Wednesday, July 23, 2003

23 July 2003 – 8:28 AM GMT-5

It's the plane ride home, so I figured I should wrap up this journal—I'm only a little behind, but the cramped conditions are causing me great difficulty in writing. I shall try my best.

So we wake up in Mati and head out to see Thea Aliki after eating breakfast. We drive south with minimal directions to the place, with then palpable tension of whether we'll make our mid-afternoon flight, most of that tension coming from the parental unit, of course. We eventually find the road in a remote part of Attika, avoid the random road construction, and drive up to a marble-covered gated nursing home, complete with fountain and national crest over the door.

Thea Aliki was waiting for us up on the porch/balcony out front and greeted us as we walked up, showering us with kisses. We went inside and found more marble (!), which Dad observed was most likely very slippery when wet—not ideal for a nursing home. There was also big surprise #1—she had gotten cake (very yummy combination of whipped cream, chocolate mousse, vanilla cake, and some fruit, perfect for the multitudinous demands place on food by our family) and soda for all of us! I downed mine fairly quickly, while Mom carried the burden of the conversation, as she was the only one of us who could speak English and Greek (by the end of the trip, Mom would overload the translation sector of her brain and be completely tired of even the simplest translations—thankfully, this point hadn't come yet). We all chatted, she expressed her joy that we came out to see her; we told her it was our pleasure; she recounted some stories; we talked about where we'd been; we gave her a gift from Yiayia and Papou accompanied by a Mickey Mouse birthday party invitation (it was the only card in the supermarket we visited). Then came surprise #2: she gave us a gift as well! It was a beautiful reproduction of an ancient dish in the Benaki Museum, and she had to send someone into Athens in order to get it for us. We continued to talk for a little while but eventually we had to make it to the airport, so we took a bunch of pictures and kissed our goodbyes.

We made it to the airport, dropped off the Scénic, and walked to the terminal. We hopped on the Olympia Airways and flew an uneventful flight in a prop plane to Santorini's airport. After a bit of discussion it was decided that we would rent a car. After a bit of talking to the Europcar lady and picked up our amazing…paler green manual Renault Scénic! It was a manual, to Dad's dismay, but he would manage driving them for the rest of the trip. We drove into Fira, the major city in which we stayed, and drove up this tiny, tiny road with many parked cars, pedestrians, and little room to manoeuvre. Dad was very displeased by this, and turned around while Mom and Theresa went to look for our still-hidden hotel. They found it, about 50 or 60 steps down the cliff face, which is where all seaside development exists in Fira. We lugged the suitcases down there (which much-appreciated help from an employee) and plopped in the room for a bit.

We left for dinner and did our patented "look-at-several-perfectly-good-restaurants-until-enough-of-us-get-fed-up-and-stop-at-the-closest-place" technique with delicious results—we stopped at a place up the stairs from our hotel with a nautical name. I had duck in pomegranate sauce—tasty, indeed. We walked a bit around town, stopped at an Internet Café (which I had to check my chocolate milk with the bartender and where we saw a soundless Homsar VHS tape), and went back to the hotel to rest up for tomorrow.

Monday, July 21, 2003

21 July 2003 – 5:47 PM GMT+2

Well, I'm behind, but now's a good time for me to catch up. I'm listening to "Weird Al" Yankovic, which accompanies everything well, like an excellent wine.

I last left us in Olympia, in the luxurious accommodations of the Best Western. Everyone eventually woke up, washed, ate breakfast, and we subsequently checked out and headed to the archaeological site at Olympia. Of course, as with 96% of the museums in Greece, the one there, too, was closed for renovations. Disappointed, but unvanquished, we bought tickets and walked the grounds. Highlights included:

  • The training area, in which Dad took a picture of Greg and I fighting
  • The hotel area, in which Teeps took a picture of the 'rents à la a picture taken earlier at the Best Western
  • The entrance to the stadium, through which Theresa ran through both ways, with video of her being taken both directions
  • A row of stone blocks on which Mom insisted there were really nice statues
  • The colossal columns, toppled like a stack of poker chips, of the Temple of Zeus, strewn across the ground. In this temple lay, long ago, a statue of Zeus, an Ancient Wonder of the World (#2!) (One column of it was being reconstructed.)
There were other highlights which required a little imagination, such as Phidias's workshop and a few buildings in which some of the official ceremonies took place, but the bulleted places were well-preserved, as was the stadium. The stadium was surprisingly interesting. Although simply a field of brown packed earth surrounded by some green hills (with very little shade, upon which the spectators would sit), it, if not how it was in ancient times, it could function as a stadium right now—it's just very well-suited to that sort of thing. It sounds corny, but I could imagine some event being held there in 2004—and considering everything, I am sure that the Greek Olympic™ Committee is seriously considering such a spectacle. Why not? Olympia, although distant and difficult to reach en masse, is a site well suited for at least one event.

