Sunday, November 15, 2009

Athens is not even Athens

Since I have arrived in Athens, I have pretty much heard the refrain from day one- "Get out of Athens, Athens is not Greece". Apparently some people move to Athens expecting they are in the Greek Islands. Well, Athens is close to water, houses Greek antiquities, and some excellent people and food. It is also home to over 3 million people (the number changes depending on who you ask). All of Greece is estimated to be about the same size as New York state or Alabama (or England) with almost a third of the population in Athens, which land-wise, is not the most sprawling of cities, although compared to many other European capitals it is. So you have a lot of people in a fairly tight location with incredibly old streets (and sidewalks that may have been better not built) with a lot of passion and energy.

Then there's the need to be first. Whether in a car or getting onto the metro or on an escalator, there is the all consuming need to get there first. Don't even ask about getting off of a plane. It's kind of wild, the antithesis of "Minnesota nice". Whether there is a red light, two empty trains arriving right behind, or an older lady in the way... hurrying to be in the first position is the most important thing in the world. Get that seat, be able to speed off first, whatever, just get there first. In some ways it is incredibly honest, in others incredibly dangerous. But don't feel too sorry for the older lady, she is just as likely to shove you out of the way as the younger guy. This may sound like out and out criticism, but anyone who has driven with me knows there is an impulse of understanding in me. Not for the plane or train, however. Seriously, let people out first. It frees up seats.

I've spent nearly two months in Greece now. I've had a couple side trips to Rhodes:

And a half-ass attempt at Delphi:

But they closed the access to the Temple where the Oracle used to sit-- kind of crucial. The trips were fantastic. I'm even throwing in a couple of pictures, in case I don't do any in-depth posts on them. Beyond great.

But I've spent most of my time here, partially due to my car being held in port- that's a whole different story as well- but mostly because I don't want to fall in the trap of "Get out Athens, the rest is real Greece". I've never believed New York is not real America, nor Virginia, nor New Mexico... they're all just different facets. And Athens- with its crazy streets, posh coffee spots, hidden parks and squares, dirt, protests, museums, street vendors, immigrant neighborhoods, massive potholes, big boxy buildings, Olympic stadium, little kiosks, shoving people - is a big part of Greece.

Fashion shows, too:

I'll save getting out more for December and January. And the islands for friends and visitors... but Athens, too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

234th Marine Corps Ball

What a lovely night and what a lucky girl I was... A fantastic mix of formality, tradition, and letting loose on the dance floor. The Marine Corps, whose birthday is coincidentally the same day as mine, does know how to throw a good party.

Getting ready was a bit of a challenge as my household effects (aka the majority of everything I own) are being held hostage amidst a port strike, so all of my finery is in crates within eye, but not arm's reach. The dress I ordered will likely arrive tomorrow and the two attempts to go shopping in rainy deluges did not bear much fruit. Although I will say, the Athens mall was a trip, getting to the Athens Mall without a car (oh, yeah, also stuck at port) was much more of a trip! But thanks to a few fairy godmothers, and a developing sense of humor, a dress was borrowed, hair and makeup were done including very Greek "smoky eyes", and much merriment was had. The electric slide was slid. And when my dress arrives, I am all set for 2010.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

So, I chose the kitschy Grecian Palace

The view from my balcony at sunset is breathtaking... Or perhaps I should say balconies, I have three that wrap around the apartment. I cannot believe the beauty of where I live. The trees- citrus, pomegranate, fir, others I have never before seen.

I love my kitschy Greek palace with its retro glam. I feel like I should be continuously playing Frank, Ella or when I'm feeling a little melancholy- Billie. On weekend nights I should be looping rat pack movies. Then again it might clash with the dramatic Greek music that plays in the teeny elevator- mirrored, of course. Except for the imitation Venetian murano glass lovingly installed by the Greek landlady who lives on the first two floors. There's one other floor beneath me with an invisible, silent neighbor. Then I get the whole top floor. Penthouse, baby!

