Posts Tagged ‘greece’


A Brief Respite

September 18, 2010

The next week or so of our vacation was nice, but pretty uneventful. We saw a temple of Poseidon and a temple of Artemis near Athens. Then we headed out to the villages Ritsa’s family is fun and spent some time with her uncle and aunt Constantine and Helen. The second day, Ritsa’s friend R showed up to join us.

We spent time in the villages with various and assorted members of Ritsa’s family, and we managed to squeeze in another trip to Monemvassia. There was also a fair amount of time spent swimming at the beach.

The highlight of the time in Livadi was watching Aunt Helen climb up on to the kitchen counter with a broom to kill a wasp. As you can see, we had a nice, relaxing time there.

On to bigger and brighter things: Lesvos. Lesvos (or as the Greeks call it, Mitilini) is a Greek Island near Turkey. It is the home of Sappho and where the term “lesbians” is derived from. These days, it as well known for ouzo as it is lesbians.

We shared a beach house with R, and we could actually see Turkey from our house. Swimming and day trips ensued. I will get into the day trips in the next post, but one interesting thing we did at the beach house is buy produce from the vans that drive by. We bought of kilogram of dried chickpeas (which we did not finish and will bring home with us) and a kilogram of sword fish, of which we ate about 2/3 and some cats ate the other 1/3.


Someone Out There Thinks I’m German

July 6, 2008

On Santorini we went to a very popular black sand beach.  We were going to spend more time there, but my wife’s shoulders were blistering from a sunburn soon after we arrived.   As I was staggering out of the ocean, an older lady comes up to me and starts saying something to me in German.

Now, I’m 3/4ths German as near as I can figure, but apparently I look so German that random German people come up to me and assume their crazy moon language I speak.  My wife DOES speak a smattering of German and figured out the lady was asking if we wanted to use the umbrella and sun chair she had rented, since the nice German lady was getting ready to leave.  My intrepid wife did her best to convey to the woman that we were leaving soon as well, and everyone parted amicably.

So, remember, looking German can score you free sun chairs.


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.


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.

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!


Athens, In Five Minutes Or Less

May 27, 2008

Sorry this is going to be a quick post, but we are packing to leave as I type this.  Normally, we would have had a lot more time to pack, but we got ambushed by the need to see some family in town here last night.  I’ll add links and pictures in later.

The day was another scorcher.  We realized the other day that the reason my father-in-law loves Arizona so much is that it must remind him of Greece: dry, hot, desert plants, houses with tile rooves, etc.  Despite the heat we had a good walking tour through the city.

We started at the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  It is amazing how tall those columns are.  We have a nice picture of me standing next to one to give a good idea of how big they actually are.  (Keep in mind I am six feet tall.)  We also saw Hadrian’s arch while we were there.

Then we started wandering through the city to look at churches.  There are a lot of hills in Athens.  We must have climbed them all.  In fact, I think we went uphill much more than downhill.  I would believe anyone that went to school in Athens if they told me it was uphill both ways.

Back to churches.  We saw a good five or six of them, but my favorite was Agios Nicolaos.  It was not just because it was a pretty church, but because of the caretaker that was there.  When she found out Ritsa spoke Greek, we became her best friends.  She gave us little cards with pictures of icons on them to watch over us, gave us each a loukoumia, and showed us where to get some cold, cold water.  I think the water was my favorite part.  I sweat a lot normally, but put a backpack on me and put me in 80 degree weather, and I am my own special little fountain.

We also did some shopping and found gifts for a few people.  We also picked up some embroidery patterns for ourselves.  They are really pretty and a lot less expensive than we thought they would be.  We managed to stumble across them almost by accident.  Actually, that is how we found all the stuff we wanted to buy.  When we were actively looking, we could not find anything, but when we stopped trying, we found exactly what we wanted.

Shopping was not an entirely enjoyable experience, however.  Ritsa slipped and fell in the fish market.  She bruised a knee a bit, but also got her hands and pants covered with water from a fish market.  It was not a pleasant perfume.

We made it back to the hotel around 5pm, and that was when we got the phone call telling us that the aunt and uncle we thought were in the village were actually in Athens.  A flurry of phone calls ensued, and our uncle Nico took a cab to come pick us up and bring us back to his place.  It was really nice to meet them, but everyone involved felt rushed.  I think aunt Dimitra really wanted to put out a big spread for me, but with the short notice, she only managed a really nice meal instead.