And so we bid farewell to Olympia, and headed out of the Peloponnese, on what the Greek call one of their "national roads." Now, I was not around before the Interstate Highway System, but I have to think that the roads in the heyday of US Routes resembled the current situation in Greece, albeit with less crazy drivers. Imagine, if you will, a two lane road—one lane in each direction, plus maybe ¾-lane wide shoulders (in places smaller, in places larger). Now imagine traffic in both directions. Now imagine a truck PASSING another truck, and simultaneously a passenger car passing another Peugeot or some such nonsense. This is a regular occurrence on these roads. Why they don't widen them to two lanes in each direction (easy in most places) I don't know—but the sight of four cars fitting in a two lane road at high speeds (~90–120 km/hr) is slightly unnerving, especially so regularly. And we were behind a delicious-looking watermelon truck for a long while.

We stopped to eat lunch at a Goody's at a roadside oasis and while Mom ordered food I went next door to the gas station & got myself and Mucci a ➲ sticker, a ⊝ sticker, and for Mucci a Volvo sticker. This meal at Goody's was better than the previous—I had the club sandwich and some fries, and was satisfied. The environs were quite nice and had a bakery place along with the Goody's. I just asked Greg about recollections from the Goody's—he said he was still playing Golden Sun: Twilight of the Dawn at that time and thus doesn't recall anything.

The rest of the drive was a survey of all of the Peloponnese—we passed major construction projects building a number of massive tunnels into the cliff alongside the road, presumably for a new route; we passed right over the magnificent Corinth Canal without noticing; we drove on divided highways and on roads with maniacal passers as mentioned above; we saw cities big and small; we saw the sea and the sky, the rolling hills with mysterious piles of rocks that seem like the archaeological sites we'd visited, and by animals in fields, grazing peacefully. Then we hit Athens—a city intent on oozing out into that, in some ways, still-wild area, but confined by the slow, plodding bureaucracy and lazy attitude that preserves and destroys the country.

The highway met an expressway that met a tollway with toll booths placed far to close to the on-ramp. We paid our way and rode the magnificent new very-behind-schedule Athens Megacolossal Superüberhighway to a smaller road. With a little difficulty and a lot of construction, we made our way to our stop for the night, the coastal semi-resort town of Mati.

I say semi-resort because there was little on the beach for the travelers who stayed only briefly like ourselves. There was a pier with a multitude of boats owned by or on long-term rental from the townsfolk, a restaurant/bar in which we ate dinner but that seemed unprepared to serve food, and a number of what appeared to be condos. Our hotel was one of maybe two—not what I'd expect of most resort towns, but appropriate to a vacation retreat for people who lived in the larger city to the north.

As I said, we ate dinner after checking into our hotel (we were on the 5th floor—ugh) and walked to the pier after that. We stood looking at the small place for a bit, until we went back to the room, and got ready for bed and tomorrow, when we would fly to Santorini.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

17 July 2003 – 4:01 PM GMT+2

The drive was more of the terror-inducing stuff we had experienced before, with curves a-plenty and small towns with narrow roads. I probably slept. But when we got into Olympia, I directed us to our Best Western, and everyone was astonished as two people came out to help us with our baggage up the marble steps.

In short, our hotel was fantastic. Surprisingly affordable, too, considering it is one of the nicest hotels I've stayed in anywhere in Europe. We had Suite G, if I remember correctly. This consisted of rooms 325 and 326. The former was a triple, with a monstrous bathroom, a couch, lots of marble, a TV, smooshy beds, and a balcony with a nice view. And it was fairly sizeable. The double room, 326, was better. It had all that plus a bigger TV, furniture on the large balcony, and a sitting room with sofas and comfy chairs. Very luxurious. Mom raved about the presence of shoe polish in the bathrooms (which we snagged)! All in all, beautiful.

We decided to go with Frommer's (how do I punctuate the possessive of that? I think it's just "Frommer's") and sought out this taverna frequented by locals. We came across this other place in Frommer's, but we didn't really want to eat there. The Frommer's said, though, that our desired restaurant was just behind it, yet we were unable to find it. We went all over the side opposite the train tracks from the touristy side of town, but to no avail. Eventually, we headed back to the one place and gave it one last go—we turned down this dirt road that looked like it was a construction access road to the back side of Olympia's ruins, and lo and behold: there sat our restaurant.

We were one of two groups there—according to the server, who looked like a lanky dark-haired bespectacled nerdy guy. We were there on a Sunday, which was unfortunate—I first ordered chicken, as did Greg and Dad, but they only had 2. Then I ordered lamb chops. But the group before us had eaten 3 kg of them, so they were fresh out. So I ended up ordering some hamburger-shaped meatballs, but they were much more spiced than hamburgers. Overall, quite delicious. We chatted and drank some wine and passed a few hours under the vine-draped cross-hatched wooden walls of their outdoor patio, sitting in the standard uncomfortable chairs that infest all of Greece's restaurants. Everyone's food was good, it was well-priced, and to top it off, they gave us complementary watermelon at the end—an extremely sweet and crisp one, to end a delightful meal. We found ourselves there much longer than we had expected, and didn't leave until well after 10 PM—not late for Greeks, but late for us.

