28 March, 2010

Things I Have Learned in Greece

  1. Even if your purse is zipped, you're holding onto it tightly, and you have two coats draped over the opening of it, it's very possible for pickpockets to get in there. Pay attention, and if you're lucky you will catch them before they grab your wallet, and if you're like me, you will be able to kick them and they will leave you alone and hide from your burning glares the rest of the time you are on the subway together.
  2. If a man with a pink mohawk is serenading everyone at your restaurant and tries to make eye contact with you, do not look back, or else he will come over and harrass you with weird music and lewd suggestions. He will then proceed to tell you that because you are not Jewish, you couldn't possibly understand. And tell you that his people laugh at people like you. He might leave after that, but he'll be around still, playing loud weird music and eating other peoples' desserts.
  3. The Greeks use a different alphabet... it's really problematic when you can't even sound out the name of the place you're trying to get to.
  4. Ancient, giant rocks are a perfect place to look out at the Athens cityscape and discuss deep, philosophical life issues.
  5. Greek plumbing doesn't like toilet paper. When you use a Greek bathroom, you have to throw it out, not flush it, or you'll wreck the plumbing.
  6. Just because the weather feels warm to you, doesn't mean it feels warm to the natives. While you're walking about in a skirt and a short-sleeved top, they're looking at you like you're insane and clutching their puffy winter jackets closer to them.
  7. Not all beaches are public. Some are reserved just for, say, old men in Speedos. But the kindly man who tells you where the beach is will neglect to mention that little fact to you, and you will find yourself on a sandy beach, empty but for some very scantily clad old men playing badminton and sunbathing.
  8. If Italian waiters are the most hilarious, Greek waiters are the most adorable. We had one who tried so hard to get past the language barrier, but his explanations of dishes and drinks kept falling a little bit short. For example, when we asked about meal choices on the menu, he would tell us things like, "It says traditional Greek, but it's not really traditional Greek." Or "Well, it's made of bread, and inside it has, well, you know!" And when they gave us Ouzo at the end of the meal, he explained, "This is a drink that comes from a tree." He was so cute, we loved him.
  9. There is no saying no to some of the men selling souvenirs on the streets. The best thing to do is ignore them and walk away without making eye contact. DO NOT STAY STILL. Emily and I made this mistake while waiting to meet up with Lauren and Geoff one night. A man came along and tried to sell us a light up bouncy ball. We politely declined, and remained seated. But he didn't leave. He spent the next ten minutes using the three English words he knew how to say, (Yes? No?  Gift?) and patting poor Emily on the head. He kept trying to place them into our laps, or thrust them into our hands, and he wouldn't take them back! We kept telling him, "no money!" but he wouldn't stop. He kept laughing at us and trying to say things to us in a different language, and we just didn't understand him. All sorts of other street hawkers and tourists alike were laughing at us the entire time, and finally we just said, "Sorry. No." and high-tailed it out of there!
  10. It's entirely possible for dogs to learn to function as humans. Athens is FULL of stray dogs and cats, who wander the streets, eat [outside of] restaurants, and visit the sites, like the Acropolis or the Agora, just like humans do. They use crosswalks, and only travel when the pedestrian light turns green, they sleep in the sun, and they're allowed behind the rope at places like the Parthenon! Most of them are really friendly, too. Probably because they know that if they're friendly they're more likely to get a scratch behind the ears or something to eat. But still, it was fun to see so many dogs just roaming the streets like that.
  11. When there is a labour strike going on, anything can happen. Big protests that take up an entie street, with lines of white-helmeted policemen holding them back with their giant plexiglass riot shields. Men with megaphones and big banners, shouting chants that the group begins to follow til there's a rousing chorus of words I couldn't repeat to you if I tried. Even a riot occurred while we were there. We weren't in the area at the time, but we know a few people from Ithaca who were. They were told to run and get out of a shop they'd been in as quickly as possible, and moments after they left, they could smell the tear gas. When we walked through the area later, a normally bustling and affluent part of the city, we found smashed windows, broken glass, and weary-looking policemen in all directions.
  12. Greek food chains, like Everest, are delicious and cheap and not at all like what Americans think of as a fast food chain. They're a good, cheap way to grab breakfast in the morning (and the apple pie Is delicious.)
  13. Apparently it is frowned upon to take rocks from the Acropolis/Parthenon as souvenirs. And by frowned upon, I mean they yell at you and make you throw it on the ground. Luckily, I'm sneakier than that. Yes, that means one of you lucky readers could soon be the proud owner of your very own piece of the Parthenon! Perhaps I will hold a contest! (Probably not.)
  14. Athens is a small city. It is entirely possible to walk through all of Athens. Emily and I did this on our first night, and we saw so many things. Athens is great because while there are some things you need tickets to get into, you can still see so much just by walking around. Like Rome, there's a million old ruins and historical sites, just amidst the modern city. Emily and I walked over a big grate in the sidewalk, thinking nothing of it, and then I looked down. We were walking on the remains of an ancient village. We could see specific rooms in houses, with fireplaces, tables, even a few pots and bowls. And we were just walking over it! We also saw the Olympic stadium. Like, THE Olympic Stadium. The original one. We saw it at night, and it was all lit up, and we were the only people there. To be the only ones standing in such a huge space was really indescribable. We had the whole place to ourselves. It was such a cool feeling.

Sorry this took so long to post! I'll have pictures up soon, I swear! I have so many from Greece. I'll get them up next time I have some free time to get to school and snag some decent internet. 

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