Paros, Day Two: Scooting

June 30, 2007

I woke up at about 11:00 shocked that I slept that much.

I knew what I was gonna do.

I packed a bag with a book and my camera and a towel and high tailed off to the scooter rental shop.

I got a little 50cc scooter and scooted like I meant it. I went all over the island. I got lost, went to just about every beach, from Parasporos to Golden beach to Aliki to Kalithimbres, to a little spot I couldn’t find on the map where I had a big plate of tziki and day old bread served to me by a guy who looked like he should a have a nickname like Salty or, Dogfish.

Parasporos was nice, quiet, with cool water. I did some climbing on the rocks in hopes of finding a spot I could do some cliff jumping. Though there were some high spots over deep water, there were no exit points. The only I found was disappointment and a dead dolphin floating in a tidal pool.

Fun.

Parasporos was supposedly famous for topless sunbathers, all I saw was two equally enormous, assumedly German women.

Being an American, I have this romanticized idea topless beaches, the fantasy that the sand will be spread with semi-nude nubile nymphs. Alas, all I saw was the buxom broads with breasts like boxing gloves.

The little spot where I had the taziki and the bread was near a tiny white walled and blue domed church.

Aliki was a great little spot, off the tourist path and full of little bistros overlooking the clear blue.I actually looked forward to leaving the beaches since the scooter was so much fun.I took the little bastard up to about 75 Km, pushing it to its limits.At one point, I was even singing Born to Be Wild at the top of my lungs.

Pretty sad in retrospect.

Golden beach was probably the nicest, I think it was named for the shingin golden sand glittering in the sun from silica or mica or something.

Kalithimbres, a beautiful collection of beaches between smooth outcroppings of rocks, was my favorite spot of all. So picturesque, the crescents of sand, the coves of glittering silica enclosed by low, rounded cliffs.

Then, I completed the circle around and arrived back in Pariki.

It was a great, day and only I crashed the scooter once.

Good thing it wasn’t right in front of a gas station or that would’ve been really embarassing.

And good thing I didn’t write about it on the internet.

Aw crap.

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Paros, Day One, Part Two: The Guesthouse

June 30, 2007

The hotel was a little guest house just off the main drag in Parikia, and  my balcony had the tiniest glimpse of blue.

But it had AC and a fridge and I was convinced I did get the best deal on the island.

I set about walking to explore.  I bought a towel, a delicious chicken gyro with taziki and onions and french fries all wrapped up in a soft warm Pita.  I bought a cheap t-shirt and immediately cut off the sleeves. It was time to say goodbye to the South Sudan farmer’s tan.

I did some more exploring, finding the bars, the clubs, the shops, and the restaurants and saw that the majority of Parikia consisted of winding streets through whitewashed buildings.  I navigated a few of these streets and found mostly mom shops and decided that though they were picturesque, I did not need any potpourri.

It was time for the beach.

I spent a few hours on the beach only to be aurally accosted by the screams of an American high school volleyball team.  Four years ago, a flock half naked high school girls would have been manna from heaven, but at my age, it was more of a bother.

I packed my things and headed for a beer.

I sign caught my eye: Ice cold beer 1.70 euro.

I walked in an discovered it to be a Mexican restaurant.  Now this was manna.  I had chips and salsa and ended up meeting the owner and her friend.  Both wonderful Brits, I promised I’d be back.

That night I could not bring myself to party.  I was so tired from bouncing around, I stayed in and watched a few episodes of Entourage and a movie.

The next day I was gonna scoot.


Paros, Day One, Part One: The Gauntlet

June 28, 2007

At the end of Athens, Day Three: Museum Date I ended up getting ‘steamboat’ with three Scottish girls and an American couple from Tennessee.   I found out there are more cool Americans out there, and from the Scots, I learned the term,’Steamboat’ and about an amazing wonder beverage called Bucksomething that is like a mix of mad dog 20-20 and red bull: Cheap, highly alcoholic, and caffeinated.  

 

Before I put off to bed, I set my alarm for 5:00, mostly because I knew it would take a couple snooze buttons for me to make it outta the place by 6:30, but partly out of spite for the family for waking up at sparrow’s fart all the time.

 

I managed to get to the metro by 6:30, had my ticket in my hand and was relaxing on the front deck of the Paros Star by 7:15.

 

By about 7:22, I passed out for next three hours, rousing occasionally when the refreshing breeze picked up, catching glimpses of islands off in the distance, shrouded with the low lying fog that hazed the horizon in all directions.

 

Right on time, at around 11:45 we docked in Paros.

