Photo: Windmill on Mykonos Island
For the ‘best of’ Greece Photography – click here!
For all photos of Athens – click here!
For all photos of the Greek Islands – click here!
After 7 months of traveling around 3rd world countries with my backpack – I feel like I’ve changed. I used to have a closet full of clothes and shoes – more than I ever needed – hell – I could have clothed some small towns in Cambodia with my closet. Now – I have learned the fine art of how to wear the same outfit multiple days in a row (this all depends on the climate that you are traveling in). I seldom wear make-up anymore and normally am walking around in my tattered tennis shoes. Hair conditioner (or any styling products) and a washcloth is a luxury. I have definitely adjusted to not needing much – yet I still seem to overpack everywhere I go! However – with this change in hygiene, also comes that feeling that I’m completely frumpy. I used to use the construction workers on my commute to the subway as my gage for if I looked ok that day…if I got a look – then I must look ok – however I doubt they would even flinch these days! Hence – I think it’s been months since a guy has ever given me a second look! Gone are the days where I felt hip, now I’m just happy when I get to use a hair dryer. Since I was moving on to Europe for the next few months – I tried to pack nicer clothes and ship back home my fleece and hiking pants – in hopes of maybe cleaning up my act and feeling attractive again!
I arrived in Europe with a short layover in Dubai. I was exhausted since I haven’t really experienced jet lag since October! Arrival in Greece also exposed me to something I hadn’t experienced for a long time – there was no arrival card to fill out. Photo: Man playing acordian in Athens
At first I thought maybe I had too much wine on the plane and some how I missed the flight attendants passing them out, but as I looked around I noticed that no one else had one either. Strange – no visa, no arrival card – I felt cheated! I have spent the last 7 months memorizing every bit of data on my passport – I now consider it a special skill that I could put on my resume! It could go right next to the skills of shooting automatic weapons, eating rat, and can drive a manual transmission vehicle. With a resume like that I figure I can get a job patrolling the border of Afghanistan! Who knows maybe that can be my next career. Don’t worry mom – I’m just joking…
I lugged my bags through the airport to the train cursing my stupidity for having so much stuff. I was easily able to make it into the heart of Athens by train. As I followed my map to the hotel in the Plaka area I was led down little cobblestone streets and all of a sudden in my sweaty, luggage burdened state – I spotted him – Miles – my dear, dear friend from NY that I was meeting here for a week. We saw each other on the street and immediately I felt like I was in a sappy, romantic movie…like I should drop my bags and run to him with open arms for the big ‘embrace’ of 2 long lost friends. Seeing him felt so wonderful, familiar, and emotional. Miles has been one of my closest friends for the last 4 years. We have lived parallel lives – grew up in the Midwest, went to a state university, and worked at Gap in San Francisco during the same timeframe. However, we never met until we both moved to NYC and our common friend introduced us. He was the first friend I made in NYC and one of my very best. Thanks to him and his sense of adventure (a fellow Aquarian), I enjoyed NY. Hell, I could write a book about him alone – but I will try to stay on point. For all of my friends and family out there that don’t know Miles – I’m sure you are wondering – “So is there a romantic connection to Miles?”…No – he’s gay. So – now I’ve set the stage for all of you – we both fight over the same men…he normally wins. Back to our embrace – it was so wonderful to see him as it had been 7 months since I left him in NY – yet it seemed even longer to me. The fist night we spent catching up on each other’s lives and the goings on in NY. He brought me magazines and Twizzlers – my favorite treats from home!
That first night we arrived was the night before Easter Sunday. and I had a few Greek friends of mine that told me the real celebration was at midnight Easter Mass in Greece. Miles and I fought through our jet lag and somehow ended up at the big Cathedral in Athens around 11:30PM – it was as if a magnet pulled us Heathens there. Many people had started to gather outside the church. We came to find out that Easter Mass was held outside -surrounding the church. Everyone had candles and the Priests ‘sang’ the service with very little interaction from the crowd of people. Finally, at midnight , all of the candles were lit and the outdoor congregation chanted “He is risen” (in Greek – I took my best shot at interpreting it!), and then the kissing began. Once on each cheek – for everyone. Miles and I stayed up for the rising and the kiss-a-thon, but then both collapsed from our jet lag.
The next day was Easter Sunday in Athens – which was similar to my stay in Malaysia during Chinese New Year – the town shut down. There was nothing open and the street were deserted. The one exception to this was a small stretch of street in the Plaka area that was still serving tourists. It was kind of like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco – if you are a local – you wouldn’t be caught dead there! So we spent our day doing a little walking tour of the ancient city led by our guidebook. As soon as we took off to see the changing of the guards at the Parliament building, I was reminded of how fast Miles walks. Honestly, he walks fast even for a New Yorker. I used to play this little game with him and I would slowly fall behind him as we would walk down the streets of NY and I would see how long it would take him to notice that he had lost me…I normally had to give up and run back to him. Since I’ve been in my laid back travel mode now – this fast walking really took me by surprise, I was always about 5 steps behind him no matter how hard I tried! We saw the National Gardens, the old bath house ruins, Zeus’s temple, and walked all around the Acropolis (which was also closed on Easter Sunday). Athens reminded me of Rome, little narrow streets and ancient ruins peppered all over. One thing that did stick out to me was condition of some of the buildings. There would be lovely little cottages and churches and then right next door there would be a run down building with graffiti all over it – the contrast was strange. I saw more vandalism there than I did in all of Asia. We also accidentally ran into an Easter procession including that Arch Bishop of Athens (at least that’s what someone on the street told us). I figured he must be the Arch Bishop as he had the biggest, shiniest hat. They had a small procession from the cathedral to the Arch Bishop’s home a few blocks away. He was followed by many other priests – his cabinet of sorts I guess. They stopped outside his house and gave a small sermon. Masses of people crowded around and before we knew it Miles and I were trapped amongst many locals trying to get a glimpse of the holy group. This is more Easter services than I’ve attended in the last 5 years!