The Louisi-Van-a Purchase (..and Athens)

2 Mar

When I was young, my brothers and I received a book for Christmas titled “Myths and Legends.” The book told mostly Greek fables, with some Norse bits for filler. I read of Daedalus and his son Icarus, the Minotaur of Crete, the defeat of Medusa by Perseus, and a VERY brief introduction to Oddysseus. The pages turned faster than a hummingbird’s wings, and by the time I was 14 the book was read no less than a hundred times. A central theme to the book, other than tragic deaths and brave victors, was the Mediterranean Sea. Ahhhh, the Mediterranean. Luxurious waves breaking on a white sand beach. Olive trees and grape vines climbing the sun-baked hills. Nothing could prepare me for the austerity of the Mediterranean, even seen through an aircraft window en route to Athens. With the images of “Myths and Legends” racing in a hurried pace through my memory the airplane descended towards the sea, similar to Icarus, but with wings intact.

The transportation in Athens is wonderful for the thrift-minded tourist. Getting to city center from the airport is a 45-minute bus ride costing 3 Euros. The bus/subway/tram is 3 Euros for a 24-hour ticket. A weekend jaunt should cost no more than 12 Euros to get around, but navigation poses a bit of a problem. The streets of Athens are, of course, old and unplanned. The Chicago system of streets along the cardinal headings is laughable in a city established more than 3 MILLENIA ago. I constantly found myself lost, and for someone who used to navigate a submarine, this was a little disconcerting. The first night I ended up walking down a street that could probably rival Harlem for grit, and I was within sight of the Acropolis. By Sunday I knew my way around an area of a few square miles (plus the tram lines), which is enough to absorb the culture.

Saturday, I woke up to a great breakfast of yogurt, honey, apricots, dates and oranges. I immediately went to the tram and headed to the coast. The tram took a little over an hour, passing through markets and residential neighborhoods until it finally hugged the coast for the last 30 minutes of the voyage. Once I reached the end of the line I just sat and stared at the Mediterranean in a simple, Forrest Gump-type manner. I’m not ashamed; it was a reverential, albeit moronic, open-mouthed stare. This was it, the Mediterranean. A place I have heard truths and lies told about for years, was before me attempting a conversation. “Hey, what’s up Steve, thought you’d never make it. Where’s your swim trunks?” it said. I replied, ”Med, I forgot them in my room. Give me a second to pick up my jaw, tell me a story.” The sea proudly spoke, “Well I could tell you about the battles fought here. I could describe what the tail of a dinosaur swimming feels like. Maybe you would like to hear about the taste of a fresh rain on my surface, or the sight of Greek Men on my shoreline wearing nothing but a shoestring to prevent sunburn on their sensitive bits.” “I wish to hear none of these,” I said, “I only want to hear the steady heartbeat of your waves and the warmth of Ra’s Sun chariot.” Vehement, the Med was quick to correct, “Buddy, you’re in Greece, Ra is an Egyptian god. Either you’re referring to Helios, or I’m getting Poseidon.” I couldn’t muster a response; my senses were overloaded as it was.

The hills in the city center are where I spent quite a bit of time. Socrates prison was in the park across the road from the Acropolis, and I hiked up the hill and took a solid nap. Being in the hills above Athens instilled me with a wrongful sense of victory. A king and his minions! The hills are a regal setting and the reverence of the sea is soon replaced by a necessity for palm fronds fanning down the servant girls feeding me grapes. The hills are magical though, and the pictures I’ve attached catch a small glimpse into the reality I experienced. Most of my trip was spent walking around, with the hopes of finding a riot, which I didn’t. I did find a protest for immigrant workers, and the police were lying in wait for something to happen. Boring.

The only other thing I will say about Athens is that it is a bit dirty with a serious stray dog problem (the cats are less public, but they’re out there too). Every major square had 4 or 5 dogs lazying about. I saw about 10 on my hike in the hills. PETA never champions the underdogs… good pun, huh?

In other news, I am the proud owner of a 1998 Ford Transit High-Top Campervan. It is the best £900 I’ve ever spent. Plans are in the making for a trip to Liverpool and Edinburgh in a few weeks, and the rest of my afternoon will be spent wiring the lights in the back to the main lighting circuit. It has a dry cell battery for use when the engine isn’t on, but I have to figure out the relay circuit before I can get it going. The only additions I’m planning on are to put Plexiglas windows on the top and sides. The van has its work cut out for it. I think a surf trip in Portugal is planned for the end of March/early April and my 3 brothers will be joining me for a Euro Excursion in May that will start in Amsterdam.

On a side note, classes are going well.

Click Here for Athens Photos

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One Response to “The Louisi-Van-a Purchase (..and Athens)”

  1. Marla Rippey March 3, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    Steven, you make these places come alive with your words. I can practically smell the ocean air….

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