September 29, 2004

Last days in Greece

Today is our last full day in Greece, and the last day of our holiday (unless you count tomorrow, of course, which will be spent on an airplane.) It's hard to believe we've been on the road (or, more appropriately, on the tracks) for nearly a month!

I haven't been keeping as close an eye on what we've been doing day to day as I did at the beginning of the trip. So here are some highlights:

We've been here in Athens since Friday ( is Wednesday, so that would be 6 days including today.) We spent a day at the Acropolis and Plaka, a day exploring the Agora (a large, mostly empty area northwest of the Acropolis; there is a tiny Byzantine church, an ancient temple, and small museum there) and more of the Plaka. The Plaka is a neighborhood north of the the Acropolis, mostly filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, and the occasional ruin. We were there on Sunday, when it was unbelievable crowded (think Orchard Street in NYC, 20 years ago) and yesterday, when it wasn't. We watched the sun set on a hill opposite the Acropolis a couple of nights ago and took some fabulous (I hope!) pictures of Athens and the Acropolis at night. We've also spent a good deal of time just wandering around our neighborhood and eating.

We haven't been as adventurous food-wise in Greece as we were in other places, I think mainly due to laziness, so we've eaten at the same places multiple times (a first for the trip!) We had the best eggplant salad in the world our first night here, and I'm hoping we might go back tonight for seconds. Our most frequented place has been a cafeteria called Neon, which serves basic Greek food for not much money. It's cheap, tasty, and a few blocks from our hotel and right next to the metro station. I've eaten eggplant stuffed with peppers, stuffed with meat, fried, and as 3 different salads. The Greeks rival the Italians in their treatment of eggplant, and I've had it every day I've been here but one. My second favorite dish after eggplant has been souvlaki, which is like a shish kabob served with rice with peas and a lemon wedge. Gary's been eating a lot of gyros, but I don't know if that's his favorite or not. I like them, but really just for the cucumber sauce goes with it. For dessert we've had baklava, walnut cake, kataifi (a spongy cake with pastry "hair" on top) and some pastries that tasted like baklava, but in different shapes (rectangular and sideways). It's all soaked in honey, and it's all delicious. I tried some Greek coffee, but decided that it's not for me. (I forget if I mentioned that while in Italy I decided I liked espresso, especially with tiramisu; I expect I'll be one of those snobby Americans who complains that you can't get a decent cup of coffee in the United States.)

One of the most exciting days of the week was spent in the Olympic Complex in the northern part of Athens. The 2004 Olympics ended a day or so before we began our trip, but the 2004 Paralympics started shortly afterwards, and we caught the tail end! The Paralympics are held after each Olympics, in the same venues and with many of the same competitions. It was Gary's idea to go up the the main complex, and I'm so glad we did. We got day passes for 10E, which let us in to any of the events there. We got to see the Olympic torch and the Olympic Stadium (and it looked just like on tv!) We watched part of a wheelchair basketball game (Brazil vs. Iran) and a lot of track and field events (shotput, javellin, discus, and several track final and semi-final races.) During the track events we also saw at least half a dozen medal ceremonies, and we had to keep standing up for various national anthems. There were a few races with Greek athletes (I think they were the cerebral palsy races) and the crowd went wild as they walked to their starting positions. I was initially surprised by the huge crowds, but the events were as exciting as any Olympic competitions. After a couple of hours watching track and field, we decided to check out other venues, and wandered into the tennis stadium in time to watch the end of the men's quad double finals. After the medal ceremony we watched the men's single finals, featuring the number one and number two wheelchair tennis players (Dutch and Australian). The Dutch had a pretty big contigent in the stadium and really got the crowd going. Their man won easily, but it was a friendly crowd and everyone cheered everyone else. The bronze medallist was French; there was a small crowd of French fans who cheered back and forth with him. I've never been a huge tennis fan (or a fan at all, for that matter) but I was as excited as everyone else watching the final match and the medal ceremony.

This morning we went to the main archeological museum, which is just a few blocks from our hotel. We lots of neolithic pottery and other grave finds, and lots and lots of Greek statues. More statues than you could shake a stick at. Unfortunately the rest of the museum was closed, so we didn't get to see many vases or "minor finds." Next time, I guess. This afternoon we're in search of a small suitcase so we can haul all the stuff we've bought back home (it's not much, actually, but a t-shirt here, a stack of used Metro tickets there, and it all adds up.)

Posted by Jen at September 29, 2004 05:22 AM

Sounds like you and Gary had a memorable honeymoon. Don't know if you will have time to read this, but, by the time you do, you two should be back in California. Welcome Home and Congratulations on you Marriage. Love-Aunt Kathy

Posted by: Aunt Kathy at September 29, 2004 06:11 AM

Mmmmmm.....baklava! Sounds tasty!
I heard that some of the metro stations have artifacts on display that were discovered when they dug up the ground for the station. Have you seen any of those?

Posted by: Melinda and Winnie at September 29, 2004 08:12 AM

It sounds like you two 'lovebirds' have seen and done it all. We've enjoyed every moment of sharing your emails and this one in particular because it made me very hungry. Jenny, you made the eggplant dishes sound so delicious that I just might make some for dinner tonight. Hope you have a relaxing and safe trip home. Bet that Frito and Trixie are anxious to see their 'Mommy and Daddy'. Talk to you soon.
Aunt Mari, Liz

Posted by: Aunt Mari, Liz and Gabriella at September 29, 2004 09:54 AM

Has it really been one month already? We certainly miss you here at work though. Well, welcome back!!!! I'm sure you're not looking forward to Monday when you need to drive to South SF. Wait... where's that? I certainly enjoyed reading all about your fun and adventurous honeymoon. Now it makes me want to go to Europe even more. Congratulations again on your marriage!

Posted by: Joana at September 29, 2004 11:17 AM

Sounds like you both had an adventure. I wish I was in Greece too. The Baklavah and the Kabob's are my favorite (of course)
Congratulations and welcome back home!

Posted by: Atossa at September 29, 2004 12:57 PM

Melinda: yes, several of the metro stations have displays of artifacts they found, and one (the one north of the Acropolis, the name of the station has about 20 Greek letters that I don't remember right now) has several cross-sections on the wall of ancient aquaducts and coffins they discovered.

Posted by: Jen at October 1, 2004 12:14 AM