Jared in Greece – The End

Wow…I am actually at a computer again! You have no idea what I have been through since my last chapter….but I’ll just tell ya this much…there ain’t no computers in the middle of nowhere in Greece.

OK.  It’s been a few days, so I will try my best to fill you in with all the exciting, adventurous details of my excursion through the wild.

After I last wrote to you, I spent one more day in Athens. Athens. What can I say of it?  It is fairly dumpy. The buildings are not much to speak of, and neither are the people for that matter. I encountered so much rudeness and sarcasm from the Greek people, not to generalize or anything, that I was rather turned off. But there are some very nice parts of Athens, for instance the Acropolis and the surrounding areas. There are many quaint, ancient looking streets weaving in and out of the area around the Acropolis, paved with stone and lined with the standard restaurants and gift shops.

The gift shops are full or Greek statuettes, religious icons, and more chess sets. It seems each country has its own chess set to, ahem, pawn on its tourists. Jonathan and I, who were still hangin together at that point, climbed the hill directly across from the Parthenon on our second to last night there. It was like a hike up an ancient mountain, the path looking all old and stuff. The hill was where the ancient Greek senate used to gather…I think…I am not the historian or anything…but it made for a great view of the city and the Acropolis. You could see for miles, and Athens seems to stretch forever. As the sun went down, the city slowly began to light up, and the view of the Parthenon was quite dramatic. The entire Acropolis lit up, and the Parthenon began to glow like a beacon in the middle of chaos. I felt like I was on top of the world…well…Greece anyway.

After a few days in Athens, I was ready to get going. There really isn’t too much going on there, plus the mosquitoes seem to run the place, and they attack at night while you sleep. Each morning, I woke up with a fresh set of bites that itched like crazy…and I was down a few pints of blood. Nothing a little feta cheese couldn’t fix. I was trying to decide where to go next. Jonathan wanted to stay in Athens, and I was ready to leave, so that meant we part company. Fine by me. I decided I had to go to the Oracle at Delphi, since it was the only other place besides the Parthenon that I remembered from my obsession with Greek mythology. I almost didn’t go there in favor of Corinth, but I became convinced when a friend emailed me and said he was psyched about me going there…you know who you are…

So, I managed to find the bus station, which was quite stupidly located very far away from any sort of public transportation. So, I had to hike through the nasto streets of Athens, dodging the crazy drivers, toting my bag on wheels behind me. That was fun. I arrived at the bus station to find that the next bus to Delphi was not for two hours, so I set out to wait in the station and kill some time.

I decided to play some guitar for a bit. I don’t think the people liked that too much…or the dogs who seem to rule the underworld of the bus station. As I was strumming…not singing…only strumming, mind you…a dog approached me and just stared at me for a few minutes. I smiled at the dog and made the stupid noises that people make at dogs…”heeellllooooo puppy!” And it then decided to bare its teeth and began barking viciously at me, like it was preparing to attack. My heart was pounding, and I started to think I would have to hit it with my guitar or something….but some kind Greek came and took the rabid pooch away. Thank the fates for that.

The busride to Delphi was 3 hours long, but I passed the time listening to my cd player and rockin out. The people around me probably thought I was a freak, cuz I really get into music, as you all know, if you have seen me play. The Greek countryside is absolutely beautiful.  I have seen a lot of countryside in my day, but so far, Greece took the cake (up until Italy which is where I am now). Mountains, valleys, rolling plains of ancient stones and fields. Amazing.

We arrived at Delphi, which is a small town set on the side of a mountain, overlooking an incredible valley that empties into the Gulf of Corinth, the body of water separating northern Greece from the Peloponese peninsula. I met some people on the bus, and we decided to try and find a hotel together. We happened upon a hotel that looked decent, and we rang the buzzer. This little old Greek lady came down the stairs, and we attempted to communicate, but it turned into a screaming match when we tried to haggle on the price of the rooms. “You pay 10,000 drachma!” “No, I can only pay 5000!”  “NO!  YOU PAY!!!”  We finally settled on 6000 drachmas for my room…about $18, not so bad to have your own room for that much.

The next day we set out to explore the ruins of the Oracle. It was pretty amazing to come to the place where the ancient temple of Apollo stood for centuries, where the priestesses of Apollo spoke the prophecies of their god to kings and heroes who came to seek his advice. The place, set on the side of the mountain with the same view I just described, FEELS holy. It’s breathtaking. Now, if it weren’t filled with tourists and buses, and people clamoring everywhere, it would have been a lot nicer. But, I climbed the hill, weaved around the paths and all the fallen down columns, to stand before the ruins of the temple where the oracle would sit and dispense the advice of the gods. Apparently, the way it worked was there was a funny smoke that came from the bowels of the temple, and the oracle would stand in the midst of the smoke and speak her words. I wonder what the smoke could have been…hmmmm….any guesses?

