Monday, October 27, 2008

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Or, so they say. For my vacation, this is true. I've packed my bags one final time, have laid out clothes for tomorrow morning's departure and lined up the taxis to take us to Athen's International Airport. The past few days here have been wonderful and filled with plenty to do. Our hotel (the Attalos), is located just a stone's throw from the Acropolis. All around us are monuments to this, relics to that and treasures hidden just steps from the main path, or in some cases - IN the main path. There is no real street plan to downtown Athens and the tiny, twisty pathways are the only way for all sorts of means of conveyance to go about their business. We've seen more Smart Cars in one square block of Athens then we've seen the entire trip. Scooters, Mopeds and motorcycles seem to dominate. In fact, this morning, while waiting outside our hotel for the tour bus, a motorcycle ridden by a business man came directly out of the hardware store right next to me. Don't ask me how he got the bike through the store - a person could barely fit - but there he was.

We've enjoyed the gastronomical offerings here - mostly eating the inexpensive gyros or souvlaki. Basically, they're the same with grilled meat, tomatoes, french fries ("chips") and onions with a tzaziki sauce all piled onto a pita flatbread and folded up to eat in hand. Add a Coca-Cola light to it and it's a regular meal for less than 5 Euros. Gelato and bakeries abound, so it's a very good thing we've been walking everywhere!

Our first day here, Saturday, we checked into the hotel, dumped our luggage and then headed out to explore. We encountered the markets, the Ermou (main shopping drag) and all sorts of other fun things such as the parliament buildings (we watched the changing of the guard), the town hall, the library and so on...all with cameras clicking and mouths hanging open at the antiquity mixed with the modern. We slept well that night, inspite of the incredibly lumpy beds!

Sunday morning found us on a walk to the Acropolis. It was quite the journey up twisting, cobbled streets, but the view that we were rewarded with, was incredible! Upon our return towards the hotel, we toured (and shopped) our way through the Plaka. This is the main tourist shopping district with reasonable prices and most anything you could imagine to be had - including the last Greece Starbuck's City Mug in the city! We encountered folks from the ship on more than one occasion and swapped stories. It was another late night, and again - in spite of the noise of the streets and the lumps in the bed - we slept.

Today, we got up early for a tour to Corinth. For some time now, I've wanted to create a journey of sorts that followed the steps of the Apostle Paul. We saw a bit of his travels in Cyprus, and yesterday on the Acropolis, we saw the Areopagus where he addressed the Athenians. Today, however, was much more powerful for me and yet one more thing taken out of my basket. We saw the Ancient City of Corinth, with the Bema that Paul used to address the Corinthians. Tonight, when we got back from lunch, I began to read again in Acts - following Paul's journey. I'm still amazed I'm here and while I don't know that I'd care to come back to Athens for any length of time, I'd love to see more of Greece, including Delphi, more of Corinth and other places.

We head home in just a few short hours, so pictures will be added shortly - I promise!

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