We tipped them and, after getting something to drink, drove home, avoiding the traffic generated by some international concert being held there. We got back to our wonderfully comfy beds, washed up, and went to sleep.

17 July 2003 – Noon GMT+2

At Sparta we stopped at a five-story Goody's for lunch. There I had this chicken sandwich that consisted mainly of four nuggets on some French bread with some vegetables. Not the tastiest, but it was food. We ate outside, and Mom got in a huff because she accidentally ordered two veggie sandwiches instead of one—oh, the horrors! We munched and then went on our way.

We decided to stop by this temple of Apollo en route to Olympia, and in the process, took some of the small roads that we had been occasioning this trip. These roads are quite fun, as they make Mom go completely bonkers. She grips the well-placed handle on the back of my seat and holds on for dear life while Dad winds his way at fairly high speeds up and down small, poorly-signed mountain roads. Very entertaining indeed—except, of course, when she screams at the top of her lungs and goes nutso factorial.

We arrived at the Temple of Apollo at Bassae and were amazed—at the large tent. It is quite a nice tent, but what was under the tent was a mystery, as Mom, Dad, and Teeps had to go to the bathroom before we entered the tent. During this time Greg kept on calling my Evilor (pronounced Ee-vlör) so I gave him the alter-ego Kramden, conjuring up images of grizzled detectives confronting the criminal element in an abandoned warehouse, a dimly-lit parking lot, or high atop a skyscraper bathed in spotlights. Of course, Kramden always defeats Evilor by pushing him from some high precipice (or some manner of tall location), prompting Evilor to cry out, "Kramden! Nooooooo!" or perhaps "I'll get you next time, Kraaaaamden".

After the bathroom expedition had returned, we entered the tent. Inside was an extremely complete temple. I was quite impressed—there were columns, all of them (although some of them had been moved to an alternate concrete base while restorers worked on the foundation), there were inside walls, there were outside walls, there were friezes, there were all sorts of things. Altogether a worthwhile experience and a wonderful detour—and the tent shaded us from the sun! Of course, sadly, as with most things in Greece, the carved decorative portions had been trucked off to England way back when.

After this, we headed to our hotel in Olympia.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

15 July 2003 – 10:50 PM GMT+2

We woke up in Sparta and ate breakfast, then headed west to the ancient Byzantine town of Mystras. We arrived, parked, got water (with Theresa continually advising us to save our old bottles to refill) and bought tickets. The first think that struck me was the upitude of the place. We started down and saw a few non-descript intact, yet barren, churches. We came to the end of the of that lower portion and reached the Peribleptos Church, with actual frescoes inside. I snapped a flashless picture and we headed up. There was a convent about ⅓ of the way up, at which Theresa, Dad, and Mom covered up and Mom bought a cloth thing from a nun. We stopped in at a similar-looking church and kept on going up.

We rested near the church of St. Nicholas and kept on going up—without, apparently, Theresa and Greg. We looked at the also similar church of St. Sofia. Then Mom and Dad looked for Theresa and Greg for a  bit while I sat in the shade. Upon finding them, everyone but me decided to climb all the way to the top to see the Castro—the castle at the top. Greg was kind enough to leave me the GBA:SP and Golden Sun: Star of the Galaxies, which I enjoyed. They climbed down maybe 10 or 15 minutes later, slightly disappointed. We marched down, piled in the car, and entered Sparta for lunch.

15 July 2003 – 3:28 PM GMT+2

Aside: Greek Roads And That Which Concerns Greek Roads

I figured that, being in an airport, it would be just as good a time as any to talk about the state of Greek roads. Also, Greg's GBA:SP died, so I can't play any Golden Sun: Tomb of the Haunted. Oh well. It's not like Greg's been playing EVERY SECOND OF THE TRIP and decided to let me play right AS THE BATTERIES WERE DYING. [☺—ed.] Who's ed? Geez, didn't even capitalize right.*

Anyway; first, Greek construction. Lot of it. No freakin' way it'll all be done for the 2004 Olympic Games™ in Athens. They're building a bunch of tunnels on the mostly-divided highway from Athens to Corinth, but that is one of the least necessary road improvements they could have chosen to do. Their Athens highway is a good start—it's a beltway that ends, kind of like I-190, at the airport. But they aren't even half-finished with the basic parts and have yet to finish the spur into the city. Also, the toll booths are placed wrong—it's a disaster in the making unless the officials can work some intense magic. Although the Metro is nice.