After two nights in Delphi, where there is no Internet by the way, I decided to make for Italy.  I had enough of Greece at that point, and I wanted to get to Italy and put some distance behind me. I had a 15-hour boat ride and a 6-hour train ride to Naples ahead, so I needed to get it over with. I hopped on the 3-hour bus ride to Patras, where the ferries to Italy leave from. I arrived just in time to board the boat…it was pulling away from the pier and I had to make a running jump and throw my bags…I just made it….I caught the edge of the boat and hung by my fingers and someone helped me up….whew.  of course, it didn’t happen that way, but it makes for a nice story.

The boat ride was soooo damn long. I didn’t have a cabin or a bed, only an airplane like seat on which to sit….I ended up stretching out on the floor for 12 hours, in broken sleep. Horrendous.

I’m gonna leave it off there…..suffice to say, I am in Naples, Italy right now, and I waiting for some friends to go to Pompeii, the ancient roman city buried in volcanic ash….will write more later.

Jared

Jared in Greece – Part Deux

Greece is amazing! I have been here for 3 days now…I think…I am sort of losing track of time…I don’t even know what day of the week it is! It’s nice to feel that way sometimes, but also very strange….and strange to wake up somewhere and have to think for a minute to remember where you are. I have been hopping around quite a bit in the last month!

So, to fill you in on what’s been happening since my last Bat Episode:

After I left the Internet cafe on Samos, I walked around the perimeter of the U-shaped port, back towards where the ferry boat was due to launch. I met that guy Jonathan at a cafe, because it turned out we would both be on the same ferry….he was going to Athens and I was going to Mykonos. We had to get some food, and I was dying to have my first authentic Greek Gyro.

We picked a little dive where they were turning out the Gyros by the dozens….I saw them and they sure were small…much smaller than the Gyros in the states!  So, we ordered a few….and they came with a strange looking meat. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I tasted it and it was pretty dang good, so I didn’t question it. Of course, it turned out to be pork.  Eeegads! Well, I should have asked. If you don’t know, a Gyro (pronounced “Yeero”) is a pita with meat, onion, tomato, and “tsadziki” (yogurt sauce) all wrapped up conveniently.

After our gyros, we stocked up on some munchies for the long ferry ride and boarded the boat. This was a huge boat, bigger than the Staten Island ferry, and was borderline luxurious. It had lounge chairs, indoor bars and restaurants, gambling, video games and lots of people. We parked ourselves up on deck and enjoyed the view of the island as we pulled out of the harbor. Ahh, my voyage across the Aegean had begun. I thought to myself how weird it was to be there on the boat, when but a month ago, I was so unsure of how I would accomplish this portion of the journey. I have discovered my ability to deal with challenges as they arise.

Jonathan was on route to Athens, but I was telling him of my plans to take in some of the Greek island life, and that convinced him to join me on Mykonos. So, after a 6-hour ride, we pulled into Mykonos harbor at night. I could see the hillside of the mountain dotted with the lights of the little port town. We got off the boat and made our way toward the town, stopped at the first hotel we found and discovered a reasonable rate….$15 per person in a double room…not so bad, but the beds were really uncomfortable, and I was in pain the next morning.

Mykonos is extremely touristy and overpriced. The bay is lined with restaurants and cafes.  Behind the row of restaurants is a small town that extends up the hillside. All of the houses have white plaster exteriors and blue shutter windows, to give a very Greek feel to the place. The streets of the town are very narrow and confusing…apparently designed this way on purpose to strike confusion into pirates who attacked the island periodically. It was like getting lost in a maze. We wandered through these streets aimlessly for a while before encountering a pair of American Navy dudes who were on leave from their ship, which was docked just off the coast of the island. It turns out, actually, that the entire island was over run with drunken Navy guys who were acting like idiots. As we walked around, I felt like I was back in college, and it was fraternity rush week….18 year old newly enlisted kids walking around in a stupor, making asses of themselves and America. I was embarrassed for us all. But hey, they are defending our interests…so……yeah.

Mykonos got old pretty quick. The only people there were the locals and these Navy guys, who I didn’t really care to be around. The island is in a frenzy to get ready for the upcoming tourist onslaught, so the locals were not to be bothered.

