The Monasteries at Meteora

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After a late dinner and bed by midnight, the thought of rising early wasn’t appealing.  But we set our alarm and crawled out of bed by 6:00am.

Our destination today would be Meteora where we would be visiting the Greek Orthodox monasteries of Saint Steven and The Grand Meteoron. Although we had serious misgivings on the condition of our bus, we decided not to abandon the tour for two reasons.  First, we were exhausted and couldn’t think straight. Second, we weren’t sure about transportation back to Athens….. about five hours. So we hesitantly stayed with the group and hoped for the best.

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After a nice breakfast at the hotel we loaded the bus for a relatively short drive to our destination. In the distance we could see the the rock formations upon which most of these 14th century monasteries were built.  You could also see various caves where many years ago some hermits and monks took up residence. There is estimated to be around 1,400 of these shelters in the cliffs.

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At one time there were 24 monasteries in Meteora, but today there are only 6. It’s estimated that there are only about 60 monks and/or nuns residing in these remaining monasteries. Today these monasteries primarily function as tourist attractions. 

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As for told, the Meteora monasteries have strict dress codes. The men were instructed to wear pants, no shorts.  Women were required to wear dresses, no pants.  Also if we didn’t have the correct attire there would be skirts available.  True to form, as we entered Saint Stevens, there was an assortment of skirts and shawls.  I quickly picked out a wrap while Lila purchased our entrance fees.

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Saint Stevens is by way of a bridge the most assessable of all the monasteries in Meteora. It has a varied history dating back to the Byzantine era. More recently though, part of its chapel was heavily damaged during WW11 and subsequent Greek conflicts. Then in 1961 it was turned into a convent.

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Our tour begun in the old refectory which now houses a museum. We saw many old relics such as manuscripts and artworks dating back to 330 AD.

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As we explored Saint Stevens further we came across the sacred skull of Saint Charalampus, it’s second patron saint. The skull is housed in a box under glass and caught us by surprise.  It was donated to the monastery in 1398 by the Prince of Wallachia Vladislav.

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On our way to the next monastery we stoped at a rocky overlook which required a bit of climbing. The climb was well worth it with an outstanding view of the valley below and some of the pillar formations that make up Meteora.

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Our next stop was The Holy Monastery of The Grand Meteron. It’s the most impressive of the 6 remaining monasteries being the largest, oldest and highest.  To reach the sanctuary it required walking up a steep staircase which switch backed it’s way up the rock.  Viewing from a distance the visitors making the ascent looked like ants on a hill.

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After conquering the hill we all met up for our guided tour.  We gradually moved up through the monastery while Lila pointed out a wooden board which I believe represented the wood of Noah’s ark. 

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She also discussed the history of the various frescoes adorning the walls.  It was about then when several priests walked past on their way to the chapel where they began to sing in this beautiful Gregorian chant.  This was truly a mesmerizing moment and I wished our group had moved another 20 feet to watch the priests perform. Eventually we did make it into the chapel….. after the priests had left.

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The chapel was amazing though and filled with beautiful frescoes depicting the Apostles and various biblical scenes. Lila then spoke for what seemed like an eternity about the artwork. Unfortunately due to the crowd size, she was hard to understand or follow what she was pointing at. In comparison a French group near by were decked out with the latest hearing devices and the tour guide had a laser pointer.  After a quick presentation their group moved on.

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Eventually the tour concluded.  We now had free time and Lila was gracious enough to point out things to see such as the old nursing home/ hospital on site, gift shop, an observation area for taking photos as well as the location of the restrooms.  Great!  Then she said that we’d meet up at the bus in about 30 or 40 minutes.  Wa what????  You see it would take at least 20 minuets just to descend the stairs back to the bus not to mention the line for the women’s restroom!

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Like disciplined disciples we obeyed and took a few photos on the way to the restrooms before making our way back to the bus. The chilly weather we had enjoyed in the morning was now warming up.  This was even more evident as we boarded the bus which was again hot and stuffy. Were we going to have another “bus breakdown”? I dared not entertain the thought in fear of jinxing our return to Athens….. and subsequent flight back home.

At this point all we wanted was a good lunch and a safe trip back. With our lunch destination not far, we focused on food and the fact that all the meals on this tour had been good.  So after arriving at the overpriced cafeteria style eatery, we were understandably disappointed.  

