Cheers To You

As you may or may not have guessed, I am home and glad to be back.

However, I cannot leave London and Europe without expressing how much the entire time meant to me. The lessons I learned are hard to describe yet I feel I have been taught through experience, things I could never get at Ball State.

Therefore, I am grateful to all that took the time read everyday or ever week. There is more to come, so don't stop reading because there is plenty more to write on about my 3 1/2 months in Europe, as well as on other topics that will come up in OUR own exciting country.

I hope to outline my trip in detail in the next couple days and pick most exciting times, favorite places, things and experiences, as well as least favorite things and tips for trips to Europe.

More to Come. . .


Athens (cont.)

After trudging back to Damareos and avoiding the metro, tram and bus system, I proceeded to subject myself to a significant amount of rainfall. This came after I arrived back in Athens having taken the metro from Pireaus to Syntgma.

Once I arrived at the Pagration Youth Hostel, I took notice of how wet my pants and feet were. This would not bear well considering the fact that our rooms don't even have heat, let alone an instrument for drying "stuff." So I did the best I could and hung my pants on the end of the bed. It was at this time I met two lads, American's to which I would be sharing the room with that night. They were from Oregon and Los Angeles respectively and were on a 4 week holiday from school, which translated to a backpacking trip across Europe.

That night I did the usual, got on the internet, although it was being a bother, ate a Gyro and took a nap. I would never have thought of wasting time in Athens but, as my clothes were soaked and it was a constant downpour, I thought it OK to take a break and rest. After climbing into bed about midnight, another roommate appeared this one much older, reiching of cigarettes and Ouzo. I did my best to control my gag reflex and attempted to go to sleep, which didn't take an attempt at all, because I was out like the light that I switched off after said roommate climbed into his bed.

Suddenly and without restraint I awoke and jumped up at about 3:30 a.m. and didn't know why. Sooner than later I found out what had awakened me, as I also realized that my two American comrades were awake as well. At the time I realized the cause for my pause in the REM state, I was disgusted beyond belief, as were my American friends. Ouzo man had taken it upon himself to enter into the loudest and most inconsistent snoring performance I have ever heard. Louder than one Justin Heredia and twice as loud as one Robert Snyder (Uncle Bob).

By this time, I soon discovered my disgust as well as the other American's disgust as they began pounding the walls. At this time I figured I wasn't going to go to sleep, so, I rose and headed to the lobby, computer in hand. As I plugged the cord of my computer into the European adapter and then power strip that dangled from the wall, I heard one of my roommates yell, "HEY!" trying to awaken Ouzo man or just shutter him enough to make him stop. It didn't work, obviously because they (Americans) began a display of noise that surely awoke the rest of Damareos (street). One got up and slammed the door to our room, continued pounding the walls while the other began picking up his bed and slamming it on the floor. I was in tears, I was laughing so hard by that time. For whatever reason, he stopped snoring finally and I crept back into the room and went to bed after utilizing the internet for about an hour.

When I awoke, ear plugs pushed deep into my head, I dressed quickly and discovered my pants and shoes to be no drier than when I hung them up 10 hours earlier. However, I headed out, said goodbye to the American's who looked as if they had been up all night for some reason and made my way to the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

After I walked around the perimeter of the temple, which is merely 16 columns left of an original 140, with no roof and plenty of empty space, I headed toward the Roman Forum/ Acropolis. On the way toward the Acropolis I bought a postcard, stamps and wrote some corny stuff on the card that I will surely beat home. I took a dirt path once, I circled the entire Acropolis and found my self in the Plaka and then at the Roman forum. It was more remains, though intense considering the fact they had been sitting there since Emperor Augustus moved the forum from the Agora to this piece of land in 150 B.C. or something.

After walking around the area, I picked up a rock and headed to find something to eat, which translated into: Gyro stand. After eating a Gyro for the 4234840349th time I walked down toward some markets, I had read about and found that like at part of the Portobello road market, people just throw junk on the ground and stand by it. For example: old Nokia cell phones, trumpets, underwear, beach balls, curtain rods, driving manuals, porno tapes, etc. Once I realized that this is all there was I turned back and headed toward Plateia Omonia, a square close to the central market.