Signage is another problem. The only time is has been comparable to the US is on the Athens Highway—elsewhere, it has been haphazard at best, misleading at worst, and most often nonexistent. None of the atlases have route names or numbers, and that makes sense, because, for all I know, almost no roads have any. You have to work by cutoffs, but that's doesn't work in an urban area. Plus, they have many more fallen signs than America, which'd be great, except for customs. Anyway, that's it for now.

*Editor's note: This is, in fact, from the original text.

Monday, July 14, 2003

14 July 2003 – 3:07 PM GMT+2

So after getting to Sparta, we turned west and headed toward the caves at Dirou. A strange little place indeed: it felt like a combination of a nice Mediterranean beach, a 1970's-era State Park facility, and the Wisconsin Ducks. You drive to this lot bordered by a covered-porch-area, a glass-windowed store room, and the entrance to the caves. We went down the stairs, put on our lifejackets, and climbed into the boat (along with a couple in the front). Camera flashes announced the start of our very quiet journey through the caves (and illuminated us for pictures from the nearby opposite shore, which the tour operators would unsuccessfully try to sell us at the trip's end).

It was very silent—aside from the occasional knocking against a stalagmite or the random "Take a picture, Harry. C'mon blah blah" from Mom or Dad. I enjoyed the silence—very peaceful. You'd hear water dripping and those stereotypical cave noises. I decided that the visitors-traveling-in-a-boat-in-a-cave-which-collapses-after-an-earthquake-and-they-must-escape-à-la-The-Poseidon-Adventure would make for a good movie. And as a plus, the lights flickered throughout the cave; all the cabling was in the water, prompting me to ponder about the electrical codes for caves in fairly rural Greece. We exited and I enjoyed a sit with Greg while the others went down to the beach for a few minutes.

For lunch we drove into Sygrou*, bypassing the many restaurateurs that were eyeing us (and our cash) up hungrily, and pulled over near this seaside café, which seemed quite comfortable and pressure-free. It was about 3:30, so some of us wanted something substantial, so we first walked to a fast food joint (with fruit in the window that wasn't for sale). I didn't get anything, but Grego and Teeps did, so we got that, walked past the neighboring authorized Bosch dealership, and back to the little café. I got a Fanta (no gas, in a bottle) and a Tiramisu ice cream (note: do not get it again). We lazed there until at least 4 PM (as they asked us to pay then, when our waiter went off duty), and then piled into the car, satiated but ready for a yummy time in Monemvasia.

Then we left and drove east through Sparta en route to Monemvasia, and after quite a long discussion we decided, hey, why not see Papou's parents' home town of Agios Nikolaos. So we turned off the main road and found a neat old-style metal sign pointing us in the direction of Agios Nikolaos—and the road was even paved! We pulled in, got out, and took a few pictures. A guy asked us what we were doing, but knew nothing of our family, as he only moved there a few years ago. He pointed us down the road to a shortcut back to the main highway. We got in the car and went on our way.

That is, until I said to turn right instead of left. A fortuitous mistake—the man we stopped to ask for directions turned out to be some sort of relative (we discovered this after Mom felt the need to explain ourselves). He talked about his relationship to us, how practically everyone that was related to us had left the village, and the like. We chatted a bit, snapped a few photos, and then took off down the brand-new road (one lane, nicely paved at points), to Monemvasia.

The rest of the drive was relatively short, and we pulled up to a no parking zone and promptly parked, just as everyone else had. Monemvasia is a small medieval town whose only relevance today is as a tourist destination peddling the same wares as most every other tourist boutique in the world. However, we did find a very nice little restaurant overlooking the sea where I had meager (but tasty!) lamb chops with fries (every entrée in Greece seems to come with fries).

At the dinner table I had been talking about Greg's adventures against the Sorceress of Bitchitude (Theresa) with his +2 sword of tastiness (the butter knife) and the like. Recalling an item he had obtained earlier in the day in Golden Sun: Reign of the Three Emperors, Greg held the bread basket over his head, and said "Greg got the Large Bread" as I did the "get-something-in-Golden-Sun:-Blade-of-Heroes" music. We all got a good laugh out of this, except for the six cats in my field of view (one of whom was eyeing the remains of Theresa's fish).

We left Monemvasia before the sunset, and drove a quite nice drive back into Sparta. Sparta is a town in which living a normal life seems plausible—like most Greek towns, it has a pretty active nightlife, but it also has fast food places, supermarkets, and other amenities that seemed lacking in other medium-sized cities. We found the Hotel Menelaus and went inside after finding a place to park. It looked quite nice and indeed was—the best hotel, in my opinion, of the trip thus far. The rooms weren't spacious, but they were comfortable, and, very importantly, the bathrooms were nice. Mom and Dad went into town (stopping at an Internet Café), while us kids washed up and went to bed.

*Editor's note: I have not been able to figure out where this actually was.

