Archive for June, 2008

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I’m Back

June 27, 2008

Okay, I’m going to try to keep this up to date again.  I think I have a lot to post on this one.  🙂

First, Greece was awesome.  I have to go back.  However, I will share with you the travel tips I learned:

1.  Before going to Greece, bone up on your Greek.

2.  Even more importantly before going to Greece, get on a StairMaster.

3.  Don’t fly Air France.  Every flight of theirs we took left late, and they managed to lose one of our bags for a few days.

4.  There is less internet access in Greece than you would expect.

5.  There are more historical sites there than you can see in three weeks.

As for more current news, school starts August 25th.  I’m excited to be going back, because now I get to take all the finance courses I want to take, instead of all the other courses I had to take.  I have a very strong affinity for things I want and a very strong repulsion for things I have to do.

Oh, and the economy still sucks.  Again, Steven Pearlstein has a great column on the economy.  I think it’s funny how I’ve been reading how people don’t understand why consumer confidence is as low as it was in the 70s when the economy is better.  What people aren’t grasping is the difference between the micro and macro view.  In the macro world of economics, the broad measures aren’t as bad.  The GDP is still growing, for instance.  However, in the micro world, people are getting laid off, they aren’t paying their bills, and everything is getting more expensive.  So, we have a disconnect between the two sides of economics.  I have a feeling the micro is going to pull down the macro, though.  If peoples’ personal finances are not doing well on a growing scale, then the economy as a whole is going to have trouble recovering.

So, there you have it, my prediction of doom and gloom.  Things will get better once the economy isn’t so levereged.  When people and companies are borrowing so much money, it’s hard to gauge how something like the Fed increasing interest rates to combat inflation will change things.  Let’s hope for the best.

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Playing Catch-Up

June 7, 2008

Finally.  Finally we have internet access again.  For being a country that has cell phones everywhere, I expected Greece to have more wireless internet available.  However, that would not be the case.  So, let me catch you up on where we have been and what we have been doing.

Leaving Athens
We picked up our rental car at the airport, and had a very pleasant drive through the city on a new highway, the E-95.  We wanted to stop and see ancient Corinthos, but we missed the turn off and decided to see ancient Nemea instead.  Nemea is where Herakles (Hercules) killed the Nemean lion for one of his labors.  It also was the site of some miniature Olympic-style games, though it was mainly just foot races.  Nemea is also wine country, so we stopped at a local winery and had some wine.  We left with two bottles.

The Horio
We finally made it to our uncle Costa’s house, and he was a fantastic host.  He fed us, plied us with wine and ouzo, and treated us to too many dinners at a local taverna (Manoleas).  He also was a fantastic tour guide.  He drove us to many different places including Ritsa’s parents’ villages:  Pragmatefti for Kathy and Melana for George.

Pragmatefti was on the side of a mountain, and it is a steep mountain.  Everytime Uncle Costa took us there, we parked a little further up the mountain so we didn’t have to walk so far.  Ritsa’s Thia (Aunt) Marigoula and Thio (Uncle) Nick and Thia Dimitra live there.  Thia Marigoula is a spirited, tough, kind and generous woman.  She reminded me a lot of my Nanny.  Thio Nick and Thia Dimitra are cute and Thio Nick got up and danced a little bit at one of the dinners.  I think Thia Marigoula was trying to fatten us up for the slaughter, though.  She kept feeding us so much food.  We got to see the house Ritsa’s grandfather was building and the house that Kathy was born in.  Oh, and we got to see the church Thia Marigoula had built.

Melana was not nearly as steep as Pragmatefti.  The only family Ritsa really had there was her Thia Marianna.  Marianna is Ritsa’s Uncle Pete’s sister.  Thia Marianna is a tiny woman with a tiny voice.  She has a good sense of humor, though.  Uncle Costa was joking around with her a lot.  We got to see the house George lived in as a child, and they even had a mulberry tree there, something that reminded me of my childhood.

The Peloponnese
When we could escape the villages, we got to see some neat things.  Uncle Costa took us to Leonidio and the surrounding countryside, showing us places from George’s past, like the apartment he shared with his brothers while they were going to high school.  (They had to walk from Melana to Leonidio to spend the week there and then walk back to spend the weekend in Melana.)  He also took us up into the mountains to show us one of the farms they used to have to spend time at.

Uncle Costa also guided us down to Monemvassia.  Monemvassia was awesome.  It’s an old fort town built on what is basically a mesa that has been occupied since the 13th or 14th century.  The lower town is almost completely restored and is now mostly houses and shops.  There are a couple of hotels there too, so you can actually spend the night in the fort.  The upper town is not as restored, and we pretty much skipped it so we could climb up to the top, the Castro.  The church up there, Hagia Sophia is supposed to be a pretty good replica of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.  However, it was closed for some unknown reason and instead we got harassed by bees.  It was not an even exchange.

