Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Trip Home

So far, I've figured out that I'm not very good at planning for consequences. I didn't buy sunglasses. I wore flip-flops to hike up a volcanic island, then didn't think that if I got into the sea afterward that I'd not be able to walk out because the beach is made out of rocks and pain. I learned that I'm really aware of what gear the vehicle I'm driving is in if I'm parked at the edge of a cliff. And apparently sunscreen is good.

Oh, also, if something's made entirely out of limestone, it is terrifying to climb, because there's a non-zero chance that you'll slip off and die because your sneakers are not so big on traction.

But most importantly, it turns out that planning something a few weeks in advance, before you're travelling, might make you underestimate just how much travelling you've planned on cramming into two days.

We woke up at about 10 AM on Friday, our last day in Santorini. The plan was that we'd take a ferry back to Piraeus (the same non-speedboat that we'd taken to get to Santorini), then spend the night in Athens before getting on a plane on Satuday at 11am so that we'd be home at roughly 8pm, Chicago time. The thinking was that the speedboats are about double the cost of the non-speedboat and that we weren't booking that part of the trip far enough in advance to get a comparable deal for the flight from Santorini to Athens and hey!, Friday and Saturday are totally different days, so it should be fine to travel eight hours one day and fourteen the next, right?

Wrong. Just really, really incorrect.

After getting up, we met Jordan again for breakfast (the same buffet we'd had every time we went out for breakfast) and were eventually joined by Uncle Eddie, who wanted to check his email before heading off for a flight to Rome. At this point, I'm pretty much done with the buffet (which I'd never thought would be a phrase I would ever think), but it's only 5 Euro and it's next door, so what the hell. I left to go return the ATV, because they'd said I should do that before noon though, again, they didn't have a credit card number or any kind of collateral, so I'm not sure what they'd have done if I just drove it onto the boat and tried to get it back to Chicago, which would have been challenging but worth it. And would be even more worth it if Chicago had anything resembling terrain. I did have to put more gas in it (I gave the guy 5 and have no idea how much gas I bought beyond knowing that it brought me up above a quarter tank, which I believed would incur the wrath of the ATV guy.)

I dropped it off, they never looked at the gauge, and I left. So I probably could have gotten away with not putting gas in it at all, but then I'd have felt bad, and this was not a time to feel guilty about screwing the ATV guy out of a few euros.

When we rented it, he said he'd be able to give me a ride back to my hotel (which was located on the far end of the beach), but apparently that was just sweet, sweet marketing to get me to rent his underpowered 4-wheeler for a day, because that offer was no longer on the table. I walked back, for some reason wearing the watersocks that I'd bought.

This was not a week for reasonable footwear, apparently.

By the time I got back, Marina had settled the remainder of the hotel bill and it was time to frantically try to guess how much we could put in our suitcase without going over 50 pounds and get out to the sidewalk. We packed what we could into the backpacks and the little lunch bags that had been our welcome baskets and decided to ditch some stuff so that we'd be able to avoid paying for luggage (the snorkel set was cheap, Marina didn't think she'd ever use her aquasocks again and I left my Old Navy flip-flops out of spite and anger) We said goodbye to Jordan and stood on the corner waiting for the guy who had brought us from the port to take us back for another 15 Euro.

The ride back to the port was less "Holy Damn! We're on an island!" than the ride in, and was mostly just me attempting to get any kind of breeze from the window while thinking that I was probably never going to be back on this particular bit of the Earth. I don't know if I will; I didn't really expect to be able to go this time, so I guess it's possible I'll do this again.

Waiting for the boat was a little bit of hell, after some time having a crepe at a restaurant at the port which was filled with chocolate sauce for some goddamn reason (every other time we'd seen that, they meant Nutella and apparently just thought we wouldn't know what that was). I'd been out in the sun enough, and was very much looking forward to getting out of the heat and away from everyone and their enormous backpacks. Eventually, we boarded and I went pretty much straight away to the indoor airplane seats, which was reasonably empty because everyone else rushed to the decks. The ferry back seemed quicker (though it always seems that way when you're ending a trip; probably something to do with the fact that you're no longer anticipating the trip). I came out of the airplane seating to the deck once the sun was setting, which apparently signalled to everyone else that it was time to go back inside.

The Aegean at night is wonderfully dark. You can't see where the sky stops other than that there are no stars and an occasional lighted ferry boat on the water.

Which is, I think, healthy for me. I grew up in a relatively rural exurb and while I for the most part really enjoy living in Chicago, the constant light pollution makes me miss being a really young amateur astronomer in Western Pennsylvania. I miss the stars, and while they weren't terribly visible on the boat (because of the boat's own light), it was a lot better than trying to look at the sky on Berwyn. Some French teenagers were doing something incredibly loudly and Marina and I tried valiantly to have some of the wine we'd bought at the market next to our hotel in Santorini, more or less entirely because it was sold in a plastic 1.5L bottle and cost 2 euro. It was 2 euro because it was awful.

We stopped.

After disembarking, we got in the cab line (relatively close to the front) and rode back to our hotel, which was evidently in Omonia, which is evidently kind of seedy.

We were across from something that appeared to serve some kind of spicy food of indeterminate origin and were greeted by a really earnest man who appeared to know who we were (probably because we were the only ones not to check in yet.) We got a password for the internet on a little receipt that we were told was good for three hours and given a key to a room and pointed down a darkened hallway (which, ostensibly had motion detectors rigged up to lights which sort of worked).

Which was, incidentally, the smallest room I've ever been in. There was just enough room for a king-size bed so long as we were ok with having the suitcase either wedged between the bed and the door or in the hallway. The bathroom was a separate room (thank Zeus), but the toilet was, for some reason, in a little cubby hole behind the door. Luckily, our flight was at 11am, meaning we had to be up at 8, so we propped the luggage in front of the door (partly out of necessity because of the size of the room, and partly because it was the most "potentially housing a serial killer" hotel we'd been in), poured the godawful plastic bottle wine down the drain and slept.

In the morning, we woke, checked out, skipped breakfast and headed to Omonia Square to get on the metro. It didn't seem to be the worst place I've been (as everyone in Athens kept assuring me that it was) but I probably wouldn't want to have hung out there at night. Mostly, I was too exhausted to care. We bought our special airport metro tickets (which are more expensive and they keep signs up everywhere assuring you that you'll be fined if you don't have the ticket on you, but it seemed like no one ever checked tickets ever, so I don't know). After about an hour on the metro and some work to get through security (which was oddly immediately before our gate, rather than centralized, which was nice), we were on the plane to Philadelphia.

I have never been on a louder plane. Nothing mechanical; it was just apparently also housing roughly thirty Greeks who either knew each other or were incredibly friendly and walked up and down the aisles, talking and laughing and having a grand old time, which is great for them but hampered my ability to get any sort of sleep. We managed, made it to Philly where a sort of tired delirium set in, then (after a short layover, a bumpy flight and clearing customs) we made it back to the apartment.

We slept, because at this point it was 8pm, Chicago time, and so 4am Athens time.

I can't really think of a nifty way to tie everything up. I think everything's already been said in the other entries. We'd managed to get to Greece and back with only some minor (by which I mean rather serious) sunburn, slightly diminished bank accounts and a bunch of ticket stubs, which are currently in a shadowbox along with some pebbles from Kamari that we'd put into a test tube. Success.

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