Sunday, May 29, 2011

In Which I Underestimate The Importance of Sunglasses

We've just returned to the hotel from a day (beginning at 6:30 in the morning) out actually exploring the Acropolis and associated museum. First, something I forgot to mention from last night.

Apparently, not all SD cards are created equal. Marina bought an SDHC card from Target before we left, but it turns out that her camera is too old to recognize that it's a valid card. I presume in the same way that I will eventually be too old to understand new technology. Marina's camera is the crotchety, cane-waving elder of digital cameras, despite being good at taking pictures and all around pretty hearty. So, we needed to get another card. We had asked Jordan to bring us a new one from O'Hare after being assured that anywhere that sold them would be closed by the time we were going out, then immediately found a Kodak store in Plaka. Marina bought a 2 gb card, so we no longer needed one from Chicago. Problematically, we didn't actually have a way to call home and by the time we got back to our hotel, we feared Jordan would be on a plane to Frankfurt. So we went to a little internet cafe (across the street from where we wound up eating dinner) to hop on Facebook to send her a message.

Facebook seemed concerned.

It didn't recognize the computer we were logging in from (which is understandable) and asked us whether we wanted to confirm the account by answering a personal question or by identifying pictures of friends. We chose the latter, because who doesn't like a good round of "Do you remember people you barely knew in High School" trivia?

Luckily, it chose people Marina knew, but it did feel uncomfortably like a cross between an online personality quiz and a way to identify dissidents to an authoritarian regime.

Which probably says something about Facebook.

Back to today, and actual travel writing, we stopped fighting the inclination to sleep as late as possible. We took the metro back to the Acropolis, bought our tickets and started hiking up. In retrospect, sunglasses and water bottles would have been a good idea. There was at least one little water fountain station we found along the way, but given that we had nothing to put the water in, it just acted to sort of tease us. Also, hiking up what amounts to a giant limestone rock is complicated by the fact that limestone is really, really slippery. especially if your shoes are mostly flat-soled. There seemed to be tour groups going around being led in most languages other than English, and Marina was able to translate some of what the Russian group was learning about the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (though we did find what appeared to be an American church group, although they didn't have anyone shouting out facts about our surroundings). We made our way around the proscribed Tourist Route (starting with the Temple of Athena Nike, through the Propylaea, and around the Parthenon, only slipping occasionally on the limestone. The Acropolis Museum (the old one that’s actually on the Acropolis) appeared to be closed, but we did get to walk around and look at the grey paneled temporary building that houses the offices for the restoration efforts. So that’s fun. Then, around to the Echtheleon and back down the stairs.

Then, the vendors. I’d wondered where they were on the way up, since it seemed like someone should be taking advantage of the fact that people like us don’t plan ahead and forget water, and it turns out that they just on the other side of the hill, next to the post office and frozen lemonade stand. One guy was selling water. One. Everyone else was either selling cheap parasols or these strange little gel things that you slam on a hard surface, watch it splash out, then watch it reform to its original shape. Like, seven parasol guys and at least three of the Slam Gel vendors. I’m not sure how that works as far as competition, and I’m really curious to see what the Slam Gel guys pay for their product. Marina asked what it was and was told it was “very nice” and “only 5 euros”. Which, you know, fair enough. If we had a nice dinner china cabinet at home, I could see just filling it with little gel things that look like tomatoes, then briefly don’t look like tomatoes, then look like tomatoes again. We walked away, and the guy reduced the price to 4 euros, then 3. Then 1 euro. Which seems like a pretty significant markup at the original price.
We walked up to another large, limestone rock (which was apparently the Areopagus,where the council of elders met in pre-classical times). There are two ways to get up the rock. You can climb up (what I presume were) the original stairs cut into the limestone itself which means you get to be terrified that you’re going to fall off a historic site to your death or you can climb up the handy steel and wood modern staircase. We chose to almost die. Which was fun, though the sign explaining exactly what the hell you’re standing on is near the convenient, this-is-what-you’re-supposed-to-climb-up-you-silly-tourist modern staircase.

Rather than continuing to write about every detail of the day in one post, I’ll stop it here. Next time, on Ryan and Marina Bumble About Greece, tune in for the New Acropolis Museum, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, more slammy tomato guys and the Reunion with Jordan. It’s exciting stuff.

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