Oh well, I admit we were tired and cranky. Frankly it was time to end this tour. We just wanted to get back to Athens and take a shower.  I felt like there was sludge covering my entire body.  I was also going crazy from the Mosquito bites I acquired while standing on the side of the highway during the 3 hour “bus breakdown”.  I also was now acutely aware of the itchy bites covering my right arm, which was probably a consequence of dust mites.  An educated guess of course since I only sat on the right side of the bus with my right arm constantly rubbing up against the dusty curtain.

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I’m not sure how long we were on the road before our bus pulled over at a unplanned rest stop.  Out the door the bus driver flew. Our fear was realized when we saw the side of the bus opened to expose the bottled water. 

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 Yep the bus was overheating. After hydrating the bus we traveled about 20 minutes up the road to a small village, where Lila was arranging for a new bus.  I suppose I don’t need to mention that this should have happened sooner, but grateful that she was prepared…. this time.

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We were told there would be a coffee shop in the village.  There wasn’t, but a merciful winery owner open her doors and offered us all fermented beverages. 

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After about 45 minutes a shiny new bus arrived and the luggage was swiftly transferred into our new ride. Our new bus was so wonderful! It looked clean, it felt clean and the curtains were so nice….. not to mention the vehicle just seemed to purr down the highway.

When we arrived in Athens it was dark.  The tour groups passengers were dropped off in various locations based on their accomidations for the evening.  We choose Syntagma Square.  Here we hailed a taxi to the Sofitel Hotel, about a 45 minute ride, which is adjacent to  Eleftherios Venizelos Airport. The hotel was awesome and perfect for catching our early flight  home.

The Bus Breakdown

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We got hosed with a split in the radiator hose.

In tour life, two things are for certain, there will be mishap adventures and the bus will travel the most after lunch so we can all take a nap.

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We were zooming along in our post lunch snooze fest when the bus suddenly pulled over after a toll booth in the middle of nowhere. The place were these things usually happen is nowhere and this place happened to be a cotton field.

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The bus driver jumped off the bus and after a while we were told that there was a slight engine problem that would soon be fixed and to stay on the now impossibly uncomfortable warm bus. We begged Lila to open the side door and she said she couldn’t. Oh balogna, here we go again.  A lady shouted that the bus needs to be running in her defense and I almost spit out my water. Wrong.

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The back of the bus people started to move forward and out of the bus at the front exit. As I approached I explained to the forward passengers that they were getting a pleasant breeze that us back of the bus people didn’t have, and popped off the bus to hang out with a small group leaning up against the guard rail.

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I want to be clear, we were parked in the emergency lane, or breakdown lane, about a stone’s throw from the toll booth in a safe area.

Our guide Lila immediately said that we needed to be on the impossibly hot bus for our safety. I said that we were fine, and legal, right where we were. Some other passengers had joined the resistance and said pretty much the same thing.

And friends, this is when we started to hear Lila say , “10 more minutes” about every 10 minutes for the next 3 hours. I can appreciate her optimism, but loathed her dishonesty. About every 20 minutes we were told that we needed to  be back on that bus. One lady said that “We love you, but we are not getting back on that hot bus.”

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We heard many excited phones calls from Lila and the bus driver about what seemed to be a leaky water hose. The driver and one brave passenger with a sense of mechanical knowledge took turns at trying to tighten the hose clamp near the leak. But they did not have a screw driver or a wrench or some pliers to tighten it. A call of help went out to our bus mates that produced some nail clippers, tweezers and some scissors in which they tried to used to no avail.

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After about an hour of putzing around with various men staring at it, me included, we were told that a call went out for the bus repairman.

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A highway safety employee had then arrived putting cones from his parked truck to the bus to guide idiots leaving a toll booth from a full stop to not hit the big damn bus parked in the breakdown lane.

Were we to get another bus, was one on the way?  It was never answered or announced to the group. Any direct question to Lila was answered with 10 minutes and to get back on the bus. Everyone was off the bus at this point, some came and went, but most started to bond while hanging out for another “10 minutes”.

The cotton field was sprayed by a tractor and then left for the day, the sun started to set and it was going to be anther “10 minutes”.