 

I had not yet booked a place to stay.  I became immediately conscious of the fact that this was one of the first times I had gone anywhere without knowing where I would sleep.  

 

It was most certainly the first time I’d ever gone anywhere on a boat not knowing where I was staying.  

 

Climbing down the stairs, into the heat of the Aegean sun, the concrete slab of pier sparkled. Up ahead, behind guard rails, about 20 or so very noisy, besunglassed Greek guys awaited the unsuspecting and suspecting tourists at the dock. 

 

I, fortunately, was suspecting; forewarned by a friend who worked the Olympics in 2004.  Silently, behind shades of my own, I observed the nature of the hecklers and their pack animal behaviour:  They would wave their arms at passersby and seemed to pick up on on the volume and frequency of waving as said passerbys passed by.  The tourist in return, picked up the pace of the stride.  These men were also not colluders and comrades, but vicious anglers, actively fighting to hook a fish.  What these hairy, mirror-eyed men did not know, was that I have become an expert money wrangler since doing business in a developing nation.  How much for the these fake beards? “What, don’t you want to haggle?”

 

They lined the sides of the guardrails like a mob at a medieval execution, a gauntlet of pamphlets and glossy signs on the outside of the deep blue metal bars, keeping the creature at bay and forcing it to lean.  A few tourist seemed to have completed their running of gauntlet a little more pale than whence they entered.  

 

I decided to have a little fun.

 

I began to walk towards the demon, and the chatter rose to a mild roar. 

 

But then I turned back.   

 

The clamor subsided.  

 

I turned left and hung out for a little out of its sight, listening most likely to Coheed or DFA1979.  

 

Then I began to walk towards the gauntlet again.  

 

The roar and the waving increased as my presence drew closer.  

 

I looked stern, but slightly daunted, turned around again, hid behind a wall, and the sounds decreased, I tried to control my laughter.

 

I popped my head out and then back.

 

“Uhaaahooo,” went the gauntlet, but it did not completely die out.

 

I think I had confused the monster.

 

I waited a moment, then walked right out into the mouth of the brute.  

 

The roar incrased and brochures were waved in my face.  

 

I raised my arms to the sky, looked around and the shiny lensed eyes of the writhing beast that stared at at me with hunger, apprehension, and wanton lust of funny coloured money. 

 

I opened my mouth, “whatchu got?”

 

“Veddy nice!  Pool!”

 

“My friend!  Over here!”

 

“Are you Australian? English?”

 

“Come meet pretty girls!”

 

I smiled.

 

I always like to be in control.  

 

“My friend,” said one absurdly tan man in the front sporting Oakley-style wraparound frames.  I will give you special price.  You come talk to me.”

 

“Tell me now.”

 

“Ees best price on island.”

 

“We’ll see about that.”  I turned around and grabbed another guys brochure out of his hand.  He was taken aback.  “That’s a nice pool.  How much?”

 

“I give you room with balcony.  Overlooking ocean.”

 

“I said, ‘how much.'”

 

“Fifty Euro.”

 

“Pfffft,” I waved it of with flick of my fingers in disgust.  “Who can beat fifty with a pool?”

 

“Forty-five!” called one guy with sunglasses.

 

“Forty!” hailed another.

 

I walked over to Forty. I inspected his brochure.  I leaned in.  He leaned back a little “Can you do thirty five?”

 

Forty emanated a prolonged grunt from deep behind his molars.  After a moment, “OK.”

 

“Alright everybody, I got thirty five with a pool and a balcony.  Who can do better.”

 

I think the swindlers slowly conluded that they were getting swindled and did not like it one bit.  But Absurdly Tan had followed me.  He was there smiling at the circus with his bronze arms crossed in front of his black sleeveless shirt.  He waved me over. 

 

I sauntered across to him.  

 

“Let’s hear this deal, sir.”

 

He looked around like he was giving me the inside draw on a horse race and then whispered in my ear, “Twenty-five.”

 

My bottom lip pushed my top into a pensive Tom Hanks frown. “You got a pool?”

 

“Uhh. . .”

 

I turned away, but he was quick to recover from his vacillation.  

 

“We have no pool because we are right on the beach.”  

 

Now he had my attention.  “Right on the beach?”

 

“Right on the beach. Bee-yoo-teee-ful beach.” 

 

“Are you sure it’s not a short walk from the beach?”

 

“Ees. . .”

 

Hesitation.  “Twenty Euro per night.”  I stuck out my hand.

 

He took of his sunglasses, cocked his head and inhaled to tell me how I would be robbing him and his sick mother and lame child at such an absurd price.  