14 July 2003 – 12:56 PM GMT+2

So we wake up in Nafplion and Mom is pissed. Apparently at about midnight they turned off the A/C, which really pissed Mom off. She called down and they said that someone complained that the place was too cold, so they shut the A/C off. Mom thinks this was a blatant lie, and they said they'd turn it on. They did for a few minutes. So Mom, as I said, was quite pissed.

We got up, ate breakfast, and drove from Nafplion through Tripoli to Silimna to Evan's aunt's place. They were kind of surprised and perplexed by the green car coming up their driveway—they thought at first that Dad was one of their friends, then they realized it wasn't and thought we were lost, then saw Mom and saw the resemblance to Helen and realized knew who we were. They welcomed us in, gave us water and some sweet cherries that apparently Evan had a hand in picking, and implored us to sit. They showed us some pictures (and drawings that Bone and company did during their stay), and we showed them some. Their house was extremely nice—I enjoyed their (most likely) locally-made windows, the wonderfully furnished interior, and the well-maintained exterior. Quite a nice place to live. Evan's birthplace, across the "driveway", was crumbling, but intact, on the whole. A thoroughly worthwhile detour.

We left them and head back to Tripoli, but took a wrong turn and got to drive through the Tripolitean market. Fruit galore! Plus, there was a Yiayia wearing a Duke hat, which pleased Theresa quite a bit. The drive from Tripoli to Sparta was a decently curved somewhat smallish road, much like many of the roads in Greece so far. The drive was uneventful. Now I shall interrupt this tale for a lunch at Goody's.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

12 July 2003 – 11:04 PM GMT+2

So we peel out of Mycenae, stopping by the nearby Tomb of Atreus (double chambered, yet only one could be entered), and then hitting the Elektra taverna in the small modern village of Mikaini (or something like that). I had some mediocre Pastitsio, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it, and I got a cool set of Pepsi and 7up bottles out of it. Plus, until a German family came by, there were no other people at the restaurant, which prompted the still-puzzling question: How do all these places stay in business? There were at least six places in Mycenae, and they each had maybe one family per hour. Perplexing. Mom bought an icon of St. Catherine at a shop across the street, and after that, we were on our way to see Epidaurus.

As far as I recall, the trip from Mycenae to Epidaurus was uneventful. Oh, I know why—I slept a great portion of it. Upon arriving and awaking at Epidaurus, we got tickets and entered, and Mom and Dad headed to the W.C. A minute or so after they left, the wind started to whip up in the parking lot (away from any cars) about 30 or 40 yards away. It then started to go in this major circular motion, and eventually whipped itself into a full-blown dust-devil (albeit a tiny one). Still, it got about 40 feet up. A Jeep drove through it and the spectacle vanished, just in time for the parents to miss it. Too bad, it was very cool.

The famous thing at Epidaurus is the amphitheater—it is well-preserved and has very good acoustics (performances are still held today). I muttered some things on stage and went a few rows up, but due to my headaches it wasn't possible to climb to the very top. Apparently, I wasn't missing much—Mom said the acoustics at the top (of the Roman-era 2nd level) were not as good in the original Greek section. Greg, Theresa, and I performed a scene, though, from the Strong Bad Email "Caper;" I was Homestar Runner, Theresa was The Cheat, and Greg was Strong Bad, at the part where the cow lamp was broked. It was magnificent.

I cannot say the same for the remainder of the ruins. Epidaurus is not famous for anything aside from the amphitheater, and for good reason—the remainder is scattered stonework in vague arrays. But the Homestar Runner performance made me glad, and I enjoyed the scenic ride from Epidauros to Nafplion.

Nafplion is a very tourist-friendly place. It caters mainly to Greek vacationers, but they didn't mind our business. After checking in at the Hotel Agamemnon, Greg and I rested while the others explored. We regrouped for dinner at one of those generic taverna-ish Greek-ish outdoor eating establishments that pepper the sidewalks of most of Greece's major streets and oceanfront roads. After an expectedly generic dinner, we left, but not before getting a verbal lashing from the neighboring generic eatery's owner for breaking some sort of unspoken promise that we would patronize his establishment over his competitors. I don't understand the economics of it—I think they should combine all their individual efforts into one gigantic nation-wide eatery—not a chain, just one big restaurant. They all serve the same quasi-ethnic food—souvlaki, Greek salads, bread, and if you're lucky, something tasty and/or vegetarian, for those who want it.

After this, Greg returned to the room while the rest of us wandered to an ice cream place. I had some Straciatella, relaxed, and watched a square filled with kids, stray animals, shop-keeper-peddlers, and tourists looking at…something. Maybe me. Afterwards, Mom and Teeps stayed to shop while Dad (who wanted to stay in the square but needed sleep to drive "safely") and I moseyed back to the room. I zonked out fairly quickly, to everyone's dismay, as I hadn't changed into my PJ's, and, when asked, firmly resisted any suggestions to rectify the situation. My laziness won out in the end, and I slept soundly—something I plan on doing right now.

