Saturday, March 28, 2009

MARCH 28, 2009

Hello again! Catching up from where I left off... we went to dinner at another taverna courtesy of the Athens Centre as our "welcome dinner" and were treated to a six course dinner. It started off with bread, followed by a potato salad-ish dish, then salad complete with to-die-for feta cheese, then saganaki, a greek appetizer consisting solely of fried feta cheese (it was AMAZING), then the main course, followed by dessert of fruit and greek confections and a sweet wine. My main course was Rabbit in a wine sauce, and it was DELICIOUS (we started calling it chicken so one of the girls at the table wouldn't get sick at the sight of the rabbit vertebrae on my plate). After a good night's sleep we met up at the Athens Centre from where we set off on our introductory walking tour of central Athens. We walked from the centre past the stadium to the National Gardens (formerly the Royal gardens back when Greece was ruled by bavarian kings), which were a peaceful refuge from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city. Within the Gardens we came upon the Zappeion, a neo-classical meeting and ceremonial hall where the documents that accepted Greece into the EU were signed. Through the gardens we walked onwards towards Syndagma (or Constitution) Square, the site of many riots in the young years of Greece as well as the base of operations for the Nazis during their occupation in WWII (their HQ was the Hotel Grande Bretagne). On one side of the square is the Greek Parliament Building, once the palace for the "Greek" monarchs, in front of which is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guarded 24/7 by two Evzones, the Greek presidential guard, dressed every season in full wool ceremonial garb down to their pompon-adorned clogs. The tomb wall has inscribed upon it in ancient greek the names of the many battles in which the greek army has participated, even indicating Korea in the ancient script. From the tomb, we went beneath into the Syndagma Metro station, which looked similar to a museum, with displays of Grave stelae and pottery found during the excavation for the station in the early 1990's. Along the wall of the station was also a recreation of the stratigraphy of the excavavtion, with plaques denoting the different features found in the area, from graves and walls from the many periods of different rule in Athens, to ancient roads (one of which was labeled as the road to Mesogaia, which is roughly translated as Middle-earth...). Once we emerged from the undergraound Metro museum, we made our way down Ermou St. but kept running into another group, so we took a detour (thats when i saw a Toys of the World, which was a shock to me, because it looks EXACTLY like the one mom used to work in, down to the Playmobil guard outside). We ended up at the Mitropoli church, the main Greek Orthodox cathedral in Athens. There was scaffolding covering the exterior decor, and apparently the interior wasn't that great, so I was happy I didn't go inside, since I would have missed possibly the most awesome thing ever. There was a girl coming out of the church with her mother and she was whining and crying and complaining, struggling to get out of her grasp. So along comes this priest, who had previously been chatting it up with a couple cops, and he stops, turns and looks right at the girl and says in an incredibly intimidating voice some greek words that I will translate solely on how the situation played out: "God will strike you down if you don't shut up!" And lo and behold the girl shot up straight, folded hed hands in front of her, and stayed absolutely still and quiet, following the priest with only her eyes until he dissapeared into the church. That was just awesome! Anyhow, after the great Greek intimidation, we made our way to Monastiraki Square, where we divided up for lunch. I went with a small group to the little cafe place and got a lamb gyros and I ate it as we walked down to Kerameikos, the old Greek burial area/potter's quarter. I only went to see what it looked like, since we were going later on and for free, so afterwards I headed back alone the way we came, making a detour/getting lost in the National Gardens, which was good, because I got a great picture of the daily life of old Greek men: watching other old Greek men play chess. I shall call it the Battle of Athens, considering their age and likely experience of the hardships that Athens has endured just in the past century. From there I found out where I was, and decided to stop by the Stadium, because now I had my camera and could take pictures with less people around. That done, I made my way back so I could talk to Katt for the first time in nearly a week. It was refreshing. She told me roughly where her apartment would be, so, having nothing else to do, I walked to the area around Athens University, which was 20-25 minutes walking leisurely down a straight, busy thoroughfare populated by banks, cafes, a mall, several gelaterias, and a starbucks, so I think its safe to say that the walk won't be a problem whatsoever. After I came back I just started relaxing and wondering what I'm going to do tomorrow, with most of everything closed, but of course, you'll find that out tomorrow. Until next time...

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