Tag Archives: Athens

Greece: Final Notes

We left bright and early the next morning – our taxi picked us up at 5:30 AM. It was a Friday night, bleeding over into Saturday morning, but still: there were lots and lots of people still out, still drinking and partying. It was unexpected, and odd to see, but kind of nice.

We left Athens to the sound of covers playing on the taxi’s radio; covers, it seems, are big in Greece. It’s rare that we ever heard any actually Greek music.

The flight home was exhausting, just like any long trip is bound to be. But I couldn’t help noticing this in the Athens airport. How brilliant.

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So easy!

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Aegina

On my last day in Greece I wanted to see another island. K had to work, so I got up early so I could catch a ferry to Aegina. It’s only little more than an hour away from Athens, and it happens to be known for its pistachios (which I love).

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The Acropolis in the morning.

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It took me a while to find the right ferry, but I found it eventually.

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I used to live in the Pacific Northwest, so I’m used to ferries. But not like this. This is pretty nice – the cafe made your food (or in my case, coffee) to order.

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Leaving Athens behind.

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The main town on Aegina.

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Leaving the ferry.

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I guess freedom is closed.

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Look at how clear that water in the harbor is. I was astonished.

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The beach is part of the town.

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Many shades of blue.

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As in the rest of Greece, there were many cats. This one found something tasty in the garbage.

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A quiet street in Aegina.

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A beautiful trellis!

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Motorbikes were everywhere. Not just on the island; in Greece generally. It makes sense given the cost of petrol, and how narrow the streets are.

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They must be wealthy to have so much nice wood on the exterior of their home.

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A pretty street.

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Another street. On one of these I found a shop that sold me 200 ml bottles of wine for a single Euro.

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Lemons!

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Betty? What are you doing here? At a hardware store, no less?\

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Kitties above.

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Another gorgeous trellis.

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A home in disrepair.

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I found a lunch spot and wrote postcards during the afternoon. When I ventured out again, I saw this kitty.

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He climbed down when I called, and we bonded for a long while. He eventually climbed atop my shoulders and curled up for about five minutes. Eventually I lured him off and said goodbye, as I had other places to go.

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One of the high speed ferries coming in.

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I wanted to go for another long island walk, out of town and along the coast. Just to see what I could see.

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It’s not a tree. It’s a grass.

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FYI.

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This abandoned place, just outside of town…

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…has this for a view.

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A front yard of clover. I love it.

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I also saw this from time to time. A solar array and solar hot water heater.

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Pistachio trees. It’s not like there are huge pistachio fields – at least not that I saw. Instead, everyone has their little plot.

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Just a pretty view.

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Canna lilies!

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Orange drops.

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The Aegean.

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I walked south along the coast of Aegina about three and a half miles. When I turned back to catch the last ferry, the sun was setting.

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You can see other islands in the distance.

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The fading of the light.

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Shortly before this shot was taken, I passed a couple with their dog walking down their long driveway. Then they were shouting. It took me a while to figure out they were shouting for their dog to return, because it was chasing me. I brought it back to them (it was friendly) and they politely explained it was a new dog. “It must have seen something good in you,” she kindly said.

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Another island sunset.

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Frond down.

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I love it.

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Aegina town once more.

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That afternoon, some of these boats had makeshift produce racks, and folks along the quay could buy what they wanted.

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The water/electric hook-up.

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The restaurants with a view.

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Folks buying ferry tickets.

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A helpful map that not only identifies attractions, but lets you know what sort of taxi fare you should expect to pay.

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The ferry back to Athens. Halfway there I stepped out on deck. There were seabirds flying right alongside the ship, matching its speed and direction. For how long, I don’t know, but it was strange to watch.

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Athens Again

All this time, and we still hadn’t yet seen the most famous places in Athens. So that’s what we did on our last few days.

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Normally “indoor” plants – which couldn’t withstand a frost – were permanently left outdoors everywhere in Athens. As a plant lover, I couldn’t help but notice.

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It’s nearly 1900 years old.

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Okay then.

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The Temple of Olympian Zeus – one of the sights I didn’t get to see when I was last here in 2002. I was so glad I had the opportunity to do so this time.

