Monday, May 31, 2010

It's All Greek to Me!


TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY!!! Even if I had the Power to stay Young Forever, I'd still look forward to my birthday each year! Thanks for all the warm birthday wishes!

I've just returned to Cairo from an amazing Greek vacation. I can't stop raving about how much I loved Greece, the people, the cities, and the beaches! I arrived in Athens on Thursday afternoon. After a recommendation from Fly Brother, I decided to try Couch Surfing for the first 3 nights in Athens with a surfer named Dimitri and had a largely positive experience (more about that later).  The day I arrived, the transportation workers in Athens had gone on strike leaving taxi's as the only option into town so I took a cab to Dimitri's' apartment in the center of Athens. After dropping my things off, I immediately went to to Ermou St. for some retail therapy! I shopped until I literally couldn't stand up anymore and had to limp home with all my bags! I felt like I'd been deprived of beautiful things for too long and my vanity took over! I bought so many things I can never wear in Cairo lol.

The first 2 days, I went through a period of culture shock in Athens. My first time riding the Athens metro, without realizing it, I let a few trains go by because my mind was set on only riding the women's cart as I do in Cairo! I also put on a pair of shorts for the first time in months and went outside in Athens. At first, I was a bit self-conscious. I felt like everyone was staring at me so I kept tugging at my shorts when, in reality, no one paid any attention to what I wore. I felt shocked and scandalized by the public display of affection amongst Greek couples holding hands and kissing! I fully expected some old woman in a burqa to pop up and hiss at them. When I saw a group of men approaching, I immediately gave them wide berth or prepared for a confrontation as it goes in Cairo. However, the reality was that most pedestrians paid little attention to me. When men did approach me, it was to compliment me, ask where I was from, or help me find something. The genuine friendliness and  welcoming nature of the Greeks was a sharp contrast to how the Caireens treat tourists. It took me a few days to relax and realize that no one was going to try to grope or debase me in public or lure me into a "bazaar". The openness of Greeks reminded me a lot of Haitians in many ways: everyone I met readily discussed the current political and economic situation with me, lambasted the politicians for being corrupt, and recited Greek history like it was their duty to turn me into a compatriot lol. Afterwards they'd insist on inviting me to dinner or out for drinks.

On my second and third day in Athens, I went to the tourists attractions.To my surprise, with a student ID, you could get a pass to go to any 6 tourist attractions in Greece for 6€ total!  I visited the Parthenon at the Acropolis first. The Acropolis stands in the center on Athens right above Ermou St. The ruins were well preserved and a Colosseum lay below the Parthenon in the Acropolis. When I arrived at the top of the Parthenon, it began to rain. I sat in the rain gazing at the Parthenon and the city below. Since it rarely rains in Egypt, it had been so long since I'd seen the rain that it felt like a welcomed cleansing experience. 

I visited the new museum below the Acropolis, the Temple Olympian Zeus, and the Agora. I wandered through the flea market near the Agora, people watched from the outdoor coffee shops, snooped around charming, narrow streets and chatted with whomever approached me. To my surprise, Athens was extremely diverse: south East Asians, Africans, and Indians were everywhere as well as many other Europeans. On one occasion, I was reading at a coffee shop overlooking the Agora when an merchant approached me selling Senegalese drums. I initilly told him in English that I was not interested in buying a drum but he kept reducing the price. Finally, he'd exhausted his vocabulary in English and apolgized to me in French saying he was from Senegal. My eyes lit up at the oppurtunity to speak French to someone after being confined to just English and Arabic for so long. We spoke for a long time in French and I ended up buyng the darn drum for half its original price of 20€ lol.

After Athens, I took an 8 hour ferry ride to the island of Santorini. Santorini was the original reason I'd decided to take a vacation to Greece. I fell in love with the city after Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (Yes, I make decisions based on chick flicks. Dont judge me :). When the ship first docked, my first impression was that the island was just a spiraling high waste-land. None of the white-washed houses and blue roofs were visible upon first site! I took the city bus to my hotel in the town of Fira at the top of the island. Fira was more like what I'd pictured Santorini was supposed to be like with small white homes and narrow streets but it was still missing the blue roofs... Finally,I explored the town of Oia-Ia that day where the movie was filmed and most pictures of Santorini are taken. The town was exactly what I'd hoped it would be! It sat high above a cliff with charming white homes with bluedomed roofs against a backdrop of the ocean below. I explored every nook and cranny and I must have taken a dozen pictures from every angle! I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of black couples, mostly from Francophone countries, in Santorini. Unfortunately, I didn't realize how blatantly romantic Oia-Ia would be until I found myself getting misty eyed at the sight of a couple taking their wedding pictures amidst the beautiful scenery.

I spent the second day on the Red Beach on the island. The Red Beach is a beach composed of black and red volcanic rocks, near Akrotiri. Mysteriously enough, my camera, cell phone, laptop and Zune Mp3 batteries all died on this day leaving me with no sense of time or date. I lay on the beach for hours contemplating the different coloured rocks and reading fashion magazines. I spent the next day at the black beaches on Perissa. Unfortunately, this beach was not impressive. The shore line was jagged and the actual beach was just a narrow strip. I returned to Oia-Ia that evening to have dinner and watch the sunset. 

I went to Mykonos after 3 days in Santorini. I only ventured into town to buy my return ticket to Athens. Otherwise, I spent the entire 2 days laying on the beach aptly named Paradise and being in awe of how clear and beautiful the water was. At one point, I sat on a cliff above the beach, admiring the natural blues of the water. I noticed several flashes of light from the corner of my eye and looked over to find a  group of Asian tourist enthusiastically taking pictures of me in my swimsuit from the bottom of the cliff! Attracted by the buzzing of the group of Asians, other curious tourist soon joined in and snapped pictures of me as they went by. I'm not quite sure who they'd mistaken me for but a group of Canadian girls climbed up and told me they'd assumed I was doing a photo-shoot so they took a quick picture also. Finding no feasible way to have all the people erase my picture from their camera, I pulled my hat low and resigned myself to having my photograph taken lol.

I returned to Athens on the ferry on Saturday afternoon. I spent my last day in Athens hanging out with Dimitri, my Couch Surfing host, and his friends in one of the cities many beautiful parks and enjoying the hospitality of the Greeks. I loved Greece sooo much!! It was exactly the type of vacation I needed to relax after months of the harshness of Cairo. Returning to Cairo, I felt like Persophone going back to Hades and the Underworld.

A slide show with more pictures:


Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures.

Matt said...

That is it!!! NO MORE SYMPATHY FROM ME!!! Santorini looks amazing and when Jen sees your pictures she is going to want to go there even more than she already does.

ieishah said...

Gorgeous post and photos! Such cheeky little thing; you crack me up!

Patricia Kayden said...

Need to get my behind to Greece! My husband and I need a break. Wonderful post.

hassie said...

im so glad to have come across your blog ..greece is one of my favorite countries in the world i love the culture and its such a beautiful country ...and im ruly surprised that you like greeks i have come across come and they were very racists and narrow-minded ..i guess its a minority
I CANT WAIT TO GET THERE!!ur pics r beautiful

Sotiris said...

LOL A 27 year old greek living in Cairo and I just read this article of yours (thanx of uncle Google). Thank u for your kind words for my lovely country! Sotiris X

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