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Keep your head down & sunglasses on


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Athens itself can really be done on one day, although there are plenty of surrounding areas to visit as well. We did a little looking into a day trip, but tours were expensive and since we knew we would likely want to do a tour on Santorini, we decided to have a lazy day and save the money for something else. For the first time in our two weeks abroad, we did not set our alarm and slept in. It was wonderful!

Once we got moving, we took the train to the port of Athens, Piraeus. We had to pick up our ferry tickets and also just wanted to check it out. Once we got there, we realized there wasn’t too much to see, so returned to Athens on our same train ticked (valid for 90 minutes) and wondered the streets looking for food and gifts. The trouble with Athens streets is that they are difficult to maneuver. First of all, you have to keep your eyes on the sidewalks to dodge the poops the stray dogs and cats leave about. If Dubrovnik was the town of cats, this was certainly the town of random dogs. If you are wearing flip flops, you also have to side step the marble stones as once they are wet they are like a slip and slide. You also have to look up once in a while as traffic is horrible in Athens, so motor bikes just drive on the sidewalks at any point. Roads are just a guideline, so if you aren’t paying attention you will get run over while on the sidewalk. At the same time you have restaurants hollering at you to look at their menu. Keeping your sunglasses on allows you about two seconds to make a sideways glance at their sign to get a first glimpse of prices before they attack. If you don’t have sunglasses, you have no hope and should just look straight ahead or down at all times. You have to look at prices carefully before agreeing as one place will have the same meal for twice the price of the guy a block down – of course his is the best, only uses freshest ingredients and for you, a glass of local wine, blah, blah, blah. The sunglasses also work for shop owners, also sprawled into the sidewalk who want you to buy their belts, sandals, pottery, etc. again the same stuff as the guy next door. Throw into the mix, a husband who likes to walk like he is late for class at all times, and wandering the streets in search of food and gifts had hopeless written all over it for me. I took to just dodging the poop bombs and let Nate deal with the shops and restaurants. His excuse by the end was “oh, we just ate” but the restaurants got smart and came back with “oh, well then you can have a beer…” - we couldn’t win.
Traffic at all times, backed up for blocks & blocks

Traffic at all times, backed up for blocks & blocks

I have this habit where I set out to buy something for someone else and during this process, I find something for me. No fail, every time. So we were out looking for gifts to bring home for folks, and I stopped into a rug shop to see if they had something for my sister. I of course found a wool rug that I fell in love with (sorry Susie, no rug for you) and of course they knew it. They brought down the price significantly as I stood there and thought about it. Next thing you know, we have wine in our hands and they are telling Nate where the closest ATM is. It is handmade (for real) and as far as rugs go, it was a fair price. I of course was very happy with my new purchase, I just now need a house to put it in – so if you look at it that way, Nate should be happy with the rug as it was a lot cheaper than a house. I don’t think he sees it that way though.
Lunch pies, french fries and don't worry gyros are still coming too

Lunch pies, french fries and don't worry gyros are still coming too

At this point, the black clouds and thunder moved in again and we booked it home to hide out from the rain. Luckily, the Greeks take American TV shows and just use subtitles instead of re-dubbing the voices, so we watched Friday Night Lights and some other TV show in English. Once it cleared up only three hours later this time, we headed out in search of dinner. I know I mentioned it before, but Nate LOVES gyros/kebab in all shapes and forms. And because they are so cheap, he loves them even more. So we had yet another gyro for dinner, as the lunch one wasn’t enough for him. All said, Nate sampled 5 different gyros in Athens in the 2.5 days we were there. If I wasn’t there to say no to gyros for breakfast, he probably would have had more. I actually don’t mind the chicken ones, some are certainly better than others, although the french fries within the gyro just isn’t my thing. We then headed home to pack as we had a 7:25am boat to catch and needed to get some sleep before the long journey to Santorini island.
Gyro #5 - and it was still as delicious as the first

Gyro #5 - and it was still as delicious as the first

Sun setting behind a church

Sun setting behind a church

Posted by sellnow 10:49 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

A View from the Top

sunny 88 °F
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Today we set out to see all of the historic sites in Athens, so the second day could be a little more relaxing. We hiked up the massive hill to the Parthenon, and after a chaotic ticket line we finally got up to pay. Nate luckily spotted a sign that mentioned student discounts without an age limit (he was shot down in Rome as they capped student discounts at 26, and the attendant looked at Nate and said “too old”) so good thing we paid all that tuition at IU so we could save 6 Euro on our admission to the Acropolis. We spent the morning touring the Parthenon, Theatre of Dionysius as well as the “newer” theater, Oden of Herodes Atticus which can now be rented out for events. The Parthenon was by far the highlight, and you can see how the columns arc to give the appearance of perfectly straight lines. Back in London, we saw several of the marble carvings that were originally from the Parthenon, so it was good to piece it all together with what we saw previously and where those pieces would fit within these ruins. We headed back down the hill to continue our tour, and quickly missed the breeze from atop as it was already in the high 80’s.
Yeah for Student Discounts!

