My first day in Greece, April 2002

I arrived, jetlagged and disoriented at the Athens airport around two in the afternoon. There was a small kiosk to buy tickets for the bus leading into Athens and I waited patiently in a line of 3 people to buy my ticket but people kept cutting in front of me and so after about a minute of this I thought, f*ck this, and shoved my 3 euro up to the counter and go my ticket.

The bus came shortly thereafter and the adventure began. I’m pretty sure there was only 2 lanes on the road but there were three lanes of cars driving, this including a huge bus that honked, braked and cursed every 15 seconds in jerky intervals. It was hot, the stops were announced in Greek and it took forever. I passed many momentary scenes, car dealerships, a nice yard with happy flowers (a common scene in this country), cafes with tons of people my age sitting about doing a lot of nothing, enjoying life.

Finally the bus stopped and it was the last stop so I would have figured it out anyway eventually, right? I got over to the Syntagma was accosted by a guy about a room but I already had one and went off to find it. It was hot afternoon now, and the long shopping streets which led me towards the sun were busy with shoppers looking into the chic boutiques, music stores and markets. I found my street and turned right. The Hotel Tempi was up the street a few hundred yards. I couldn’t figure out how to open my room but found I had the wrong room number. I was room 26, which wasn’t the 6th room on the second floor but the first room on the fifth floor, go figure!

When I get up there, it was small and plain and a bit dank, but not unpleasant. Half of the people reading this probably would not have wanted to stay there but I wanted a private room in the happening area my first night and that was it. 22 euro for the room and when I craned my neck to the right, I could see the Acropolis which is the most ancient golden site I have ever seen, warm yellow chopsticks of rock holding up what was probably a court or official building from 3000 years ago. It beckoned me outside and so I showered and headed out.

There I found the Plaka, the main shopping/happening area and wandered for hours. I drew a view of the Acropolis while waiting to use the phone (that’s an adventure all by itself!) and then found a bar that was in the guidebook called Bretto’s.

Bretto’s is an amazing old place, right smack dab in the middle of a bunch of touristy restaurants and this makes it all the more charming. It’s stacked with bottles on two of the walls and barrels that dispense wine and ouzo on the other. I spoke with Bretto himself for awhile and he gave me my first ouzo. Imagine licorice juice that is warm and has gone bad. But it’s still good, it’s Greece! After this I had an unsatisfying dinner of lamb and rice and some wine in a main restaurant row. The guidebook hyped it but I was disappointed. Maybe the travelling was catching up on me, who knows.

I wandered for a few more hours in the shopping area which was alive with people walking leisurely in all directions. I found an internet place, wrote to a couple of people and spent the next hour being LOST trying to find the hotel. I literally passed the same guy three time trying to find it. The streets were not well planned 2000 years ago, let me tell you! So that was my first day in Greece.

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