After Monemvassia, we spent the night in Gythion, the former main port for Sparti.  We had a fantastic dinner at Isalos, which was practically next door to our hotel.  From there we headed out the next morning to go explore Mani.

Mani is a really neat section of Greece known for its tower-shaped houses and fierce independence.  It was never really conquered by the Romans or the Turks.  It is also known for its honey, and we picked up a few jars of that from a local beekeeper.  She let us try it and it was really good.  One of the jars had a nice, delicate flavor and the other one had a robust honey flavor, so we got one of each.  From there we drove around, looking at the tower houses and getting lots of pictures.  The landscape was a little more desolate than the other parts of Greece we had seen, but it has its own majestic quality.

Our stay in Mani was shorter than we wanted it to be, because we had to go to Mystra before it closed for the day.  To get to Mystra, we had to drive through Sparti (A.K.A Sparta) which apparently does not believe in traffic controls.  I figure it is just part of the Spartan spirit, and instead of doing combat with swords and shields, they now practice car combat.  We managed to escape unscathed from Sparti and had two hours to check out Mystra.

Mystra is a town a lot like Monemvassia, although it was abandoned for around 400 years.  The big draw for Mystra is the Metropolitan, an old cathedral with well preserved icons on the wall.  There were also two or three monasteries there along with a few more churches.  We did not get to go to the top and see the palace, but the parts that we did see were beautiful.  After Mystra we returned, via the winding mountain roads, to Uncle Costa’s house.

Nafplio
We left for Nafplio on the 4th of June.  We stopped by the Acropolis of Tyrintha, and old Mycenaen fort.  It had some great examples of Cyclopean architecture.  When we got to Nafplio, we settled into our very cute pension, Amfitriti.  They were fantastic and very accommodating when we wanted to check out early the next day.

From there we went to Epidauros.  It has two parts.  The first part is the amphitheater which has perfect acoustics, so you can hear everything perfectly from every seat in the house.  Not bad for something built around the 4th century AD.  The second part is the temple of Aesculpis.  They are doing a lot of reconstruction work there, rebuilding parts of the destroyed temple and outbuildings.

When we got back from Epidauros, Ritsa called her dad’s cousin that lives in Nafplio, and they took us out to eat after showing us some of the towns hear Nafplio.  We ate at a street-side taverna with a great view of the Palamidi, the big keep above Nafplio.  Ritsa’s cousin also invited us to lunch the next day.  However, before we ate lunch there, we had to check out Ancient Mycenae.

Mycenae was founded by Perseus (the guy Harry Hamlin played in Clash of the Titans) and supposedly had some cyclops build the big, huge walls.  We wandered around there for a few hours, checking out the burial pits, palace floors, cisterns and vaulted chambers.  It is a really neat site with a very nice museum.

We came back to Nafplio and had lunch with George’s cousin and his wife.  It was a great meal of grilled meats, Greek salad, horta, and macaronia.  After that, we went back to the hotel and drove up to the Palamidi.  Then we ran into more typical Greekness.  The Palamidi is supposed to be open until 6 or 6:30 every night.  However, this time they decided to close at 2:45.  Why it was 2:45 instead of 3 or 2:30, I have no idea, but there were several groups of unhappy tourists there at 4 in the afternoon.

Defeated we went shopping to make ourselves feel better.  I bought a set of worry beads, so now I have a new and entertaining way to annoy Ritsa.  It was a successful shopping trip.

The next day we got up early and drove back to the Athens airport.  From there we flew to Naxos, one of the Cyclades.  We had to hike up a lot of stairs to get to our hotel, which would not have been bad if we had not hiked up a lot of stairs almost every day we have been in Greece and if I was not carrying 40 lbs. of our belongings on my back.  The hotel is cute, and they have a nice breakfast.  We also have a millipede crawling along one of the walls here as I type this.

The only historical thing we saw in Naxos was the Archaic Temple of Apollo which features Ariadne’s Doorway.  It is basically a huge stone doorframe that is still standing.  We wandered around town a bit, managed to find where to pick up or tickets for the ferry, and generally amused ourselves looking at the cubic architecture of the buildings here.  Later today we will be catching the ferry to Folegandros.

The only link I’ll leave you with for now will be the linking to my Picasa gallery where you can see all of the pictures we have taken so far and the captions on the ones we have captioned.

I’ll post more when we can find an internet connection again.  Who knows when that will be!