12 July 2003 – 10:00 PM GMT+2

So then we woke up for our first driving day. The waking up and check-out procedure was generally non-dramatic. There was a dramatic conversation about hiring people; Theresa got up in a huff (she contends she desired coffee, but I see through her tissue of lies). We thus walked to Europcar with luggage in tow. Upon arrival, Mom and Dad were irked and dismayed to discover that the agency lacked our precious reserved van! After careful deliberation, we chose a lime green Renault Scénic as our first vehicle of the trip.

We got ourselves out of Athens (with the authorities none the wiser) and headed west to Corinth. But, traffic stalled our progress, and in the gridlock we discovered one of the great conflicts of the trip. Theresa enjoys the "fresh" air outside—she claims that she dislikes vomiting from carsickness induced by the A/C. Every sensible person (including myself, of course), thinks that the scalding heat deserves, nay, demands the cool fingers of refreshing Air Conditioning. So we argued and never quite came up with a solution that pleased anyone. But Teeps hasn't vomited, so that's good.

After passing through the traffic we went over the famous Corinth Canal (completely missing it in the process) and turned south to Mycenae. For those of you who have failed to either read the Frommer's or who missed Mom's numerous recitations of said Frommer's, Mycenae was the home of Agamemnon, Klytemnestra, Elektra, Iphigenia, and Orestes. And others. In its hey-day, there were palaces, roads, gold, silver, jewels, and even walls, ceilings, well-defined paths, and a lack of rubble! However, none of that really remained to the present, with the exception of a gate with lions (called Lion's Gate), a few tombs, some maybe-walls, a tunnel I missed apparently, and lots of no shade. But heat! So much heat! I understand the historical value of the site, but the lack of well-defined structures (except those for the dead) made it less magical, than say, Hadrian's Villa or Pompeii. But the view was quite nice, and it must be acknowledge that it is far older than the aforementioned sites, and so can not be expected to be in similarly good condition.

12 July 2003 – 11:38 AM GMT+2

Well, it's a straight shot from Tripoli to Sparta, so I guess I can try to catch up now.

The Benaki Museum had four floors of Greek Historical garb and pottery, with the exception of the 2nd, which was apparently some French photography exhibit. I don't exactly know what it was doing there, but there it was. On the 3rd floor was the most modern of stuff, from the revolutionary era. They had some clothes, medals, chair, & the like.

Then on the 1st floor were some reconstructed rooms, a lot of clothes, & a rotunda (part of the museum's architecture). On the 0th floor there were miscellaneous old things on various pedestals, plus a gift shop.

We left the Benaki Museum with a good amount of time left in the day. It was decided that we would go to the top of Mt. Lycabettus (Λυκαβηττός). I led us to the base of a massive set of flights of stairs, at whose top was the funicular which would get us to the top of the hill. Climbing this hill caused a problem, though—I got this monstrous headache. Mom and I took the hill slowly, and when we reached the top, we all bought tickets and got on the thing. Sadly, the funicular was completely enclosed.

At the top was a terrific view of the sprawl that is Athens. The city has grown ridiculously large as time has progressed, I guess. There were buildings as far as the eye can see. Everywhere there were white walls topped with these terra-cotta shingles. I spent most of the time seated, but did see the Acropolis when I got up and looked around. There was also this very expensive café (where it cost €3 for a ½ L of water!) at which we did not eat. But we enjoyed the view and headed downstairs to go back to the room before dinner.

Here's where our crisis occurred. Essentially right after exiting the Metro (same block—I checked), we all decided to go to a Supermarket to get Band-Aids and perhaps an extension cord. But Greg was too far ahead of us to hear—we decided that, Greg being Greg, he'd go back to the room (he had the key) and plop down to sleep. So we went to the Supermarket, buying no Bandaids and no extension cords. But we did get many many cans.

Of course, besides space concerns, we have, as of yet, no crisis. So we got back to the street we left Greg at and started to climb to our room. Well, Dad and I stopped at a bookstore and got a map book, while Theresa and Mom went up to the room. Well, on our way up, almost at the hotel, who comes up running behind us? None other than Greg. So all of us realize that by the time we get to the room, Mom will be in a Code Twelve crazy fit.

Well, true to form, we take the elevator up to the room (too much climbing) and Theresa's there being— aloof is a good word, I guess—and tells us Mom has, indeed, had a Class Twelve crazy fit; we discovered she had gone off to look for Greg. So Dad went out to look for her. So I start writing and eventually everyone finds each other and we're all hungry together.

We go over towards the Parthenon where we knew some restaurants were, and looked at this one place recommended by Frommers'. Mom and Theresa didn't like the menu, so we kept looking and found a roof-top place that had stuffed tomatoes—something Theresa really wanted. But aside from grilled chicken and chicken souvlaki there was practically nothing that I was willing to eat, let alone wanting to. Thus we kept looking, much to Theresa's dismay. We ended up choosing this place Yiayia recommended called Dionysus or something that had really good house chicken—a delicious sauce! Theresa was quite unhappy that she could not have her stuffed tomatoes, but Mom and I agree that it was the best meal we've eaten thus far.

