bands and kinds of ouzo!
What was really disappointing was the graffiti. It covers everything, and I mean everything, including some of the oldest monuments, and no one seems to care or want to do anything about it. Now I was used to seeing graffiti in Chicago, but this is overwhelming and really a shame to see it adorning ages-old marble statues and walls.
Monday I spent the morning at the Embassy and now have in my possession a usable, temporary passport. I will return in 7-10 days to pick up my permanent one. So what’s a girl to do to kill time while waiting – hop the Blue Star Ferry to Santorini and several of the other outlying islands. I am actually writing this blog while sailing the Aegean Sea in a very large car ferry with 1000’s of other travelers.
It’s a 9-hour ride to Santorini (home of those picturesque white houses built into the rocks with bright blue tile roofs, turquoise seas and world-famous sunsets over the caldera.) I will be staying for 3 nights in Thira, the main village, in my own room (whoop!) where I hope to do my first load of laundry and sleep without a tipsy roomie banging in the door at 4 a.m. with a case of the giggles. Tonight I will take myself to a sea-side taverna for dinner and a glass of wine and be one very happy traveler.
Until next time…..