It's not huge compared to what some of my colleagues live in, but for me- it truly is a palace. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. A kitchen big enough for a table to seat four. You could fit my German apartment in my living room and still have space left over. There's gold etching around the moldings, glistening wood and tile floors, a fireplace that works... This is so beyond me. Enough to keep me from trading for a centrally located, urban apartment. Enough to rhapsodize over in a blog post. I'm ruined for other homes. Have I mentioned the fairly large flat screen television?

But let me be honest. It's all about the feeling from the balcony. The vista of a rose and azure painted sky overlooking all of Athens with an amazing view of the old white chapel built by a sole monk atop Lycavettus Hill. Then there are the nights where there is a concert in the park and I can just lay on the bed and listen to the music waft in among the breeze that makes its way through the open balcony door and gauzy drapes. The to die for bakery across the street, busy corner cafe with a huge outdoor cushioned seating area, tasty beyond tasty souvlaki and gyro joint around the corner are just frosting. It's almost worth the 15 minutes of very scary driving to get to work. But that's a whole 'nother story for another posting.


Friday, September 25, 2009

A Whole New Country, A Whole New Commitment To Blogging

Okay, I have been BAD about this. But that's about to change... In my first 48 hours in Greece I have managed to obtain a loving over-the-top-I-want-to-mama-you-landlady, have a taxi driver become "my" driver, and make a fruit tart explode in the middle of a group of my new colleagues and a very important person. I guess I'm not in Germany anymore.

So, I'm still trying to finalize where I am going to live... I've been assigned a gorgeous pimp my life apartment, but it is in the suburbs up a very long hill from the closest metro. So, I am going to a colleague's place in the city Monday to see about trading. It won't be three bedrooms with a gorgeous view of the whole city down to the Port of Pireaus and long windy balconies, but it will be walkable to everywhere. Hmmm...

But I am committing myself to writing more for all 12 of my followers :)

I took a few pics of my first glimpses of the mainland from the airplane. And one of me with a scary huge grin upon my first views. Photogenic does not begin to describe all that I see around me.

I am certain very down the rabbit hole adventures are just around the corner.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nauseous on French Cheese?!

Hello from Bordeaux with just a few random thoughts, because

1. The keyboard on this computer is jacked up... Letters in all kinds of crazy places (It just took me a few minutes to find the z!), you have to shift to get numbers, and punctuation... forget it. I look like one of those sad typers plucking with both index fingers and passersby look concerned.

2. I didn't take any pictures because I arrived as it was getting dark and apparently there are actually a few mean streets in this laid back, yet vibrant city.

3. After a good deal of searching (I enjoy exploring, but hey! I was hungry), I finally found this highly regarded restaurant with supposedly the best cheese and wine selection in Aquitaine. I mean how fantastic does that sound? Well, I expected the intense smell, but I was not ready to be mocked for dining alone, drinking the worst Bordeaux that has ever passed my lips, and the cheese salad? Well, I am still reeling from the waxiness of it with less than fresh lettuce and some crazy ass herb that I can still smell after brushing my teeth and washing my hands intensely.

4. Oh yeah, and I have to get up at the crack of smack to take a train to Angouleme for the International Comics Festival, drawn, not stand up.

All that being said, I am really digging Bordeaux... It's a cool mix where France meets Spain (the red and orange tiles atop old stone buildings), an ancient heritage, Eleanor of Aquitaine's marriage to the King of England has left some reminants as well, then there's gorgeous park land, twisty roads reminiscent of medieval times, boulevards that are much more modern, and some cazy gothic architecture. Such a heritage contrasting with a very lively multicultural population and all set next to a lovely river with a warmer than you might guess climate.

Just avoid a certain restaurant.

Oh and other random thought, when I moved back to Europe I brought my pumas and addidas, you know, very German. Well, apparently I should have known and packed my Chuck Taylors... Converse All Stars are everwhere. That and super short cropped sweaters in shop windows. I don't want to fit in that much.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Least Equipped Blogger

No laptop, lost the cord for my new digital camera, excuses, excuses. I am officially the worst blogger I know (well, who actually has a blog that is). So I am now taking the wise advice of one who knows best, and putting up some quick text to show I am still alive and interested and hope my 9 followers don't pull the plug on me...
Next up?
Some memories of London. I was able to borrow a cord for those pics at least.