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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Temple of Hephaestus, Athens, Greece
COUNTRY FACTS Pop: 10,688,058 Area: 131,940 km2 Gov't: Parliamentary Republic Religion: Greek Orthodox 98%, Muslim 1.3% View Map
Temple of Hephaestus, Athens, Greece, January 2004  

Greek Flag GREECE


January 27 - February 4. ATHENS  It felt strange to be back in Athens after a two month break in traveling.  We checked into the same hotel that we had stayed at before, the Hotel Adonis, and had nearly the same room, just one story higher.  We sat there two months earlier and watched the Rose Revolution happen in Georgia.  Now Georgia was putting together its new government. A great deal can happen in just a couple of months.

The hotel had the nice views of the Acropolis at breakfast but as the weather continued to be bad, thwarting our plans to head off to the Peloponnese, we looked for a cheaper option. I wouldn't miss the insufferable old fart at the front desk at any rate.  We forgot to turn our key in one day and when I returned to the room I had to suffer through a long diatribe from the man at the front desk.  "How could you possibly take your key? ... If we lost the key our belongs would be at risk....  We couldn't clean your room because we didn't know that you had left!"  I told him that it wasn't our custom to leave the key behind so it was our Plaka, Athens, Greecemistake and not to worry about the cleaning.  "But we worry.  We want to provide good service at our hotel.  Everywhere makes you leave the key!"  When I reiterated that it wasn't the custom where I came from he looked at me like I must be lying.  "How do they know that you are not in your room?  If you loose your key then your belongs could be stolen!"  It became tiresome being chastised by a rude old man who didn't seem to realize that his behavior was far more off-putting than not having our room cleaned.  It would have been useless to explain that there are actually places in the world where the key is not handed in at the front desk or that security wouldn't be an issue if they didn't put the hotel name on their key.  He wouldn't have believed that there were hotels that managed to figure out if someone had left their room so they could clean it.  He might have lost it entirely had I suggested that it was a security risk to leave our key when they didn't actually keep someone at the front desk 24 hours a day, like they claimed.  He just would not stop beating the issue like a dead horse until I finally just got in the elevator and left.  

So, we moved across the street to the Acropolis House and saved about 12 euros a night and had more pleasant staff.  We later learned that both hotels were both run by the same family but, fortunately, I never saw the irascible old man again.  The breakfast was better as well, but no views of the Acropolis.  Every morning we were served up pots of Nescafe, hard boiled eggs, two giant rolls, some biscuits, butter and jam, and a bowl of tasty Greek olives.  We met a couple of interesting people in the breakfast room that both stayed for several days as well.  One was a nice Israeli man, apparently in town on business, and the other was an interesting American woman who lived in Turkey.  She was also originally from the Bay Area but was currently teaching English and belly dancing in Ankara.  Athens was her escape from Turkey every once in a while. 

Athens was not the most welcoming city by any means and drama was often the order of the day.  We saw a man making wax stamps in the touristy public market one afternoon and when we raised our cameras to take a photo he yelled at us "What!? What!?".   Emotions went from 0-60 without any notice but other people didn't seem to care.  It was okay to vent your steam and, accordingly, people just ignored you when you did.  They were numb to it and just waived it off.  So while we saw intense conversations they never Bread, Athens, Greeceseemed to escalate beyond that.  The American woman at our hotel shared our impression of the city.  While she came to Athens for a holiday in a western country she didn't find the people particularly warm either.  Perhaps it was the "large city" complex you feel in many capital cities.  They are where all of the country's hustle and bustle are concentrated and people don't have time for pleasantries, particularly for people they knew they would never see again.  Still, in one cafe that we frequented we found that the staff greeted us with some friendly recognition after a couple of visits, making us feel a little bit a home. 

The city of Athens had a certain appeal with the stunning Acropolis looming over the charming little Plaka quarter, there wasn't much beyond that to keep us very engaged.  One of the city's highlights, the Archeological Museum, was closed for restoration until April, along with several other museums and sites, so we took in the Cyclades Museum on one afternoon and made visits to what remained of the massive Zeus temple and the old Ancient Agora on other days.  The weather was very fickle and what started out as a nice day could easily deteriorate into cold rain and visa versa.  We became frustrated over what to do next.  While we hadn't expected ideal weather it seemed that this winter was particularly bad and the prospect of sightseeing around Greece lost its appeal.  Fortunately, Athens was a good place to find discount tickets to other places and the large book store had one of the best collections of travel books, in English, that I had ever seen.  These factors enabled us to research other options and redirect our itinerary to Egypt and Jordan.  

STA Travel gave us a reasonable rate for a roundtrip ticket to Egypt but when we tried to pay with our credit card it was rejected.  Everything we did of late seemed to raise a red flag with Citibank.  But, the STA representative wouldn't Orchid Tea, Athens, Greecelet us call the bank.  It was a no charge call but he didn't want to be bothered and in the course of finding a payphone to make the call ourselves we stumbled upon an even better deal for a cheaper roundtrip ticket to Athens that gave us 35 days instead of just one month.  It was always nice when a bit of misfortune turned around to have a silver lining.  There was an Egyptian Embassy in Athens as well so we were able to easily get our visa.  The staff there were very helpful and even expedited our visa to just a few hours.  Supposedly they were easily gotten at the airport in Cairo but it was just easier to have it done ahead of time.

With all of our running around, sightseeing here and there, and catching up on the journal in between, we had killed about six days before we finally had it all together to leave for Egypt.  The prospect of a new country and some warmer weather were exciting.  Our hotel wasn't sure that we were ever going to leave but readily accepted a bag for storage and took our reservation for when we planned to arrive back in Athens in March.  Of course, the price would go up 8 more euros by then.... 

GREECE Athens Jan 27-Feb 4

EGYPT Cairo Feb 4 Feb 5 Feb 6 Feb 7 Aswan Feb 8 Feb 9 Feb 10 Luxor Feb 11 Feb 12 Feb 13 Feb 14 Feb 15 Nuweiba Feb 16-17

JORDAN Petra Feb 18 Feb 19 Feb 20 Feb 21 Amman Feb 22 Feb 23-24 Feb 25 Feb 26 Feb 27 Feb 28 Feb 29-Mar 1 Dead Sea Mar 2 Mar 3

ISRAEL Eilat Mar 4

EGYPT Cairo Mar 5 Mar 6 Mar 7 Mar 8

GREECE Athens Mar 9 Santorini Mar 10 Mar 11 Mar 12-13 Crete Mar 14 Mar 15-16 Mar 17-21 Athens Mar 22