Yeah for Student Discounts!


Theater Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Theater Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Family Photo at Theatre of Dionysius

Family Photo at Theatre of Dionysius

Carvings at Theatre of Dionysius

Carvings at Theatre of Dionysius

Front of Parthenon, under construction

Front of Parthenon, under construction

Group Pic Outside the Parthenon

Group Pic Outside the Parthenon

Windy day on top of the hill

Windy day on top of the hill

Erechtheion on the Acropolis

Erechtheion on the Acropolis

Caryatids on the Erechtheion

Caryatids on the Erechtheion

Lots of columns and clouds at the Acropolis

Lots of columns and clouds at the Acropolis

Next stop was the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. The temple took over 700 years to build, and it is sad that this is all that is left of all of that effort. From there we walked to the Olympic Stadium, originally built in the fourth century BC as a venue for the Panathenaic athletic contests and later held the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. We saved another 1.50 Euro here as well, again with that great IU student ID. We then wondered through the streets past the Presidential residence and Royal Palace, both of which had a lot of police around it so we didn’t snap any pics. The street is lined with orange trees, and ever since Dubrovnik, Nate has been looking to pull an orange from a tree and eat it. We passed one tree that still had a few low hanging oranges, so he snagged one. Once we got around the corner, we sat down to enjoy it, or so we thought. It was absolutely the tartest orange we have ever had, worse than a lemon, and after each one bite we had to throw it away. I guess that is our punishment for stealing fruit from trees. When we got to a nearby plaza, we bought a goodie that tastes kind of like a round pretzel dipped in sugar yet is a little like a donut as well. The treat was just okay, but after that orange – anything was better.
Temple of Olympian Zeus

Temple of Olympian Zeus


Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

Olympic stadium rows of seats curved for optimum viewing without leaning forward

Olympic stadium rows of seats curved for optimum viewing without leaning forward

Stolen orange, before sampling

Stolen orange, before sampling

You are at point A, if a bus going to point B travels at 40 mph,how long would it take you to translate this sign?

You are at point A, if a bus going to point B travels at 40 mph,how long would it take you to translate this sign?

At this point the thunder started and the skies opened up. Of course this was the one day we didn’t bring the rain jacket, so we ran over to the shopping center and stood under the awning for a while. I think there have only been 2 or 3 days on this entire trip that it hasn’t rained in the late afternoon. It is very bizarre. When it let up a little, we made a dash for our hotel as it didn’t seem like it was going to fully end for a while.

Back at the hotel, Nate opened the can of Octopus that he had gotten at the market the other day. He was fascinated by it, so gave it a whirl. He said it was very delicious, stored in olive oil and lemon that gave it a nice flavor. I passed on this snack, as I just can’t do proteins from a can. Since it looked like it would rain most of the afternoon, Nate made a dash for the store for some local beer, wine and of course Ouzo as we would be stuck in our room for a while. The beers were good, so was the wine, so we decided we were ready to give Ouzo, a Greek liquor flavored with anise (black licorice), a try. We poured it in glasses with a little ice and water. It smelled so horribly I had to plug my nose in order to even get a sip of it down – bottom line, Ouzo is an acquired taste that I didn’t want to acquire. Nate on the other hand didn’t mind it too much, so finished mine as well. After a little more beer to wash down the awful taste, we ventured out in search of Gyros. I got a chicken one, Nate a pork one and our total was 3.90 Euro. This is one of our cheaper meals and if it was up to Nate, he would eat Gyros for every meal from now until the end of the trip. We will see how that goes, although it was his second one in Greece already and we had only been here 24 hours. We both agreed this was our only experiment with Ouzo, as our stomachs churned, but we went to bed to sleep it off.
Octopus in a can

