Saturday, June 18, 2011

Greece at Last - Athens

Jordi Varkas, my first couchsurfing host has made me feel really comfertible staying at his place. he manages a club, and a soccer team during the day, and being gone alot, he gave me a set of keys to use while Im here. His place is my place kind of a thing. His flat is in Athens about 10 minute from the center by metro.

Me in front of the Parthenon
After flying in yesterday to the airport I had to find my way about 20 miles first to Athen's center, and then to Jordi's house. Without a phone, and only his street and apartment number, it was a little tricky. I met a family on the train who were half Greek half Jordanian and the mother, who was really nice, let me use her phone to call Jordi. He didn't give me any more information really, but after I got off the subway I asked a pizza delivery guy on a motorcycle I knew would know the streets well and asked him where Geraki street was. He showed me a map and ten minutes walking brought me in front of the apartment, but no one was home. Thankfully, he showed up 15 minutes later. He welcomed me inside, gave me the keys and said he had to take off for a meeting, but that he would pick me up at a subway station and take me with him to the beach. I was really tired, after flying and traveling for 2 days without sleep, but I didn't want to miss out on anything, so i said I would go. I showed up and he was waiting for me, we drove about 20 minutes to a beach and met up with his friends for a night swim in the Mediterranean. They were all realy nice, but didn't speak English to eachother, so the conversations became realy exclusive for me. I was fine with it, i was tired anyway. We played football in the shallow water, and they made me feel part of the group.

Porch of Caryatids
The next morning I slept in untill about 13:00. I showered, made myself some coffee, and headed out to explore the city of athens. Another friendly person helped me to the town square Syntagma, where over a hundred thousand protestors had been the night before. Hundreds of tents were still set up in front of the Parliament building, people who had traveled from all over Greece to be apart of the protest. Later on in the night with jordi and his friends, a girl names Vassoniki who had a degree in Political Science explained to me Greeces political condition. It sounded much like it is in America, a large deficit, higher taxes, lower wages, not enough jobs, inflation, but the difference is that Greece connot print more money like us. We do the quick fix and they have to deal with it. the European Union will not give them another laon untill thier is a consensus within the Parliament, which is so divided that the situation seems hopeless to many Greeks. If there is no consensus for a solution, the country will go bankrupt, and what's happening in Argentina is likely to happen here (which i know little about, other than that it's very dangerous to be there).
Temple of Zeus
So I guess I am very thankful to be here while it's still safe...or semi-safe. After seeing the Parliament I unexpectedly saw Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Zeus behind it. then I saw the Acropolis, and decided to check it out, since I had nothing in particular planned. It was 18 euros for a pass to get in that also included a ticket into many other big ancient sites like, agora, the temple of Zeus, and others, good for four days.  I spent hours and hours hanging out up there. I was crowded, and I offered to take many pictures of people in exchange for mine. The columns were so massive and tall, you are forced to wonder how the Ancient Greeks were able to build something like the Parthenon. Iconic of Greece now, and iconic then, it can be seen from Piraeus, the city's major port. In a few days I will see the view from the other end when I take a ferry to the islands. I met two American grils who were traveling through Europe on the Acropolis, and they were headed to Santorini for 7 euros a night. Online I had never seen prices that good during all my research. I wront down the name of the hostel and I think I might go there as well and see them again next week. Surrounding the Acropolis is the city of Athens, sparkling in the light of the sun ,a huge metropolis that is buiilt on top of acient ruins that can be seen on about every other street corner. this is art history that everyne else in the world studies in book sand here it is just part of everyday life to Athenians. Jordi said he has only been to the Acropolis once, and it was three years ago when he was twenty-five! I wondered arund more after the Acropolis, climbing Mars Hill, where Paul spoke to the Greek philosophers, and from here saw a good view of Acient Agora, the common social center of acient Athens, which is where Sacrates, Plato, and Aristotle spend much of their time.

Greek Orthodox Church near Jordi's House
On the way home I picked up some Souvlaki at what is known as Souvlaki Square, for 1.70euros and reminded me of a hot dog in Manhattan, or a Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia, a stable meal to any Greak that is on the go. Later I met up with Jordi and we went to a place that reminded me of the Public House in old town Temecula, a place where younger people come to eat and drink and hang out for long hours throughout the night. I met more of Jordi's friends, and got some of the cultural experience I've been looking for. when we ordered food, there was no individual dishes, but we all just picked and shared as we talked untill the plates were empty, and we would order more. The bill turned out to be 10 euros each, about $14 in US money. I had a full dinner and two beers that would have cost at least $25 at the Pub House.

My first full day in Greece has been great. Earlier I got a cell phone, and even with only two contact I already feel much safer. It was 35 Euros for a phone and 250 minutes that you can recharge as you need them.

I think, and Jordi and his friends confirmed, that the traditional Greek experience that I am looking for is going to be much stronger as I travel away from Athens. Today on the streets I saw a Gap and a McDonalds and an H&M. I think life is very similar in all of the metropolitan cities of the world. Next I will leave the city and venture to the islands, the Peloponnese, and Thrace, wehre a stronger, more stereotypical Greek culture can be found.
My first couch!

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