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29
Sep 05
Thu

Snippets from Greece

Fully sick scooters
Wrexes with basketball-sized mufflers and boot-sized sub-woofers with Greeks at the wheel going oonce-oonce-oonce up the street are a fairly common sight back in Sydney. It’s no surprise they’re around in Greece, either, but not everyone can afford a car. So they fall back on the next available thing: scooters. And since you can’t fit a sub-woofer on a scooter (or at least they haven’t tried yet), they tune these things up to deafen as many people as possible. These things make a helluva lotta noise.

But it’s a scooter. I’m sorry. You just can’t look cool on a scooter. Even Vin Diesel can’t make it look cool. And when you’re toting a peroxide blonde mullet and are going farting down the street on your pissy little shitmobile every night at 2am waking the neighbourhood up, you’re just retarded.

Restaurant touts
The great thing about eating in Athens is that there are so many outdoor eating places, and the weather is great for it. Fresh bread, large blocks of feta cheese atop crisp salads, copious quantities of olive oil and desserts dripping in honey. Yum. Part of the ritual of finding a place to eat is running the gauntlet of taverna owners who stand by the roadside demanding that passers-by sit down at their establishment for a meal. An example of one such invitation (spoken all in Greek) as Dorian and I walked by:

Restaurant owner: Come in and have lunch!
Dorian: We’ve already eaten.
Restaurant owner: Already eaten? Your friend doesn’t look like he’s eaten anything in his entire life!
Dorian: (Laughs)
Restaurant owner: Is he Japanese?
Dorian: (Laughs again)
Me: What? What’s so funny?

Sights around town
The central focus of Athens is… you guessed it, another citadel-on-a-hill-overlooking-town. Pretty much par for the course for Europe, but Athens’ Acropolis is unique in that its buildings are about two and a half millennia old. It goes without saying that it’s a world heritage site, and although most of it is covered in scaffolding, it really is a pretty impressive sight. The Acropolis also provides a 360 degree view of the sprawling metropolis of Athens, which is mostly homogeneous. A museum at the Acropolis houses some excellently preserved statues and friezes, all created centuries before the birth of Christ.

The sheer age of artifacts is what makes Athens interesting. Marble was used a lot in Grecian art. After such works have been restored they – apart from the odd missing limb or head – look much younger than the 5th century BC dating they have. Athens is full of such stuff and they keep discovering more. Locals are afraid to knock down and replace buildings because when they dig up foundations, they also keep digging up artifacts. When this happens, no further development is allowed on the land until everything’s been excavated. Understandbly, locals aren’t in a hurry to find out whether they’ve been living on top of an archaeological goldmine and so are quite content to live in aging apartments.

When the government laid new Metro lines, they too ran into the same problem. Near Syntagma station, they unearthed the remains of Roman bathhouse . So they dug a large hole to the surface, stuck a glass roof over it and turned it into a roadside exhibit. The Metro track had to be diverted. The smaller artifacts were moved into glass cases inside the Metro station. I don’t think anywhere else in the world has 2500 year old trinkets displayed in a train station.

Changing of the guard
I’ve seen the changing of the guard in several countries, and I thought the goose-stepping in Sofia was ridiculous, but the Greek soldiers stationed outside the tomb of the unknown soldier really take the cake. I present this:


The Islands
History aside, Athens really isn’t all that pretty. However, the Greek islands are another story. We took a high speed ferry to Mykonos which was about four hours away. As you approach it, the island makes its character instantly known – buildings dot the landscape with whitewashed walls and bright blue windows and doors. Mykonos hosts more than twenty beaches and in high season it gets absolutely packed. Being September, it was the shoulder season and we were lucky not enough to have to deal with crowds… especially as Mykonos is notorious for being a “gay island” hangout. The beaches are pleasant enough, but they can’t really be compared to Aussie beaches. The sand is not fine grained, but consists of small grey pebbles. The Aegean Sea, although a beautiful deep aquamarine colour, is as flat as a tack, and there are no waves to speak of on the beaches. Apparently the Greeks like it that way, but to me it’s a bit like sitting in a cold bath. But it’s a terrific place to chill out nonetheless, and that is what we did…

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