It was announced around the 90 minute mark that a repairman was on the way and he was about, “10 minutes away”.  I tried to take a nap but was awoken with talk that the repairman was here. Or was he? He was driving a small 1980’s compact truck with a few items in the back bed and was approaching from the opposite direction. He started to slow down before the toll booth and where there was no traffic. There were two lanes going each direction and a big apron of empty concrete in front of the toll booths. He parked on the side and started to walk to our side of the road, and Mr Highway Safety Nazi went crazy with authority stopping our rescuer in mid road. He forced him to drive 6 kilometers away to make a legal turn and then drive back to us and that should have taken about…10 minutes.

20 minutes.

30 minutes.

45 damn minutes later we surmised the Safety Nazi pissed him off and made him spend two toll charges and was not coming back. Did he take a dinner break?

60 minutes later. SIXTY minutes later the repairman cruised up. We were told that he missed the 6 kilometer exit to turn around and had to travel to, who knows, it was probably horse manure, but there he was, with real grown up tools.

Five minutes later the radiator hose was off, a new hose was cut to fit and it was being tightened. Then water had to be put in the radiator using a cut water bottle as a funnel just like the professionals use. 

We were back on the road in a little over three hours. During our drive back we had an announcement from the Lila. She said, “I was going to wait until later but I want to tell you now, that after talking to the home office they are going to offer you all free drinks at dinner!” Crickets. This was an insult adding to injury. Free cheap wine, crappy beer and generic soda! For free! No one applauded or said a word. 

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The hotel was another hour away and we arrived at 10:30 for dinner. After a quick refreshening, we ate and it was midnight just like that.

Post mortem:

  1. There were no basic tools for repairs, not a screw driver or a pair of pliers and no duct tape.
  2. Poor communication on what was really happening or being done beyond 10 minutes.
  3. We were told that there were no buses anywhere near and the closest was 13 hours away.
  4. No other bus could help ferry us. 
  5. No other tour bus at the hotel 1 hour away could help us. I counted 6 buses at the hotel.
  6. We were constantly told to get on the bus or to stay behind the white line for the emergency lane.
  7. A passenger asked about taxis, and The Lila’s response was “How many would it take?” A passive aggressive way to say they could not afford it or coordinate it and I couldn’t imagine 12 taxis driving out to the cotton field.
  8. The tour people blamed the bus people. The bus people,offered no help that we heard.
  9. They were unprepared and seemed to have no game plan the first 60 minutes.
  10. No new bus was waiting for us the next day, we took the same bus up in the mountains taxing that cooling system.

Delphi and The Oracle

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This morning we were off early to visit the Archaeological Site of Delphi, considered to be the center or “navel” of the “Ancient Greek World”.

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Temple of Apollo

We entered the ruins at Delphi while following our fearless leader Lila. After a short walk we took a rest near The Temple of Apollo.

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While sitting on stones she filled us with the fanciful tales of the Oracle at Delphi.  All really quite fascinating. 

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The Oracle or otherwise known as The Pythia was the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo.  She was believed to be the voice of God or the spirit of Apollo. She was thought to have prophesied the future while inhaling vapors that arose through crevices in the rocks, causing her to fall into a trance. 

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But where were those reported “fumes” that arose from the rocks?  Modern Geologists believe that at one time underground water carried gasses that were thought to be Ethylene in origin along two fault lines. These two fault lines intersect directly underneath The Temple of Apollo. 

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Over the years there were many Pythias with several serving at the same time.  The only requirement was that they were chase.  Originally the chosen Oracles were young virgins but latter they were replaced with older women who the ancients felt were less likely to be seduced.

People would travel for months to consult the Oracle and visit the temple of Apollo, but not all would be allowed admittance. During the sessions, while the priestesses was in a hypnotic state, she was reported to speak in strange tongues or simply be uttering gibberish. Her words would then be translated by a Priest, who was the only other person allowed in the underground chamber.  It’s interesting to note that the prophecies were given in such an ambiguous way that it would allow the Oracle to always be correct ….. depending on the interpretations of course.  So was it the Priests that held the true power at Delphi and perhaps the whole Ancient Greek world?

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Sphinx of Naxos

After our visit of the ruins we toured the Delphi Archeological Museum.  The museum is very popular and located adjacent to Delphi’s archaeological site.  We walked through the museum which is composed of two floors and houses items excavated from the site.  Most notable is the Sphinx of Naxos.

 

Rebels in the Ruins

Temple of Zeus

Temple of Zeus

We woke up early and in good spirits with a renewed faith in our tour and guide. We were not disappointed. After all we were on our way to Olympia, Temple of Zeus and God to the Warriors. It was also where the first ancient Olympic Games were held and is where the Olympic flame began.

