Greece

5 May 1999
Arrive in Greece, get my passport stamped, take the bus into town, and find a place to stay in Plaka. The nice places from the Lonely Planet book are all full, so I end up at the Hotel Korous. Not good, not bad, nothing to write home about.

My first evening on the road-- dinner at a rooftop restaurant. Halfway through my meal the floodlights come on and behind me the Acropolis is bathed in a golden glow. As I sit here, sipping my wine taking it all in, I can only think:

What have I done?

6 May 1999
Explore the Acropolis, then wander the city (successfully) searching for a US to European electrical plug. It seems the artsy-fartsy power supply on my laptop doesn't plug into the adaptor I brought (doh!).

This update brought to you via the joys of acoustic coupling at a Greek payphone.

7 May 1999
Explore the National Archaeology Museum and climb Lykavivittos Hill for the view of Athens

Random acts of Penile Violence

I spent a day wandering the antiquities museum and here is what I've learned: People have been jerks for thousands of years.

Three out of four male statues have had their penises and noses knocked off. What's up with that? The few statues still endowed are not marble, but bronze. It seems that most of them were recovered from sunken ships, making them a bit tougher to vandalize. From the bronzes I've learned the ancient Greeks did not believe in circumcision.

For whatever reason, marble mammaries and muffs were spared the abuse. Ancient hooligans seemed content just to whack the arms off female statues.

Humbly submitted,
Your genitalia reporter in the field

8 May 1999
Off to Meteora by bus.

For the worldly sum of 3,000 Drachma (9 bucks) a night I am now ensconced in a tiny caravan (trailer) here in Kastraki, below mystical black spires of Meteora.

9 May 1999
The trailer is thrashed but sort of cute. The spires tower over the town and have these little monasteries perched on top. Very mystical looking. I can't wait to do some climbing. Unfortunately, almost no one here speaks English. It seems to be mostly Greek, Dutch and German which may cramp my search for a climbing partner. Right now everyone is here for the weekend which confuses things. Tomorrow I should be able to try and figure out who the long timers are. I really like it here though, very mellow. I may stay for a week or two even if it is hard to find climbing partners. it will be nice to just chill and do some writing, etc...

10 May 1999
Spend the morning sipping coffee and reading the climbing guide book in front of my trailer, hoping someone will notice, and ask about climbing. No one does.

Hike to some of the monasteries instead. Dinner in Kalambaka where they light the rocks beneath the monasteries. Floodlights seem to be a Greek thing.

11 May 1999
Breakfast in Kalambaka.

On the walk I saw a truck being driven by a man and woman in Arabic dress. The man had a microphone and was shouting through a loudspeaker. It might have been Greek, I couldn't tell with all the distortion. As the truck went by, I saw that the back door was open and that it was full of baby chickens. Sensory terrorism? Bizarre political demonstration? Or a Greek chick salesman? I'm still not sure.

After breakfast I did the steep hike up to the last of the monasteries on my list, Agias Triados, which was featured in the James Bond film "For your eyes only."

Kastraki is a village of about 1,500 or so people nestled up against 300 meter spires of black rock. Precariously perched on top of these towers are the monasteries of Meteora.

The monasteries are like an artist's envisionment of a past perfect time. They sit on top of the spires, built right up to the edge, and in many places overhanging the edge. It is amazing to think that these vertical faces were first climbed over 500 years ago without the benefits of nylon, aluminum, or rubber. It really puts modern rock climbing in perspective.

In the past, Monks used winches and nets to enter their sanctuaries. But today, they are approached via steps and tunnels hewn from the rock. The thick doors and heavy iron fittings remind me that the original purpose of these structures was defense, not esthetics.

The designs of the monasteries combine the natural features of the towers with traditional religious architecture. The result is multi-layered warrens with tiered gardens and patios. The construction is of mortar and stone with ancient beams poking through here and there. It is easy to wonder about modern building standards but then-- these refuges have stood for 500 years so far.

Practicing monks still inhabit the monasteries. In fact, tourists are forbidden each day from one to three so that the monks can pray in peace. The head monk beats a distinctive rhythm on a plank with a mallet to call them out of their cells. The living quarters are closed off from the public but as I wander past the locked doors, I can't help but imagine a monk on the other side, sequestered in his devotions.

