A Southern European Holiday

the acropolis, athens greece

Athens!  Delphi!  Rome!  Pisa!  Paris!

And, finally, Santorini…

What a holiday.

Even better, I spent it with friends.  My girlfriend Unny as well as my good friend Becca and her sister.

I met Unny in Dubai.  Snuck up on her at the Starbucks near our gate in the Emirates Terminal at Dubai International Airport.  She had just flown in from Bangkok an hour or so before.  I had flown in from Kabul two days earlier.  We were meeting in order to fly to Athens together.

We wait about two more hours and finally board our flight to Athens.

Four hours later, we land.

We’re in Athens!  I’m so excited I can barely contain it.  BUT!  I’ve got to wait for Becca and Deb to fly in from the States.

We wait.

And wait…

And wait…

And, finally, I’m thinking; WHAT THE HELL!”

Bad luck seems to have struck again for poor Becca.  lol

I have her paged over the intercom.  I walk around the terminal looking.  I pace up and down.

Finally, I check my email at the business center.

They’ve missed their connecting flight at Heathrow by 3 Minutes.   They’ll be in at around 5 or a bit past midnight depending on what flight they get later that day/night.  Poor girls.  It’s a long flight from the States to Europe.

Unny and I grab a cab and head to the our hotel–Athens Studio.

Great Location.  But you can’t see the Acropolis from their balcony as I was led to believe.  Other buildings are in the way.  A bit disappointing.  But not a huge deal.  We’re less than a block away.

We check in with no trouble.  Although, the Athens Studio runs their business like a hostel as opposed to as if it were a hotel.  So be aware of that.  Hostels can be a bit of a pain.  Upfront payment for your whole stay.  Should you decide to move or depart early, they have strict rules about refunding your money.  Meaning that they do not intend to operate at a loss and they are not flexible at all.  The kids running the place are nice enough but have no customer service training.  Just something to keep in mind.

Even so, they were nice enough apartments with a nice balcony on which to enjoy those incredibly cool night breezes in early August Athens.

Becca and Deb arrived around 6 PM.  They had been dropped off around the corner and a block down and had carried their bags (backpacks) all that way.  They’d been lost and walking in circles because their taxi driver was running the old “I’m lost scam.”  I’d say that we were scammed by 4 out of 5 taxi rides to and from the Airport.  The average fair for taxi rides to/from the airport was 44 Euro.  My last fare was 27 Euro.  So we were scammed by all of the other ones by about 18 Euro.  Which is about 27 USD.  Awesome.  But short of knowing Athens intimately before arrival.  I see no way of avoiding it.  Basically 80% of the taxi drivers that we had were either incompetent, didn’t know their city very well or were straight up dishonest.

Great.  lol

That wasn’t the last expensive aspect of Europe though.

Greece is not a rich country.  I don’t see how those people make it.  We went off the beaten path a few times and while prices were cheaper.  They weren’t appreciably cheaper out there.  I don’t see  how the average Greek makes ends meet unless the average salary in Europe is 50,000 Euro per annum.  It was the same across Europe.  Everything was expensive.  The cheapest place was Santorini.  How backward is that?  It’s an island.  Everything must be shipped in via sea or air.  That means that prices elsewhere were marked up due more to excessive greed than necessity.  A 16 ounce Coke from Athens to Rome to Paris ranged in price from 2 to 4 Euro.  That’s 3 to 6 dollars.  Some deranged bastards attempted to charge even more.  I was astounded.

Unny decides to take a nap.  I’m too excited about being in Athens.  I decide to walk around the area.  See the lay of the land and to find the actual Athens Backpackers and it’s rooftop bar.  So I walk around and eventually find the place.  Turns out the rooftop bar is not so much of a bar.  It’s a fridge with a few tables and couches on the roof of the backpacker hostel. Not much to it.  I sit and read for a while with the view of the Acropolis in front of me.  When they finally get the “bar” stocked, I buy a beer.  A Mythos beer.  The legendary Athenian beer or so it claims.

Then.  I make my way back to my hotel room.  Along the way, I buy a sandwich.  The lady behind the sandwich bar snaps at me for not asking for toppings correctly and I start laughing.  I guess the customer isn’t always right in Athens.

No sooner have I sat down back at my hotel room to eat than our door bell/intercom starts sounding.  Becca and Deb have arrived.  We ring to let them in and I head down to see if they need assistance.  Becca and Deb are both carrying their backpacks and an extra bag or two.  They look completely frazzled and exhausted.  Sweat stained and greased from travel for the past 24 plus hours.

Apparently, their taxi was running the scam or was simply not real good at his job.  He’d passed the hotel or come into close proximity several times.  But, he’d kept driving around in circles.  Running up the meter.  Finally Becca had had enough and told the guy to let them out.  They’d walked a couple of blocks in search of the hotel.

I think I’d been out there and barely missed them once or twice as we went over their path of discovery.

Bec and Deb were in need of refreshing and repaired to their room to unpack, settle in and shower.

So the day had escaped us.

As the sun sits, the four of us decide to walk up towards the Acropolis to explore and get a feel for the next day.  We walk around the base of the Acropolis and climb a rocky outcropping with well worn and ancient looking steps.  When we get to the top of it, it’s all slick marble like smooth surface.  Just perfect for busting one’s ass.  And we nearly do so.  At least 5 times each.

We sit and watch the sun finish it’s decline into the western sky and admire the Temple of the Acropolis from afar.  Anticipating the next days exploration adventure.

I walk around and take photos.  I hadn’t brought along my tripod, so my photos didn’t come out particularly good in the night.  Even so, I captured a few nice images.

Afterwards, I make my way back to the girls.  We sit and chat and watch the folks around us.  A few lovers embracing.  One couple playing music on their little tinny speakers to the annoyance of all around and my general amusement.   Earlier, when we had first reached the summit of  the outcropping, a homeless looking fellow was talking at a group.  I didn’t really pay too much attention.  As we sat and took in the site of Athens at night, he approached our group and looked at Deb.  I have no idea what he said as he was fairly drunk and slurring.  As he drew close, though, the distinct odor of cheap liquor overcame us.  I just looked at the guy.  Kinda staring in an obvious way.  Hoping that this wasn’t going to be a huge scene.  What I wanted to do was smack him up side the head and curse him.  But felt that the act would shock Deb and scare the living hell out of her.  So I held back.  The guy eventually took the hint with no undue violence ensuing and went his way.

We took that opportunity to make a hasty retreat back to our hotel for the night.

An eventful day.  Good enough start for our holiday.

Below are pics from the trip.   Both Athens and Rome.   It was a great holiday.  Santorini and Delphi were probably my favorite places.  Making memories with Unny was my favorite activity.   Creating more memories with my good friend Becca great as well.  Two of my favorite people in the world come together with me from across the globe.  Each of us starting our journey from disparate parts of the globe.  Traveling thousands of miles to meet in Athens.  Unny from Bangkok.  Becca from Louisville.  Myself from Herat.

These pics and picture collages were created by Unny from the photos that I took while on holiday.  The way that she arranged them is fantastic to me.  Artsy.  I think she has a talent.

3 comments on “A Southern European Holiday

  1. what a beautiful memory!!!! I love the pictures and the places. i want to go one day! it is gorgeous there. im happy you all had such a wonderful time. love you ginger

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