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The drive from Nauplia to Olympia was long.  But the weather was good without the predicted thunderstorms from the day before. As a matter of fact the bus drove on under sunny skies as we were welcomed by a surrounding landscape  similar to California, complete with rolling hills and olive groves.

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After arriving at our destination Lila quickly got off the bus to purchase our passes.  Soon after we gathered at our meeting spot and were given directions to the bathrooms and eventual museum. Into the site we proceeded with great enthusiasm while listening to our guide describe the history of this place. Her stories at first were interesting, but it soon became apparent that our time to experience Olympia was being hi jacked by her overly detailed monologues. 

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We then noticed a few other people peeling away from the group and that was all we needed for a little disobedience. Yes we ditched our tour guide Lila and were joined by a fellow bus mate Anne Marie.

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

It was great to explore Olympia and with Lila out of site we wandered the ruins like rebels. It was fascinating to see areas where the ancient athletes trained and where the gymnasium once stood.  There was also the original Olympic stadium, a large flat field, but which seemed small to today’s standards. 

There were also remnants of temples to the Gods Zeus and his wife Hera. It’s interesting to note that the orientation of these temples were from east to west with the entrances on the east. Many of the beautiful statue were placed in the west so as the sun rose the light would illuminate them.

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 In front of Heras temple is where the  Olympic flame burned. Today the Olympic torch is lit here, several months prior to the games, and where the torch relay begins before making its way to the Olympic cauldron.

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No one is for sure how the Olympic Games  begun, but were considered rituals dedicated to the Gods. They are believed to have originated sometime around 8th century BC and continued for at least 12 centuries.  Then with the popularity of Christianity around 4th century AD, the Olympic Games were banned by the priests. 

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With Olympia holding no value for early Christians many of temples fell into disrepair, except for a few that were converted into Christian churches. Eventually the masonry was upended, with the stones and metal stripped, causing further deterioration. Statues were also destroyed or pillaged. In addition earthquakes took there toll on the land. Eventually mud covered much of the existing structures. Over the centuries houses were built on top.  Today Olympia is a major archeological site. 

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After playing hooky, we met up at the museum for the guided tour. It was interesting.  We then boarded our air conditioned bus for a long ride to Delphi. 

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On the way we passed the Rio–Antirrio Bridge, which crosses the Gulf of Corinth, linking the town of Rio on the Peloponnese peninsula to Antirrio on mainland Greece and is considered a major 21st century accomplishment. I was unable to get a good pic but our friend Anne Marie was able to get the better shot above.

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The evenings accommodations were booked at another Amalia hotel.  Again this hotel was super nice with an awesome view.  This was a good day.

Day One

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Today we rolled our suitcases about 700 meters according to Google maps and met our Greece tour group at the Amalia hotel. Our first impression  was that it was organized and professional. Good, all aboard.

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We made a stop at a bridge over the Corinth canal linking the Agean sea and the Iberian sea, a big deal back in 1920, but since the invention of super tankers and cargo ships the size of small islands the canal is too narrow doesn’t get much use.

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The tour visited the archeological site at Mycenae which is about 90 minutes west of Athens and where we were met with our tour guide Lila’s first fumble. She had gone ahead to buy tickets for us all and upon which she stood by the turnstile to scan each of us in, until she got to us bringing up the rear. With no tickets left in her hand she said; “You are not with my tour”.  “Oh yes we are” we chimed! So off she went running up the hill talking to various people trying to find out what happen and who had the extra tickets. After an awkward couple of minutes she returned with no explanation to our question and scanned us in. Another tour guide explained that she had scanned two members of another group in using up our tickets. No apology, no golly gosh, no laugh.

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We then caught up to our group and she announced, “You can see what happens when you don’t stay with your group.”

What?! My brain to mouth filter came off saying “Well it’s no fault of ours.”  Wow! Lila was making it sound like it was our fault to the group!

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Ok, we had a tour queen who never makes mistakes. Also, she knew a huge amount of history and needed to say it all. It was too much information. She also had a bad habit of peppering her monologs with “OK”, followed by a pause like we were moving on, but no she would go off on another historical tangent while the group slowly peeled away on their own. And this was the first stop!  Marla and I were both holding our tongues trying our best not to be negative, however that restriction soon came off.

