Monday, September 3, 2007

Vienna to Athens

The Vienna airport does it right. No security until you are at your departure gate. No long lines, standing behind clueless first-time travelers trying to carry on their gallon-sized jug of Scope with $760 worth of quarters in their pockets.

The EU also does it right. No lines for customs or to have your passport stamped. No crying babies, no stinky, travel-weary backpackers shoehorned next to you in an over-lit auditorium-sized room. No over-zealous, self-important business-types who just have to make a phone call THIS INSTANT, and are arguing with customs officials about just how important they REALLY are.

Nope – just baggage claim, and off you go.

We arrived in Athens to very hot weather, and in the wake of the terrible fires that devastated much of southern Greece. These fires were the worst that Greece has ever seen, destroying some 469,000 acres of forest and farmland, and killing 65 people.

Our taxi driver pointed out some of the razed land visible between the airport and the city of Athens. We met a couple who had visited Olympia just a day before it burned. They said the restaurant they had dinner in just the night before was completely gone.

There is a smoky haze that lingers over the city of Athens now, and the heat, they are afraid, is likely to rekindle some sparks. Though, news today is that the last of the fires are now under control.

We spent the last three days in Athens, touring the Temple of Zeus, the Olympic Stadium, the Parthenon, and taking a day cruise to the islands of Poros, Hydra, and Aegina. The crowds are huge and the weather is very hot, so we are doing the “go until you can’t take it any more and then stop, sit, have a Gyro and glass of Ouzo” tour of Athens.

The food has been incredibly good. Seriously, unbelievably good. I am ruined for Greek salad and tomatoes. Mike’s goal has been to eat an gyro an hour until we leave, or he dies.

The highlight for these last three days has definitely been the island of Hydra where we jumped off rocks into the blue Aegean Sea, and swam in the salty, clear water for hours. Our next favorite was the beach on Aegina where we had chicken fights, (Charlie and I are the reigning Greek-Island Champions) laid in the shade of a beach umbrella, ate fresh, pan-fried calamari and drank ice cold Mythos beers.

Today we leave for Basil and Linda Janavaras’ place in Corinth. I can’t wait! But first, just one more Greek salad.

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