After dinner, Mom and Dad went to get ice cream and cash, while us kids went back to the room. We crashed there and eventually all went to sleep. And now we're almost and the caves, so I'll get back to you later.

12 July 2003 – 7:15 AM GMT+2

OK. Hopefully I can catch up before we need to get outta here.

After the Agora we headed across the way to some museums, but not before hitting Athens's apparently famous flea market. There were many stores (obviously), seemingly placed in zones of type of merchandise. We started in the housewares division (with some electronics mixed in with the furniture dealers) where we searched for an extension cord so we could plug our outlet adaptor into the recessed socket, in order to recharge Greg's Game Boy Advance SP. Then we went through to the wearables, with a heavy emphasis on tourist merchandise, Olympic stuff, and band shirts from System of a Down, Slipknot, and Linkin Park. Those kids today with their music. Then to the traditional souvenirs, then to the jewelry. All, of course, had a heavy sprinkling of their touristy shops within their loosely defined boundaries. I can't imagine getting particularly good deals here, but the goods seemed to be of a higher quality than the bazaars I've seen, but they had little food outside of the standard Coke fridge. Depending on the place, too, there was much less buy-buy-buy from the owners (although this was occasionally the case).

But by this time people were starting to get hungry. After a half-hour at an Internet cafe while mom shopped futilely for a nice inexpensive icon, we headed over to the Benaki Museum's cafe to eat lunch. Of course, while there, we discovered they were out of chicken sandwiches, bumming out Greg and apparently shocking Mom when he ordered a salad—without meat! I can't blame him though—his mild allergy to pork could have made those pig-based dishes making up the remainder of the menu slightly unpleasant.

L'art des Cyclades (musée national d'archéologie, Athènes)
L'art des Cyclades (musée national d'archéologie, Athènes)
By dalbera on Flickr
After lunch we left the Benaki Museum to hit the lovely (kinda) museum of Cycladic Art. This museum was fours floors (+ lobby) (+ a new wing) of art from the Cyclades, and some other stuff. The 4th floor had old pots plus a non-operational A/V program. The 3rd had very out-of-place modern art from Greeks & Italians. The 2nd floor had more pots with a smattering of urns, while the 1st had the nose people (editor's note: drawing replaced by photo at right)—no definition in the face of the statues aside from the nose. The 0th floor had the gift shop and café, through which we went to get to the new wing of the building. There they had a special exhibit (?) on the things of sea-faring civilizations. Included were pots (of course), some coins, some neat clay tablets with Linear A on them, and some marbleized wood. They also had a plug with which Greg tested his 3-way prong adapter for Greece that he got in the flea market to alleviate the Game Bay situation, as well as some very comfortable-looking couches that were apparently only for staff and on which we could not sit.

Then having finished the Cyclades, we went back to the Benaki. But now breakfast calls; I'll try to finish this up in the car.

Friday, July 11, 2003

11 July 2003 – 7:41 AM GMT+2

So yesterday. We'll get to the aforementioned "crisis" shortly.

The day started with us getting up and eating breakfast and the like. We then headed out basically the same way we did the day before, in search for dinner—over the Acropolis. Our destination? The ancient Agora. We got there and discovered that Socrates, Plato, and St. Paul were there to greet us! (See relevant picture.)*

There was a quite nice reconstructed stoa on the side of the Agora, and on the other side, atop a hill, a fairly well-preserved Temple to Asbestos—em, Hephaestus. The rest of the place was basically ruined ruins; old, yes, but not very compelling.

We gotta go. More later. And I was watching Thundercats in Greek, too!

*Editor's footnote: I don't know what picture I was referring to. Presumably one that Dad took.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

10 July 2003 – 7:23 PM GMT+2

We've got a crisis on our hands. More as information becomes available.

Anyway, I did not like our dinner at the Plaka at all. We got a "family meal" that wasn't priced on the menu, and I think we got gouged. Teeps argues that it was just as much as Disney would be for dinner, but I think that's an inapplicable comparison. And we passed up a perfectly good place anyway. But we saw some Roman Fora (in not-so-good condition, but whatever), and I wandered back to the room with Greg while the others shopped. All in all, an OK end to an OK day.

10 July 2003 – 9:11 AM GMT+2

Greg is currently getting up, which means I have relatively little time to write this entry. Yesterday started with a light, sparse breakfast in the hotel lobby, at which time we were picked up to head to Delphi. Apparently we were the only people on our tour, so they handed us to another company.

After they mispronounced our name (maybe they wrote it down wrong) while checking that all the "children" were present, we headed off. And nodded off. Greg played a little Golden Sun: Land of Mysteries, but eventually stopped due to the dreaded low-battery light. So we both proceeded to sleep. And get off the bus to have some €16 snacks. And sleep. And walk around a touristy yet quite scenic village. And sleep. And arrive at wonderful Delphi.