The Browns didn’t want to be “late” again so we were right on time to the bus, in fact we were a few minutes early.  Surprisingly the bus driver hadn’t opened up the bus and was talking to his bus driver buddies, making no attempt to acknowledge us or open the door while we stood in the hot sun. Lila arrived and instructed him to open the door and he did but stayed outside engrossed in conversation.

We then boarded and were hit in the face with a sweltering heat blast and backed right off to seek shelter in the shade of the bus, while the bus engine was running sucking up diesel fumes …. Holy Shitballs!

The driver hadn’t got the air conditioning going before the group arrived and by now the rest showed up going into the bus and immediately backing out.

Maybe there was a miss communication between Lila and the driver on the time we were to return. Again no apologies, no jokes as the guides are good at to relieve the tension of travel snafus.

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Another archeological site came up with an amphitheater and a museum. Lila was really on her game with historical facts and figures hardly taking a breath except to say “OK?”. Enough with the OK’s already, set us free to roam please! The Browns and others soon started to wander off.

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We had some downtime and a group of us shared some shade under the pines trees and a breeze cooled us off before it was time for the bus. As we boarded the same old familiar sweltering heat blast greeted us and our cool, dry clothes were soon wet with sweat. They usually always have the air conditioning in the bus for those seeking refuge or if they can’t keep up with the group.

We were upset and even the Canadians were complaining so you knew this was serious. I was going to say something but did not want to be  “that guy” so early in the tour, until the air conditioning shut off and the heat with tempers started to rise.

We agreed to say something at the next stop and gave the Canadians the heads up. After exiting the side bus door we walked to the front door waiting for our guide Lila to come out. She did and we asked for a moment.

Me, “you have to do something about the air conditioning , it’s been sweltering the last two times and it’s supposed to be cool inside, not the other way around, right?”

Lila acknowledge that we were in front of her talking, but panicked and didn’t say anything. A group had formed around her chiming in with sounds of agreement and misery.

Now, I don’t handle the passive aggressive non response to well and had to confirm that she got the message and was going to do something about it. This was where most guides jump in with apologies, lame excuses and jokes but agree to fix it. Lila said nothing. I put on my Boss Hat and said, “the bus needs to be cool when we get on, right?” And got a meek yes in the affirmative. “And you are the one who can fix this, right?” Lila was pissed! I had called her out and forced to to do something. I hate having to do that. I want to relax, have fun, enjoy the tour and not be stressed out.

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Hotel Amalia

Our stop in the town of Nafplio was good and better yet our bus was cool upon our return. Nice. Also the hotel for the night was really great. Unfortunately, with such a bad day it was hard to truly appreciate our accommodations.

The Curse is Lifted

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The Curse is Lifted

The medicine was working its magic, but Marla still had another restless night, yet was improving enough to have some breakfast. 

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We took it slow and easy planning a day with as many bathroom stops as possible before walking over to the HoHo bus.

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The bus took us to the stadium of the first modern Olympics held in 1896. Greece had hoped to host the Olympics in 1996 commemorating the 100 anniversary but lost the bid. The entire country took this lost hard and fought back making many improvements winning the bid to host it in 2004.

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The next stop was the Temple of Zues which did not look like much from the bus and we hit it later during our nightly walk. Our goal was the Acropolis and the museum.

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The Acropolis museum opened in 2009 and was fantastic. The were many stipulations required and one was that it could not hinder excavations currently in progress. So, the museum has several glass floors, some several stories high, over the excavations. 

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The marble statues and friezes look amazing with the help of modern laser cleaning. They actually looked better than new with a few chunks missing here and there. 

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The lasers are similar to the pulse lasers used for skin rejuvenation and tattoo removal. It makes the brownish centuries of funk turn to white. Genius.

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The museum’s method of displaying features of the Parthenon is also ingenious but hard to describe. The Parthenon had a series of frieze panels circling the top of the building that pictured tales of the gods and battles. These friezes have been mounted in the museum to walk around and view.

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A tent was set up in front of a section where the laser cleaning was being done displaying a visible, before and after result. 

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Some of the statues have missing pieces and have been mounted in glass so you can view with the help of a drawing, what used to be 2,000 years ago. Like many European museums you can get literally nose to nose with the sculptures. 

Once again, we were overwhelmed with how old the artifacts are and how damn cool they were. These were offerings to their gods and had to be perfect.