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We made kitty friends here, too.

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Roman baths.

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The Temple was finally completed in the 2nd Century, 638 years after construction began.

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Another gorgeous ruin.

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A plaque about the plant which only grows on the south side of the Acropolis.

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The Theater of Dionysus, south of the Acropolis.

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According to wikipedia, “the site has been used as a theater since the 6th century BC.”

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Another view.

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One of the surviving shade umbrellas used by Pericles.

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Beautiful.

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The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which is still in use.

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Growth on the south slope of the Acropolis rock.

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The Temple of Athena Nike, part of the entryway to the top of the Acropolis.

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Restoration work in the Propylaea.

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Looking down on the Theater of Dionysus from the Acropolis. You can also see the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

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The Parthenon, currently undergoing renovation.

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Another view.

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Another friendly kitty.

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Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

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The Erechtheion, originally built around 2400 years ago.

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An olive tree, planted in modern times, but redolent with symbolism – in ancient times, a holy olive tree was said to have sprouted here after a strike by Athena’s spear.

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Areopagos Hill. In AD 51, St. Paul delivered his first sermon here, and the convert he gained became the patron saint of Athens. Just like I did 15 years ago, I climbed to the top of the slippery rock after seeing the Acropolis. And like 15 years ago, the hill was covered with young people, playing music, smoking, talking, and hanging out. 

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It was cold that day. Our fingers froze. So after the Acropolis we retreated to the indoors for a warm lunch.

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Hadrian’s Library, built in 132 AD.

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The columns still stand.

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A pretty view of the octagonal Tower of the Winds.

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The Acropolis above.

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The Tower is located within the Roman Agora.

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Here you can see where the shop-seller stalls once were, and Lykavittos beyond.

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Through the columns, you can see the entry gate to the Agora. It was built with donations from Julius Caesar and Augustus.

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The interior of the Tower of the Winds.

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“The structure features a combination of sundials, a water clock, and a wind vane.”

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A pretty view.

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The Tower of the Winds is “considered the world’s first meteorological station.”

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A newsstand in Athens. You can buy soda, gum, and newspapers from what – a dozen countries?

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The meat market in Athens.

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An impromptu produce market on a street corner.

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Markets everywhere.

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More from Athens

One of the things that “bothered” Katherine the most about Greece was the quality of the food. Like the wine, it was almost always excellent, and invariably superior to the usual fare in the US. Also, it was quite often cheaper.

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One of the many delicious meals we shared.

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Was the wine good? Of course it was.

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I really liked this piece of art, for some reason. But not enough to buy it.

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The graffiti is in Greek! Mostly, at least.

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This is part of the Central Market. There’s many more produce sellers which I didn’t photograph, as well as a meat and seafood market, and a rummage/flea market portion as well.

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A meat/sausage shop.

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A shop window. It just looked pretty.

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Speaking of lights, this place was truly lit up. You can’t really sense the scale in a single photograph – it extended way beyond the corner.

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In contrast, a lonely table.

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What do the Greeks think of Detroit?

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I heard you twice the first time.

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I’m not sure that has the connotation you intend.

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Someone feeding the pigeons.

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The Acropolis at night.

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You can’t help but laugh. It’s the Black & Yellow Store.

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Inside a cafe.

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Close to my heart.

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I stumbled across a hidden basketball court.

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A pretty street.

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It’s not just the chairs that caught my eye. I love the flower-boxes.

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More pretty places to eat and drink.

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The city is full of them.

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Even this – a former stairway turned into something attractive and unique.

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Not everything was pretty. Though an argument could be made that even these houses, in their ruin, are beautiful.

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One more example, though there were many.

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Speaking of ugliness. What? Also, that was the other thing – several people (a taxi driver, a street performer, a waiter) warned us to watch out for crime. But not from Greeks – no, no. It’s the immigrants, you see.

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A tourist magnet.

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Parking magnet.

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Another great meal.

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Again: the food was sublime.

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The highest hill in Athens is Lykavittos, and it affords some great views of the rest of the city.