Many of their rooms have tiny balconies with views from hundreds of feet up over sheer drops over the valleys. It is enough to make one consider taking up the devotion, but so far all I have been able to discover about Greek Orthodoxy is that it requires really bad hair.

All of the monasteries have a small chapel in the traditional domed-cross style. The chapels have a quiet, reverent presence with hanging chandeliers, felt tapestries and walls done in fresco. In contrast to the rest of the monastery which has a cute, almost story-book feel to it, the frescos are horrific. They picture every way known to kill, torture, and maim human beings. Crucifixion, upside-down crucifixion, bit-by-bit dismemberment, burning, dragging behind horses, geared crushing machines, and on and on... A reminder that there was more to life in the 14th century than made it into the fairy tales.

And of course, there is graffiti. That someone would feel the need to carve their initials on a pillar, in a chapel, in a monastery, perched on a spire-- is just about beyond me.

Meteora Slide Show

12 May 1999
Today I discovered that free soloing is not a great way for an out-of-shape climber to become accustomed to a new area. Let's just say that I didn't get very far off the ground. I've been busy hiking the monasteries, now I need to get serious about looking for a partner.

Tomorrow, I have a big treat planned-- I'm going to make myself some Peets Coffee

Latte? I don't think so...

Greek Coffee, (which used to be Turkish Coffee until the Turks invaded Cyprus in 1974), is your basic hot water poured right into the grounds. It actually might not be to bad, except I haven't figured out how to order it without sugar, and it always seems to be weak.

Despite it being called Greek Coffee, nobody Greek seems to drink it. All the Greeks drink Nescafe, which is in fact Nescafe, your choice of hot or cold.

American style coffee is called a "filter coffee," but I'm still too proud to order that. In most places a cappuccino is Nescafe with a dollop of artificial heavy cream on top. Only in expensive restaurants or specialty places is cappuccino really cappuccino. This seems to be by choice, because a bunch of places have espresso machines, and an espresso is actually an espresso. Go figure...

13 May 1999
Today I:
Tried rope soling with a clove hitch on an easy, but run out face route.
Tried ouzo.
These two events may not be unrelated.
All things considered, the ouzo was much more enjoyable.

14 May 1999
A glorious day doing nothing.

I chatted with a Dutch climber, Jan, about his epic of the previous day. I realized that it's the first conversation of more than a sentence or two that I have had with anyone since I left. Although I don't really feel lonely, I do miss company at meals, and of course there is the frustrating lack of climbing partners.

I am getting used to the notion of begin retired, of not having a place I need to be, or a thing that needs rushing off to do. I am vowing not to let traveling to become a chore. I want to learn to experience life at a more relaxed pace.

Ok, here is the question of the day. No matter what I order, no matter how nice the restaurant, no matter what kind of wine I send for-- my meal is always served with French fries. What's up with that?

Beer and Doughnuts Eh?

Hey, guess what? They are pretty pissed off at America here. The war is much more of a real thing when it is less than 500 miles away. Protests, bomb threats on tourist hotels and rocket attacks on foreign owned banks seem to be de rigueur.

Given all the apparent public hostility though, no one has been anything but polite and congenial to me.

Despite that -- and even though I'm still not sure what the right response is to the question, "why are you bombing the snot out of my brother-in-law?" -- I'm pretty sure the answer should be in Canadian.

My least favorite graffiti

15 May 1999
Hike up to The Spindle and begin to hatch The Plan.

The Spindle is this 100 foot tall, 20 foot diameter finger of rock, that pokes up from a valley behind Kastraki. You can see it from everywhere and it is sort of an icon for the town. As I hiked up to it, I began to think how terrible it would be for me to come all the way, and not get to the top of something. Dangerous thoughts...

16 May 1999
I tried to climb The Spindle.

It didn't go so well. In fact, it went about as badly as these things can go and still have all the damage be fixable with ouzo and gummi worms. I wrote about it here:

Spindled & Mutilated

17 May 1999
I hacked JavaScript all day.

18 May 1999
Hiking and some final photographs.

19 May 1999
Take the bus back to Athens.

20 May 1999
Errands.

It seems that ever since I was dumb enough to leave my wallet in a Paris cab, I have spent 20 percent of my waking hours recovering from that moment of folly.

