March 26, 2008
Two Greek Surprises on Day Two
(written yesterday, Tuesday, March 25th, 2008)
The streets closed off! The historical sites closed!
Yep, today is Greek Independence Day! (Date of 1821 Declaration of Independence from the Ottoman Empire.) Did we figure that out before planning our trip? Uh, I hate to admit it, but nope, she says very sheepishly. Well, did YOU know ahead of time that March 25th is the Greek National Holiday? Unless you have Greek roots, probably not.
Experiencing the hundreds of fluttering Greek flags and cheerful festivity was a wonderful bonus to our stay in Athens, especially since God was gracious enough to let us go see the Acropolis the day before, and not have missed anything due to closures. We were leaving town today anyway.
We were on our way on foot to sneak a peek at Hadrian's Arch before checking out of the hotel, when we discovered the hundreds of military vehicles. I liked this photo with the Acropolis & Parthenon visible through the arch and tanks on both sides and in the middle. We also saw the ruined Temple of Zeus (the right hand photo) through a fence, but access was closed for the holiday.
Instead of David getting the rental car and bringing it to the luggage, we just wheeled all our bags for an 8-day trip a few blocks to the rental office, since the main roads to our hotel were blocked by the tank parade route. He was probably glad he didn't have to negotiate those tiny, car-lined, one-way streets anyway. Our street was lined with fragrant orange trees as well. We tried to avoid the fallen fruit with our suitcase wheels.
The rental car office was thick with all-day-long clouds of cigarette smoke from about eight employees who seemed to have not much else to do, and David sacrificially braved it while the rest of us considered ourselves lucky to stand outside in the chilly shade (whence we viewed the Greek fighter jets in their supersonic flights over the city!). He was the only customer in there, but it still managed to take about 30 minutes, because they insisted our reservation had been cancelled. They gave us a car anyway, but without GPS. Exciting to think about trying to find our way around Greece without it.
In the meantime, one of the employees came outside with his video camera to tape the air show (jets, black and red helicopters, yellow slower planes). He stood in the middle of the four-way, two-lanes-each-direction intersection to do so. The police officer blocking traffic one direction (the way the tank parade went) didn't seem to see anything wrong with that. One of the police got out of the car and piled on the back of another police officer's motorcycle, without a helmet, to get a ride down the street (on the wrong side of the divided road).
The Europcar folks drew David a map with directions on how to get out of Athens heading for Delphi. I'm not sure I could call it helpful:
But he remembered what they said and followed the directions, and pretty soon we were on a highway heading north. When traffic snarled up across the four lanes, a van made its own fifth lane between the rightmost ones. I guess he was in a hurry. It was lovely to get out into mountainous territory, passing town names like "Filadelfia" and "Metamórfosis" and the highway exits, which are marked "Exodus." After we passed the convoy of tanks leaving the city on carrier trucks, we eventually got out into beautifully desolate countryside, and kept ascending towards Mount Parnassos. On our way up, we saw goats, sheep, dogs, cats, and chickens by the side of the road.
Delphi/Delfi is way up high in the mountains, where it is much COLDER than down by sea-level in Athens. Somehow we didn't realize or think about this ahead of time either. Where's my ski jacket? Oh, at home in my closet. Emily's the lucky one - she doesn't seem to have a lighter spring jacket at this point in her life, so she brought the only coat she has: her ski jacket. Now she's happy. There are snowy peaks around us. We'll be layering tomorrow. The weather down in Athens was absolutely lovely - perfect temperature for T-shirts in the sun, and sweatshirts in the shade or when it was windy. Sunny and dry. It was super to have a balcony and have the sliding door open. A nice contrast from England where it was snowing the day we left. But I do adore the mountains up here. It's totally worth the chill! David and I took a little investigative stroll around the village before dinner and saw these festive flags.
From our hotel balcony here in Delfi we have a gorgeous view way down the valley all the way to Itéa, a little town on the Gulf of Corinth (the body of water separating the Pelopponese from the rest of Greece). We had a nice dinner (baked goat; lamb & spinach; veal & "local pasta") overlooking the same view. Tomorrow after we see the sights of Delfi we plan to drive across the bridge at Patra to get onto the Pelopponese and scout out Olympia.
March 26, 2008 | Permalink
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Gorgeous photos, I'm so jealous.
I did, but it's only because I'm an Orthodox convert.
Posted by: Mimi | Mar 26, 2008 7:22:11 PM
This so reminds me of the last time I had viral bronchitis (which I have now) in Athens the very day they had regime change. The entire city was plugged with happy riotous cacophany and the Dr. couldn't get through to our hotel. It was just before the Olympics. I love the spirit of Athens. So glad you are there. and we received Emily's sweet thank you today. Have fun! I am getting better, too.
Posted by: willow drinkwater | Mar 27, 2008 1:42:42 AM
Wow!! I'm loving "touring" Greece with you all :-) Cote's going to love it, too, when he sees it (he has an especial fondness for Ancient Greek things). I'm afraid that not only would I not have known about Greek Independence Day, but I also would have been completely clueless that there's SNOW (????) in Greece! That idea just doesn't jive with my mental vision of Aegean Blue and Bright White in Greece. Carry on, enjoying vacation! I'm off to browse Flickr .... :-)
Posted by: Skeller | Mar 28, 2008 2:34:08 PM