Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
Greece 2008 Part III: Athens.

I carry a small black Moleskine with me at all times with five colored pens clipped to its outside: black, red, green, blue and purple. Every week I recopy my to-do list from an old page to a new page, gritting my teeth and grumbling as I transcribe all the stuff that I'm meaning to do but haven't done yet. On the one hand, this is a great motivator for actually getting stuff done, but on the other, it breeds resentment after a while. Take this blog post for example: I've been meaning to post about the third part of our trip to Greece for a month, but haven't been able to find the time to do it. I don't have the time even now -- I only have a few scant minutes before I need to dash off and get ready for work -- but this must be done, in no small part because, one, I have a memory like a wind tunnel (things leave faster than they come in) and two, I don't want to have my memories of a wonderful trip sullied by this miasma of obligation.

So, Athens.

Athens was wonderful.

Laura and I left Nafplio about halfway through the final day of the conference in order to spend the entirety of the next day in Athens, which meant catching a bus. The bus ride from one city to the other was long and beautiful, running through the Greek countryside and giving us a glimpse into the everyday lives of the Greek people, which, aside from a much greater number of solar collectors (go Greece!), run-down buildings and wildly different flora, didn't seem that different. Beautiful, but much the same. I noticed an odd tension between rich and poor there – a luxury car dealership beside an abandoned collapsing outbuilding of a winery, for instance – but that has always struck me as endemic to Europe. Faded glory, sparks of hope and prosperousness: these are the earmarks of an outdated empire, and I found myself wondering if that's what America would look like to my children, or my grandchildren.

Once we arrived in Athens, there was some brief confusion about where exactly the bus station was in relation to our hotel – one of the few times the complete lack of any Greek in either Laura's or my vocabularies left us utterly screwed – but we soon figured it out and returned to the hotel where we'd stayed our first night in the country. Our new hotel room was nowhere near as nice as our first one, leaving us to regret not having used the jacuzzi tub when we'd had the chance, but it was enough. We went out and wandered the placa for a while, foraging for food and poking through some shops (some extremely impressive), but it wasn't long before we returned to the hotel and crashed.

The next morning, Laura and I got up early and headed out to the National Archaeological Museum, which was smaller than I'd feared but no less impressive. We saw the mask of Agamemnon, of course, and a whole host of other statues, figurines and other beautiful pieces. I took copious photographic notes of all the mythological figures and half-men that could find for future projects, and poked around a bit in the gift shop and the museum courtyard (where one man was intensely engaged in staring down a turtle) before we headed back to the hotel to meet Philip and Jen.

Once they arrived and dropped their bags off in our room, we headed out to the placa again for lunch and then took the subway to the Acropolis, which lived up to the hype. We hiked up to the top with hordes of other tourists, gawked at the city, gawked at the ruins, took some pretty pictures (and some pretty silly ones for good measure), fought off a water fountain attack and then returned to the city to relax.

We chose to unwind in the gardens near the placa, wandering through its scenic paths for a while and finally discovering a coffeeshop in the middle of its maze. (God bless the Greeks.) After that, we wandered around the city for a while longer and finally grabbed dinner at a restaurant high up on one of the hills. We toasted a great trip with wine and ouzo and a wonderful meal, and then returned to the hotel so Philip and Jen could grab their stuff and head out to the airport. Laura and I would follow suit relatively soon afterward, as we were lucky enough to find a plane the next morning that sent us through Germany on the way home. I didn't get to go poke around Munich as I'd wanted (pesky short layovers) but hey – you have to leave something for the next trip, right?

All in all, our Greek vacation was a completely wonderful experience. We made new friends, saw some beautiful new places, learned a ton and recharged our batteries. That's what such trips are for, right? I now carry with me a new happy place – when things are stressful, I close my eyes and remember sitting on the balcony of our hotel in Santorini, watching the boats chug through the beautiful waters of the volcano, or sitting with Laura and devouring grilled tomatoes and feta cheese, or wandering through the twisty little back alleys of Athens. If you've never been to Greece, you should make the effort to go – for me it was a pilgrimage to the heart of philosophy and civilization, but it was also just an amazing, thrilling, relaxing experience all around.

In the words of the Great Gonzo, "I'm going to go back there... Someday."

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