09 June 2012

Bekah's Thoughts on Her First Day in Greece

This post is written by my wife, Bekah, who joined me in Greece on Friday:




The trip to Greece was a long one for sure! I can’t believe my journey began nearly two days ago. It feels like one long day since I’ve only slept 2 hours total, but then my flight from South Bend also seems days and days ago. At my gate in JFK, New York, I felt completely American as most everyone around me looked Greek and spoke Greek. When we later went through customs at Athens airport, most of those on my flight were actually Greek-American as the majority of the plane headed through the non-EU passport line.The flight itself, which took about 8 ½ hours in the air, plus an hour waiting for take-off at JFK, was actually pleasant, but I didn’t sleep a wink. Between not-being a good non-bed sleeper, the sounds, lights, and being in a seated position, it just never happened although I sat with my eyes closed, blanket, and eye mask on for about 2-3 hours.


I wound up watching two movies (the entertainment selection was fairly large and there was a little TV in the seatback in front of me) and chatting with my row neighbor for a while right after take-off and for awhile again before we landed. The man seated next to me was named George he was born in Greece but now lives in New Jersey. He told me all about the Greek political situation, where he was from, what parts of Greece we were flying over, and a bit of the history of the country while I told him why I was going to Greece and what Brian was doing over there. His accent was thick, so I didn’t make out all that he said, but he was very friendly. While waiting at the carousel to get our luggage, he even made sure someone was coming to get me or he said he would get me a taxi if there wasn't.

Brian met me right outside the exit doors and it was wonderful to see him again! We headed to the metro and he bought me a ticket. The metro ride was about 45 minutes from the airport to our stop at Monastiraki. The landscape reminded me alot of the Colorado/Utah border - scrappy trees, red soil, and mountains. All the airport signs, roads sign, metro stop announcements, billboards, etc. were in Greek and English.

The metro itself is very different from what I am most familiar with in the US. Unlike the NYC subway, the trains are impressively clean. The people themselves are clean cut and look nice. There were no homeless or crazy people, and no one who looked remotely threatening. The closest we got was a woman playing a song on an accordion with a little girl asking for change in her cup passing through the train.

What was unique was an Orthodox priest got onto the train at one of the stops - by then it was full, but several people made sure he found a seat by asking one gentlemen to give up his seat which he did without hesitation when he saw who needed it. The priest sat down next to us, Brian asked for a blessing, and he and priest had a conversation in Greek. I am floored by Brian's Greek. While he is not fluent, he understands most of what is being said when it's not said too fast and he can respond and start conversations. I'm impressed (and grateful since I don't know how to say 'thank you' or 'goodbye' or anything!).

Once we got to our stop and entered the street, it wasn't hard to see I was in an ancient city: lots of narrow streets, cobble or marble streets, street vendors, and old, old buildings. Brian wasn't lying about the graffitti either. It's everywhere! In fact, the only surface we didn't see it was on the ancient ruins themselves. While Athens is certainly not a clean city on first sight: there's graffiti, trash in the streets, dogs wondering around, etc. - it's also impressively detailed, ancient, and seemingly laid back.

Once back to the apartment, we had about a half hour before Brian met with his chant teacher. This was perfect as I was so looking forward to a nap while he met with him! After a lunch of dolmades, olives, feta cheese, yogurt, baklava and a shot of ouzo, Brian left and as soon as my head hit the pillow I slept for 2 hours straight and didn't wake up again until he unlocked the door!

I really could have laid in bed and wasted the whole day away. Thankfully, this apartment is equipped with a fabulous espresso machine and after 2 shots and a gyro (yum!), I was a new woman.

Brian had not ventured up to the Acropolis or to Mars Hill, so that's where we headed this afternoon. On the way, he gave me a little tour of his area and we stopped by 3 little, ancient churches - all beautiful and awe-inspiring and with every square inch filled with icons. For this trip, I have brought mostly skirts and summer dresses, since the churches don't allow people in shorts.

I can't wrap my head around the fact that we visited Mars Hill, where the Apostle Paul preached. The feeling defies words. The Acropolis too is so grand. Much of it is under renovation right now, so there is alot of scaffolding, but there is so much of it that's it's hard not to be amazed all the same. The view is nothing short of spectacular - the whole city looks so expansive. With no skyscrapers (just red clay tile roofs, church towers, and ancient column ruins) and a view of the ocean, it's beautiful.

Upon heading back to the apartment, we left again after showering (it really is HOT here!) to stop at the taverna a block from Brian's place for dinner. I got a Greek salad (feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, capers with olive oil and oregano) and barbecued octopus (to me, it was akin to a tasty cross between a lobster and a squid).

Day one has me so happy to be here. Happy that I had a second wind so I could see and experience so much already: beautiful sights, amazing food, and lovely company. I am happy and even more happy for Brian that he gets to spend time in this amazing place learning so much about what he is passionate about!

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