Day 4-6

Merle didn’t manage to get any days off while I was there, so I joined her for the trip into town, with a plan to wander. I looked around while we waited for the bus.

“Look how close we are to the mountains here,” she said. There was a park at the end of the street and the mountains loomed over the trees, no more than five kilometres away. “You can walk all the way from here into the mountains, but I haven’t done that yet.”

I had no strong expectations of what Athens would be like, so I wasn’t surprised. I was more interested in the building in the other direction. It was completely concrete – a monotonous grey – but its ‘igloo city’ structure of domes identified it as an orthodox church. I spent the time until the bus arrived trying to fathom how most of the world failed to build attractive buildings given complete freedom over the materials and colours used, yet the Greeks managed to give a plain concrete building all the fun of children’s playground equipment.

Once on the bus, Merle snuggled close and gave me a commentary of the journey. “I tried to draw the path the bus takes on a map the first time I took it, but it was too dark and wet so I couldn’t, but it wanders all over the place. The best way to remember where I live is to look at the number of the bus stop. The higher the number, the further away you are from the station. My stop is number 19.” It’s a very convenient system for tourists, as long as it’s charted properly. The stop number is no help if you […]

By |March 12th, 2003|Greece|0 Comments

Day 2-3

Merle, like most people I know, is not a morning person, so I sat reading for a couple of hours the following morning, a Saturday, until she got up. We had decided to go to Parnassos, a ski area about 5 hours from Athens, but by the time we left, we knew we wouldn’t make it in time to ski today. In fact, it was almost lunch time before we’d finished pouring over road maps and decided to go directly to the village where we’d stay the night, rather than touring the north coast of Peloponnese. This would mean that we’d miss most of the ancient sites, but the guide suggested that they’d be closed at this time of year anyway. Merle drove until we were out of town because she was better at driving like a maniac than I am, and that seems to be a requirement for getting a license in Greece. She screeched u-turns where the signs clearly said it wasn’t allowed, crossed roads between cars only 5m apart and going at 70kmph, and slammed brakes on when we missed a turn, forcing the cars behind to scatter onto the footpath and median strip.

“Don’t worry. They can’t book me because I’ve got a diplomatic ID,” Merle said, wincing as she ran over another pedestrian. OK. I’m being unfair. Merle was actually driving more safely than most others on the road, but the Greeks even made Belgian drivers look safe, doing all the same things, but there were ten times as many and going at twice the speed. I happily took over once we’d reached a highway, where an overtaking lane would stop too many people getting upset at me abiding by […]

By |March 9th, 2003|Greece|0 Comments

Day 1

I arrived in Athens just after noon, although Merle wouldn’t finish work until 5pm. We were planning to rent a car for the weekend, so I dropped my bag at the airport luggage and stopped off at the tourist information centre. I’d spent the flight reading up on the Greek writing system and some key phrases, so I thought I’d try out what I’d learnt.

“Yia sou,” I said, pronouncing it ‘yeeah soo’ as the guide suggested, but the guy just stared blankly. “Hello,” I tried again.

“Hello.” His accent was thickly Greek.

“Um, how do you say that in Greek? Hello, I mean. Yeeah sou?”

I tried to be amused by his merry laughter. He was pleased that I was trying, wasn’t he? “Yasu.”

I repeated it the way he did – one word, both short syllables with the accent on the first. The pronunciation isn’t as exact as they make out in the book, but I could deal with that. He gave me a map and directed me to the bus that would take me to Syntagma, the center of Athens.

While I waited, I looked around at the signs. To my untrained eye, the world was covered in algebraic equations, though somehow the Greeks are smart enough not to need operation signs. ‘E95 Συνταγμα’ said the one I was looking for. ‘E95 Syntagma.’

“The E95 isn’t running today,” I overheard someone say in English.

“Excuse me. Did you say the bus to the centre is not running today? How are we meant to get to town?” He seemed to just be a passenger, but I realised I’d been waiting a lot longer than the 20 minutes the guy at the information desk said it was between buses. I decided […]

By |March 7th, 2003|Greece|0 Comments

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