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Friday, November 19, 2010

Our last day in Athens

We were up, dressed, and had eaten breakfast ready to check out at 10 this morning. We went to the front desk to pay and store our bags until later. And then she told us how much we owed. I’m starting to think Ryan and I have some sort of curse on us because she was going to charge us 5 euro more than the rate the manager had told us it would be through email. This is the same problem we had the last time we stayed here less than a week ago. AND they told us we had to pay to store our luggage even though there was no charge the last time. After getting nowhere with the woman at the desk we went to their computer and sent an email to the manager as a reply to his email where he had told us what the price would be. And we told him we’d pay when we came back for our bags. This place needs to figure some things out. It was frustrating when this happened the first time but for the second time I thought it was just poor business. We ended up being able to get on Ryan’s email later in the afternoon and received an email back from the manager saying that we were only to pay the price he’d quoted us when we returned for our things. He acknowledged that there were obviously some things he needed to work on with the hotel, but then went into a speech about how much taxes are for businesses in Athens and how he needs every cent he can get in the off season just to make ends meat so they started charging for bag storage. I’m not sure why that information was necessary, but I was glad he stuck by the price he had told us we’d be charged and we didn’t argue with the luggage storage although I still don’t love the business practice of charge more for every little thing. I’d rather just have a set price where we know exactly what we get and the pay it. Don’t make everything a la carte… I’m not ordering at a restaurant for goodness sake.
We didn’t have anything specific planned for our last day. We just set off to enjoy ourselves travel book in hand. We first went across the street with the rest of our tickets from the Acropolis pass we bought at the beginning of the week. With that we got inside the gates at the Temple of Zeus. There wasn’t much more to see from the inside that we hadn’t seen from outside the gates, but we walked around anyway. Then we decided to try the walking tour laid out in the tour book. At the end of the day I realized we’d been to the majority of where it took us on our own, but it was still nice to follow the path it guided us on. We went to a Palace that was used for the headquarters of the Olympics when they were held in Athens and there were military bands playing out front. Then we walked through the Plaka neighborhood. The tour took us up on a hill that had very cute narrow paths leading between houses that were all white. Some had rows of olive oil cans with plants growing out of them. It was very pretty but also smelled like pee so that took away from the ambiance a bit. We wandered through a free museum inside the Old University. It wasn’t really that interesting to us. Then we stopped at a cafĂ© to have some Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts and plums, well we thought it was plums but turned out to be just one lonely sort of dried sort of not dried plum. But it was good. Next we went inside the Roman Forum, which had been closed the last day we were in Athens. Again, nothing more inside the gates than what we’d seen outside. And the same thing at Haydrian’s library. Although we did get to go in a room and see a headless statue of the goddess Nike. I think it is interesting the Nike is pronounced Neekee and the goddess of victory. I never knew that but I’m sure Jack Bowerman did when he started Nike. But I wonder why they don’t pronounce it the way the Greeks do?
Away from the ancient sites we wandered through the Athens “Flea Market” which felt very little like a flee market and more like people who had normal stores inside garages on a small street. But it was fun to walk through and we found a place with gyros so we each had one as a lunch snack. I thought they were cheap on Santorini, but for these two it was only 3,40 euro so I guess I was wrong since we were paying 5 euro for two on the island.
We made our way back out of the market after we’d seen all there was too see, to the extent we cared to see it anyway. And then continued to follow the directions of the walking tour in the book. We were heading toward Athens cathedral and a little church next to it. On the way we came across another tiny church. We went in all three of the churches, but it was interesting that only one was free of scaffolding and construction. Athens cathedral was the worst with even the floors being completely covered with plywood. After that the walking tour was pretty much finished except that we didn’t start exactly at the beginning so we headed to Syntagma Square to end where we should have began. At the square is the nicest hotel in Athens that was built a long time ago as a mansion for the Queens visit or someone important like that. Then it was turned into a hotel where many other visiting politicians and dignitaries stayed. In the 1940’s the Nazi’s turned the building into their headquarters. I would have loved to see a room in there.
From the square I had decided to take Ryan for a treat I knew he’d enjoy, so I started leading him through the streets while I followed a map to a restaurant recommended in the travel book we had. The restaurant called “Doris” was supposed to have good donuts like the ones we had had the night before and Ryan loves donuts and he loves honey. We found the place without a problem and as with the rest of Europe we sat ourselves at a table. I went to the bathroom and while I was gone the waitress came to set a paper tablecloth and drop off two glasses of water. But when I returned we sat and we sat and we sat with no menus. Then Ryan went to the bathroom and while he was gone the waitress came and said something in Greek and I asked for menus, which she said she would bring. Ryan came back and we sat and sat and sat some more. Then he went to get us menus. We quickly decided what we wanted. Then the waitress nodded toward us to another man working there and they obviously were saying something about us, so they knew we were there. Then another person eating in the restaurant came over to ask if we needed help with the items on the menu. That was nice of her but it was all in English and we understood the dishes, so we thanked her but said no. And then we waited and waited and waited. We were there I think nearly half an hour and then I said we were going to leave. The first page of their menu said that they’d been giving quality service for 2 generations. Well they were slacking today. And there was another restaurant I wanted to get to before we left Athens. So away we went.