The Greeks had many gods to explain the forming of islands, mountains, the weather and the tides of the seas. 

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It was time to climb up the Acropolis ( ancient word for big rock) and view the Parthenon. We timed it perfectly to be in the middle of the day when the heat and humidity was at the peak. I figured that I would grab a bottle of water on the way and figured wrong  getting very thirsty. 

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The path is rocky and takes some time to climb the 1,000 feet to get up there while dodging tourists with selfie sticks but the view is fantastic. You can’t go inside the Parthenon, (of course, what was I thinking?), however you can loop around it taking in the city view and selfie sticks. 

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We had another “Things They Don’t Tell You moment”, there are industrial buildings up there to accommodate the workers and to do archeological stuff. Of course.

After making the loop we headed down the hill to hydrate and eat gyros. We hopped on the HoHo and headed back to the hotel for a shower and a nap.

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Later that evening we walked down to Zues’s temple and found the Plaka, a supposed wild and crazy shopping area, that wasn’t, the flea market was so much better before walking back to xxx plaza for dinner.

Footloose in Athens

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Footloose in Athens and Mykonos’ Revenge.

Day two in Athens was unplanned and that worked out well because Marla was feeling the results of a bad salad in Mykonos and had a rough night.

So, I went to breakfast on my own and then with the help of the front desk found a pharmacy open in Sunday. Many local businesses close on Sunday and if they do open, they close around 2:30.

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There was a 24 hour pharmacy about a half a mile away and I took off with a map in hand visiting a quiet neighborhood away from tourist activity. It was a nice walk and after passing two closed pharmacies in the way I entered the store and there was only a young girl dusting shelves who didn’t understand my request. I had practiced what to say and how to pantomime it if needed. She then motioned me outside. Was I getting kicked out for bad acting? No, the pharmacist was relaxing outside on a bench looking at her cell phone and had apparently heard and understood my English and poor acting. 

She gave me some medication instructions and 2.20€ later I was strolling back to the hotel feeling cocky enough not to look at the map and overshot a turn taking a more scenic route back to the hotel.

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Marla was in bad shape and she kicked me out into Athens alone, afraid but not nakid. I made my way over to the Hop On bus to pre run our planned visits for the following day. I was the lonely old fart on the bus and didn’t hop off but took note of where and when we would go should she feel better. I read my Jo Nesbo book, The Son, and it was quite good.

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I drank coffee and discovered these delightful ring shaped cookie-biscuits with sunflower seeds on top and a taste of molasses. I may have had 4 throughout the day.

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I came back to the hotel to check on Marla then took a nap, watched TV and took another walk ending up in the big plaza across from the Parliament building. 

After finding a nice bench in the shade I read, wrote and watched a small crew film a music video with BMX riders doing tricks in the background. The police were drinking iced coffees and enjoyed watching it too.

Marla felt good enough for a short walk and we hunted down a cafe that was opened not far from our hotel. She had a little food and then it was back to bed for her and I finished up the night reading and people watching in the hotel’s coffee shop.

And then, Athens

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And then, Athens. Or fair is fare.

We disembarked from the ship with ease and headed through the terminal to the taxi stand. A police officer pointed us towards the next taxi and our driver was warm and engaging. We were warned that traffic would be really bad and the taxi fare would run around 23€ or maybe as high as 30€ if traffic was really bad taking up to 30 minutes.

It was early Saturday morning, there was no traffic to speak of and our driver was jamming making excellent time arriving in about 15 minutes. I did noticed during the ride that no meter was running which is not unusual for some flat fare rates. He unloaded our bags and said “45€”. What?! I said it should be 30€ giving him the benefit of the high side of the fare.

He said 45€ and we paid up like soft Americanos and steamed our way to the hotel. A cafe manager later told us that the fare would be 13€. We considered it our contribution to help the Greek economy.

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Our room was not ready and we were expecting this so we walked down the street passing a Rolex shop, a hint from the Grecian gods, and found a Hop On Hop Off bus two blocks away in front of the Parliament building.

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The tomb of the unknown soldier faces the street here and there is a routine marching of the guards with about 100 spectators. I don’t understand that given the seriousness of the monument people were taking selfies and smiling away being goofy. 

We hopped on the bus and the driver took off while still punching buttons on the credit card machine and handing me a receipt to sign. Skills.