 

But before he could think of a retort, I moved to turn back to the gauntlet.  But I kept my eyes right on his. 

 

He twisted his mouth into shapes of anguish, grumbled and turned his palms and twitched his head to his shoulders like DeNiro in The Godfather II.

 

Then he looked at me and said, “how many nights you stay?”

 

“Three.” 

 

“Done.”


Athens Day Three: Museum Date

June 28, 2007

Unbelievably, and against all odds, GreekGirl did show up and even remembered my name.  And I remembered hers.  Within minutes she was talking about her boyfriend in the ultimate of chick defenses.  It was understadnable.  I mean, I obviously come off as educated, charming, suave and a number of other adjective, but they Richard Ramirez did as well.  So I fired right back about how when my girlfriend travels alone I worry about her.  

 

That seemed to put her at ease.  

 

The first few moments of the day were awkward.  She broke out her map even though I said I knew where I was going.  Then she did it again.  

 

We sort of did our own thing at the museum, look at what we wanted and then reconvening a few minutes later to discuss the funny stuff.  I enjoyed the votives that were just little piece of boob, butt, or crotch, that represented prayers or wishes to the gods.  

 

I guess even in AD 125, people wanted a nicer ass.

 

I also enjoyed the statue of Athena getting unwanted advances from Pan and holding her sandal up in defense. A shoe?  “Who throws a shoe?  Honestly!”

 

There were a lot of marble heads and a lot vases and jugs.  Reconstructed Bronze statues gold cups and plates that seemed so fragile one could almost crush them with a finger.

 

After three hours in the museum, GreekGirl and I both agreed that we had had enough of the jugs.

 

Not sure what would happen now, I left it up to her.  “I’ve gotta get back to the hostel at somepoint ot make some skype calls and get some things booked online.  You got anything planned for the rest of the day?”

 

“Not really.  I could use some lunch”

 

“Wanna walk down to the market and get some lunch?”

 

“Sure.”

 

At this point we really got talking.  About everything.  I had gained a little trust.  We had lunch and chatted away and away about music and family and our better halves and about gifts and siblings and life and it was really pleasant sharing the experience with someone

 

We walked around the flea market and I pondered the Bouzouki again.  I realized I might hafta get one.

 

We walked around for a good two more hours and I realized she hadn’t taken her map out in quite some time.  

 

I smiled, and pointed it out.

 

You seem to know exactly where you’re going.   

 

We said our goodbyes with a handshake at the foot of the Agora.

 

It was a lovely random day.  


Athens, Day Two: Piraeus and Australians

June 27, 2007

Athens Day two:

I was woken early by the family stirring. Good god, they got up at like six o clock. What there was even to do at that hour still befuddles me.

I rolled outta bed at nine and went in search of breakfast. I discovered the flea market south of the acropolis and then found a little pastry and coffeshop. I saw in the patisserie, what may be one of the single great baked good creations in the world. It was a crusty loaf of peapod shaped bread, but baked into the top was bacon, feta and loads of gouda. It took me a moment to figure out how to eat it without sending a sticky delicious trail of cheese all over my hand.

I sat a few moments after completed the perlinisomethignorotherbaconcheesebread to ponder the wondrousness I had just experienced.

I stopped in a guitar store and bought some picks and strings and mulled over a bizouki or two. A novelty instrument, for sure, but where else am I gonna get a bizouki?

I walked around a few hours more and set off back to the hostel. I watched a movie and passed out for a few hours. Then it was on to plan the rest of my time in greece.

I set off on the metro to Piraeus. I had read online somewhere that in addition to being the port of Athens, there were loads of seafood restaurants around. I tore apart Piraeus, and there were a lot of hardware stores. There was even one store that specialized in doorknobs.

Seriously.

But no seafood.

“I think we’re on the wrong side. Let’s go over there.”

Good call InMo. I kept walking and walking around and nothing.

Exhausted, I fell into a chair in a little orange corner bistro.

“Beer,” I exhaled at the waitress.

A little lady arrived with a list and I eagerly ordered a Smoked Lager. It wasn’t that different on the attack, but the finish was husky and with hints of oak and roasted pine nuts.

I ordered another.

The little lady appeared with three tiny pastries and smiled.

I smiled back.

One was a sort of crab meat puff with fresh parsely and a hint of citrus. The second a spring roll shaped tube fileld with eggplant, and lamb and mint.

“I don’t even like eggplant!” cried the InMo.

Me neither. But this was really good.

I took the long haul back to the main port area since I had to organize what I had set out to do: Get some island beach time.

