Thursday, June 21, 2007

June 20 and 21st ~ Athens

So our next leg of the trip came up yesterday. It required us to take a train from our Swiss homebase, to Milan, Italy. Then from there we were to take a flight to Athens. We planned the train trip accordingly: 5 a.m. leave Switzerland to Milan (arriving in Milan 3 hours ahead of our flight just, for a cushion). As the train got going, we noticed it was getting delayed more and more at each stop. This got us a bit on edge, as we knew it would be a major headache to miss our flight. (In the end, our train arrived about an hour later than usual.) Then, as we entered Italy, the train ticket-checker came in and asked for our tickets. We showed them our Swiss pass, as usual, but she told us those didn't work anywhere on Italian soil, contrary to what we'd been told in Switzerland. However, after a little schmoozing we convinced her to let us thru without trouble. She was kindof cute, and I think I caught myself flirting at one point.

So, that got us to Milan. This is where the trip got a little hairy. We needed to buy a bus pass to get to the Milan airport from the Milan train station. We knew the trip was about an hour. This gave us just enough time to get to check-in before it closed. All we needed to do was find an ATM to get Euros (because Switzerland is on there own Franc system, we didn't have any Euros yet) and jump on the bus. The location of the single ATM in the gigantic Milan train station should be a crime, along with the freaking locals, police, and employees advice in finding it. (Our experience in Milan did not have one positive aspect to it, aside from the flight out of its stinky, run down and dirty airport.) In the end, we were out of time, and Nate (one of my travel partners) finally found a Western Union and took one for the team in converting some US dollars to Euros at a horrendous rate. We got on the bus, assuming by the time we arrived at the airport, check-in would be closed. Then the bus decided to wait for another 15 minutes to fill up before leaving for the airport. The hour bus-ride was hot, dirty, smelly, and forced me to sit next to an arabian father and his son. The father preached THE ENTIRE hour to his son about something I couldn't understand. For a minute, I thought the father was going to jump out of his seat and beat the living crap out of his kid. It was interesting to watch for about 5 minutes, and a little too much for another 55 minutes. Arrival at the airport was a breath of fresh air.

So we ("we" being me, Spencer, and Nate... Nate's wife was meeting us at the Athens Airport to hang with us for the 4 days also) sprinted to the check-in when we arrived, and by some stroke of luck, the flight had been delayed. From then on, it was smooth sailing. We jumped on the flight and flew to Greece. The Athens airport was clean, newly remodeled (thanks to the recent Olympics, I'm assuming) and provided English translations everywhere. The metro took us within a half mile or so of our hotel. We wandered around trying to find the hotel for about an hour, which was interesting as there are bursts of "rough" parts of town. (I've seen about 10 people in 24 hours who were currently in the middle of their heroin experience... yeah, don't want to interrupt that). The hotel, however, is great. Worth more than the 89 euro per night we paid for it. It's very clean, smells great, and has everything you'd expect in a nice US hotel. There's an internet cafe across the street, which is where I am as I type this, and is relatively close to the major sights.

Today, Spencer and I were wandering around town, and had been for a couple hours, which is actually really fun. The shops and sights provide everything from 5-star hotels, to the Greek ruins, to homeless people, prostitutes and junkies. As we walked around, we hit a book store to try to find a little bit of info on the ruins themselves. We ended up talking to a travel agent who worked at an agency across the street. We went over, and by the time we walked out we set up a 2-day adventure/excursion. He got us dinner for tonight, which was incredible. After dinner, we hit the Acropolis area, which was within walking distance. The Parthanon is there, along with a few other temples and sites. But the Parthanon was by far the most surreal thing I've seen on this trip so far. It was built 500 years before Christ, and is the oldest thing we've seen on this trip (so far). Supposedly there's some stuff built at Aegina 100 years earlier, but cool nonetheless.

Tomorrow, the agency has arranged for us to be picked up at the hotel, taken to a fairy, which will take us to Aegina. It's an island that has some ruins, and isn't quite as commercialized (so we're told). We'll be able to swim there, and lunch has been reserved for us at a local taverna. We'll return at about 7 pm via a speed boat, then hit the hotel for some sleep. The following day, Saturday, we're having a car dropped off at the hotel, to allow us to drive to the Mycenae area. I've studied this place in art history, and remember that the art was very distinct. I'm also looking forward to the adventure of driving in this insanely bustling city. The drive back on our Saturday day trip will take us along the coast for a couple hours, with plenty of swimming opportunities, and a lunch is reserved for us there as well.

All in all, we've got the rest of the trip planned out, and we're stoked to have everything finally laid out and ready to go. We'll hit the fairy trip tomorrow and get back later, I'm hoping to get everything transfered from my camera to my server, so I can share this beauty with all of you. Wish us luck.


Josh said...

Greece sounds amazing Layne. You even get to meet a real fairy! I just hope that if that falls through they will have some type of ferry or boat to take you to Aegina.

logan said...

Wow - sounds worse than the time I was flying South West and the flight attendants were yelling at everyone trying to get people to sit down. And they wouldn't even offer us any drinks because the flight was so delayed. And yet, they all had time to chat with each other in the galley for half the flight...

And why is it that Arabian men always sound like they are mad? I had an Arabic programming teacher who would yell and spit all the time - "THIS IS WHERE VARIABLE IS DECLARED!!!"

I have to agree with Josh on the fairy thing... Are we talking Tinkerbell or Ross the Intern? Cuz at least happy thoughts and pixy dust will help you fly. But, I don't think Ross will get you across any bodies of water...