The next day, we wandered more around the town and got lost again. We decided one day was enough on Mykonos, so we bought ferry tickets to Athens for the next day. I was going to try to go to Santorini as well, but I figured it would be similar to Mykonos, and I was beginning to miss city life. Plus, the Greek islands are a really nice place to go with a loved one for a romantic getaway of sorts…but alone it’s not so fun.

We were told not to leave the area of the town, because the rest of the island was virtually abandoned at this time of year. It’s OK. I saw plenty of countryside on this trip so far…after a while, a mountain is a mountain and a valley is a valley. I did spend a lot of that afternoon playing guitar in front of my hotel while looking out at the water and town. It was an inspiring view, and I met a few of the sailors who figured I was American…

Next Day:

We hopped on the ferry to Athens. VERY CROWDED and people were smoking cigarettes everywhere so it was hard to escape. I think I second-hand-smoked 3 packs in 6 hours. I managed to quell my fury and bury myself in a book to pass the time. I spent much of the time leaning against the railing, just gazing out into the sea thinking to myself, “I am sailing ancient waters that inspired myth and poetry in the ancients. The Islands I see now were the very same ones seen by the heroes of old as they sailed off to battle…perhaps to Troy or even beyond”. That’s what I thought.

We arrived at the port just outside of Athens and subsequently thought to ourselves “uhhh…what do we do now?” Here is where my new philosophy of making no plans was put to the test. I read in my Let’s Go Europe book of a few hostels that were in the area of the Acropolis, which is really all I wanted to see in Athens. We just didn’t quite know how to get to Athens from the port. We thought about taking the train, but it turns out the train was not working. That left us with the challenge of finding which bus went our way. As we walked towards the buses, we saw in graffiti on the wall of the station “FUCK THE USA!” and the “s” in USA was a swastika. Nice welcome.

A nice Greek was kind enough to tell us we needed to take a bus to the next train station and then a train to Athens. After a lot of maneuvering, we managed to get to the area and find the hostel we wanted to stay at. But! NO ROOMS. Oh crap. We set out to the next hostel on the list and after dragging my bags for what seemed a mile, we arrived. Oh wait! No rooms there either! I was ready to fall into hysterics. Our third try was successful, and we checked into a dumpy place where I fell onto the bed in exhaustion. But I was hungry.  Wendy’s. Sleep. Noise from the streets. Earplugs.

Next Day:

My mission was to go straight to the Acropolis and see the Parthenon, the glorious temple of the Greek Goddess, Athena, namesake of Athens. My whole life, I have dreamed of coming to this place…as a child I was obsessed with Greek mythology. Now, I had arrived. When you come to a place that you have heard about your whole life, and seen pictures of, it becomes real to you. It becomes a part of your reality. Today, a dream of mine was realized. We set out early in the morning to find the Acropolis, which is not hard to see since it’s a mountain plateau smack in the middle of the city. As we approached, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I am sure Jonathan was annoyed and thinking, “Why the hell did I come with this guy?”

We began the ascent up the hill, fighting off the usual torrent of people selling post cards and guide books and made our way up the slope, passing the amphi-theatre where Yanni rocked the house a few years back….bahahahaha….sorry. We bought the overpriced tickets and followed the crowds through the gates, and behold, the Parthenon came into view. I had to stop and gaze. It was beautiful, even in its ruins. It’s falling apart, so there is scaffolding and a crane they are using to replace pillars, but nonetheless, amazing.

I walked around it several times, just looking, staring. I am here. It is real. We sat atop the acropolis for an hour, gazing at the sprawling city that seemed to stretch to no end. A dense cloud of smog hangs over Athens. But the feeling of history here is so immense, in a modern, bustling city, built around the remains of the mother of democracy and western civilization.  I am glad to be here.

OK, thanks for reading. It’s been fun. I will be in Athens for a few more days and then on to the Oracle at Delphi….perhaps my future will be revealed then.

Jared

Greece has Crappy Keyboards Too

Ahh, the Greek Islands…

How I have wanted my whole life to come and see them…to hop from rock to rock…feel the history…breathe the air…gaze at the mountains that seem to grow right out of the sea…set sail on the many ferry boats that take you from Island to Island. Well, here I am.

