I am back from my whirlwind trip to Greece for Special Olympics. Besides the CRIPPLING jet lag (exhausted all day, then wiiiiide awake at 3am), it’s wonderful to be home with my family. My Special Olympic calendar was full, but we did get a day to do some sightseeing. It was amazing to walk among ruins more than 25 centuries old. It was less amazing to experience tear gas. But I will get to that in a second!
It took me thirty hours of travel to arrive in Greece. I left my house at three am for a six am flight, flew to Chicago, had a four hour layover, flew to Dusseldorf, had a four hour layover, and then finally landed in Greece (luckily, I met up with MamaKat in Chicago for the rest of our flights). When I looked out the window as we approached Athens, I saw beautiful scenery…and an Ikea. It was almost like landing at Burbank Airport.
I learned a few basic Greek phrases before I left for the trip (hello, please, thank you, may I please have a beer), but I wasn’t too worried about figuring out my way around Athens. I mean, I’d seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” twice and I was in a sorority so I know the Greek alphabet. Funny, those two things did not prepare me for figuring out Greek words. I opened my computer and saw this:
I only know what like, one of those words means. (It took me a shameful amount of time to see the “Google in English” option.)
Our first night we went to the Opening Ceremonies and sat in the 2,500 year old Panathinaiko Stadium. It’s made entirely of marble.
On my birthday we were able to go to the Acropolis, which we could see from our hotel’s restaurant.
We saw the Parthenon, Erechtheum, Propylaea, and the remains of many other buildings.
Later that night we went about 45 miles south of Athens to Cape Sounion and watched the sunset over the Aegean Sea from the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon. To say it was beautiful is an understatement.
The drive along the coast was beautiful. The water was so blue, I wish we’d stopped the car and jumped in.
The two days after my birthday were intense in Athens. Political tensions were high, and the citizens were unhappy. Extremely unhappy. There were demonstrations and protests in front of Parliament that turned violent. Syntagma Square, where all the protesting was centered, was only 0.4 miles away from our hotel. On the 28th, we were still able to move about the city in cars, although many roads were abruptly closed and at one point the car I was in went in circles until the streets to our hotel opened up.
The 29th was even worse. From the roof of our hotel we could hear the explosions of tear gas, stun bombs, and firecrackers. We could see smoke from fires the rioters had started. An executive decision was made for us to stay close to the hotel. It was a good decision. Except then Kat and I left to get some lunch. Bad decision. We were two streets below our hotel when we suddenly felt the sting of tear gas in our eyes and noses. As people sprinted past us – some wearing gas masks, others screaming – we said, “Hey, maybe we should just have lunch back at the hotel?” Good decision.
It was sad to be in Athens when its citizens were so unhappy. I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of their financials (I barely understand how direct deposit works), but it definitely seemed like a lose/lose situation for everyone. I still enjoyed myself very much, and I want to go back someday in the hopefully-not-too-distant future with Mike to see more of the city and the islands. I assume by then the tear gas will have dissipated.