After hiking up the road, which I've found is a common occurrence in Athens; always climbing, never going downhill unless it’s raining which causes a person to slip on the marble sidewalk, which I've done, twice. I made it to Plateia Omonia, bought an ice cream cone and basked in the 70 degree sun for about an hour. I noted at this time that I was a minority in this square along with the whole of Athens. Nothing but brown skinned Greeks and middle easterners around enjoying the sun the same way I was. However, it does do a lesson on how minorities feel in the USA and has taught me a bit more than I ever could get at home. I think everyone should experience what I did at Plateia Omonia someday; it would go a long way to help the outlook of so many Americans who looked at minorities as bothers.

But, after I arose I made my way down Athinas street heading toward the Central Market, having added to my tan or rather burn. The central market was non-operational however, as it was Sunday I didn't think about that. But, I trudged on with the Acropolis in my sights and one more trip up the ancient hill in my ambitions.

I spent another hour at the Acropolis, attempting to get the nerves to ask someone to take my picture for me. After I succeeded the sun was pouring down, making me sweat and making me realize once again that I was in GREECE! How incredible!

Making my way down I headed toward the National Gardens, bought a drink and then headed through the green expanse prior to going to Sytgma and listening to a free concert, where I didn't understand the lyrics. At this time I took notes of my day, giving reason to the amount of text in this post. I sat for a while in the shade, giving my pasty white complexion a break before I headed toward Fillopapaus Hill, supposedly the hill offering the best view in all of Athens.

Once I wandered past the Acropolis and then up the hill I soon found out that the assessment of the hill was correct. There was free range on the top, allowing anyone the ability to walk anywhere without any real danger while offering some of the best views of a metro area in the entire world. Now, that is an editorial comment but if you were there, there would be no way that you could disagree unless you are severely biased for one reason or another.

I did the camera switch and then walked around until I found a spot where I camped out until the sunset.

As the sun set behind the mountain to the west right by the sea, I thought of how lucky I was to be there and that once again this was the view of a lifetime. As the sun fell slowly down behind the mountain I sat up, cold as the wind was picking up and headed back up the hill a bit, which I had descended slightly to get away from the other people that crowded the top of it for the same site. I headed for the opposite side of the rock, which offered the best view of the acropolis and there I sat and waited for the time to come when it would be illuminated. I took notes while I was waiting and then mid sentence I looked up as it was getting very dark and the entirety of the Acropolis stood illuminated. It was as if it was a dream. A postcard view for me alone with no one around. I sat for a while did the camera switch and then descended keeping my eyes transfixed on the site as I descended.

After having reached the base of the hill I headed back to Damareos, about a 30 minute walk, or 10 minute metro ride. I vowed for the walk, as I always do and arrived just in time as I my stomach began to rumble. And, I guess you know what followed. Yes, for the final time I attended the Kebab/Gyro shop, where the guy knew my face by then and knew my order, wishing a "Good Nat," as I left. I ate and headed back to the hostel, experiences in mind and heart and Gyro in hand.


Ferry to Paros

Planning to get up early at any time is difficult for some people. For me its usually a piece of chocolate cake, especially when I have something exciting to do, as I did today.

At this moment I am aboard the Blue Star Ferrie "Blue Star Paros" preparing for departure for the island of Paros.

When I finally arose from my slumber this morning I checked out, again, gave the owner of the hostel my sheets and blanket and then headed for Monastiraki metro station. The walk took me at least 45 minutes as I tried to remember my way down the thin and Greek language named streets. As I made it, I purchased a ticket for €0.80 and then grabbed the train to Pireas.

After 7 stops, I minded the gap and left the platform. I made my way to the exit and saw for the first time the inner harbor, laden with cruise and ferry ships. With thoughts (worries) in my mind about getting a ferry ticket, I ducked in the first travel agency booth I saw and waited. The middle aged Greecian man running the desk was on the phone, with another phone ringing the entire time. As he paused from one call, I said "English," to which he said, "English yes, yes,." At that moment I asked him if I could get the cheapest ferry ticket possible to Paros. He told me there was a ticket for 5:30 p.m., later than I wanted but I bought it for €29 along with a return from Paros for tomorrow morning.

