Hi From Athens!

December 19th, 2010 by Melina

Wow. I’m here.

I am so, so happy to be here. You have no idea. My heart is warm and I’m relieved. I’ve spent too long being homesick. Too long not being able to listen to my favorite Greek songs because they make me too sad.

Now, I’m here. I’m in shock. Numb. Which is probably what’s keeping me going even though I’m totally jet lagged and emotional.

I was sure I wasn’t going to make it, for various reasons, like that freakish flu that still hasn’t totally quit. (I’m almost there. So close.) Then, I found myself at JFK behind a Greek couple (they were arguing, of course). The guy had worry beads.

That was my first clue that this trip was happening.

Even the Greeks misbehaving on the plane (sorry, fellow Greeks, I love you, but you know how you behave) didn’t assure me that this trip was a reality.

It wasn’t until the plane touched down, I saw an ad for frappe, and got through customs that I sort of accepted that I was here. I bought a cheap cell phone, figured out the Metro, which is easy and beautiful, thanks to the Olympics, and got to my hotel in Athens. It was a trek, but I can’t tell you how much easier it is to fly to Greece now than it was when I was a kid.

I got off the Metro at Monastiraki station, grateful for the escalators that easily accommodate suitcases, and impressed by the archeological exhibit:

My hotel is near the Plaka, in a pretty although touristy area. Oh, and by the way, The Acropolis sends its regards:

In one day, I’ve taken care of certain cravings. For example:

Holy Feta!

And Amita Peach Juice, which takes me straight back to my childhood without passing go:

And I finally had an authentic frappe, but that experience didn’t end so well:

Here’s what happened. Unfortunately, Athens isn’t at its prime. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with it, and usually fly straight to Crete. As I mentioned before, Athens has improved a lot in the past ten years or so, but it’s not having its shiniest, happiest time right now.

I sat down at a cafe, ordered frappe, orange juice (the fresh squeezed Greek kind – wow) and yoghurt with honey. Heaven!

Then came the beggars. I lost track around nine or ten. It did NOT stop. Every time I took a sip of frappe, somebody else of a different nationality came to beg or sell something. Then I got my bill, and I discreetly took money out and stupidly put it on the table. A deaf / mute abusive beggar saw it and came over and completely harassed me.

When I refused to help him, he was pissed. He kept touching my hands and rattling my dishes. At one point he tried to knock a water glass over. If I hadn’t caught it, it would’ve spilled on everything. I felt so dirty. I grabbed the money and he was so mad. He was screaming, in his mute way, and everybody was staring.

I even dealt with two children begging me to buy dead flowers from them. They followed me to a newsstand where I was buying water and they begged me to buy them chocolate. They held onto my wrists and followed me up the street.

And that stuff on the news about strikes is true:

And, I just found out that there may be a metro strike tomorrow, meaning I have to go broke on a taxi to the airport.

Incidentally, Dumpsters are overflowing.

As if that’s not bad enough, the traffic is completely out of control.

Now, I grew up in the Bay Area. I live in NY. I’ve lived in East Jerusalem. I know from traffic.

But WOW.

I went to see a friend and the taxi ride blew my mind. We inched down the street next to the hotel, and when we finally made it to Syntagma Square, I don’t think any cars were actually in a lane. They were facing all directions, honking, and going absolutely nowhere. Except for the motorcycles, which were going everywhere.

I got to my destination half an hour late.

Apparently, one reason today is so insane is that it’s the last Sunday before Christmas, and the stores are open, which they usually aren’t on Sundays. I think this is like the Greek version of Black Friday. On the way home, the driver let me out so I could walk.

Later, I had to take this picture of the traffic:

Then there’s the noise. How can I describe it? For starters, everyone seems to have a motorcycle. Not one motorcycle has a muffler. Everyone honks. Everyone drives with the radio blaring. Nobody drives with closed windows. Everyone has a ringing cell phone. Conversations are not held at low volume, and that’s putting it nicely.

And everything is under construction. And I’m sorry to bring it up, but everybody smokes. All. The. Time.

Just my luck, there’s some sort of event right in front of my window that involves speakers and a horribly dizzying combination of rap, American Christmas carols, and Greek music. It’s so loud it’s like I’m listening to it on my iPod with really expensive ear buds turned all the way up. It’s kind of rattling my nerves.

Anyway, that’s why I’m inside tonight, drinking more Amita peach juice, blogging, hanging out with my mom on iChat, and getting ready for tomorrow’s trip.

Good night everyone! Not sure what my Internet access will be like after tonight, but I’ll try to blog again soon. :-)

Posted in Mel's In Greece!

2 Responses

  1. Karen Pinco

    Sounds like Greece hasn’t changed much since we were there 10 years ago. We liked Athens too, but were glad to escape. I don’t remember beggars… sorry to hear it’s so bad. And those motorcycles/scooters, aren’t they everywhere in Europe?

    Have an easy trip and a great extra holiday.

  2. Pamela Cayne

    I remember talking to you this summer about how much you wanted to visit Greece again soon, so I’m glad you’re there. I hope and pray your trip has gotten better since then.

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