Saturday, 14 May 2011

Athens, Greece

I was in a bad mood when I arrived in Athens.  Why?  I was tired from the travel.  You may be thinking, "Awww, STFU" or "cry me a river," but I promised to be honest on this blog and one thing I can say, with honesty, is that RTW travel is more tiring than I anticipated.

Greek flag.

When I started out in India three months ago, I had so much energy.  I wanted to see everything.  I was completely content with playing the tourist for 16 hours a day.  I wanted to see every single mosque, every single temple, every single palace.  I wanted to visit every single museum.  I was like Energizer Bunny on speed.

After a while, though, that frenetic pace became unsustainable.  I had to relinquish The Tourist title and assume The House Guest role.  Unlike The Tourist, The House Guest only sightsees for 3 or 4 hours per day.  The House Guest enjoys lazy mornings and engages in a plethora of non-tourist pursuits like blogging, journaling, sunning, drinking coffee, and reading anything from trash tabloids to classical literature.  (The Tourist didn't have the time for that decadence).

I think travel burnout is familiar to a lot of travelers, especially a lot of American travelers.  I don't have hard data to back up this assertion, but it doesn't seem like Americans travel out of the country as much as their European and Aussie counterparts.  So, when we do travel internationally, we may go overboard.  We may try to cram 30 cities into 90 days.

Why don't Americans travel more?  I have two theories.  First, we only get two (or three weeks, if we are lucky) of vacation per year (unlike the damn Europeans and Aussies who get five, six weeks or more).  Second, America is massive.  I've traveled to 48 of the 50 American states.  That's the equivalent of 20 countries, if you think about it.

 Roman forum in Athens.

So, anyway, where was I?  Oh, yeah, I arrived in Athens in a foul mood.  I'm not going to lie.  I wanted to get drunk.  Blitzed.  Bombed.  Destroyed.  Hammered.  Inebriated.  Intoxicated.  Plastered.  Shit-faced.  Sloshed.  Wasted.  Whatever...

What I really wanted (or needed) was to talk with someone.  REALLY talk to someone.  Not a nonsense, bullshit conversation revolving around questions like, "Where are you from?" and "What do you do for a living?" but DEEP, honest, soulful, heart-to-heart conversation.  And that's when Kiley and Julia materialized.  They are 20 and 27-years-old respectively.  One is studying in France, the other is a post-graduate with a penchant for international development.

 Drink of choice was ouzu, an anise-flavored alcohol that is widely consumed in Greece and Cyprus.

Don't get me wrong, we still drank.  But the girl talk was priceless.  God I had no IDEA how much I've missed me some girl talk after all of these days on the road, after all of the conversations with Franz.  I was like a pig in poo.  It made me want to cry, I was so happy.

OK, anyway.  Athens.  Athens is aesthetically beautiful.  It reminded me a lot of Tel Aviv, a city I think about on a daily basis.  A city I hope to revisit one day.  That same lightness.  That same vegetation.  That same breeze.  The ocean.  I wish I'd done more sightseeing while I was in Athens, but as I said, I was experiencing some burnout.

 Beachy looking homes.

 Sailing, another dream of mine.

 Aesthetic beauty abounds.

Some info about Athens, the capital of Greece...  Athens is one of the oldest cities on earth; it's history spans 3,400 years.  One of the tourist highlights is the Athens Acropolis.  An acropolis, or citadel, is a settlement built on high ground for defense.  Oftentimes, an acropolis became the center of a city that grew up around it, on lower ground.  A number of cities like Rome, Jersualem and Amman began as an acropolis.  The Athens Acropolis has a plethora of ancient ruins on it's high ground, including the famous Parthenon (which was under renovation when I visited).


 Parthenon under renovation.

Another highlight in Athens, for me, was the Agora.  The Agora was a marketplace in ancient Athens and the center of cultural, political and economic life.

 Statue in front of the Agora museum.

And again.

Athens also has the National Gardens which looked lovely from the street (all sorts of palm trees, flowers and fountains inside), but unfortunately I could not visit because of a city-wide strike.

I also got in a day of sailing while I was in Athens.  Athens has a couple of small islands that are close to the mainland (the island I visited was 1-2 hours away by sailboat).  I stayed at Hostel Zeus (you can find it on and they have a deal where guests can sail/swim/sunbathe for eight hours and 49 Euros.  Admittedly, it was a splurge, but one of my dreams is to do a RTW sailing trip, and this gave me a taste of the maritime life.  I was not disappointed.

 The maritime life rocks.

While in Athens, I fell in love with Greece:  the culture, the food, and the men.  There are some bona fide hotties in this country!  I've visited 12 countries on this trip and Greece definitely has the monopoly on the beautiful people.

 Pork gyro.

Kebab covered in yogurt and tomato sauce on a bed of pita.  Excellent.

Greece is a country I'd like to revisit for an extended stay (a couple of weeks or a month).  In addition to cities on the mainland like Thessaloniki and Athens, there are plenty of islands to keep me happily engaged.



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