After that, my mission was accomplished so I decided to wander down the busy main street that ran parallel to the harbor. The street was buzzing with traffic and the sidewalk wasn't any less busy, as mopeds will cut through sidewalks whenver they see right, bringing back memories of Florence and Rome. I ducked into a McDonald's, as I do in every country to see what they had special on the menu. Offered at this McDonald's was a shrimp burger as well as a "farm" burger and beer on tap, as usual. The patrons were all smoking inside, heavily and it made me think of how restaurants used to be everywhere.

After leaving, i headed down the street adjacent to the McDonald's, busy with a daily market I had read about in my "Top 10 Athens" travel guide. The market offered mostly produce, which is never a disappointment, along with screaming booth owner's advertising their "superior" fruits and veggies. After passing most of the produce dealers I turned left into a warehouse-looking part of the market that was full of men with white aprons stained in blood. Ok, ok, the blood was from the meat they were selling and like in all countries in Europe the displays are not modest. Whole skinned lamb hung from each booth along side displays of freshly cut port and sausages.

After passing through the warehouse that reiched of death, I took in a fresh breath of air and turned left to looked at all the vendors selling flowers, some real and some fake. I wandered a bit more after that grabbing another Gyro along the way for €2.30, the most expensive and worst yet, and then I walked back towards the docks. I had close to 5 hours before my departure and my back was hurting from my backpack that seems to get heavier every day. So, doing my best Otis Redding impersonation, I plopped down and whistled his tune in my head.

The breeze was blowing in from the sea and the sun was out shining, while I sat in shirt sleeves soaking up the rays, which I'm sure I will have to wait on at least another month back home. At that moment I realized how truly incredible it was that I was sitting on the main dock of Pireas, Athens, Greece. Four months ago, I never would have dreamed I'd be here.

After my break, slid my arms through the straps of my pack, grabbed my camera case and headed back to where I had come from. After grabbing a bottle of water from a lady that had to point out how much I owed her for it, I continued on, walking down some of the same streets I had walked earlier. I settled down close to where my ferry would be coming into port at 3:00 p.m. about 2:15 p.m. and layed out once again on my outstretched sweatshirt, leaning my head against my pack, while soaking up the rays.

As my ferry came into port about 3:00 p.m. I followed it along the dock until it backed up and all the passengers came spilling out. After I watched the unorganized mess of people leave the ferry I made my way back up into town.

Wandering and wondering what the words on the signs meant. I thought, there might be something I really want in one of these shops but with them only using “their” language there is no possible way I would ever know.

(I got up at this point in typing because I headed outside)

As 4 p.m. drew close I headed back toward the ship and boarded once I got there. I toured like I’d never been on a ship before and to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a ship this big before. Unlike all of you out there who have been on a cruise or cruises. But, lets just call it even as I’m in Greece, on the Aegean Sea right now.

I made my way to the top deck and took a seat, noticed there were four American girls close by so I left. The other day I met some American’s and they couldn’t believe I was American, they said when I started talking to them they thought I was from Europe. So, to all of you, if I’m different, be prepared.

The ship was not to leave port until 5:30 p.m. therefore, I had plenty of more time to sit in the sun and get add to my sunburn that I just noticed I slightly have. In the mean time, I sat, read my book and listened to my iPod.

As the ship left port, I stood and did the camera switch (note; you must have read the previous entry) before I waved at a man standing by the lighthouse point just before we left the harbor. And, guess what; he waved back.


Αθήνα = Athens

I'm here, in the land where signs look like this: Μέγαρο Μουσικής. Yes, I'm in Greece and where are you? Most of you are close to 6,000 miles away.

But, don't fret, you could be having as much trouble as I am at reading signs and getting around.

I am happy to be here though and today was eventful as I toured the Acropolis, Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Agora, and Lykavittos Hill.

