I’m back in the United States, the country where smoking is bad, toilet paper is good, and you never have to get up and follow your server anywhere to use a credit card. It was a long way back and the journey’s not over. It may never be over. I may have left a piece of myself in Greece. I feel different. Odd. Maybe it’s because I’m sitting on my couch awake at 5 am, maybe it’s something else. I haven’t seen or spoken to anyone except for Joe in a long time. Is everyone still here? Is everyone ok? There is one thing new me would like to say to old me and that’s thank you for taking Monday off. It would be terrible if new me had to work today.
Back in Athens, I woke up early Saturday morning and got two cappuccinos and a chocolate croissant. The bakery was hopping and for some reason I ordered my coffee and was then made to wait in a separate line to order my croissant. While I waited I was treated to a familiar scene in any country, an old lady hectoring the man at the bakery counter. It felt good to be there, like I was firmly embedded in everyday Greek life. I got my coffees and pastry and went back upstairs. I wrote and drank my coffee. When it was gone, Joe was still asleep so I drank his too. It would have been cold anyway. When Joe finally did wake up, I went down and got two more. I know three cappuccinos sounds like a lot but if anyone in this country would just serve me a LARGE brewed coffee we wouldn’t have this problem.
We got up and rolled around and got ready. Today we would finally see the Parthenon. We had talked a lot about when we should go to this thing. A friend of mine had told me to go right when it opens to avoid the crowds. We talked about maybe doing an evening Parth to avoid the crowds and the hottest part of the day. We decided to go at 11, the hottest part of the day, to avoid the people who were trying to avoid the hottest part of the day. You have to get up pret-ty early in the afternoon to outsmart us.
When we walked past the entrance to the Parthenon the first time over two weeks ago, there was a pretty serious line to buy tickets. Today, as we approached there was no one in line. Elated and confused, Joe walked up to the ticket booth.
“Do you take card?”
By sheer luck we ended up at the Parthenon on one of the 11 days out of the year where admission is free. We’d arrived during European Days of Cultural Heritage and since all the ticket people had to do was hand tickets through the window, there was no line. It’s true y’all, good things come to those who procrastinate. Just in case you want to plan on going one of these rare days, here they are.
We took the low road around the base of the Acropolis first. This took us by the Theater of Dionysus and around the various caves and fountains that were carved into the base of the hill. A responsible travel blogger would impart some interesting facts about these formations but you don’t come here to have me crib from wikipedia when you’d be better served just going there yourself. You come here for stuff like this.
We saw other sculptures like this at the archaeological museum.
I have boldly googled “Greek nutsack sculptures” and “Sculpture just head and genitals” and have not been able to figure out what the deal is with these things, probably because I don’t know what they’re called, but I would love to know what the thinking was here. Any theories? The important parts of a man are his mind and his virility? If you know, leave us a comment. There is a lot of information out there about the genitals of Greek sculptures if you’re curious, like why is the right testicle higher than the left, and why do they all have small penises? So my googling wasn’t a total waste.
I’m getting a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of pictures taken on this walk so I’m going to try to skip to the good parts.
Joe talked about this cat shot more than any other photo. He must have showed it to me four times. We also came upon a special guest taking the same route as us.
It was pretty exciting to see this tortoise just wandering around. I was a little concerned for his wellbeing but he seemed to know what he was doing.
Finally we made it up to the top and the Parthenon. There were a lot of people but it’s a pretty big area so it didn’t feel that crowded. We were free to wander around and read the plaques and take ridiculous pictures at our leisure.
“My beard is intense. It’s like I dipped my lower face and neck into a soot bag.”
We walked until we couldn’t walk anymore. We were also hungry.
We were going to hit up the acropolis museum, which I have heard good things about, but that had a huge line and we were on a food mission. We got down to the bottom of the hill and picked a place a little off the main thoroughfare. We sat down and promptly over ordered.
We finished what we could and decided that we weren’t going to take anything to go. Sort of.
“I am going to take the rest of this wine home,” Joe said. “Inside of me.”
After lunch we did a little light souvenir shopping and then headed back to the Airbnb to shower and prepare for the final push. The plan was to head out around 8, play darts for a few hours, eat, come back, pack and leave for the airport at 300 because my flight was at 540.
So that’s what we did. We took the subway back out to De Facto, our darts bar, no longer needing google maps to find it. It felt good to know our way around a foreign city, even in this small way.
When we walked to the bar, the server recognized Joe and gave him a big wave. Nice people.
We also met the bar owner who is a serious dart player and has been on the same team for 30 years. These guys were good. We’ve played with a lot of people, this guy and his nephew were two of the best players we’ve ever seen. We shot darts next to these guys for hours. They were all super nice.
The guy in the blue shirt with his back to us is the owner, the guy in the red t-shirt in the middle is his nephew. There was a big poster on the wall of the nephew competing in a BDO tournament. The BDO is a pro darts league, come on guys.
We took breaks to let other people use the board and to talk about our feelings. I drank the first of the two and a half Red Bulls I would drink this night. We had a long way to go.
The bar closed at midnight and we headed back to our Airbnb. When we got to our neighborhood, we sat down for our last Greek salad.
“Let’s take it easy here,” I said. “I’m not all that hungry.”
The waiter arrived to take our order.
“We’ll have the large Greek salad, two chicken gyros, one pork gyro, an order of fries, and some tzatziki.”
We sat and enjoyed the Greek air. It was Saturday night and people were out and having fun. The night weather in September is beautiful and the Athenians take full advantage. Outdoor cafe patios are packed, tables of youths next to tables full of people who could be their grandparents. It’s a positive atmosphere.
They brought out our food and we began to try to make our way through it. After a few minutes, Joe looked at me.
“Should have ordered the small Greek salad.”
I nodded my agreement.
“It’s the truth. I gotta face it.”
We did what we could but only finished two of the gyros.
We got back to the Airbnb around 100 and packed and showered. There was a loud party going on in the apartment next to ours. A group of them started belting out Shallow a cappella.
“It’s young people. You can kind of see them,” Joe announced while peeking around the partition on our balcony.
“I don’t want to see any young people,” I said from the couch.
Joe slept. I played a game on my computer. At 300 I ordered a Beat, which is Lyft for Athens, and we rode to the airport listening to Greek opera courtesy of the driver.
We were so early for Joe’s flight that he was worried there wouldn’t be anyone there to check him in and he’d have to wait four hours in the ticket area but the Norwegian desk was staffed and he was able to get his boarding pass.
We walked to my gate which was in a weird basement of the airport. We sat across from each other, not saying much. We’d said what needed to be said, done what wanted to be done. We were also pretty out of it. This is the last picture of I have of this trip.
When it was time for me to board we hugged goodbye and walked away from each other as we were. Big packs on our backs, a few more miles under our feet, heads bent forward against the future.
So long, bud. Until next time.