Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It Begins

We’ve started our summer of nomadism. I’m not sure how coherent this entry will be because I’m suffering from long-haul-traveler’s narcolepsy. An example: We finally boarded our flight to Athens yesterday evening, about 18 hours after leaving home. Yes, we’d cashed in airline miles for business class tickets from Seattle to London, so we did have flat beds, but who can possibly sleep well when they’re heading off on a big adventure? Not me, certainly. So by the time we had had showers at the BA arrivals lounge, left our very heavy day packs at left luggage, meandered around London Borough of Hounslow for several hours, and eaten a tasty dinner at Giraffe back at the terminal, I was pretty much wiped out.

We were seated in an exit row from London to Athens, and a flight attendant sat facing me in a jump seat for take-off. I warned him as he sat that I was about to fall asleep; I didn’t warn him, however, that I would sleep deeply, head lolling, string of drool forming at the corner of my mouth, for only about 5 minutes, and then I’d wake up, snap, and start asking him questions. “Are you based out of London? Do you always fly this route? Where did you start? Oh, Dubai and UAE! Well, that’s certainly farther than Paris!” etc etc. And then I fell asleep again. Until the three men seated across the aisle from me reached some level of drunkeness and became extremely loud, and extremely boring. Isn’t that always the way.

Today we took the 3-year-old subway into Athens and meandered around for a couple hours. The subway, built ostensibly for the Olympics and undoubtedly using EU money, seems to be the first step in turning the country into the bland EU cultured pearl that so many other places have become. I won’t say it isn’t nice—it is. Air conditioned, on time, clean, sleek. And well-monitored—in our four rides today, our tickets were checked twice, and people who hadn’t bought tickets were issued citations, right there in front of us. Also, some man got on and was harassing riders for money; at the next stop, a security guard found him and kicked him off.

Shopping streets are becoming posher, too, with Sephora and Camper and Diesel luring in the young Athenians.

But, as yet, the pearl coating is pretty thin. The city is still a noisy, belching, glaring 7-story sprawl of many square miles, studded here and there with thousands of years old ruins, sometimes just in a vacant lot around the corner and not announced at all. And the central market—the agora for which the fear is named—is still thriving—dried fruits and nuts along the streets, a huge fish hall inside, and in another huge hall, dozens upon dozens of skinned sheep with their heads still on, naked eyes staring, or sometimes indeed just a pile of the skinned heads.

Tomorrow we head to Milos on the fast boat, hoping to get to Folegandros, but happy to stay in Milos for a few days if that’s what it takes.


Erik said...

Folegandros looks like a good place to be slow for a bit. one of the 10 best beaches in the world, and a city on a cliff.. what more could you ask for?

Nat Taylor said...

You are killing me. Karissa in NYC, you and Ian in Athens, and me at work. Have a wonderful time and keep the posts coming.

Joel said...

See, you are not free from responsibility! It is to share your experiences with us. How wonderful. Enjoy your amazing gift of this summer's travel. We will be enjoying it with you.

KateMV said...

Thanks for the descriptions. I look forward to reading more!