Today was a very renewing day -- after the hurry of the guided ruins tour and the seething chaos of the Plaka (the district below the Acropolis' hill, full of billions of shops, restaurants, hawkers, street merchants, and a blocks-long flea market), I said screw it all, grabbed everyone who felt like following (that would be Mom), and took a city bus out to Voulas, a tiny little suburb of Athens in much the same way that Napa is a suburb of San Francisco. Which happens to be notable for being on the ocean. So we paid our way into the public beaches -- 4 euros, or about nine times the one-way bus fare -- and I got to go swimming in the Mediterranean. Which was a lovely experience, mouth full of salt water notwithstanding. It was comfortably warm, even despite the steady wind, and the motion of the waves pulled me along like a dance, stepping and swaying against the currents, arms floating to caress the ocean's surface or cut through a swell. I haven't been in an ocean for several years now and it was quite a worthwhile reintroduction.
There have been high points and low points of the trip. Good restaurants and bad -- I don't think I'm ever going to find a Greek restaurant to measure up to the first day's dinner, Taverna i Dafni, which was a mixed blessing because all of the rest of the trip's food felt sort of inadequate in comparison. Good values and bad -- a few items where bartering produced a price low beyond my expectations (the new Greek fisherman's hat ended up costing 8 euros, about $10, and would have been $30 back in the states), a few rip-offs (the lousy 50-euro meal), a few financial frustrations (a 10-euro commission on changing $100 of traveler's checks into euros at one place. Ouch). I got to see the Greek streets and the Greek countryside and get a glimpse into 2500-year-old history. Everything has been new and often a little intimidating and there's still an entire country's worth of it out there that I couldn't possibly have seen in the time I had and there's still an entire world's worth of countries I'll probably never get the chance to visit. It's been broadening. It's been humbling. If I come back I'm definitely going to take the time to properly learn the language first.
I also had my first glass of ouzo tonight. That shit hits you like a block of marble.
Once I can get back, I'll try to get the rest of the photos online as expediently as possible. (Anyone got any suggestions for a good Mac OS X program, hopefully freeware/shareware, for photo gallery/thumbnail work? Something like what I did here is perfectly sufficient.) There's also, so far, 26 pages of paper diary to type up, and that's only through day 4 of 9. (I fell pretty far behind on the through-the-country tour, because they kept us busy the entire damn time.)
See you all soon.