I found out some times, but I had some thinknig and planning to do.

And I still wanted seafood.

I did some more walking and found the Cyprus Tavern. I sat down on my own and ordered some hummous and a Mythos greek lager. I was writing some stuff down, had finished my hummous and was now trying to make decisions. There was a couple sitting at the table outside. I looked up and the gentleman was waving at me. I popped out my headphones and lifted my sunglasses and gave him my hotel manager’s look of, “what can I do for you?”

“Would you like to come join us for a drink?”

Somewhat taken aback by such overt friendliness, I hesitated.

“What the hell. Why not?”

I sat down and we did introductions. They were from Australia working in London (also dual citizens) and waiting for a ship at 10:30 to Ios. It was about 6:00 at that point.

“Thanks for letting me crash your party.”

“No, no party,” Aussie Dude waved it off. “Just the two of us getting drunk while we wait for the damn boat. I had some trouble getting your attention. You looked troubled.”

“well. . .” I went on to explain my dilemma and my quandry of choice, involving multiple islands and Germany. We all agreed I had a tough decision on my hand. Aussie Chick offered some female insight into the ordeal, and I think I got it settled. We then went on talking for the next hour about traveling music and laughing our asses off.

Australians are awesome, in general. But these two were explemplary specimens of humanity. Courteous, pleasant, affable, drinkers who like to hear and tell stories. The world is a greater place for their being in it.

More beers that I had anticipated having earlier did I say my goodbyes.

I headed back to the metro and back to the hostel.

I got into the room and the internet was not working and the family was talking all at once.

I went to the bar.

I chatted with the bartender a little bit, then with some guys from Istanbul showed up and praised them intently and profusely on how wonderful their city was.

I go to the bar for another drink, and pretty, dark haired girl, with eyes the color of impure malachite materialized. She looked Greek, but sounded American.

We talked.

She was American, had just graduated from top level school in southern California and was traveling Europe. We chatted a little about my job, which is apparently really interesting to people. We talked more about our respective significant others and the joys and perils of traveling alone. We even agreed to go to the museum together the next day.

She left and I realized that I was toed up, lights out, three sheets to the wind and there was no way this little lady would actually show up tomorrow at ten, but would in fact avoid me completely.

Meh.

It was time for bed.


Athens, Day One: Subway and The Acropolis

June 27, 2007

My laptop died on the train, and I didn’t think to write down the address of the hotel.

The cab driver reluctantly dropped me off in the middle of downtown with my bags. I knew the hostel was between the Acropolis and the National Archaeological museum. So that gave me about 15 square kilometers, I guessed. All I needed was a power plug to get the information off my mac. I happened upon a Subway sandwich shop and realized I had not eaten for about 22 hours. There on the wall was a plug.

I finished the sub in near record time and asked the Sandwich artist if he knew Sofokleous street.

Hostel Zeus?” he confirmed.

“yeah!”

“Second light,” he pointed up the street. “Take a left.”

Not a moment after checking in did I head straight to the Acropolis.

The downtown of Athens seemed shutdown, but it was a Sunday. As I approached the hill, I realized where all the people were: packed into massive street side cafes sipping iced coffee and people watching. Senagalese looking men sold knock off designer handbags and street performers performed the most random performances. Guys in basball caps hawked pirated DVDs and rip-off sunglasses.

I decided to leave quickly.

I didn’t know how to get the the Parthenon, but I knew it was up the hill. So I started walking. It was late in the day when I arrived and the sun was hanging low in the sky.

It’s not to say I wasn’t impressed. But I was somewhat underwhelmed. Maybe it was seeing the Pyramids in January or that it was covered in scaffolding, or that I was tired from 19 hours hours on a train. Still, I was glad I did it, shortened the life list by one.

I arrived back at the hostel and realized that I was not staying with two chicks, but a family. A mom nad her Australian daughter and son. Nice people, very chatty, just not what I expected when I arrived at the frickin youth hostel.

I popped up to the rooftop bar at the hostel, sense a theme, and talked to the bartender until a large fellow and his incredibly beautiful girlfriend walked in. The big black guy asks me where I’m from.

“That’s a tough question,” I throw back. “I was born in America. PA. Yourself?”

“I like that you said, ‘tough question.’ See, I was born in Kenya.”

I start laughing. Hard. “No way. I live right off Ngong Road near Karen.”

BBG started laughing as well. We find out we each lived in Sweden, were into martial arts, compared scars. We told stories about our run-ins with the police, and how polite canadians are since he and his girlfriend currently live in Victoria. They turned in early since they were headed off to Santorini.