It is always a bad sign when the Department of Motor vehicles is the most competent organization you deal with in any endeavor, but sure enough, they replaced my license on the spot, while I waited. You'd expect that sort of service from American Express, and they delivered. In Paris, they replaced my card in two hours.

Everyone else has been disaster.

My bank, not realizing that anyone ever leaves the United States, never mind lives there, does not have any phone numbers on their "contact us" web page that does not begin 1-800... The one internationally dialable number I found was on the investor relations page and connected me to a main switchboard that was only open from 8-4 Colorado Time.
Invest this.

So-- 16 hours after losing by debit card, I get to report it stolen and request a new one. "Sure sir, we'll be glad to pop that off to your billing address in ten business days," the woman says as I watch my phone card trickle down at a Paris kiosk. "Umm, that's bad," I reply, "you see in ten days I'll be on a plane to Greece". "Oh," she says, "when will you be back?" "I wont," I try to explain to her as the card ticks down and then I desperately rattle off my parents address as the card goes to zed (zero).

Not trusting that, I show up at the bank during my final 48 hours in Boulder. The dude at the "help" counter confirms that they did not manage to get my card rerouted. It's impossible to do that he says, it must go to your billing address. So, we change my billing address to my parents address and hope for the best. Ten days later, sure enough, the card shows up in my Boulder PO Box. By this time of course, I'm in Greece.

I e-mail a friend, and have him post me the card care of one of the competent organizations, American Express. Today, I traipse down to the Athens Amex office to fetch it, and my new ATM card it has this fabulous little sticker on it:

Please call this 800 number from
your home phone to activate this card.

One is forced to ponder the Seuss-like absurdity of this.
Hello, my name is Evan.
I do not have a home.
I do not have a phone.
How could I have a home-phone?
Luckily, I anticipated their stupidity (I'm accustomed to it by now) and had Dave activate the card before he mailed it. This only required me to send the card number, my mothers maiden name, my date of birth and my social security number over the Internet. Welcome to technology.

But anyway, now I have my card, and I can withdraw Drachmas to my heart's content.

For my next big trick, I'm going to try and pay the bill for the credit card I've been using instead of my ATM card. Or you know what? Maybe I wont. What are they going to do come looking for me? Hey, I'm tired of hassling for these people. You want your money? Come and get it! But let me tell you one thing, it's gonna be in Drachma, and I'm setting the exchange rate.

Evan I am!

21 May 1999
Take the 5 p.m. ferry to Pharos Island.

Before that, more errands. I got my Meteora slides developed, and a few came out well so I was on a mission from god to find a slide scanner in Athens. Eventually, I found a service bureau that would do it cheaply, but take two weeks. That was so frustrating that I bought a digital camera. Now you are going to be subjected to schwag like this:

22 May 1999
Today I was kidnapped by an elite squad of 19-year-old female, bikini wearing, Greek terrorists and forced to go to the beach. It was a rough day here in paradise.

Greek lesson #1 for the day: there is a lot of Greek I don't know.
Greek lesson #2: beware any plan that begins, "ok, we'll pick you up at 3 a.m."
Moral of the day: Pharos good, Athens bad.

23 May 1999
Visit Nousa, the other major town on the island, more fun and games with the Greek college students who befriended me on the ferry. It turns out that my laptop and the digital camera attract a lot of attention, and are great ways of meeting people.

Unfortunately it is Friday, so I say goodbye to my Greek friends. Cody & Tyler some very nice travelers who were sharing my rooftop apartment also leave.

24 May 1999
My birthday!

To celebrate I went windsurfing at Hyrsi Akti.
Kaylea's lessons though, are right on the edge of the   Gray zone 
so I didn't do especially well.

25 May 1999
More windsurfing.

With motion-sports, I think it is useful to measure progress by the change in failure modes. Today I progressed from merely falling off, to being ejected from the board (and nearly the planet) at something approaching orbital velocity. Although the mean time between failures remained constant, this somehow still seemed like progress. At least, it felt like progress until the boat had to come out and rescue me. You see, I was well on my way to Jordan, and I didn't have a visa. Rats.

26 May 1999
Even more windsurfing.

I got to the point where I could tear along in any direction. Not any direction of my choosing mind you, just any direction. I managed to avoid the ignominy of the tow boat, but it was a long walk.

