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Monday, September 08, 2014

Home of the Olympics - Athens

It will surprise no one that after two 10 hour bus trips, my traveling partner who can not sleep on buses decided the planned ferry from Athens to Crete was a no go. Upon arrival to the Athen's airport, he immediately inquired about the next flight to Crete. Lucky for me his generous nature paid for my way too!

Ahhhh but we were in Athens - how could we squeeze a little sight seeing in I wondered. Not to fear - I asked the ticket agent what we could do during our 5 hour wait and was pleasantly surprised to find out we could take a city bus to the heart of Athens and see all the sights Athens is known for. The very kind ticket agent even offered to keep our backpacks in his office! This turned out to be a huge gift that my back is still thankful for... remember I did not get the world's greatest massage and was now no longer so trusting to try again.

In short, we took the bus (very easy! and inexpensive) and were let out near the downtown area. Equipped with a map and directions, we made our way to the Olympic Stadium ( the one built for the recent Olympic games in Athens), then walked to the ruins of the first Olympic Stadium - taking time to pose in front of the great columns. But I must say our true goal was to reach the Acropolis.

This is the remains of the theater on your hike up to the top. This statue looks like it is someone very important... I don't know who. Let's imagine who it might be. A play write? A poet? A patron of the arts?

 This chair belong to the important folks who came to see the plays.

And these fellows are holding up what looks to have been the backstage area.

And here is the theater in its entirety - this is just one of the several theaters on the mountain.

 I enjoy the theatres - it is the actor/director in me. i love the thought that here was the space where the art of theatre came into being - and was elevated to such a high form. ***spoiler alert*** In Rome we ate in a resturant housed in a 2000 year old theater that was copied from the Greeks. General Pompey was inspired when we came home from his campaigns. But you have to wait for that story.***

Views from the top - Modern day Athens goes on and on!

 SCAFFOLDING!!!!ARRRGH - This is a theme throughout the trip. Much of these treasured places are being worked on or cleaned or refurbished in some way.

  Oh well.. still more to see.

 Do you see the Muses above? Zoom in on the picture if you can. Those are the lovely Muses from Greek mythology who inspire. If you go to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, you will see them there as well holding up the Museum still inspiring us all.

 With our goal accomplished, we were back on the bus and to the airport. This whirlwind tour of Athens took us a total of 4 hours. More then enough time to make our plane. Note, however, I foolishly wore flip flops not realizing how much fast walking we would be doing. My tootsies would pay for that in Crete.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Massage or decide.

Aching legs, aching backs, aching feet and sign in the hotel advertising massages. Ahhhh...relief, a mere phone call away. After checking into the hotel at the end of our Turkish tour, my partner and I sat by the pool for the better part of the afternoon. The beautiful sunshine, crystal blue water and the ocean view from the lounging area provided the perfect place to rest after seeing so much and absorbing so many stories.

After a nap and a shower, I called the front desk to order two massages as a way to thank my traveling partner for enduring the two 10 hour overnight bus rides to and from the interior of the country, and the miles of walking around ancient ruins, and for his extreme good nature through it all. We waited eagerly.

Perhaps I should have put a stop to it earlier... perhaps he should have as well. But no, neither of us made any move to stop this train wreck of a massage from happening. We didn't stop it when they went to the kitchen to get olive oil because they did not bring any of their own, we didn't stop it when the children they brought made a racket, we didn't stop it when we smelt the alcohol on their breathes, we didn't stop it when we suspected a lack of training on their part. No indeed, we can not really complain too much - the signs were there.

A husband and wife team - actually an entire family complete with four boys. FOUR BOYS! The boys entertained themselves in the room next door and delighted us with the relaxing sounds of Foosball, weight lifting, and shouts that only young brothers know how to make. The woman who was working on my partner kept going out to tell her children to be quiet.

The man who worked on me began on my legs and spent the majority of time rubbing them back to life. As he worked his way up my back, I began to get the feeling that perhaps he was not an actual massage therapist. This was confirmed when he started to lazily draw circles on my back with the copious amounts of olive oil. You know those circles ladies... the ones men make on your back early in the morning? Ah... yeah.

He continued on my front without much concern for my exposed body or the open door, or the noise from the children. As he worked his way around my breast, clearly not quite sure what to do - looking to his wife for some guidance - I decided to just relax and roll with it. I was committed after all and hopefully the woman was an actual massage therapist and my partner was getting a wonderful least this was my hope.

But my partner fared far worse! The wonderful gift I meant to give him...The gift of a relaxing moment when all his aches and pain could drift away...turned into a full fledged groping.

The smell of alcohol on her breath filled my partner's nostrils, and her strong hands reached into ever crook and crannie they could find. The bathing suit he wore meant nothing to the woman who reached under and went over in every way. Her hands pushed and pulled everything on him from his face to his groin.

Upon the table, the woman climbed and straddled my partner's head to do a full body rub from the chest to the thighs... He made the mistake of opening his eyes and spying her amble bosom in his face as she began to work her way down his body.

Neither of us moved when they left - quite frankly the man was in the middle of my shoulders; I thought  he was coming back! I was left unfinished and my partner too well done! He reported she knew how to give a real massage and did at least work on his aching areas relieving them of some pain.

Noisy children, boozie masseurs, full body groping with the kitchen's olive oil... and I got to pay for all that in American dollars. No good deed goes unpunished, so the saying goes.

Next stop Greece!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Turkey - Where the Ancient's Played

While I began my travels by flying into Copenhagen and then meeting my travel partner in Amsterdam,

 it was in Turkey where the real adventure began. A sleepless overnight flight into Istanbul, a tango marathon and four days of sightseeing left our legs aching and us exhausted! We stayed in an and met some lovely people from Chicago, Canada, Holland, and Syria.

Our adventures included shopping at the spice market, drinking lots of tea, eating fantastic food (pictured above in the clay pot on fire), seeing the sites, and tangoing. In Istanbul there are many tours you can buy that will take you into the heart of the country... and after a ten hour bus trip, we arrived at the location of the remains of an ancient Christian community who hid from its enemies in caves. Elaborate churches and many communities pepper the area revealing a thriving community of like minded souls striving to be free. This is of course the communities at Cappadocia.

We slept in a cave hotel but because these tours are so full of activity, we had only a brief rest before

The day continued with a hike through a gorgeous river valley also peppered with caves from the various hermits who went into the wilderness to find God. Ancient Thoreaus experimenting with the true needs of life.

Once this fast paced tour was finished - complete with stops at the rug store (where we bought a rug and made a friend of th esalesman - quiet a character!) and a stop at the oynx and silver shop - we  had adsorbed as much as we could in a very short amount of time. We boarded the bus again and headed to Pamukkle, the fantastic spa waters where Cleopatra and Marc Antone once bathed. I felt like a queen while wallowing in the calcium filled mud. I gave my self a very public facial with the healing muds - luckily no cameras were present to record it!

Our tour continued to the ancient city of Epheseus and the modern city of Selcec. Our tour included excellent hotels and breakfasts and lunches. But by the fourth day of touring we were exhausted.Luckily we had scheduled an extra day to lay by the pool.

After 10 days of Turkey, we were ready for a break. We took a day off to swim and sleep....
Read about my gift that turned into a nightmare on my next blog post!