Octopus in a can

Tzatziki, my new favorite snack

Tzatziki, my new favorite snack

Ouzo, a kick in the teeth

Ouzo, a kick in the teeth

Posted by sellnow 17:20 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Welcome to Athens

sunny 89 °F
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We got up at 6 am this morning to get packed up and make our way to Termini to catch the train to the airport. We flew Aegean airlines into Athens, and we both agreed it was one of the best flights we have had in years. It was an 11 am flight, so being used to standard cheap U.S. arlines, we figured there wouldn't be lunch so we packed sandwiches and bought water at the airport. Much to our suprise, on the 1 hour and 45 minute flight they came around with beverage service twice, servered a nice little lunch, and then offered coffee and tea twice. This was great, and still cheaper than most domestic flights in the United States! We had a nice lunch of some greek pasta, we are guessing a type of pilaf, two "beef" meatballs, a roll with cheese and a nice brownie with frosting. Nate and I made a deal, that everything here was either "beef" or "pork" as I have a psychological thing with eating lamb. Even though deep down, I know it is lamb, I don't want to know that is what I am eating as I think of little baby sheep and then I can't do it. If I don't really know for sure what I am eating, I am much better off.

We found our way to our hotel, and although we don't have 128 steps this time, we still have quite a few. Our room is nice and the location couldn't be better. When you step outside the front door, you have an immediate view of the Acropolis - too bad it isn't from our room.
Room at Hotel Tempi in Athens

Room at Hotel Tempi in Athens


View from front steps of Hotel

View from front steps of Hotel

After a quick nap and getting settled, we wondered the streets to get familar with the area. As the weather was finally cooling, after another 90 degree day, we took up a table at a garden patio for a couple of Greek beers. Again, the view was great overlooking the Temple of Hyphaestus - we aren't quite sure what it is yet, but still a unique view we wouldn't ever get back in Indiana. We also orders some bread and Tzatziki dip. It was absolutley amazing and like nothing I have ever had - very fresh, fully of cucumber flavor with just a hint of garlic and dill. If all of the food here is that great, we are going to never stop eating in our week and a half in Greece!
Bar garden patio view

Bar garden patio view

Posted by sellnow 20:06 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Rome - Beautiful Fountains & Filthy Streets.

sunny 90 °F
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Because we lost our half day in Rome, we really only had two days to see everything before we headed onto Athens. Nate had been to Rome previously, so we were really here for me and of course I wanted to see it all. We successfully crammed everything into two jam packed days, and our feet feel it! I will say that overall, Rome was a very dirty city - more so than London and I am not quite sure why.

The first day we got an early start and headed to the Coliseum for the inside tour as we had gotten pics from the outside the night before. We then crossed the street to take a look at Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Best part is that once you pay to get into the Coliseum, you get into the others for free. From there we headed to Trajan’s Column, which has spiral relief carvings that spiral up the entire column. Very nearby is the Vittoriano Monument which is quite impressive with massive sculptures and bright white marble.
Inside the Coliseum

Inside the Coliseum


Full shot of the Coliseum

Full shot of the Coliseum

Have your photo taken with a "real" gladiator, for a price of course

Have your photo taken with a "real" gladiator, for a price of course


Nate at Palace Ruins

Nate at Palace Ruins


Trajan's Column

Trajan's Column


Vittorio Emanuele II Monument

Vittorio Emanuele II Monument

The Pantheon was the next stop on the list, after a stop for Gelato of course as temperatures were in the high 80’s with plenty of sun. The Pantheon was originally a temple for Roman Gods, but it was converted into a church in the seventh century. It is the largest masonry vault ever built, and if it was made of modern concrete it would have collapsed years ago under its own weight. It was quite impressive. A short walk from the Pantheon was Piazza Navona which in the center is the “Fountain of the Four Rivers” which we enjoyed. At this point the skies started to get dark with our typical afternoon rain settling in, so we quickly made our way to Trevi Fountain. Just as we got there, the sky opened and it down poured. I have never seen hundreds of tourists move so quickly, it was almost like a light had been turned on a room full of cockroaches. When the rain let up, we fought the crowds and I tossed my coin in for good luck. At this point we were tired, so headed home to do laundry and wash our feet as we were absolutely dirty from all the walking and the rain.
Outside of the Pantheon

