Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Athens and Thessalonkia


Athens for Fall Break - 10/28 to 11/7 2005 Ron’s reflections And what a fine time we had. We flew to Athens in civilized time, leaving here at 10 AM and arriving about noon, then took new Metro train from remodeled airport to the center of the city. After settling in at our hotel, we hit the bricks and were magnetically drawn to the Acropolis, a mammoth 100 yard high mesa that dominates the mostly flat city. Atop the hill the Parthenon temple of Athena presides in all its glory. In the daytime it's white marble columns and triangular pediments can be seen from all sides, the changing sunlight affecting the color. But it's always breathtaking, especially when the sun suddenly bursts out of the clouds. The first days we wandered around the foot of the Acropolis, taking in the flavors and excitement of the Plaka, the old preserved cobbled quarters. The food was fine, especially the olives, fish and moussaka... Greece is a bit pricey so we made do with breakfast at the hotel, some snacks and one big meal a day (some at Goody's, their much better version of Burger King et al). After wearing our feet out, we hoped to have a good rest. No way... we were unaware of the huge mosquito problem in the city. The next day we found out the front desk provides a plug-in repellant... it must be an ongoing problem. So the next nights were OK, after initial battles with the ones we could see. During the four days in Athens, we bought a pass to 5 of the big sights. So for two days we climbed up the hill to the Parthenon, then down to the Agora temple, then over to the few ruins (major great Corinthian columns) in the Temple of Zeus. So at least two days walking among the glorious and ancient (most 4th C. BC and older) grounds of Athena's city. We found Eden too... that's a vegetarian cafe on a hill near the Acropolis... we had eaten there in a visit in 1998. We were kinda vegetarian in those days. Great spot with view of the Parthenon with floodlights all round it, and a cresent moon glowing above it. The Greek people are very friendly, and very expressive with each other. I had to keep remembering they are Mediterranean folks, so the 'in your face' volume and hand gesturing were quite normal. In both cities, we were pleased with the hospitality of the hotels and food services. I splurged in Athens for a great fish dinner... and again in Thessaloniki with our final night dinner at the "Door Knocker" alley cafe in the Socrates labyrinthian quarter of the city, near the Agaean Seaside. Our hosts explained the menu's history (this meatball recipe from Izmir, "which used to be Greece", this Sun wine from Mykonos Isle). And finishing with gratis halvah and cake dessert, make by the hands of Mom and Grandma in the kitchen. A pleasant finale. Oh, but the treasures of Thessaloniki for me were the amazing bounty of Greek Orthodox Icons throughout the city in the many Byzantine Churches and an entire museum devoted to their history. Even the early 6th C AD icons are still vivid with color and feeling. I also just happened on to an art show of modern icons while wandering in the hills along the Roman walls there. I went overboard using my new, and first, digital camera. They're now on the Kodak gallery on line, if you're interested. (Learn from mistakes moment: as I was downloading my first travel pictures, I accidentally goofed and hit the power button as they were floating through the mysterious cyberspace and lost most of my Athens pics... however, Ryan has a great bunch on his gallery.) Ryan was very successful in his presentation for the Macedonian EFL conference in Thessaloniki. His topic was related to building curriculum for EFL, and teaching vocabulary. Fortunately, he only needed to spend one evening and one morning, so we were free to explore the Churches, museums, parks and seaside the rest of the time. We returnen to Athens via a comfortable 4 hour train ride through villages and mountains (came close to Delphi Temple) and spent the last night wandering the Plaka again. To be early as we had to rise at 3 AM! to catch our 5AM flight back. Yawn. But a wonderful trip to remember. Next stop... after we finish the flurry of final classes... Capetown and Kruger Park in South Africa (thanks to our Frequent Flier credits) for Christmas and New Year's. Aren't we lucky to have two summers this year!!! Got to finish up some of our final long term Visa Residency paper work. We just got out FBI clearance and now have only the local physical exam to finish up the loooooong process. Love.... Ron

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