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Thursday, July 20, 2006 

Athens II

So yea Athens was a cracking great time. Amazing. Had so much fun. So at request, and a convenient way to sum up the trip, I'll go back and address my ever-so-embarrassing fears.

1. Two weeks is a long time.
Just about long enough. I certainly wasn't bored and didn't get to see any museums, but I was definitely ready to go home at the end.

2. A really long time to be in Athens for a vegetarian.
I'm not going to lie, that was a helluva lot of Greek salad. But I did manage to find the one vegetarian restaurant, Eden, and it was delicious, with dishes like vegetarian Moussaka with Soya instead. Yummers. I ate there thrice. I also found the Noodle Shop, a with a "polyasian" menu. Best fried rice of my life. Ate there four times. Considering breakfast and lunch were provided, it got repetitive but I was always happy ...

3. I only get one day off, with 12 days on. Not exactly a holiday.
That was the truth. And of course it rained that day so no beach for us! Went to Pireaus, which was actually pretty nice once we got away from the cruise ship landing docks and to the more secluded harbors.

4. My lodging is 3.87 euros a night, yes I'm sleeping in the University of Athens dorms.
And they were fantastic!! Brand new, built for the Olympics, and I had a balcony with a view of the Parthenon!

5. Anything that's 3.87/night probably doesn't have A/C or decent beds.
Would you believe that they were fully equipped with A/C but had it turned off prior to our arrival?? It was extremely hot in the room, we all would have gladly paid a few more Euro to switch it on, but alas. Slept with the balcony doors open which didn't help much with the temperature and was worse with the noise. What is with Greek people and driving? As soon as a light turns green they ALL honk! Surely if everyone is honking, then everyone sees the light is green and drives forward, no? I hadn't seen driving this frantic and reckless since Rome.

6. I am going with someone I work with, but I don't like her very much (and probably vice versa.) She's a perfectly nice person but we just don't get on.
Meh.... Whatever.

7. She's extremely negative about the trip and I feel her emotions infecting me.
She was in fact, so preemptively negative that she opted to only stay a week, thus cutting her time in half and leaving the course a week early. I heard that after she got back she was quite upset to have to come back, because she was having such a great time. AHAHA, that alone was worth it. Oh, she also brought her own toilet paper, convinced that they don't have any in Greece. Nutter.

8. It appears to be very poorly organized (i.e. introduction welcome dinner being pushed back to another night, leaving us on our own the first night.)
Definitely. I guess there was a uni strike before we arrived, throwing everything in to chaos. I forget how things are run on the continent though. They just don't care. Hell, they smoke in the QC labs we visited. Yes, smoked cigarettes with open flames in laboratories with flammable solvents. I learned they are a little more laid back there....

9. This is the farthest east I've ever been in my life.
And it was wicked!

10. Worried about reading street signs, etc in a non-Romance language, yikes!
That was definitely a problem. But if you are Greek I don't think you're ever that concerned with finding an exact location at the exact time you are supposed to be there. So why bother with street signs (in any language actually)?

11. The current temperature is 90F with 50% humidity, after living two years in London, that scares me.
It was hot but a lot BLOODY COLDER THAN LONDON!

12. My professor and I got in a huge row about it. It has not been a good few weeks at work.
He has since quit the university, and has gone from being a looming threat roaming the hallways who could pounce at any moment to a once-a-month prearranged one hour meeting that I can be fully prepared for. I think my shoulders are finally starting to un-hunch.

13. People have been telling me that Athens is loud and dirty and not very nice at all.
And everytime I'd meet a Greek person they would ask, "How long are you here, and where else are you going?" and I'd tell them that I was two full weeks in Athens only and they'd always offer their most sincere apologies and deepest regrets that I wouldn't be going to the islands. But I really liked Athens! Yes, dirty! Yes, noisy! Yes, people screaming across the street and out of their cars! Buses and mopeds ready to flatten you while you stand on the sidewalk! Oppressive heat with dirty A/C liquid falling on your head! Smog!

And I loved it! I was there two weeks and only saw two McDonalds and one Starbucks... for a city of 5 million! I thought it retained a lot of character and individuality. When I go back (and I WILL go back) I will definitely visit the islands. But I can't wait to see Athens again too.

14. Once I'm out of the country, England will probably win the World Cup and I'll miss it all.
Now that was the fear talking. What the hell was I thinking? I did get to spend a lot of time with Italians, Portuguese, and Germans, what a blast! We didn't miss a single match!

15. I'll be spending my 29th birthday completely alone (or at best, hopefully with some nice strangers...)
And they were so lovely. My present was to drag everyone to (our first trip) to the vegetarian restaurant, where they all promptly sung me Happy Birthday in their native language all at once and I blew out the candle on the table. I really had such a blast with all the other students on the course; it was so fun to hang out with so many different cultures at one time and not once did they pester me about American foreign policy!

Trying just to understand them half the time was the best part.

Italian: I need *something, something* past tooth.
Me: What?
I: past tooth
M: Whaaat?
I: *makes brushing motion over this mouth*
Me: Oooooooooh, toothpaste!

Me: Oh, aren't you going to finish your pizza?
Dutch: No, I don't like the ... rim bits.

Me: Yea the rooms are really nice.
German: Yes. But um.... um.... I don't remember the word.
M: Give it a go, I'll help.
G: Um... Is the cold air producing machine working in your room?
M: *gaffawing noise as Monica falls out of her chair laughing*

Loved every minute of it. Truly fantastic.

yeah, i heard they don't have toilet paper there. they just have a giant hose to spray yourself with.

Hey, I'm Derek and I've been reading you blog for quite some time. I live in Phoenix, but I'm in London right now, and I seem to remember you wanting some good mexican food that London couldn't seem to provide? Anyways, me and a friend from AZ found a really great mexican food place (and you know it's good mexican when Phoenixians like it). It's near Notting Hill Gate station: go to the south side of the street when you get out, and go east. It's called Tex-Mex Tapas bar. The encheladas were fantastic. I hope it's helpful in your quest for good mexican!


Hey...question, I'm doing some research into where to stay while in Greece. My boyfriend and I are thinking of going and we want to stay somewhere that will be easy to travel to Athens, but somewhere near water. Any suggestions? nc_state_gal@yahoo.com

the honking is funny because when i was in india it was the same thing!...as soon as the light turned green everyone was honking and crowding. i thought we were going to die in every cab ride.

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