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Travel Journal



"We arrived in Athens in the early afternoon yesterday and took the bus to Syntagma square, and then walked to our hotel. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it was in the middle of a lovely pedestrian shopping/dining area, and that our room was recently painted, clean, and had a large balcony.

After relaxing in the room for a while, we headed out to explore the area, and wound up climbing halfway to the Acropolis in order to get a view of the city. The climb was an adventure-- we meandered through narrow alleys between white houses and up old stone stairs, pausing to enjoy the view and the cats. Once we arrived at the lookout point, we met a nice fellow from Germany who was on his way to spend a year or so on a Kibbutz in Israel. We sat up there as the sun set, discussing the reasons why so many young Germans are interested in travelling to Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, current US politics, and a variety of other subjects.

We continued our wander around the Plaka area, accidentally happening across the Roman Forum, looking casually for an ATM. We couldn't get any of the ones we encountered to work for us, so we headed back out onto the main street the bus station was on and found one there. Dinner was at an outdoor restaurant near the hotel, and John won the food lottery -- both his appetizer and his main dish were terrific, while mine were fine, but nothing to get all that excited about.

Since we'd had a pretty long day, we turned in shortly after dinner. In the morning, we re-packed our bags, putting everything we'd need for the next few days into a single backpack so we could leave our other stuff, and the bag of souvenirs from Turkey, at the hotel until we return on Thursday. At breakfast we met a lawyer from New Zealand, who's on a 10-week tour of europe. We talked about travel, politics, and government. It was interesting when she asked about the sniper attacks in Washington, and we realized that the Washington, D.C. area has a population higher than the entire country she lives in.

After breakfast, we checked out and headed to tourist information, where we confirmed that the archaeological museum is indeed closed until April 2004, and got a bus schedule. I can't say they were really very helpful when we tried to get advice on travel plans, though. We decided that Tripoli seems to have good connections to various points of interest in the Peloponnese, so we're going to stay there and take a couple of day trips from there.

We headed over to Omonia to catch the bus to the long-distance bus terminal, where we got tickets to Tripoli and waited an hour and a half for our bus.

Impressions of Greece so far:

We're in Europe again.

There's a lot more money here.

There are a lot more American tourists.

We can look at merchandise outside of shops without being immediately descended upon by a salesperson.

The writeups we've seen of Athens in guidebooks led us to expect it to be terrible. We actually found it romantic, charming, and easy to get around in. Maybe it's icky in the summer?"



The search for an Internet Cafe...

"So we're in Tripoli, trying to figure out our transportation arrangements for the next few days. Greek standard operating hours mean that the tourist information office was already closed when we arrived here at 3:00, so we figured we'd try to find an Internet cafe.

We asked at the hotel desk, and were directed to two -- both of which were closed. One of them was obviously undergoing reconstruction, and had people inside, so we asked there and were directed to another one. We failed to find it, and wandered around looking for it for a while, eventually asking at an electronic game store, which directed us back to the first one. We decided to try their patience by asking them again; turned out we'd walked right past it. So now we're sitting in the Internet cafe, waiting for what appears to be the only publicly-availably Internet-connected computer in this entire town. Hopefully, the three teenaged girls currently using it will give up sometime in the next half hour... but given that they seem to be using a chatroom or some such, who knows?

Ah, well. It's really a very nice town. For the same price we're paying in Athens for a hostel, we're in a hotel that would rate 3 stars in Turkey; I don't know what the rating system is here. The sort of place where the attached bathroom has a built-in hair dryer. I bought a mid-afternoon lunch of delicious ham-and-cheese filled croissant-like objects from a walk-up shop; it's amazing how much we missed pork products in Turkey!

Even though the bus stations here are none too impressive (although I somehow avoided using a squat toilet the whole time we were in Turkey, I used one in the main Athens bus station today), I will say that the long-distance buses themselves are very nice, and the prices are quite reasonable. The drive from Athens was very pretty, and took us across the canal separating the Peloponnese from the mainland -- quite an amazing sight, as the land is 90 meters above the water on both sides of the canal! It's apparently over 6km long, and was started by Nero, although it wasn't finished until the late 19th century."

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