Greetings, all!

I flew to Athens on Sunday and found myself at the airport with no clue where to find a place to stay. My visions of people pushing hostel flyers in my face were not borne out, and I didn't even have an idea how to read the signs to find my way into town (insert "it's Greek to me" joke here). Luckily I was alternating on the phone booth with a group of Argentine women, and I got the name of their hotel/hostel, and followed them into town.

The other thing I had not counted on was that it was election day. When we reached our hotel, there was a huge rally in the square three blocks away. The street was blocked, everyone had air horns, flags and sparklers. The race was for Prime Minister, and was neck in neck, between the socialists (who eventually won a third term) and the New Democrats (which is the party we had stumbled into the middle of). Every time they would gain a fraction of a percentage, a huge cheer would go up.
Athens Rally
No Shoes!
I should mention the drunk Greek in the rally that wanted me to take a picture of the fact that he'd lost his shoes, and who was so happy I was American, he gave me some bubble gum. Thank goodness he was drunk, or he would've realized I had no clue what he was saying! Of course, he forgot I had taken the first picture, so I had to take a second... I took a bunch of pictures, which I hope will turn out to some extent. If someone had told me the day before that I would attend a Greek Political Rally with some Argentine women, I would have laughed. Actually, I'm still laughing!

My earplugs were put to good use, as the crowd formed a parade of cars right past the hostel. This happened again two days later when they beat the Italians in a Soccer championship. These are a happy people!

The Plaka
Poppies in the Ruins
The next couple days were filled with touring the sights - all with walking distance. I'm in love with the Plaka, touristy as it is. It is filled with outside dining, and the food is INCREDIBLE. The prices aren't bad either, which was a pleasant surprise. The weather has been perfect, and the crowds manageable.
This is definitely the time to see Greece. The flowers are all out, the grass hasn't been burned by the sun yet, and the evenings are comfortable. The pollution is an issue, of course, and my throat was scratchy for the duration of my stay.

Yesterday I did a breakneck tour of Delphi (I got there 40 minutes before closing...), but managed to see the sights and shoot many pictures, as usual.

Today I navigated the Greek bus system and trekked to Kalambaka, where I'm writing this from. Twisted cookie that I am, I found I welcomed the challenge of being dropped in a small town, unable to read any signs (well, I could've read the street signs, if they'd bothered to have any...), and only a few clues in my guide book to find my hotel. Two hours later, I'm set to go. Even here, limited English is spoken. Bottom line: they need to sell me services, so they can understand enough to get me by. For my part, I can now say "Thank You" in several languages.

The reason I'm here is to visit Meteora tomorrow. Here's a link, to see what the fuss is about: I guess they were also featured in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.

People warned me about Athens traffic, but I love it! I'm free to walk when and where I want, and while the drivers ARE fast, unlike Seattle, they are watching where they're going, so I actually feel much safer. Of course, you don't see me jumping onto a Vespa...

A couple of people have asked me about the occasional 'we' I referred to in past letters. Yes, I'm traveling alone, but I met up with my friends Chris and Tricia in Frankfurt, and explored Amsterdam and Budapest with them. We have headed down our separate trails now, so any future traveling partners will be folks I've met along the way, of which there is always a LOT!

I've now passed one month on the road, and continue to love it. The countryside I've seen over the last week has been simply beautiful, and the people friendly.

I guess I've fed enough coins into this email box, so let me just say that I miss you all, and don't be afraid to drop a line - I've enjoyed the updates I've received.

Happy Trails!

Gavin at the Hephaisteion