Athens was a relief compared to Cairo. You can drink the water. It was beautiful when we arrived on Saturday; if the weather had been artificially created by a perfect weather machine, it could not have been more ideal. Spotless blue sky. Warm air, with a cool breeze coming along every two minutes. The light humidity in the air was welcome after so much time in the desert-dry of Palestine.
Our taxi driver from the Athens airport to our hotel near the Acropolis was named Giorji. He was so cool he even did a magic trick for us. After de-planing, we'd withdrawn cash from the ATM. 200 Euros. The problem was, the machine gave us four 50 Euro bills. When we arrived, we wanted to give the taxi driver a tip, although our grand total on the meter was almost exactly 50 Euros. Charming handed over a 50, and we began whispering about the need for a tip and to check our bags for spare change. Well, sometime between handing the fifty Euro bill to Giorji and his hand receiving it, it turned into a ten! Amazing! He held it out for us, embarassed-looking. "This is a ten," he said, his expression that of an indulgent parent who has caught his child making a mistake on their homework.
Well, we knew we hadn't given him a ten. In fact, our whole problem of the moment was that we didn't have any small bills. We politely thanked him for his display of magic and left the car.
Just kidding. Shaken and distressed at his attempt to rip us off so convincingly, we got out of the car, cursing him under our breath and eager to put some distance between him and us. When we refused to give him more money, he said "are you sure?" and accepted our "ten," possibly cursing us under his breath. Later, we found out it should have been a flat rate of 35 Euros from the airport. He wasn't even supposed to use his meter.
I know you guys like to hear about the rather annoying things that happen to us when we travel, so I share that little moment.
That little moment, however, was overshadowed by a jubilant trip to the Acropolis. Visiting the Parthenon was another life dream for me. The density of life dreams being fulfilled on this trip is dizzying.
There were a ton of people at the Acropolis. The stream of people was like water constantly running over rocks in a river. But there were also lots of dogs. Happy, well-fed dogs. The Acropolis may be dog heaven; the marble keeps cool, even in the summer heat, creating sunny yet cool places for old dogs to sleep. The dogs were all sleeping, and they seemed happy to be part of the human pack. I thought of my family's dog Lando who just passed away as I was petting this guy (or girl, I didn't check):
The ladies of Athens are beautiful and vivacious. The extra bounce in their step may come from living in a place named after a goddess. It seems good for the men too. The atmosphere sure felt different to me than the West Bank, where it's so weird to be a woman. All the hang-ups people have there about seeing hair, cleavage... to cover, not to cover. All that angst was absent in Athens.
The photo quality on this trip so far as been less than what you are used to because Charming forgot a vital piece of his camera. After an Epic search, he finally found a place that sold the battery grip he needed right before we bounced out of Athens to Santorini. So you can look forward to some art-quality photos from his camera very soon. In the meantime... here's a sneak preview of Santorini from my pocket camera. See you later, I'm off to explore the island!