Sunday, June 19, 2011

Athens {In depth for my mom}

Today, we headed to Nafplio after a very interesting three days in Athens. The excitement started on day one as we were getting off the bus. Immediately after dragging my luggage to the street, I saw a huge market filled with fruits and other foods, and though it smelled like sweat and fish, I enjoyed the scene. That is, until people started to notice us. As I explained in my previous post, the vendors here are extremely aggressive, so it’s no surprise that when a coach bus full of American girls stopped traffic in the middle of the narrow street that they are stationed in, they had a fit. Whether they were yelling at us for stopping traffic or simply to harass us like many of them seem to like to do, I am unaware, but one thing is for sure: it was overwhelming.
After our bus incident, we went to a small restaurant and had a lot of trouble ordering food. It amazes me how although most of the people here speak English, hardly anyone understands our food orders. The issue on that specific occasion was whether each of us wanted a gyro that was already wrapped up in the pita bread or gyro meat with a side of vegetables and pita. Not that there is a huge difference or that it matters, but it was odd how despite the hand gestures, verbal descriptions, and pointing at the menu, we all received the opposite of what we ordered. Whether it was on the side or in a taco of sorts, we all enjoyed the hot chicken with warm pita bread, and cold tomatoes and sauce. Another crazy thing about the meal was the entertainment: the streets around us. In the span of thirty or forty minutes, I watched a man be pick-pocketed and then taunted by the thief, along with countless other unusual scenarios.
Full from lunch, we then headed to a market district in groups of six(ish) students and two leaders. Our first stop was the butcher shop, and for a second, I thought I would never eat meat again. As soon as we walked into the indoor street, the smell of rotten poultry entered my nose. The mixture of the scent along with the June heat and overall business of the city had me feeling pretty queasy. The view didn’t help at all. Skinned goats complete with eyeballs and teeth hung from racks on the ceiling. Another meat that appeared to be typical was rabbit. It might not have bothered me, but somehow I guess the locals find it appetizing to take off all the fur other than the tail and feet. To make matters worse, they had a pet shop with baby rabbits for sale just outside of the market. 
After a little bit more exploring of the shops and kiosks, we went to the Acropolis. It was packed with tourists, but it was beautiful. The huge ancient buildings were a sight to see. I’ve really enjoyed seeing people from all over the world gathered around the same monuments. I feel like it is one of the few things that unifies all of us.  
That night, we had dinner at a Greek restaurant, where we got fried cheese as an appetizer. It is very different from the fried mozzarella I’ve eaten in the past, but it was every bit as yummy. Unfortunately for my health, it has become a group habit to order it at nearly every meal. When it came time to order an entrĂ©e, I learned that my experiences earlier in the day didn’t have a significant impact on me as I requested lamb chops. They were really tasty. After we ate, the restaurant had traditional Greek dancing. Four professional dancers started the movement and before long, a couple of my friends and I joined the fun. Opa!
After dinner and dancing, we all gathered in our hotel lobby to say goodbye to our teacher, Ms. Hartman. She had to catch a flight back to Houston for a family emergency. We were very sad to see her go. She was such a great leader!
Yesterday, we started our mornings with the usual Greek yogurt and honey. I miss fresh fruit in the mornings, but I am nowhere near being sick of the thick, sour yogurt with gooey honey and crunchy granola or almonds. After breakfast, we headed off to a museum. On the way there, we witnessed a violent riot. Just Kidding! We did see a peaceful protest, though. Hundreds of men and women carrying flags and banners marched the streets, chanting and yelling. At the museum, we saw many neat works of art (mostly sculptures) from ancient Greece. It was very cool. After the museum, we went to lunch, and because the menus at every lunch spot include the same foods, most people ordered gyros once again. I got a Greek salad and it’s cool vegetables were a nice change from the heat outside.
After lunch, we went to another part of town to shop some more. On the way, we stopped by the changing of the guards. I was impressed with their identical movements and memorization of such a long routine. When it was done, we continued on to the market.The shops sell a lot of leather goods and glass beads. It’s all very cute but some come at surprisingly high prices. In the U.S., I would expect leather bags to cost more than even the most expensive ones here, but I always thought Italy and Greece would have really nice, really cheap goods.
In the middle of shopping, we saw a pack of about twenty men running down the street with knock-off merchandise in their hands. They were the black market dealers and had just been busted by the police. Their laughter and “you can’t catch me”s reminded me of two things: a four year old and the thief from lunch the previous day. The authorities’ inability to catch them made me a little fearful of what would happen if I was ever put in a 9-1-1 situation.
Later that night, we went to dinner where I ordered stuffed tomatoes, which were delicious. It was my friend Caroline’s birthday, so they brought out watermelon for all of us. I appreciated the fruit more than anything else I’ve eaten. It was sweet and juicy and cold. I loved it! After that, we decided to make a little birthday surprise for Caroline. We walked around asking anyone who was willing to say happy birthday into a camera. If they were cooperative, we also told them to say the craziest thing they did when they were sixteen. We got some really good ones! Later, we are going to combine all of them and present it to her.
   Today, we got up and packed, ate breakfast, and boarded our bus to Nafplio. We are at the hotel now, and it is very nice (well, relatively speaking at least), although I can’t wait to get home to my bed, bathroom, AC and family. Speaking of family… HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, DAD! Thanks for all you do for Connor and me! You’re the best dad anyone could ask for. I can’t wait to see you soon!

The market
The Acropolis 
The view of Athens from the Acropolis 
My friend Claire dancing with her new friend at the restaurant 
The Protest 
At the museum
Beads at the market 
The changing of the guards
Happy belated birthday, Caroline 



No comments:

Post a Comment