Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dazed + Confused in Athens, Greece

the Acroplis of ancient Greece- viewed from below
Arriving well after midnight, rest is my next featured activity, and what would exponentially increase its quality would be the sleeping pill of heavy traffic whose continuous hum would create a comparative "white noise;" instead, at 2 AM, the Kamikaze motorcycles take it upon themselves to fill the relative peace by revving their bikes past the "total asshole" level on up to "nuclear explosion."
Time and time again I get jolted out of bed with a shot of adrenaline. Taking a pillow with me, I attempt to rest on the hard wood floor of the living room and behind the couch, 15 feet further away from the window, but like children of the 1960's practicing the "duck and cover" technique to protect themselves from an exploding nuclear bomb ... the benefits are negligible.
Thankfully, the sleeping pill arrives at 7 AM, allowing me to drift off into relative slumber.
the original Olympic Stadium
Greek Parliament from the outside
Greek Parliament from the outside
Awaking at noon, I shake off the Greek fog I'm in, and start walking down one of Athen's main roads. I cover several miles- there's little of note here, save the ruins of ancient Greece and the Parliament Building, beautiful and interesting structures which stand out amidst the grimy and dilapidated Greek infrastructure.
the interior of the Greek Parliament building
interior courtyard of the Greek Parliament building- quite lovely
Exiting the acropolis and her sister museum, I get a little lost on the twisted streets of Athens. A rough looking man sees me glancing down at Google Maps, and engages me in conversation. He seems like he's trying to help, until he aggressively sweeps me inside his bar. Two women are seated separately, nodding at me as I enter.
My thirst is overtaken by suspicion, I'm fairly certain Cokes will be served at $20 apiece as the girls flirt with me in an attempt to encourage me to stay longer and order more.
I politely announce I must be going. *BAM* Any pretense of kindness disappears in a puff of smoke; the bar owner glares at me as I exit.
a view from the Acropolis over Athens, Greece
a view from the Acropolis over Athens, Greece
My friend Nick, who I've come to meet, grew up in the city. He despises returning, but must do so periodically to take care of family business. 
He asks for silence as he prepares to drive so he can, "prepare for war."
Commuting in Athens is not only dangerous but incredibly confusing. The streets are designed so poorly that red-lights are often not visible to cars waiting nearest the intersection, as they are placed to the side rather than in front, leaving drivers reliant on honks from the autos lined up behind to let them know when the light has changed to green. 
Even with a GPS system on the dashboard we take a wrong turn, forcing us to backtrack a couple of miles of city streets before we are able to get back to the original intersection. The city is full of one way, curvy streets whose names can change at any moment. 
Nick describes what a paradise Athens once was- clean air, everything was beach-front property, etc. Today the city is comprised of dense housing built to the lowest common denominator, a crony and utterly corrupt government which collects no taxes, in part because those who pay are deemed idiots who are merely lining the pockets of the fat cats.
"This is not a 1st world country," explains Nick, "This is 2.5 ..."
Athenians think nothing of inconveniencing others by double parking, or pulling up onto the sidewalk while they run errands, so when we see an open spot on the waterfront our pupils dilate. 
It seems too good to be true. 
"Can we park here?" I ask the restaurant worker.
"Of course," he replies. 
I wait a beat. Two beats. 
"But only if you're dining in this restaurant." 
For Nick it's par for the course. For me, I marvel at the usurping of public parking spots without any signage for the use of an individual business. 
We go and park up the hill on a narrow street.  Nick turns in the mirror on the side of his car. I look around and notice all the parked automobiles have done the same. 
"The streets are way too narrow," explains Nick, "Plus if any Greek were to knock your mirror off, there's a zero percent chance of them leaving a note." 
all side mirrors tucked in

I experience myself being stared at on several occasions, by men ... who don't look remotely gay. I feel very uncomfortable as their stares only intensify when I make eye contact with them. I shake it off. Nick tells me its par for the course.
I find Athens a confusing mess. 
After spending two sleepless nights in the capital, ticked about the lack of transparency regarding the nuclear explosions outside, I check out of my AirBnb a night early, and leave the following note for my host: Since inventing democracy, Greece has seriously been resting on its laurels.

3 comments:

  1. Well, ancient Greece ended like 300 years BC, and probably has been decaying since, so what did you expect? haha

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  2. Interesting adventures. It looks like not everything was so positive, but you did get to see some beautiful ancient architecture.

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    1. If I had included some of my friend's stories who I was visiting there, you'd be flabbergasted by the enormity of craziness in Greece, Susan.
      Not all travel is "fun" but still a part of it, which one shouldn't shy away from. Thanks for your note :)

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