Wednesday, July 4, 2012


My friend E, who used to work at the DC Jail with me, came to visit last week and we were able do a quick getaway to Greece. In my typical fashion of maximizing time away from work, we flew out Thursday night and came back at the crack of dawn on Tuesday, giving us four full glorious days of vacation.

Athens exceeded my expectations in every way. I had heard from friends who've visitied before that it could be sort of intense. Like Naples in Italy; hot, loud, chaotic, smelly, and a bit scary. I didn't feel like it was that way at all, except for the heat. The sun was definitely beating down, but everything else was great. We went to some museums, which were really nice and modern (and also provided a nice break from the heat), climbed up the actual Acropolis, wondered around the Plaka neighborhood, did the double decker bus tour and ate awesome food. E has a good Greek-American friend who hooked us up with all the "insider" tips for us, like ordering the grilled octopus at every meal and staying at the hostel, Backpackers, which ended up probably being the main source of comic relief and crazy late night laughs.

E. and I at the Acropolis.  

Since our flight came in sort of late, we didn't get into the hostel till like 11 PM.  We checked into our 3 person suite, with a private bathroom to find it sweltering hot, and with a guy in his underwear sleeping in one of the beds.  I told E "I can live with this guy   if we crank up the A/C, but if the A/C is broken, we need to get the hell out of here".  So like typical Americans, we stormed to the front desk and complained.  They told us they only had one universal remote for the A/C and that it was "somewhere in the rooms".  So we went to dinner and hoped that it would be returned by the time we were back. After dinner, still no remote and by then, Mr. Tighty-whities had woken up and was all chatty about his Greek Islands adventures the week before.  He kept rambling on about nights where he and his friends took a 100 shots, and how he was giving out "shots for all".  E. is completely silent and in my head I'm like, I am way too old for this crap.  So E and I got back downstairs and pulled the "this is unacceptable, we are not putting up with this false advertising that you have A/C, we need to talk to a manager"... and it worked!  The one nice one guy at the front desk (not to be confused with the mean one that hated us) told us to get our things and moved us to another building.  So we re-packed our bags and E. walked out to the street in the middle of the night in her pajamas.  Right away, the place looked nicer, so we had high expectations, but then when we opened the door (by then it was like 1 AM) there were 5 bunk beds in the room and everyone was sleeping.  The A/C was on, but it was still hot and stuffy.  Of course, by then I was all worked up from the trip, the moving, and the anger, so I am wide awake and sweating profusely. We stumbled around, shushing and gigling and had to split up and take two top bunks.  Then we realize we don't have towels. I just decide to shower and put on my pajamas on top of my soaking wet body, thinking that that would help me cool down.  This whole time we are bumping into things and trying really hard to whisper and not wake everyone else up.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I laid down and tried to go to sleep.  Then I woke up two hours later with this couple who came in at 3 AM,  TURNED THE LIGHTS ON,  and proceeded to take their sweet time getting their stuff ready.  I was livid and ready to scream, but held out.  Good thing I did, because by the next morning, word had spread abut our little adventure and complaints, so when we checked out of that room, they hooked us up with a private apartment, just for the two of us.  So after the first night from hell, we were livin' it up in our condo.  Of course, after they were super nice to us, we somehow proceeded to become "those girls" and had to bother the front desk one thousand times with issues that were legitimately not our fault like "we can't turn the light on, we didn't get towels, the key doesn't work".  I think they were really relieved to see us go.

Getting up there in the heat was a major accomplishment

It also definitely didn't help that we kept bumping into our "friends", the light turners everywhere we went.  At one point one of them (they were from New Jersey) comes up to us and says "see you in the room later" and E was like sure...little did they know that we had been upgraded to first class living.

The next day in Athens was a combination of awe and sweltering heat.  I had not been that hot since India.  My feet were swollen and every step took a huge amount of effort.  We tried to wait till the sun was down for the actual climbing up to the Acropolis, but they closed at 7, so at 5 PM, we took the leap and walked all the way up there.  The views were really amazing and we were able to take some good pictures of the back, as the front was being blocked by a giant crane.