After my daily dose of the Aegean, I explored (by the light of a fading headlamp) the ancient quarry of Marathi where the marble for the Venus de Milo originated. Just a path of marble bricks leading up to the entrance, and then-- darkness. You know you aren't in America anymore when you're allowed to wander around an abandoned 5,000-year-old mine. The whole thing had that fall into a bottomless pit and never be heard from again feel to it.

27 May 1999
Ferry to Ios, the party capital of Greece.

28 May 1999
Windsurfing, drinking, dancing, the usual Ios stuff.

29 May 1999
Windsurfing update:
Today my windsurfing progressed to the point where grievous bodily harm is possible-- likely even. This has more to do with an improvement in my ability to stand on the beach in high winds and talk a good game than it does with my skills.

Here is a valuable tip that I'm sure is on page 3 of some windsurfing manual I haven't read:

In the event the board should happen to leave the water and your feet are not in those little stirrups: A bad thing is about to happen.

Your seat cushion will not serve as a flotation device.
Stow your tray table and let go you idiot!

In other news, I wanted to hike to Homer's tomb (Iliad & Odyssey, not Simpson). The plan was to read poetry, write in my journal and think deep thoughts. But I got lost, so no deep thoughts were thunk.

30 May 1999
Day: With the aid of a harness I achieved bodily harm. I was nervous about being physically attached to the windsurfer -- it and I tend to violently part company on a regular basis -- but, the harness turned out to be great. Using my body to hold the sail in, instead of my arms, allowed me to fuss over which way the sail was pointed. I am now convinced that turning is theoretically possible although I'm not sure I'll ever accomplish the feat. The downside of the harness was that every time I biffed I was catapulted into the sail and smacked my shins on the boom.
Blood was drawn...

Night: With the aid of a Flaming Lamborghini I achieved bodily harm. A champagne glass is filled with a few ounces of a clear liquid (secret ingredient #1). This is then lit on fire and you drink it through a straw as rapidly as possible. You have to go quickly because it soon becomes too hot to drink and the straw melts. While you are busy pretending to suck the chrome off a trailer hitch, a shot of Baileys and a shot of something green (secret ingredient #2) are dumped into the mix. And -- only if you order today -- for 1,000 Drachma (3 bucks) you get all this plus a beer.
You only have to drink six for a free t-shirt.
Blood was drawn...

Moral of the day: If you're not bleeding, you're not trying hard enough.

31 May 1999
Catch the ferry to Santorini.
Escape From Ios

It's a beautiful little cafe, five tables set in a hillside nook just off a cobblestone path with a fabulous view of the harbor. A group of us gather here for breakfast each morning to take it all in with bloodshot eyes.

As Matt and Theresa arrive, I croak out a greeting. My throat feels like I've swallowed a salamander. Matt manages to rasp his way through the traditional Ios salutation, "Oh my God, I have to get off this island, it's killing me."

There are six ferries a day, but we are all still here. Trapped living the same day over and over, caught in Ios-time.

Yesterday I vowed to appear at the breakfast club packed and full of resolve. But checkout is at 11, and waking at 10:30 with yet another crushing hangover my vow dissolved like sugar into coffee. A lot of coffee, the amount of coffee it takes to turn my blood liquid again.

We'll pass the day napping on the beach, waiting for the throbbing in our heads to subside. Sometime around 4, barely feeling human again we might go into the water or actually do something.

At 8, we gather at Francesco's to watch the sun set and begin our search for the perfect buzz. When the plan is to party from midnight till 6, pacing is key. The idea is to arrive at midnight buzzed enough that this actually seems like a good idea, but not so far gone as to prematurely crash and burn.

The evening view from Francesco's

Invariably, this effort is all for naught. At midnight, on the five minute walk to the clubs, someone who has misjudged their buzz buys shots of Raki, the locally distilled jet fuel.
Midnight + 10 minutes and we are all wrecked.

The nights are spent in a dark haze of dancing and laying on the sidewalk. We dance on the counters. We dance on the tables. When they are full, we dance balanced on barstools. Sometimes, we even dance on the floor.

Around 2, the person who bought the Raki passes out. They are laid out on the sidewalk until we decide to change clubs. This is called, "getting some air." It does not seem possible to get air while standing up.

Somewhere around 5 or 6, those left realize that they have done a terrible thing to themselves -- again -- and that the chances of checking out by 11 are not so good. Especially if we can't find our way back to Francesco's.

