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