We got off the bus, got our tickets, and went inside. After giving us a little spiel in English, she had to give it again in French, so all of us English-speakers wandered off. The place was neat, but not ridiculously spectacular. They had a relatively intact stadium at the higher up on the large mountain on which Delphi sits, so I went up and looked at that. I passed an Amphitheater on the way up, which wasn't too shabby either. But before that, our tour guide (Sofia) (Sophia) (Soφia) gave us some more information. Nothing terribly exciting, although she did point out a few of the "Treasuries", most of which were simply foundations. One still stood, however: the Athenian, sadly missing its nifty gold and silver horse-design-thingy on the outside. She kept on going on about the eight billion statues that formerly stood there, and they probably would have been cool, 'cept they were all gone, with the exception of the charioteer in the museum (with realistic feet and eyelashes!).

The actual site of the Oracle was basically your standard ruins; a few columns sitting on a foundation. Still, it was neat to sit there listening to the stories of yore, courtesy of a British tour guide whose group I tagged along with. However, I did not get a chance to see Athena's temple, which is the one with the three columns with a frieze connecting them in what would have been a circle that are in all the pictures. Greg and Dad went down to see it, (causing Mom to suitably freak out when she thought they wouldn't be able to figure out the bus moved to the museum lot) while the rest of us went to the museum, with the aforementioned statue (and not much else, due to construction).

All in all, not a bad trip, and we got to meet a guy named Kevin who worked in cell-phone networks with a Quake-Con shirt. After returning, we went off to dinner near the Plaka.

Oh good, an argument about who got one of Grego's T-shirts.

Anyway, I'll go on about the Plaka later. Gotta go eat breakfast.

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

8 July 2003 – 7:58 PM GMT+2

Here I am with Greg in the Austria Hotel, at the top of a sizable hill. Greg is playing Golden Sun: The Lost Ages. This means I am not, and this makes me sad.

The remainder of our flight gave me two reasons to love Lufthansa—the phrase "NO PORK" was printed on the packets of entrées, and they had metal Lufthansa sporks!! We got into the Athens airport, and it was not until about 15 minutes ago that I realized that it too was new. Definitely less classy than Munich. We took the bus to the train to the hill to the upness and checked-in.

After a bit of lazing we went downhill and ate at some sort of Italian place…Diva? We thoroughly exhausted Theresa's patience for translation, and after a slight Four Cheese-Four Seasons mix-up, had a delicious meal. Greg and I returned to the hotel, while the others went off to the Plaka or something. On the way back we bought some soda (four Fantas and a Sprite!) and, walking up the hill, I got my first quote of the trip.

Greg: "That Peugeot looks kinda like the Matrix."
Me: "That…Peugeot…looks kinda like…the Matrix?"
Greg: "You obviously must not know what the Matrix is."

P.S.: Weather word for 7/7: STEAM ROOM

8 July 2003 – 4:30 AM GMT-5

So I woke up early this morning for no apparent reason. Upon waking up, I stumbled downstairs and played some Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. I got the fire arrows! So I basically sat around the entire morning, until Mom kindly reminded us that we had better get our asses out the door and over to the food court for lunch. So we did that (I ate at the delicious Cajun Big Easy) and went back to the house, where I proceeded to gather my things. A few minutes later, we were out the door to Aunt Lori's, where she took the wheel and dropped us at O'Hare.

Check-in…security…gate…wait. Standard airport procedure. I played Golden Sun: The Legend Continues while most of the family "read" "books". Nerds! We boarded and took off for an eight-hour nap punctuated by some light eating and video gaming; pleasant with the exception of Agent Cody Banks. But this was compensated for courtesy of an episode of Darkwing Duck about a villainous plant's plan to make money grow on trees…and more!

So we landed and entered Munich's fantabulous new Ratner Terminal—erm, Terminal 2. I took a picture of the gym-like architecture as well as a Lufthansa Smart car. We wandered a bit both pre- and post-customs, looking at the abundance of glass as well as numerous holes in the ceiling, plates of glass waiting to be installed, and wires hanging from the ceiling. Apparently it opened June 27th, which means July 27th is the projected completion date. We also patronized the nice new shops: Greg bought a PC Gamer, and I searched, with no success, for a map of Greece. I did find "Atlanta" and "Vietnam".

So I played more of Golden Sun: The Saga Part II, while Greg slept on the chairs at the gate, as did Teeps, after sampling Lufthansa's fine array of free coffee and tea. We boarded for Athens, and what, what do I notice on board? Oh, wonders! One of the flight attendants' names on her name tag: S. Lax! The S is for Sandra, apparently, but still. This bodes well. Anyway, off for more Golden Sun: Elements of Power, now that the "fasten seat belt" sign is no longer illuminated.