Monday 10.4.10

Greek things.

As I’m putting together some of the images from our trip I am recalling some of my observations about Greece.

It is a street, not an alley.

Try to park in Athens, I double dog dare you. Main streets are fairly normal but any side street looks like something you use when you are putting your garden tractor back into the shed. If there’s a hint of a hole, someone will try to park there. I watched a woman park her car one evening. There was a car in front of her and a dumpster behind her. Somehow, she managed to park her car between them leaving about 2 to 3 inches in front and back. Add to this that she was also parking one side of her car up, over the curb and onto the sidewalk – a common sight in Athens and many other places around the country.

We complain and joke about crazy foreign cab drivers.

After watching these people drive I have nothing but admiration. If there’s an opening, they take it. You seem to have regular lanes of traffic and then everything in between is for scooters and motorcycles –  and I mean everything. Beyond that, how these bus drivers manage to get through these narrow little roads is amazing. Usually there is a completely unmovable mountain to one side of the bus AND the road takes a sharp bend somewhere. No joke, our driver was Zsis Papazsis.

Dogs and Cats.

They are everywhere. They are random. All makes and models. Greece has some policy in place where they collect strays, fix them, collar them (some collared, some are not) and turn them loose to live among the rest of the Greeks. I did not see one road killed dog or cat on the trip. Usually they are either fat and sleeping just about anywhere they want or looking for a handout. They must get plenty because we only experienced 2 cats that were more aggressive in their search for a meal. One was not choosy at all but the other decided to not experience my eggplant saganaki.

The Comb-Over

It lives in Greece. Greeks claim to have invented most of everything. Some are much more hilarious than others. Parting your hair at one ear just seems like too much work for me. Perhaps this is what is taken care of during the afternoon nap when everything closes down for a while.

Bathrooms.

Somehow, we missed the memo on not throwing any – and I mean ANY – paper down the toilet. Later, when we were on the islands of Mykonos and Santorini the warning signs were much more obvious but later we found out that this was the plan for the mainland as well. Every bathroom was clean. So clean, in fact, that on several trips I would find that I was whipping it out at some urinal while there was some cleaning woman wiping out the one next to me. We stopped at one place for lunch where there was a simple unfinished wall between the Mens room and the Ladies room. The urinals were placed ridiculously too high on the wall. Perhaps there was a hidden game show camera taping us.

Many toilets, male and female, have no lids. Nothing. Just and open bowl. Every hotel bathroom was different, some nice but most very compact. Usually, the showers would flood the rest of the bathroom floor. I guess this is the norm as all of the bathroom floors also had floor drains.

Old guys sitting in front of touristy shops on a little stool or a chair

Probably own the place or several in a row. That lump in their pants is not them happy to see you, it is a wad of Euros. Every one of these places depends on tourists and most sell the same stuff over and over again – all over the entire country. After a while you get kind of tired of it.

Trash along the road

I can’t figure this one out. Seriously. Go anywhere in Greece and along the road you see trash. Not like here where you also see some trash. Not like here where they have these “adopt a highway” programs going on. There’s shitloads of everything just thrown all over a beautiful countryside. Usually, this is right next to the road. Papers, plastic water bottles and other debris. Perhaps this is some cheapo method of erosion control along these mountain roads. It baffles me that these people could build something that lasts for 3000 years, something that I can actually go look at and stand in or climb up and I see buildings around here that look like a dump after 25 or 30 years – and they can’t figure a way to keep their shit picked up?

Graffiti

Also everywhere. I did not ever see it in any of the ruins though. Buildings and roadways in Athens are covered. Evidently it is all mostly political stuff.

Strikes

I think these are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All are organized. We found that when we see images of these strikes here in the USA, what we are seeing is usually footage from the horrible strikes from last spring where people died. Most are much more organized. The truckers are also currently on strike right now. You’ll come to some intersections where you’ll see trucks lined up and parked along the side of the road. No demonstrations, just a few guys sitting in lawn chairs.

Uneven Surfaces

“Watch your step” was probably the most used phrase I heard over those 2 weeks. I don’t know how or what the community standards are decided and/or enforced but you really have to watch where you walk. Broken, uneven and missing sidewalks are the norm. Same thing goes for walking around in the ruins. Most have many steps and consist of super smooth and slippery marble. Since the monuments are usually very tall and built into the side of some mountain it is hard to be in awe of them and watch where you are walking at the same time.

Bacon and Eggs and a Greek breakfast

I think bacon and eggs are for our benefit, not the usual Greek morning kick starter. Bacon is kind of rubbery, eggs are sunny side up or hard boiled for the most part. Sausage is usually available. Along with this you find a lot of sliced lunch meat and cheese. I wondered if there was a running joke that went something like “Look… we can put any damn thing out for breakfast, call it a Greek specialty and just watch these tourist dorks eat it up like it was something special.” In reality, joke or not, the breakfasts had a lot of food and no one went hungry. I don’t understand the big dry toast though. Almost like a crouton. Toast also seems to be some kind of Greek specialty.

More later…

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