Gyros are wolfed down in a vain attempt to soak up the alcohol, but inevitably we end up at breakfast together, staring at the ground through half open eyes, and vowing not to let it happen again.

We are told that the record for number of "last days on Ios" is 10, but I'd guess it's really much higher. As people get sucked into Ios, itineraries change. Countries get dropped, other islands become day trips, and the Ios day is lived again and again. You aren't considered to have a problem until you start talking about changing your plane tickets home.

This morning, fueled by the scorn of a woman, the cycle is broken. I wake at 10:30, and hangover be damned, I pack my bag and checkout. Desperate to forge a link with the outside world I scour the island for one of the newsstands that are ubiquitous everywhere else in Greece. Finally, in the back corner of a market I find a meager selection of foreign press.

At breakfast, as soon as they see the paper, my friends know.
Against all odds, I've escaped from Ios.

31 May 1999
Catch the ferry to Santorini.

Wow, Santorini is amazing. The island is all that remains of a volcano that violently erupted in 1450BC. What the Minoans called Stronghyle (the Round One) is now a crescent. The cities are built right on the brink of the steep cliffs that used to be the crater and overlook other volcanic islets out in the sea. On the sloped side of the island are the famous black sand beaches.

1 Jun 1999
Take the bus to the beach at Perissa, no windsurfers. 2 hour hike (I got lost) to Kamari, no windsurfers. Ratz. Oh well, at least my liver is recovering.

Lesson of the day: Black sand gets hot. I mean really hot. I mean, so hot you can walk a few feet onto it thinking, "wow, that's hot" and then, as your feet begin to sear you realize that you might not be able to get back to the relative coolness of the boardwalk before suffering third degree burns.
That hot.

2 Jun 1999
Switch from Thira (the capital in center of the crescent) to Oia, a town built into the bluffs on the northern tip of the island. The place where I am staying is a restored cliff dwelling, hewn out of the rock. Patio, living room, bedroom, and bath, going straight back into the cliff, cabinets and shelves carved from the rock. It's really cool.

3 Jun 1999
Hey, what's with all the happy couples? They are starting to piss me off!

I've belatedly made the discovery that I am alone in the most romantic place on Earth. I think I may be the only person in town who is not in love. Of course, I made this discovery right after I skipped the ferry and decided to stay here for a few days. The next ferry is Sunday...

4 Jun 1999
Activity of the day: scuba diving.

The check out procedure in Greece is different than what I am used to. None of that fussing around with log books and certification cards.
   Them:  How long have you been diving?
   Me:  A few years.
   Them:  Cool, lets go.
The diving was pleasant enough, but nothing special. More important than what we did see, is what we didn't see. I am pleased to report that there were no happy couples at 10 fathoms.

5 Jun 1999
Activity of the day: cliff diving.

There I am -- about five meters up, contemplating whether I should attempt a back double or a front one and a half -- when a tall, blond, beautiful woman swims in from the sea and scales the cliff to my perch. It turns out she is an actress from Sweden, and apparently she is here to chat me up.

After a few hours of lounging on the rocks we make plans for a sunset dinner together at one of the nice restaurants perched on the edge of the caldera in Thira.

Over dinner we commiserate about being alone and single amongst all the couples in this fabulously romantic place. After dinner we go home for a night of mad passionate love. Well, actually, we only do one of those two activities. But, if you are ever in Gothenburg and need some theater tickets, I might be able to set you up...

6 Jun 1999
Ferry to Heraklion.

7 Jun 1999
Visit the Ruins of the 4,000-year-old Minoan palace of Knossos.
Supposedly this is the approximate site of the mythical labyrinth inhabited by the Minotaur (half man, half bull). As the story goes, King Minos of Crete pissed off the god Poseidon by not sacrificing a bull he'd been given for that purpose. As punishment, Poseidon caused the king's wife to fall in love with the bull. The enterprising little woman had Daedalus (later to be of wax wing fame) put her together a cow costume. Daedalus must have been quite a craftsman, because the bull found her irresistible and the deed was done, thus begetting the Minotaur.

And they say video games are the problem?

Bus to Rethymno.