Outside of the Pantheon


Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Four Rivers Fountain

Four Rivers Fountain

Yup, another fountain

Yup, another fountain

Tossing my coin in Trevi for good luck

Tossing my coin in Trevi for good luck


I can't get enough Gelato. This time rasperry and lemon

I can't get enough Gelato. This time rasperry and lemon

Day two was another early one, and this time we started West of the river at St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. Our timing was perfect, as we walked right in without waiting in line and by the time we came out the line was wrapped across the square. The basilica was very impressive, with ornate marble floors, marble statues throughout and vaulted ceilings with intricate paintings. I am not sure what I was expecting, but certainly not that. After we walked around the Square, we were in serious need of shade and cool air as it was already 89 degrees with very little breeze and it wasn’t even noon yet. We headed to the Vatican Museum which is where the Sistine Chapel is. The museum is huge and it can take 5-6 hours to really walk through it all, although most people just head straight for the chapel. As we paid 15 Euro each to get in, we decided to look at some of the other exhibits as well. Currently they had a display of Faberge eggs and other pieces, which I really enjoyed. We also walked through the rooms and rooms of Roman statues and figurines. We weaved our way through to the Sistine Chapel and were moved through like cattle – everyone wants to stare, but you have to keep moving. Despite their insistence that you do not take pictures, Nate went against the rules and snapped one good one. He did not however use flash, so he justifies his unlawful act with that.
Sunlight in Basilica

Sunlight in Basilica

Michelangelo's Pieta

Michelangelo's Pieta

Ornate Floor of Basilica

Ornate Floor of Basilica

John Paul II

John Paul II

Dome of Basilica

Dome of Basilica

Fabrege Egg at Vatican Museum

Fabrege Egg at Vatican Museum

Zeus Sculpture at Vatican Museum

Zeus Sculpture at Vatican Museum


]Nate trying to be sneaky but caught himself instead

Nate trying to be sneaky but caught himself instead


Sistene Chapel

Sistene Chapel

Next up on the list was Castel Sant’ Angelo, which was initially commissioned by Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family but was converted into a papel fortress in the sixth century. It is now a museum, so we just looked at from the outside as we had enough marble statues for the day. From there we headed to Flaminio stop which has the Piazza del Popolo. They were setting up a bunch of tents for some big event, so we just left and headed to the Spanish Steps and the Piazza di Spagna to round out our tour. At this point the clouds were rolling in again, and we were both sweaty and exhausted from all of the miles and miles of walking, so we took the train to the store to pick up some snacks and drinks for happy hour to relax for a while. For dinner, we are headed to a place with Napoli pizza, to see how it compares to Punch Pizza in Minneapolis which is one of my favorites. I will say the pizza was fabulous and a great way to round out our time in Italy, although for my PK friends, I will still be making a stop at Punch if you care to join me in late June.
Castel Sant' Angelo

Castel Sant' Angelo


Nate analyzing the chaos at the Spanish Steps

Nate analyzing the chaos at the Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

Napoli Pizza

Napoli Pizza

Overall Rome was very, very busy but it was good to see all these remarkable sights. We walked a lot, but managed to see the highlights in two days. I am sure Athens will be at a similar pace, so we are already looking forward to a few days of relaxing when we get to Santorini next week.

Posted by sellnow 18:13 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Closed Sunday


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We got up early in order to grab a bite to eat before our 11 am train to Rome. It was about a mile walk to our train station, or we could wait for the bus. Because it was Sunday, the buses only ran every 20-30 minutes, so we decided just to hoof it. We got to the station in plenty of time, and found that our train had been cancelled. Luckily, there was a 3 pm train we could get on instead, but that means we had 5 hours to kill in Ancona, Italy, where there isn’t too much happening.

After paying 6 euro to leave our bags with the attendant, we set out in search of a grocery store so we could get lunch and then snacks for the train. After wandering another mile, we came to one but it wasn’t open. Since it was Sunday, and most things were still closed, we decided to come back after noon as then it might be open. Seems to be that no one in Ancona, or Italy for that matter, posts open/close hours on their storefronts so it was pretty much a guessing game. We wondered in search of anything to do or eat, but really didn’t find much and eventually made our way back to the store as we figured it had to be open by early afternoon, but still no luck. So we paid for internet access for an hour at a local shop and caught up on Facebook, updated the blog and send out apartment applications as we don’t yet have a place to live in Portland. It was the most productive part of our day.

Eventually we got on the train, and then traveled the 3 hours to Rome. As the train entered Termini Station, it down poured, so we made our way through the metro in order to get closer to our place. We found it, and climbed the 128 steps to our place. With our 35 pound bags on our back, this was quite a haul. The online reviews of the place said there were a lot of steps because the elevator was out; we figured it would be fixed by now…no such luck. At least we are getting our exercise and it really makes you plan for the day as once you leave, you don’t want to go back up for anything forgotten. We ate a pasta dinner at a local place, I also enjoyed some wonderful Italian baked goodie, and then we headed to the Coliseum for some nighttime photos. Although it was kind of a wasted day, it was good to finally head to bed.
Coliseum at Night

Coliseum at Night

Coliseum

Coliseum

Arch of Constitine

Arch of Constitine

Posted by sellnow 20:52 Archived in Italy Tagged rome ancona coliseum Comments (0)

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