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Friday, Dec. 14th, 2001
Shopping & Sky in Athens
On Friday, my mind had pretty much already left town.
I took a train out to the center of town and looked at a lot of shoes.
I walked by the Acropolis, and the Theatre below, (Nike?)
I was on the hunt for postcard stamps & gifts.
On the train I overheard two women having a little disagreement about how to best spend their 4th day in Athens. They split up on the platform & one got onto the train with me. I got the idea she was about to start wandering the streets aimlessly, so I broke the ice & I struck up a conversation.
Indeed, she was walking aimlessly & welcomed the company. She was from Australia & had just landed a job in London. She vetoed some shoes I was considering, and recommended some orange ones...for a gift.
We wasted a few hours together shopping & disparaging Athens.
Athens has an epidemic...a plague of a very specialized form of panhandlers: They walk into full subway cars as the doors close and start droning about something terrible that they are burdened with. They turn quiet public conversation into the ultimate uncomfortable monologue as everyone on board
seethes and feigns inattention.
Sure, other towns are host to this breed, but Athens is OUT OF CONTROL. Only one metro train I rode did not have a single beggar, and many had two. I've witnessed passengers revolt against this behavior (or
behavior) in London, but Athenians are tolerant. I hate being a captive audience to that kind of thing.
Things are coming along in preparation for the Olympics in 2004, but traffic was unbelievable near rush hour. One thing they had covered though, plenty of signs for which way it was to the airport.
The sun came out around 3 & I decided to go back to my hotel to drop off the giant orange jacket. Sky opted to meet back up with her friend & we said goodbye.
I ditched the jacket and hit the streets until it got dark, ate some grilled shish-kabob on the sidewalk and went back to the hotel.
On the way I passed a Porno Theatre, their price posted in Drachma and Euros. That made me laugh out loud.
Somehow I stretched the packing process into an all-night affair, catching the "M5 supercomputer" episode of Star Trek.
I surprised the guy at the front desk by asking for a 3:30 wake-up call.
Taping up the showerhead in Athens in the a.m.
Athens subway system
The Theatre below the Acropolis
Santa display downtown
Native American souvenirs
UPS Scooter guy
Pushy Subway car roving panhandler:
the scourge of Athens
Saturday, Dec. 15th, 2001
The trip back to Sacramento
Saturday was set up to be a really long day. I woke up at 3:30am in Athens, preparing for a two-flight day that landed in San Francisco at 4:30pm...23 hours later.
I took a convenient bus to the Athens Airport, joined by 10 flight attendants on their way to work. I drank coffee and spent the rest of my Drachma there. On Friday, I had withdrawn Drachma from the ATM machines...but in three months, the Drachma would cease to be a valid Greek currency. It staggers the mind.
A few hours later I was in London's Heathrow, where I pulled a cheap-bastard stunt. I bought a voltage adapter so I could charge my laptop, then returned it when I was ready to leave. I know, I know, totally lame, but another shop had it for 4 pounds less, and by that time I didn't need either one! I spent the money on candy instead.
The flight to San Francisco was pretty nice. We flew north of the arctic circle, resulting in a three-hour moving sunrise over broken chunks of ice. I kept taking photos, but I doubt the colors will come through online.
We landed in San Francisco on time, and I caught a bus to BART, and took that to Amtrak. The train to Sacramento had been delayed because someone had been killed on the tracks in Berkeley.
I was really tired at that point, and I was nodding off on the train. I had been up for 29 hours. I took a cab to my home, got a quick "welcome home!" from Mike and Jane & went to bed.
So, that was my trip to Bulgaria and Turkey. It was 40 days long, and I had a great time, but wish I had brought someone else along. It could get pretty isolating to be alone, not speaking
English to anyone for days at a time. Of course, I could have learned some Bulgarian or Turkish before I left, but even then it would have been hard. Also, November is a little late to start a trip in the northern hemisphere, especially for a kid from California like myself.
I didn't get robbed and I didn't fall in love, but I got a gigabyte of great photos (2,481 pictures). I met scores of nice people from many different cultures. The entire trip cost $2890, including the $820 in airfare, $200 in gifts and $14 in postcards. The best city was Istanbul. I encourage anyone travelling, especially people that have already seen Paris and Rome, to visit Istanbul. Easy for tourists. What a great way to learn about Islam too! It is one of the world's richest atmospheres.
I guess New Zealand or Thailand or India is next...but not any time soon.
Next time I am bringing a label-maker.
Thanks for reading!
This car's emissions had 45% less tar
someone famous got off the plane with us
he was followed by 3 news cameras
Concorde rolls out at Heathrow. It was really thin
The Rolls-Royce Jet Engine
Dawn over the Arctic circle
Broken ice in the North Atlantic