In a few minutes after I maneuvered us through some more streets we came to the restaurant I am so thrilled we had our final meal at. The book said it was right on the corner with no sign, but only double doors down into a cellar. The description was spot on. But a good sign from the get go was that the very small place was packed. There wasn’t even a vacant table for us but we were seated a table with another couple. This restaurant had no menu, but we were brought bread and wine right off the bat without blinking an eye. The wine was brought in what looked similar to a tall tin camping mug and our glasses were closer to a shot glass size than a wine glass. Oh and the wine came straight from one of the barrels that lined the wall of the cellar. The couple at our table were delivered food that looked very good and then the waiter called Ryan over to the stove where they showed him our few options. We chose the chick peas…. Good choice….. a salad with tomato, olives, cucumbers, red onion, and a few spicy peppers that were a bit much for Ryan….. another excellent choice…. And then we asked for the fish that we saw on some other table….. such a good choice. This meal tasted and felt like something at a dear friends house that was having a casual dinner party. This tasted like true homemade authentic Greek food and we both couldn’t have been happier at the end of the meal. The fish were small. It seemed like anyone who was fishing in the States for fish would throw anything this size back, but that is what we were having for dinner. They were grilled with skin and bones but were headless, which Ryan appreciated. I don’t know what they rubbed on them, but it was truly exquisite. I could eat this meal over and over again. I can’t get over the setting of this literal hole in the ground, with wine barrels, no menu and full of very Greek people enjoying very Greek food. The tour book called the restaurant a gem and I’d say that is an understatement.
When we left I asked Ryan if he’d like to go back to Doris and order some donuts to go. He said he would so we headed in that direction. Order to go was not a problem. They cooked our donuts right away and we even ordered a rice pudding we eyed in the case as well. As it turned out these donuts weren’t as good as the ones from last night, but we still managed to finish them off. And the rice pudding seemed to disappear pretty fast as well.
Back at the hostel we took care of our bill and collected our bags. Then it was back to Syntagma Square to catch our bus to the airport. That ride took 30 or 40 minutes I think.
We walked up to the desk to check in for our flight and the agent seemed puzzled. I all of a sudden got a not so good feeling. She started asking when we arrived in Europe and then about if we flew from Porto to Frankfurt to Athens. Then she got on the phone and told us we needed to go talk to the Lufthansa counter behind us because our entire round trip flight had been cancelled when we did not show up in Porto. Both Ryan and I were thinking and saying “Are you kidding us?”
So we talked to them and they confirmed that when you don’t show up for the first leg of a journey EVERYTHING else gets cancelled. Even these women agreed they didn’t necessarily think it makes sense. We said that we had called Lufthansa to say we wouldn’t make the Porto flight, but there was nothing in our reservation of that phone call so our only option was to pay 50 euro each for them to reinstate our tickets. Argh!!!!!! Really??????? We realized that these women couldn’t do anything and they even said that it would be up to us to take it up with Lufthansa on our own. So after a long drawn out process of them working on the computer, making some phone calls, and us handing over a credit card we had tickets in our hand for the flight that WE ALREADY PAID TO FLY ON. You can trust me when I say that Lufthansa will definitely be hearing from me. And I also can say that I DO NOT recommend them as a great airline the way that I once did. And feel free to tell your friends.
Now with 100 euro less in our bank account we are back in Germany. Oh but we also weren’t able to sit by each other on the airplane because the whole process took so long and we were probably the last to check in. Each of us had a middle seat in the very last two rows of the plane and I had to sit next to a man who smelled very European… that means he smelled bad.
I can only hope that we will not have anything else happen unexpected. We are currently on the S-bahn from the airport on our way to the Hauptbahnhof and then I just want to get on a train to Garmisch and be home as soon as possible. No more travel, no more customer service issues, no more being taken advantage of and no more depleting our bank accounts on things we don’t feel we should be. Tomorrow we have yet another day off, which at this point I am thanking my boss for. We can recover from the trip, I can get laundry done, and then tomorrow night there is a Winter Kickoff thing on the base that sounds like it could be fun, so we plan to check that out.
I can’t say that the trip was perfect. Obviously we didn’t get off to a great start and it didn’t end particularly well with several bumps along the way. But we made it to Greece. And now we’ve made it back. I saw the Parthenon, a dream come true, and made many other good memories with a good friend by my side the whole time. So I’m still very thankful and feel quite blessed to have had this opportunity.
AND…. Haven’t I done such a great job blogging in the present instead of months in the past? ☺

1 comment:

  1. Hello Emily,
    I came across your blog while searching for employee experiences at Edelweiss; my fiance and I are hoping to apply this summer! :) If you wouldn't mind and had time to answer some questions from a midwestern couple we would certainly be appreciative! -Hannah @