Saturday, April 21, 2018

Greece is the Word - Yassas

I wanted to share a few words about my first trip to the cradle of democracy. I learned all about ostracism in ancient Greece ---

"Ostracism (Greek: ὀστρακισμός, ostrakismos) was a procedure under the Athenian democracy in which any citizen could be expelled from the city-state of Athens for ten years. While some instances clearly expressed popular anger at the citizen, ostracism was often used preemptively."

A happy wife makes a happy life
Which is very funny considering some of the things that I found going on in MORE when I returned. Did they have sectarian political parties in Greece? But more of that in future posts.

The trip was fairly brief - a long way to go for 8 days - actually 5 days on the tour and 2 plus in Athens. But we were hoping to get back to do some serious gardening and found it still too cold. We should have added a few days and seen the islands.

Greece was not a nation until the 1820's - in ancient times it was all city-states. The Olympics and other similar events were ways to stopping the fighting and all Greeks to come together. Maybe we can have some relay races between caucuses in the UFT.

But this was a land tour only. We went with Insight Tours, a British based company, which was great. Best tour we've had. We already booked Croatia through Road Scholar for October but next year we may do Ireland and Scotland through Insight.

We left late Saturday night, April 9, and got to Athens at 4 PM on Sunday, Greek Orthodox Easter.  All eateries around our hotel were closed - so we rested at our excellent hotel for an hour and then headed out for a very long walk to the Plaka -- I think we did over 3 miles over all - jet lag and all and ate at the first place we found - not great -- we saw after that if we had walked another block we would have found lots of great places to eat. We passed ancient ruins all over the place - remarkable stuff over 2000 years old.

The Acropolis towers over everything -- and Athens may be the only city with mountains you have to walk around.

Surprised to see a statue of me
And all of Greece was so green - the weather was perfect all week.

Monday was also a holiday - we began with one of the best buffet breakfasts we've had -- and I made at least 4 trips - yes I gained about 6 pounds on this trip-- but some things were open and we covered all parts of key areas of Athens. We learned to use an excellent subway system. We took it to the Syntagma Square near parliament where we saw the changing of the guard and then walked around the ancient Agora -- where the central market was thousands of years ago. Then walked around The Acropolis area - ate some lunch and finally headed back to the hotel for a rest before looking for a place for dinner - which we found a block from the hotel and it was so good - especially when they gave us soup, dessert and a shot on the house.

Tuesday we did the Archeological Museum and some other things that were not on the tour, which began Tuesday night with a meeting at the hotel. It's hard to get your head around how civilization goes back so far - even to 3500 BC. I'm not sure if we have advanced much at all.

We had met the guide on Monday when she called us and said she'd be around the hotel. Lovely lady - born in Scotland, grew up in the maritimes in Canada and married a Greek from Lesbos. She introduced us to an Australian couple and another Aussie traveling solo - they hadn't known each other but lived near each other around Brisbane, which we had visited 25 years ago.

We met everyone else at the Tuesday night meeting, followed by a buffet dinner at the hotel. We had 3 Aussies, Canadians, an English mom with 3 kids, a guy from the Philippines and another man from Hong Kong, now living in Pittsburgh -- and he's 83, and a nurse from California. Some had been on a 4 day cruise of the islands a few days before. Later we were sorry we didn't do that too but we may go back soon.

That is why we love to go on tours - meeting and bonding with so many people we would never have met. One couple we got close to is from Western Canada - they are 3rd generation farmers and I learned how a combine works. I may go out and visit and pick some crops.
The next 5 days were a whirlwind but we still felt fairly rested. Wednesday we met the coach and headed for the Acropolis and the museum for half a day. Hey, the Parthenon - I got a hundred photos from all angles. We had some lunch and then the coach left Athens to take us for a few hours drive to the Meteora monasteries, another world heritage site. We stayed for 2 nights in Kalambaka.

Thursday we did the monasteries --
So high up in the mountains -- that famous "For Your Eyes Only" James Bond/Roger Moore film where he escapes from there. Impossible to get there you would think. We went to 3 of them and then some of us walked down the mountain and back to the hotel and then off to a great lunch the guide, Moraig, took us too. That night she took us to a wonderful town called Trikala and a group dinner outdoors. She always made impeccable choices for us.