We were too tired to pack when we got home, so now we are up at 6am cramming stuff into bags so we can get to the airport to rent a car to drive to the village.  I have no idea when we will have internet access again, so until then, goodbye.


Ta Kala, Ta Kaka Kai Ta Askhima

May 26, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

That was the story of today.  Things started off well with a rather warm walk to the Benaki Museum.  It was full of great art and a lot of really neat traditional dress from all over the country.  Oh, and it had two recreations of reception rooms in a Macedonian mansion that were drool-worthy.  We already will have to work hard to make enough money to cover those rooms and the alabaster and gold ceilings.  The collections themselves cover everything from neolithic Greece to the 1920s.  We also had a couple of really good frappés with ice cream in them at the cafe there.

Next we were off to the Cycladic Art Museum.  They had a really cool exhibit about Russian art with a couple of really neat cubist/futurist pieces in it.  The next floor was all stuff collected from prehistoric burials in the Cyclades.  The last floor we got to go to (one was shut down for re-building) was about ancient Athens.  It had some really neat stuff along with one rather… risque ampuole on display.

All that historizing made us hungry, so we walked up a really big hill to get to Taverna Filippou.  To put it simply, it was amazing.  We started out with our Greek salad horiatiki and then moved on to our main courses.  Ritsa had beef kokkinisto while I had arni youvetsi.  The food was fantastic.  It was down-home cooking in the middle of Athens.  My dish even came with these little pasta squares that my mother-in-law makes and puts in lentil soup.

That was the good, now on to the bad.  We need a map of the Peleponnesos for when we are driving around there.  There is a great travel map store in Athens.  So, we hop the metro and get there, only to find it had closed.  Now, this was at 4:15 in the afternoon.  However, Athens (and probably a lot of Greece) has this thing about Mondays having lots of stores and government buildings closed.  We went to another bookstore nearby, but they had maps of every other part of Greece, except the one we needed.  Since that did not pan out, we headed over to see the National Archeological Museum.

This is where the ugly comes in.  First off, there is no really close metro station to the museum.  The closest one is about seven or eight blocks away.  This would not have been so bad, if the area between the metro stop, Omonia (pronounced a lot like ammonia, by the way,) and the museum was not the victim of urban blight.  I swear I saw at least one drug deal going down, and there were a lot of people just loitering around, and a lot of people begging.  Add in the distinct odor of urine from various parts of the sidewalk, and it made us really not want to be there.  Nonetheless, we survived the trek and made it to the museum just before 5:00pm.  Great, the museum is open until 7:30pm on Mondays.  Well, every Monday except this one, apparently.  They closed at 5:00pm today.  So, we wasted our money riding the metro there, had to deal with panhandlers and foul odors only to have the doors practically shut in our face.  Thanks.  A lot.  Really.

All that aside, we have still enjoyed our trip here so far.  Part of that enjoyment has been the hotel we are staying at, the Athinais Hotel.  We have a really nice view from our balcony.  Even though we overlook a major road, the balcony doors are soundproof.  Also, they serve a really nice breakfast buffet.  We still need to try out the cafe downstairs, though.


Acropolis, Agora, A Lot of Walking

May 25, 2008

I love alliteration.

We got up early, hit the breakfast buffet (I wonder if the Greeks were ready for me?) and headed off to the Acropolis.  We had another pleasant metro experience and were quickly in the gate, walking up the south side of the Acropolis.  Lots of neat ruins.

Then we headed down to the ancient agora. That is a really old market.  Ritsa fell in love with this little old church there, and I really liked the Stoa of Attallos, which apparently was one of the world’s first strip malls.  Then we headed up to the Hephaisteion or Temple of Hephaistos.  There an American couple was kind enough to take our picture.

Next we ate a yummy lunch of salad, saganaki and loukaniko and headed off to find the Roman Agora.

And we did.  We even found the Tower of the Winds my dad had looked for a couple of weeks before!

Then we walked over to Hadrian’s Library.  We kind of wish I could have seen it with the alabaster and gold ceilings, but we will just have to wait for that until we can buy our own place.

Then we came back and showered, for we were very sweaty, and took a two hour nap.  I hope tomorrow is just as exciting, only a little less tiring.