When we had planned the trip, E and I agreed that you can't say you've done Greece unless you've gone to an island.  I let her pick the island and so at noon the next day, we were on our way to Agistri on board the flying dolphin, which I was super excited about.  Turns out the dolphin was sold out for the way back and we had to settle on the ferry which took an extra hour.  I had high expectations for the dolphin, and I was terribly disappointed.  First of all, it didn't have an outdoor deck, so you were stuck inside, where it was really stuffy and gross, and then it took forever anyway.  But at last we made it to Agistri, the unknown island that is not in any map and was clearly not our hostel's manager's favorite;  his exact words were "If I was going to be in Greece for only a week and could only choose one island, I would never choose Agistri".  Maybe he just wants to keep it a secret?

Totally over-hyped--the Flying Dolphin

Agistri was perfect. It was small, not crowded, with awesome, crystal colored waters, the typical white and blue greek island architecture, plenty of places to eat and drink and just overall felt authentic and not super touristy.  Obvioulsy, everyone there were tourists, but we were definitely the only Americans, which was cool.  We had the best meal of the trip there, more grilled octopus and some saganaki, which I'd never had; but it's basically really good fried cheese.  We spent time in the sun and the sand, but we were literally getting roasted, so then we just spent like 6 hours in the water, which was wonderfully refreshing and clean, but really salty.  I think that salt dried up my knee wound and now its almost cured! 

The beach at Agistri
You know they built this church just so that tourists could take pics

Going native

At night we went to this club that promised "sexy dancers and shots for all" mostly because we were curious to see how wild and crazy were the Greeks when partying.  Total disappointment.  WE were the sexy ladies and there were definitely no shots for all.  The "VIP Party" was more like your typical DC Lounge on any given weeknight.  No dancing, no craziness; this actually worked to our favor, as we got a seat at the bar and proceeded to recount every funny story from our jail.  We were even undercharged for our drinks!  The next morning we took the ferry back to Athens and it was soo much better than the dolphin.  It makes me wonder why people take the dolphin at all!  It's more expensive and way uglier and more uncomfortable.  The cool thing about the ferry, besides the outdoor deck, was that you can take your car, scooter or dog on it. No questions asked.  Then, when you dock, they open the giant, spaceship-like door and it becomes sheer madness.  Cars, scooters and people run to the front in a mass exodus kind of frenzy.  I couldnt' help but notice this really cute fat pug with no leash that was frantically trying to catch up with this lady, who I assume was his owner.  She was paying exactly zero attention to him, and she was manuvering the crowd like a pro, cutting in line in front of others, making her way to the front.  Poor fatty was jumping over suitcases and tripping over people trying to keep up.. It was really funny.

Fatty--i wanted to take him home with me so bad.

Finally, we made it back to our hostel from heaven/hell and we were so worn out and tired that we didn't feel like finding a real Greek resturant. Next to our hostel, this fish head grill promised the "best burgers in Europe" so I talked Ellen into getting one.  After all, I hadn't had a real authentic American-style burger since we left DC and was really craving it.  It definitely did not disappoint. I got the Texas style one, complete with cheddar cheese, bbq sauce and an onion ring!  I was in heaven.

We spent our last day riding the double decker bus and exploring the archeological museum, where, weirdly enough, they don't allow people to "pose" with the artifacts.  They actually have a rule that says that you may not immitate the statues or sculptures or make faces or gestures while taking a picture with their artifacts.  E and I were able to sneak in a funny one when they weren't looking, but we did see several people get scolded for disobeying. Why would they do that? It just makes people want to fool around even more.  Our last night, we ended up taking a long walk around the Acropolis and finding a good place to have our last grilled octopus and buying some souvenirs along the strip.  I think we did our share to stimulate the Greek economy.

The famous grilled octopus