This morning I awoke to a headache and so, I did what I felt was best and went back to sleep. After I awoke and rose, I made my way out of the hostel.

I soon found out that I didn't need my jacket and sweatshirt and shed both. I made my way toward the Acropolis and on the way stopped and admired the Japanese tourists admiring the Panathanaic Stadion. It doesn't matter where I am, they seem to follow me; Athens, Venice, Rome, London, Berlin; they're everywhere!

Anyhow, i pulled myself from those sushi making, camera yielding, samurai sword making people, and headed toward the gardens adjacent to the Acropolis.

As I passed by the Temple of Olympian Zeus I snapped pictures, about the only thing you can do and then continued on. Reaching the gate to the Acropolis, I brandished my CWC student ID card like those tourists are known to brandish those swords and watched the gatekeeper as she summoned me through the gates, free of charge.

After Sigourney Weaver allowed me in I made my way up the Acropolis, pausing to switch between my digital and my video camera, giving them equal time, as they tend to quarrel in their shared bag. I passed by said tourists and continued pausing every so often, switching cameras back and forth. As I reached the summit, I slipped in mud and dropped my camera down the hill; no not really. Gotcha!

I did slip in mud however and the result is staring at me right now on my shoes, or rather I'm staring at it. I reached the Temple of Athena Nike and continued the camera switching, trying to avoid the group of Italian adolescents that I thought I'd left on Via Della Corso in Rome.

I checked out the top of the rock and it was seriously one of the most impressive things I've seen in my short 22 year life. To see the Parthenon, was simple amazing and now, since I've seen the Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum in London, I've seen the whole thing. I admired the view and admired some more before descending the slope, and heading toward my next stop.

Once I climbed down the opposite side of the Acropolis I made my way over to the Agora and wandered around there for about an hour before sitting down and planning the rest of my day, along side my fighting camera's because of the larger amount of time I used my digital in the Agora.

After we were all finished I continued through the Agora before I headed down one of the main streets in the Plaka neighborhood, known for its tourist trappiness and now, great Gyro booth. I had a gyro at a place I can't either spell or pronounce and continued until I found the train station I am going to need tomorrow. Once there and thoroughly confused with the ticket system, although its cheap, I continued toward Lykavittos Hill.

Now, I have climbed mountains and slopes, snowy surfaces and brush lands; but I have never felt I was going to pass out more than today when I was climbing that hill to get to the top. After admiring the sweat now pouring down every nook and cranny I have, stopped and admired the view that now is the best view I have seen in all my 22 years of being alive.

To describe it is impossible and to look at pictures will not do the trick either. But, surprisingly there was very little wind and I did the camera switching again.

After I felt that it was enough, I descended, carved my name on a cactus leave (everyone else had) and then made my way back to the hostel.

Tonight I sat on my computer for a while and listened to the Reds game before going and getting a Gyro at some place I can't spell or pronounce, but it was good and all for €1.70.

Tomorrow, I am arising early to catch the train at the train station I found before I go to to catch a ferry to the island of Poros or Paros, depending on your source. I will be staying the night there and the day and coming back to Athens on Saturday.

Cheers until next time!


A Greecee Good Time

Well, the time has come. After dropping my bags at Excess Baggage at Earls Court I'll be on my way to Greece.

I will be arriving in Athens about midnight Athens time and 5 p.m. East Standard Time. Talk to you soon.


Final Night in London

Tonight we had our final dinner at the Prince Alfred pub on Queensway. Tonight was the last time most of us will be together as some of us, including me, are leaving on separate trips tomorrow.

There were also awards for the night for every member of the London Centre group. I received the "Most Birthdays in a Calendar Year" award.

To explain, on Facebook, a social networking sight, a person can list their birthday. Every now and then, I will change my birthday to see who wishes me a Happy Birthday. I tell people that I do it to boost my confidence but I really do it because it is very funny to watch the same people time after time wish me a Happy Birthday.

On one specific Wednesday trip, I had changed my birthday to that specific day, I boarded the bus and everyone wished me happy birthday. This led to my explanation of why i did it and the rest is history.

more to come later. . .

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