I went out and got a late dinner of grilled beef, taziki a bottle of wine, and passed out promptly on return to my little bunk bed.


Istanbul, Day Four: Onward to Athens

June 27, 2007

How the hell can this bazaar be so frickin grand if no one can find it?”

The bartender at the Four Seasons said to just follow the tram tracks up to the crest of the hill by the university.

I stopped at a little joint that had chicken kebap sandwiches for 1.50 lira and ate it as I walked since I missed the Hostel breakfast, somewhat on purpose. Hostel breakfasts are usually margarine and corn syrup

I told you I was a terrible backpacker.

BUt I could not this BAzaar thing to save my life.

I walked all over the frickin place until my well-toned calf muscles began to ache.

I stopped for a beer at a local spot that had international currencies under the glass fo the tables. I signed a 50 shilling note from kenya with http://www.chnepr.com, downed my beer and asked the waiter about the bazaar.

“Over there. By the university. Don’t get lost.”

“I am lost,” thought the InMo.

I agreed silently.

I walked throught the streets of the university until I saw a crowd of people.

Oh great. Here I am at the book bazaar. All I saw was books and trinket chess sets for the entire street. Until I tunred a corner and saw the entrance way to the Grand Bazaar.

It was frickin grand.

I’d seen bazaars in Italy. I’d seen bazaars in Eqypt. I’d been to the mall of america and the Masaai market and Canal Street. This was impressive. I would be so bold to say it was the only place where one could a fake Rolex and a real one within walking distance. I picked a few guitars and haggled to see if I could get one for $50.

No such luck.

I did manage to find a sticker for the guitar case. . .

I walked further and the bazaar seemed to overflow into the street. It kept on going. I ended up walking nearly all the way down the hill. I found my way back up to the street with the tram and realized I was hungry.

There, like a shining beacon were the Golden Arches.

I’m a foodie. I shoudl hate McDonalds. I kinda do. I’d much rather have a Schoop’s or an In’N’Out. But there was certainly something wonderful about biting into a flat, lukewarm, grey, mostly soy patties, yellowish, tranlsucent, lettuce and orange special sauce with that ingenious third bun. It was divine.

Chock full of enough calories for two days I headed to down to the Blue Mosque. I figured I should check it out since I had nothing else to do. I alwasy thought it was silly calling it blue. It was sorta grey in actuality. But inside, the sunlight through stained glass windows left it bathed in blue.

I headed over to the Hagia Sofia. A byzantine church that had been turned into MOsque that was now a museum, it had minarets and Arabic script but beautiful gold mosaics of Virgin and Child on the ceilings and walls. It was Turkey in a nutshell: not much of a sandwich, but definitely a mix of cultures.

I headed back to the Hostel and took a cab to the train station.

I had some smoked salmon at the Orient Express restaurant. Getting on the train was like a time warp. It was some old french sleeper, there was a weird mix of people, and a surprising amount of americans.

Looking for my cabin I ask an old guy how the hell I was supposed to read the ticket. He explains it and then we realize I am booked into the same cabin as he and his wife.

“shouldn’t ther be a guy in a hat with a whistle and brass buttons?

He laughs and asks me where I’m from.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,” I reply.

He says he and his wife are from San Francisco and the couple they are traveling with are from Florida. Just as I’m about to ask where in Florida, as I am quite familiar with America’s Wang, a head pokes out from the next cabin down.

“Did you just say you were from Bethlehem?” asks the head.

“Yeah. I did.”

“Did you graduate from Freedom or Liberty?”

“No shiiiiiiii(t). Liberty. Are you from Bethlehem?

“I graduated Liberty ’90!” He didn’t look ten years older than me. The age difference was enough for us not to play the name game and he was on his honeymoon with his new wife, so I bowed out of the conversation early.

I still had to find my cabin.

I just sat in one and waited for someone to boot me out, and no one did.

The guy came to check the ticket and I was not disturbed until abotu 12:30 at night when I was woken up for customs. A man with a gun took my passprt and returned it 20 confused minutes later. It was stamped out of turkey.

20 minutes more and someone came to stamp me in to Greece.

I hurriedly searched for the Greece stamp but couldn’t find it. Passport stamps are worse than heroin.

I passed out until about an hour before the train stopped in Thessaloniki. I chatted with a Canadian fellow about the lack of cleavage in Istanbul.

The ride from Thessaloniki to Athens was about 5 hours and I decided at that moment I’d take the two hour flight back, no matter what the cost.

Not a moment too soon before arriving on the ‘Express’ to Athens, I nodded off.