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There’s a church at the top, and shrines on the way up. And at this shrine, there were lemons and kumquats, as you can see.

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Looking across at the Acropolis.

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Apparently this plant-borne graffiti is from 1973.

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Toward the North-east.

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As you can see, you can see the sea.

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A look up at the Monument of Lysicrates, erected 2300 years ago to celebrate a theatrical achievement.

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Initial Vignettes

Stomping

Our stomping grounds.

I don’t think there’s any better way to get to know a place than to walk all through it. That’s what I tend to do when I travel, because while many tourist attractions interest me, I also like to explore the places where people actually live their lives.

So yes: central Athens has plenty of attractions. But it’s also the center of a city of ~660,000 people. And aside from the streets near the Acropolis, most of the streets – and the shops in them – are obviously for locals. Like this one, which had a concentration of hardware stores:

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…and pretty trees which I admired.

It also helped that we were there in the off-season. Yes, there were tourists, but their numbers were limited. Aside from the Acropolis, we didn’t see many. And I loved it. I didn’t travel to Athens to see tourists; I wanted to see the city itself, which is easier when it’s not being overrun. And I had less competition for the touristy things I did want to do.

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They’re ornamental!

Orange trees fill the city, by the way.

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And beautiful.

I kind of think it’s silly when people photograph the food they’re about to eat. And yet I do so myself, on occasion. The breakfast, looking out at the Acropolis, was delicious.

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That’s Monastiraki plaza in the foreground.

And there’s the view.

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Oh, is it the church that interests you? Read this.

This is such a pretty church in the middle of a pedestrian street. That’s another thing I loved about Athens, and Europe in general: the prevalence/existence of pedestrian-only streets like this one.

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On the wall outside.

This was a stop worth making. Katherine and I shared a tasting of red wines, one of several options we could have chosen from. And the wines – every one of them – were all good. This was a nearly universal characteristic of the wine we had in Greece. It was exceptional.

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Some of the colorful bottles to which the sign refers.

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Some of the wine to which I referred.

On my second evening there, I happened to run into a march of striking workers. They were striking over curbs on their right to strike, and the protest was simply too large to photograph. This is a portion, but there were thousands of people, and the streets were eerily silent, aside from the march and the sound of bullhorns.

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A protest.

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The Way There

You may be wondering how we got to Greece. The answer – despite my inquiries and increasingly heated protestations – was not instantaneous travel. Which is absurd. I mean, we put men on the moon in 1969 – at a speed, I might add, of 24,000 miles per hour. 50 years later, Katherine and I only traveled at a fraction of that speed. Because I bought the tickets with miles? Because we had economy seats? Who knows? But one consequence was a sleepy English breakfast at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant in London’s airport.

Being back in the UK brought back a rush of fond feelings. The accents; the shops (like Boots); the BBC covering local news. Which brought back other memories: grocery-shopping and pubs and English gardens. I lived in the UK 15 years ago, and I still miss it.

Greece brought back fewer, less fond memories. I didn’t find Athens particularly attractive the last time, and my overall impressions may have been colored by my lack of cash: to my surprise, I discovered my ATM cards didn’t work there, so I subsisted on a lot of bananas and cucumbers. I still had some good times, though.

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At the Acropolis.

On the tallest hill in Athens, Lykavittos.

On the tallest hill in Athens, Lykavittos.

Look at that face!

And, for that matter, at all that haze. My goodness. Maybe the pollution is a seasonal thing – it was summer the last time it was there – but I suspect the air quality is just better now. This was the 2018 view from Lykavittos:

A cleaner view.

A cleaner view.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Sequence is important. And the first thing we noted about Greece this time was just how easy it was to get in. Customs? What customs? Maybe if you ran, screaming and flailing, from one uniformed officer to the next, you might find someone to ask you about contraband, and whether you had anything to declare. Instead, we walked through the entry without talking to anyone, and fetched ourselves a cab.

That was the second notable thing: the cab driver happened to have an extensive US background. He’d lived in the US for something like 20 years, and served with naval intelligence.

The third notable thing was our exhaustion. We wanted to dump our stuff, get something to eat, and then go to bed. So that’s what we did.

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