Two days and we felt we had been gone for a a long time already and also bonding with our tour mates.

Friday we headed for Delphi- after another buffet breakfast. Urp! - lox, lox, lox. Spent the day touring and moving and eating. Crossed the bridge over the Sea of Corinth -- and entered the Peloponesus -- basically a giant island that is half of Greece. We stopped at another seaside town - Napfpaklos -- wow - I could live there. Too busy a day to write everything.

Saturday - A half day at Olympia where it all began -- 776 BC - imagine - the Olympics basically went on for a 1000 years until they were ended when the Christians became ascendant around 350 AD -- there was the actual track they used. So much interesting stuff. I was taking a zillion photos. This is where they light the torch for all current games. We had lunch and some went back to the hotel while a few of us stayed in the town of Olympia to check it out for a few hours. A couple of guys went to an interesting little museum devoted to Archimedes and his inventions. Astounding stuff - we were in Syracuse on Sicily a few years ago and I bought an Archimedes tee shirt.  Then we went for a beer - I loved the Greek beer - until we caught the coach back to the hotel where we went for a swim in the pool. Moraig had a trainee - a woman originally from South Africa and her boss, Feona, who was from Scotland and married a Greek too - along on the entire trip. They took us to an outdoor restaurant where we learned to cook and then 2 lovely ladies led us in Greek dancing -- Feona took some video of me dancing and cooking -- I hope they never see the light of day.

Sunday -- our last full day -- unbelievable how fast it's gone but we were also felt we had done so much. Another buffet breakfast.  Headed to Mycenae - but  stopped at another seaside town - Nafplio - another place I could live -- I bought a pipe -- and then to meet the Mycenians - well not really, since they were a thousand years - 1600BC before the Greek heydays of 500-400 BC. Really hard to wrap out heads around all this - think of a thousand years ago for us - so Greeks in 500 BC were tourists to visit the ruins of Mycenae.
The main thing about Mycenae is that it is the supposed site of The Iliad -- now we have to go Troy in Turkey. 

Then crossing back into mainland over the Corinth Canal -- a narrow slip of a thing that in effect turns the Peloponnesus into an island. It was proposed 2000 years ago but not built until 1893 -- sort of like the 2nd Ave subway.

Farewell dinner that night at a local restaurant -- another great choice. Back at hotel we all hugged our new friends and went to our room. A knock at the door and our new Canadian friends -- the farmers asked us to help them finish off some ouzo. He is a Toronto Blue Jays fan and will be catching a game there in July. We may meet them and hope they come to NYC and stay with us.

Monday -- plane leaves at 4:30 PM and we are being picked up at 1:45. A final buffet breakfast - lox, lox, lox and more -- we run into the Aussies and say another good bye.  The guy traveling alone has a few months more to go -- an amazing guy who is in almost permanent travel mode. I told him I would check his itinerary and jump in some time -- the farmer from Canada even said he might be interested. A boys' trip.

We had a few hours. Most museums are closed Mondays but one was open and we walked over to the Museum of Cycladic Art - the Cyclades are islands between Greece and Turkey and had some remarkable civilizations 3200-2000 BC -- finally something older than me.

We got back to NYC around 9:30 PM at Newark and got home around 11. We signed up for Global Travel and got whisked through passport and customs control -- worth the $100 for 5 years.

Our cats were well -- we have an awesome 16 year old young man as a sitter and feel totally comfortable - he's a HS junior at Midwood and we hope he goes to Brooklyn College so we have him for another 5 years.

Tuesday I was back at hot yoga and all the stiffness from the trip was gone. And Weds I went to the delegate assembly and caught up on the MORE wars and all the tenseness that was gone on the trip came back.

One of the things I learned from the trip was that it is time to think about pulling back from blogging and UFT and MORE stuff. It's like a disease I can't get rid of.

Had a long noontime conversation with newly retired James Eterno who is so happy. We are both addicts to UFT politics.

We need a 12-step program.

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