I arrived this morning on the Greek Island of Samos, which is only about a 2-hour boat ride from Turkey. You can still see the Turkish coast in the distance, so it’s not really that far of a trip, but it’s definitely a different country! I could sense that immediately, as our tiny boat sailed into the port of Samos Town, Samos. The town sits on the slope of a hill that leads down to a U-shaped bay that serves as the island’s main harbor. What an amazing site it was to stand on the bow of the boat, with the wind blowing in my face and see the quaint, white houses with red roofs….it’s a very Greek feeling…if you can understand that….and hey, what a coincidence…it’s Greece!

I ran into a guy on the dock that I have been running into all over Turkey…and now here.  His name is Jonathan, and he’s from San Francisco. So we ended up hangin out around town for a few hours and treated ourselves to a Gyro (I am sure you know of this Greek standard), and a stroll through the back streets of this small town. The weather is great and I feel very alive and excited to be in Greece! This afternoon, in about an hour, I will be boarding another ferry that will take me to Mykonos, an island that many have suggested I visit, so I will; thus, begins my voyage across the Aegean Sea.

So what have I been doing for the last few days? I have been in Selcuk, Turkey…as I stated in my last email. This is a town on the Aegean coast and a good base from which to see the ruins of ancient Ephesus, a very significant Greek city of biblical times, where many events of Christian importance took place. Paul the Apostle spent much time preaching there, as well as St. John, who lived out his life and was buried there, as well as Mary, mother of Jesus, whose house you can actually visit – well, uh, so they say.

I arrived in Selcuk and checked into the best hostel I have ever stayed in – The Artemis Guest House. I have never met more friendly hosts who went out of their way to make me feel welcome and included. Plus, I had my own room and my own bathroom, with hot water! What a blessing! I also ran into Jonathan there, mentioned above. We first met in Istanbul, and then again in Pamukale…so I wasn’t surprised to see him in Selcuk, or Samos for that matter. The next day I was supposed to go on a tour of Ephesus, but my travel agent called and told me it was canceled, because I was the only one who signed up! That’s the low season for ya. But lucky for me there was another tour the next day, so I signed up for that instead. That meant I had a day to kill in Selcuk.

The next day I decided I had to have a souvenir of Turkey and since I have been getting into playing chess. I decided to get a nice chess board with wooden pieces….and since my friend Henry wanted one too, I got him one as well and shipped them both to New Jersey (uhh…Henry…you owe me, son). The whole procedure of shipping something was a huge hassle, and it will take about 3 months for it to arrive, because it’s going by boat.  The shipping cost more than the chessboard!

The first night in Selcuk, I met two Canadians and an Australian fellow, and we all hung out till the wee hours of the morning indulging in Turkish beer and getting silly. When I revealed that I had a guitar, it was the start of a big ruckus. The Australian guy knew every song ever written, so we sat around for hours singing Counting Crows songs…his favorite band, and a favorite of mine as well. We developed quite an audience of the entire hostel and their neighbors and I became famous in the small town….so much so that the next day I went out into the main square and did a little concert for the locals….picture lots of old Turkish men sitting around drinking tea and playing backgammon, thinking to themselves “who the hell is this?” It ended when someone offered to sell me drugs, and I thought to myself, “Hmmm, Turkish prison?  Uhh, no thanks.”  End O’ Concert.

Next day I toured the ruins of Ephesus, which are quite well preserved and astounding.  You can walk down the ancient streets paved with marble, go into what’s left standing of the ancient library, which once housed many ancient documents, subsequently destroyed by religious zealots. Shame. Roman columns line the streets and you can see where the houses and baths once stood. There is a giant amphitheatre dating back 2000 years, which is still in use today…recently played by Tina Turner. In the afternoon, the tour brought us to the house of the Virgin Mary where she supposedly lived out her life. It’s at the top of a mountain, reachable only by a very windy road, but Mary had a hell of a view in her old age. You can see all the way to the coast, as well as the entire valley and region around Selcuk for miles…or should I say kilometers….

After Mary’s shack, we went to the tomb of St. John, which is nothing more than a pile of rubble.

After the tour was over, I bought a Turkish carpet. Well, my friend Mohammed was begging me to get one for him, so I obliged. As I am sure I have stated in previous emails, the Turkish Carpet industry is crazy here. There are soooo many shops and soooo many guys trying to sell carpets that it’s hard to know who is for real and who is just trying to rip you off.  I ended up getting it through the hostel which has a store……after about four hours of viewing rug after rug and finally haggling frustratingly….Mohammed is the proud owner of a very nice rug.

Well, my thumb is tired from the space bar on this Greek monstrosity of a keyboard….and I have to catch my ferry to Mykonos…so I will sign off. Some of you people have not written to me in a while. No excuses!!

Jared