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After a few stops and melting in the mid morning sun on top of the bus we jumped off and at stop number 15 to stroll around a plaza and there was a Flea Market, we were in hillbilly heaven. We walked and shopped buying an x rated bottle opener, a tee shirt and some lightweight cotton shirts in white. When in Greece…

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In the middle of our white trash shopping spree we noticed an A. D. R. ( Another  Damn Ruin)  It was Haydrian’s Library, or what was left of it, so we took a break to sweat it out among the ruins and it was only 4€.

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The library was nice, quiet and not over run with touristas. They had only recently open the ruins to visitors in 2008. 

I’m going to take a moment here and reflect on these stone buildings that were erected 400 to 200 B.C. We were that smart and advanced 2,000 years ago? What the heck happened? Have we devolved into scamming fat tourists? 

Well anyway, it does hit you while walking around. Respect.

We finished up and found another street of flea market goodies to devolve into.

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The Hard Rock Cafe was there and we passed it sneering at it full of self importance and sophistication, before making a U turn to satisfy our of craving of nachos. The Hard Rock was air conditioned and the wifi was excellent, the nachos, not so much.

After lunch we boarded the Hop On and hopped our way back to the xxxx square were it was an easy walk back to the hotel.

Am I a Travel Snob?

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Am I a travel snob?

I booked a lot of tours for this trip.  It’s something I don’t usually do, but this adventure is different.  I didn’t want to think much other then be entertained by knowledgeable locals, and to be honest it’s been hit or miss on these excursions.  

Our fellow travelers on these little “field trips” have tended to be more on the elderly side,  but we have encountered all ages, shapes and mobility challenges. At times with my aging knees and Allan’s feet we are right there with them.  Usually though we feel a bit trapped…unless we have an outstanding guide.  

Even with that we often have issues with the devices we’re given to listen to our expert.  Sometimes it’s not the device but the tour guides ability to use it correctly.  For instance one guide kept talking so close to the microphone that all you could here was distorted noise.  

Then there’s the guide that sounded too rehearsed and basically recited the Wikipedia.  She didn’t need to ….. because basically we were going to read it anyway. 

Another guide was nervous and panicky.  For example when a member of our group didn’t feel well she threatened to shorten the trip.  Ok I really felt bad for this traveler and was ready to jump in and help, but on the other hand there should be some kind of alternative plan to handle such situations.  I mean statistically when you have an elderly group of individuals the odds are someone might die. It could happen…..

Welcome to Mykonos!

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Mykonos means pile of stone. According to Greek mythology the island of Mykonos was created when Hercules threw a huge stone into the Aegean Sea creating this twelve mile patch of land.

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Later it was said that Hercules lured “The Giants” here from Mount Olympus where he destroyed them and where the large rocks scattered about the island were believed to be the petrified corpses of those Giants.   

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Mykonos, like many of the Greek islands, is deeply steeped in Greek mythology.  The tale of Hercules’s creation of the island describes quite well the geography of the area.  

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The rocky landscape in contrast to the white houses is striking. But why are the houses white? Historically the houses were natural stone color which helped to camouflage the settlements from invaders. But in 1938, due to fear of diseases, a decree with enacted that required all the houses to be lime washed white.  It was easy to enforce this law since Greece, like all of Europe prior to WW11, was under a dictatorship and did not have to deal with a democracy.  So whether this helped to control diseases or not is debatable, but the white color did help keep the houses cooler.  

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Also we noticed that most of the houses have flat roofs with rounded sides.  This helps with water runoff as well as the wind….. and it gets very windy in Mykonos, with wind power being a major generator of power.  

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As we toured the island today not only were we educated with these Greek fables and historic facts but were driven to the xxxx monastery.  The building and the interiors all seemed so familiar. 

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But what struck me the most was the life of a monk.  Their existence, in order to be closer to god, required remaining silent, celibate and sleep was seldom.  It’s no surprise that years ago this monastery housed over 50 monks, but today there are only three.

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We eventually made our way into the shopping area of Mykonos.  Not a shopping mall, but little shops and restaurants numbering around 5,000. It was a fascinating area with a labyrinth of curvy streets originally created many years ago to confuse the pirates.

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Our eventual goal was to reach “Trikini Beach” (hat, sunglasses and flip flops with clothing optional) but we never found it …… so we left ours clothes on and took the Sea Bus back to the ship……