One of the stops on the cruise was Athens. I decided to skip it because I was flying to Athens right after the cruise. I ran into trouble as soon as I stepped out of baggage claim.
After I collected my bag, I went to the information desk to find the metro to city center where my host told me to go to find his place. The man said "Today the metro does not go to city center."
"I don't know what that is."
"Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany" he said with a very unimpressed look on his face.
So I decided to take the bus instead. But the bus workers were on strike until 4pm. Didn't think that was a big deal since 4pm was about an hour away. As 4pm got closer, the bus departures screen kept canceling all the bus routes. Next to bus #, it would either say "strike" or "canceled". Eventually, a bus did arrive. When I got on board, a nice man helped me with directions. Because Angela Merkel was in town, they shut down a lot of things near Syntagma where Parliament is and the starting point for my directions that my host gave me. The man on the bus said I would need to take the bus as far as it went and then get a taxi. When I got off, he even let me call my host, but he didn't answer.
The bus stopped at a metro station, and I asked if I could walk to Syntagma, and he said yes and pointed down to the metro. I assumed me meant for me to take the metro, so I bought a metro ticket. Looking at the map, Syntagma was about 5 stops away. When I got on the metro, all the signs said that Syntagma and a list of other metro stops around Syntagma were closed for the entire day "for safety reasons".
I took the metro to a stop that was closest to Syntagma, and I decided to walk the rest of the way. As I got closer to Syntagma, there were less and less people and more and more trash. Something made my eyes a little watery too. I saw some riot police as well. Nobody acted abnormally, so I kept walking.
When I got to Syntagma, there was almost nobody there and lots of trash everywhere. I saw the Parliament building, so I was glad to be able to start following my host's directions. Unfortunately, his directions included taking public transportation from Syntagma, which was of course closed. I just figured I would walk along his route until I got far enough away from Syntagma to where public transportation was in service again. The problem was I didn't know which direction to go.
I went to find a map on the street. The closer I got to Parliament, the more my eyes started to water. Then I started to cough. It became almost unbearable. Down one street something was thrown at one of the riot police. I decided it was time to get out of Syntagma. On my way out, a group of riot police stormed past me. I let them pass and kept moving away from Syntagma where I could breathe normally again.
Eventually, I grabbed a cab. He drove me a total of 2 blocks. For some reason he refused to take me all the way to the dot I showed him on my iPhone map. But the place he dropped me off was at least in the right direction and I knew where I was. The Greek street signs are hard to read. Thankfully all the math and science from school helped me pick out hints from the words to sound out. Eventually, I found my host.
The highlight of Athens was of course the Acropolis. Rick Steves called it maybe the most influential place in history. Parthenon has existed for ~2500 years (almost as long as the pyramids) and has served many different purposes including a Christian church. Unfortunately, a ton of stuff was taken by an Englishman named Lord Elgin who claimed he had permission to actually rip things off the building and take them back to England. So lots of things are at the British Museum. Even today, the Greeks are trying to bring them back. Despite being conquered by several different civilizations, they all chose not to destroy it, but rather to use it for their own purposes. Well, except for the Venetian army that pulled off maybe the luckiest shot in history when they attacked and hit the stock of gunpowder and blew up a big chunk of Parthenon. They chose the site because it sat on top of the perfect plateau. It really is grand to see it hoisted up above. It's like a political Mt. Olympus lowered down to human existence.
The second part of the video is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus where Yanni performed his famous concert.
The food was good. Greek food and I have always gotten along quite well. The best was the souvlaki kebab. It was so juicy. I also had moussaka. I had never had it before, but I made it a couple times. I wasn't sure if I was doing it right, so I had to taste the real thing. Now I have a better idea of what it's supposed to be like. I think I'm also going to have to try making tzatziki sauce (the white yogurt sauce like in gyros).
Another Greek thing I had to try was ouzo. I didn't know what it was except that I assumed it was alcoholic. And oh my gosh, wasit alcoholic. I believed there was an above average amount of alcohol in my drink. (I looked it up later and found out it's usually between 40-50% with a minimum being 37.5%.) It tasted like licorice-flavored liquid fumes from hell. I hadn't eaten anything all day, and the ouzo came out first. After just one sip, I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it. I tried adding water, didn't help. I tried adding Sprite, didn't help. After all this experimentation, I couldn't see straight. And let's just say that on the way back, the pavement seemed to be more uneven than on the way there.