High on salted air and Oreo Cakes from Santorini, we flew back to Athens on day 172. We were greeted at the Metro station by Pantelis, our Airbnb host. He graciously walked us to the apartment, in which he had stocked the fridge, and offered to take us to the local market. This Athenian generosity would show up over and over during our time in the Greek capital. From large portions of free food at restaurants and bakeries, to gifts of playing time on the basketball court (someone stepped out even though “no one is injured yet” and I did not come with a fully pre-manned team as was evidently required by their strange ways), we were treated like old friends by almost everyone we interacted with. Almost. The guy who bumped me in the subway car and grabbed my wallet while the rest of the group ran interference was certainly not the nicest guy in Greece. Although to his credit, he did drop the wallet in the car after he had cleaned it of all of my carrying cash. 10 Euros. I guess he didn’t know who he was messing with.
Also, there was a tangibly relaxed atmosphere about the place. Maybe it was the siesta culture, maybe it was the high unemployment, maybe it was something more ancient – but the Greeks never seemed rushed… or upset… or especially well-prepared. “This is Greece,” became a recurring theme: like when the train was late, when the shop was closed, when we didn’t want to wash the dishes. “Relax, this is Greece. Don’t worry, they will still be there tomorrow,” said our host.
We spent several days walking the streets and sampling the amazing food. We would generally eat whatever we wanted, not necessarily from the same place. This was good and bad, and proved so when Caleb got sick. I suppose it was the cheese and salami on bread, or his ice-cream vendor. No matter, he soon developed a very high fever and some other not-so-fun-to-discuss symptoms. Pantelis swooped in to the rescue, and he carried me and Caleb around town to the doctor (Her: What is his temperature? Me: Pretty high. Don’t you have a thermometer? Her: No. Me: (Quitely) This is Greece…), then to the lab and on to the pharmacy. Seriously, rent from this guy. Although the Doc had no thermometer, and no other discernible tools other than her stethoscope, she was very nice. And the 30 Euro price (plus 45 for lab work) sure beat Sweden’s 250.
In addition to the markets, we spent virtually every day of our two weeks checking out something ancient. You have to use your imagination a bit for this, as the ruins in no way present the splendor of what used to be. Sure, the Parthenon is very impressive as it is, but adorned with gold and bronze statues it must have been incredible. I’ll include this in my notes later, but I highly recommend a little book that shows you a now vs then via little transparencies that show the changes. There is something interesting to add here. In Athens, it is either ancient or modern. There seemed to be no in-between. Checking the history, they were conquered, sacked, occupied, or changed hands so many times that the new inhabitants always wiped out the traces of the old. Ultimately, if it survived it was important enough for even the occupiers to show respect and leave it alone – after it had been stripped of any valuable or re-usable material.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I mentioned in my last post that the original strike we met in Greece did not affect us again. However, not to be outdone by the transportation union strike, the farmers went on strike for several days when we got back to Athens. Now, I know what you are thinking. How could a one-week farmers’ strike affect us in Athens? Well, we had planned to take a day trip to the Oracle of Delphi, but the farmers really know how to get your attention. The parked their tractors on the interstates all over Greece, blocking borders and major highways. Gotta love the Greeks! – ALaff