Bulgaria & Turkey, November 2001 Travelogue
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Saturday, Nov. 10th, 2001

I arose at 8 and made my way back to Heathrow Airport. There are only a few cities in the world where the subway goes all the way out to the airport, and this was one of them. The trip takes about an hour.

As I type this, I realize that this was the first trip that I've taken since Sept. 11th that I didn't even glance at the other passengers to see if I could spot any potential hijackers. I guess you just relax after a few trips.

Within a 45 minutes we were flying over snow-covered mountains. I don't think I mentioned it before, but London was getting damn cold while I was there, right around 36F. I was worried about trying to have fun in really cold weather in Bulgaria, but I truly didn't know what to expect on the ground. I imagine Bulgaria as cold, but I imagine Greece as warm, so hopefully both would be within a comfortable temperature range.

Midway through "Legally Blonde" I spotted a jet flying in the opposite direction leaving a streak of black smoke. I seriously thought something was wrong with it, so I grabbed my camera and took a photo. It kept on it's merry way, and only the woman behind me reacted at all, so I guess it is normal for some jets. Maybe it was a military jet.

I landed in the stark new airport in Athens as it was getting dark. I had lost two more hours, and now I was 10 hours ahead of California. In the airport, if one doesn't know the exchange rate, the thing to do is check at the change bureaus and take a guess at how long one will be in the country, and do the math. I saw drachma were about 1/380th of a dollar, figured I would need about $80 in Greece, and so about 30,000 Drs. The first ATM I tried didn't like my card, which made me quickly assess how screwed I would be if it was broken. Luckily the second machine worked just fine, and I opted for the 50,000drs withdrawal.

I took a bus to the Metro (urban rail) and headed towards the rail station. On one Metro train, I heard a mobile phone with the "circus march" tune that Brooke sometimes sings, I laughed. I was planning on staying at a hostel, but I really didn't remember where any were. It was getting dark, so after about an hour, I decided to take any hotel I could find. I got back onto Metro and headed for the sea port. I knew there had to be a couple of hotels there. The first one I found was full, which worried me a bit, because that immediately makes you think that they are ALL going to be full, but of course the next one, one block away, had a room for $25.

It was Saturday evening, the air was warm (70F), I was free of my luggage with a full wallet.

I was in a pretty good mood, and began wandering around. There is something challenging about when not only are the signs in another language, but the alphabet is different, so your brain cannot even make sounds for the words.
I walked around a lot. Up and down hilly streets, basically trying to find the action. Eventually I stumbled onto a line of cars looking for parking, and found a hill overlooking a festival of some kind. I snaked down the hill and only found a lame traveling amusement park set up near the rocky beach. I walked up the beach to where posh little clubs were attracting beautiful people in black.

I walked along the beachfront road. It had restaurants and clubs and shops built up along it, and traffic was moving slow, like a cruise. There was a lot of action around, it was fun.

Eventually it got to be around midnight and I started doubting my navigation. I had been walking back along the beach for at least an hour, and hadn't come back to the port yet. I got what turned out to be incorrect directions from one gentleman, and started heading back the opposite direction. Then, to avoid one of the many cars parked on the sidewalk, I walked through an area under construction. This turned out to be a mistake. One foot plunked ankle-deep into white gunk, and my momentum carried my next foot forward too. The second foot went in up to the knee!

I was shocked. My first thought was "concrete" and my second thought was, "my shoes are fucked".

Neither of those thoughts turned out to be correct, but I was pretty stunned for a good 4 minutes, standing like a dumbass with frosting shoes on the side of the road at 12:30am. I looked around for a hose, or a towel or something, but the best option turned out to be the dock across the street. Luckily there were small boats docked nearby, which meant that I could walk right down to the water. I dunked one foot in at a time, swooshing it around vigorously to try and shake the goo off.

Moments like this are much more bearable when I can share them with people back home.

I walked back across the street and up the block, where I took off my shoes and socks and wrung them out. Now with two wet shoes, I asked another guy for directions, and he told me to take a cab. I did. I was home five minutes later, and the cab was only $1.80.

I tried my best to wash off all of the white stuff, and ended up being awake until about 3 in the morning. In the back of my mind I was sure my shoes would harden into two bricks during the night. I left them on top of the (black and white) TV to dry.

Boarding my flight to Athens

Snow-capped mountains

Mysterious jet with black smoke contrail

This one is for Daniel

A large Greek Orthodox Church in Athens

With pita and 2 juicy different (from American) hamburgers

Forget those stuffed animals, I am trying to hook some Marlboro Lights!

There are two divots where my feet sank in.

My shoes and one pant coated in stucco material

washing my shoes off in the Mediterranean Sea

the construction I should have walked around

Sunday, Nov. 11th, 2001

On Sunday, mostly because my only pair of shoes wasn't dry yet, I decided to stay in Athens for another day. I stumbled downstairs barefoot to pay for another day. Eventually my shoes were dry and I made it out of the room. I threw the socks away.

I pretty much walked around all day, taking pictures and entertaining myself.

A hostel is a lame place to sleep, but hotels can be isolating. I would have been happy to find another traveler to pal around with, but that didn't happen today.

Almost all of the regular shops were closed, but there were plenty of street markets around. They sold shoes, socks, jackets, toys, Cds, dishes, rugs, fish, pants, stockings and other junk. Nothing I really wanted...oh wait, I did buy some socks, one pair says, "abibas" and the other says "puwa". I also picked up some dorky gifts. I hopped on the Metro a couple of times and went to diverse parts of the map. Athens is not the most attractive city in the world, but it was alive with construction and rich with monuments. The Olympics is just 3 years away, so they are kind of under the gun.

I rested at a little cafe drinking a cappuccino and reading about the northern alliance advancing on Kabul. It was in the international version of the Herald Tribune.
I was exhausted by 6pm and went back to my hotel for a nap. I woke up 5 hours later...don't you hate that feeling? While I was getting ready to leave, I looked under my mattress and found a 5000 drachma bill(US$12.50)! What luck! I went out for a late-night walk, hoping I could find an internet cafe that was open late and was successful.

Tomorrow I was bound for Thessaloniki, at the top of Greece.

The next day at the port of Athens

Boat harbor

The man with the bread has lots of friends

Surprise, I was on a movie lot the whole time!

In a street fair

This guy was showing his infant the throttle

The three men standing near the plant were yelling about the price of their pants

The Academy of Athens

Greece's national liquor is Ouzo.

The Acropolis from a distance

the 5000 drachma under my bed!

polishing my shoes in my room.

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Read my other travelogues: Minneapolis 2001 | Burning Man 2001 | Europe 1999 | Costa Rica 2000

Back to main Cockeyed | Write to Rob@Cockeyed.com Last updated November 13th, 2001.
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