8 Jun 1999
Explore Rethymno.

It's a pretty cool town with a Venetian-Ottoman old quarter that even sports some minarets, giving it almost an Asian feel. Lots of 3 meter wide winding alleyways and a cute little harbor. A bit touristy, but cool nonetheless.

9 Jun 1999
Explore Hania.

The uglier second cousin to Rethymno. I'm about to OD on tourists though.

10 Jun 1999
Hike the Samaria Gorge. At 18k, supposedly Europe's longest gorge, and quite a workout for my ankle. The width varies from 150m all the way down to just 3m for a short ways. The walls tower 500m at their highest point. Yosemite it's not, but pretty damn cool.

Pictured at right are the Iron Gates, the gorges narrowest point.

After hiking down the gorge I took a ferry to Hora Sfakion and then a completely hairball bus ride back to Rethymno. The road from the coast is one lane for 10 miles with 180 degree switchbacks and precipitous drop-offs. At each turn the driver would just toot his horn and go for it using 120% of the road. A couple of times we got stuffed and ended up playing chicken with other busses coming down. Sketchy, but in the end I was amazed with the driver's competence. Some of the moves he made, just didn't look possible.

11 Jun 1999
Bus to Heraklion then plane to Rhodes. (Only one ferry a week and I missed it, so I had to fly).

At the airport, I watched a German couple argue with some rental car people. The German's were adamant that they'd brought the car in with a full tank, but the Greeks insisted they hadn't. As they began to worry about missing their plane, things started to get pretty heated. In the midst of this, the German guy storms off in a huff.

While he is gone, the police came and took away his girlfriend. They just walked up and told her, "please come this way." She tried to insist on waiting for her guy, but they said something like, "we have the right to mrmph[detain?] you," and led her off.

So, now the guy comes back and his looking for her. I tap him on the shoulder, "excuse me, but you might want to know the police dragged off your girlfriend." Then, he gets all pissy with me, "you are joking, right? Ha, ha, funny, funny?" I tell him very slowly, "Dude, no. The police took her away." Just as I'm thinking that instead of arguing with me, this guy really should go look for her before they get to the exciting cavities, more police walk up to us. He asks, "is this them?" I'm about to tell him they all look the same to me, but they lead him off as well, and I don't see either of them again.

More mysterious and opaque goings on with the Greek Police!

     
 
     
 Phylogeny and Ontogeny of Hellenic Law Enforcement 

The tourist neighborhood in Athens is called Plaka. It's a pedestrian district of narrow cobblestone streets lined with sidewalk cafes and souvenir shops. As I sat in one of these cafes, nursing a Nescafe and chatting with two recently arrived American tourists, a squad of 10 Greek police officers on motorcycles slowly cruised up the alley scanning the crowds. A few minutes later, a police helicopter flew overhead and then I caught a glimpse of a police tow truck shooting by on the main road.

"Do you think something is going on?" the tourists asked.
"Neah, probably not," I replied.

You see, there are a lot of police in Greece, and they are very busy. What they are doing is a bit hard for a foreign eye to discern, but whatever is it is, they are doing a lot of it.

At the bottom of the family tree is the traffic cop. They can be found standing in the center of most major intersections in Athens. The first time I caught a glimpse of one, I wanted to dive across traffic and drag him to safety. But there he stood nonchalantly, as cars and motorcycles whizzed by in all directions.

I stared for a few minutes while he lounged in the middle of traffic. Just as I was about to lose interest, the light changed and he exploded into activity, madly blowing his whistle an waving his arms like a 70s refugee still pissed off the Village People broke up. As the traffic rose to his frantic energy level, he gradually relaxed back into his seeming slumber, only to be reawakened at the next change of the signals.

Beyond the entertainment value, it's not obvious what the point of this exercise is. Are traffic lights a new introduction in Greece? Are the drivers notoriously slow off the mark? Or, are they just afraid of what these guys might be up to if they didn't give them jobs?

The insult atop injury is the uniform: dark gray pants, a short sleeved sky blue shirt and a big white sash with accompanying white, 3-inch wide belt. Does anyone know Greek for "fashion disaster?"

There is a sub-species of traffic cop to be found in the small towns. The rural traffic cop faces a challenge unknown to his big-city brethren. There are no traffic lights, so he doesn't know where to stand. Instead, they randomly pace the streets and burst out into the whistling and waving routine at the behest of some unseen signal.

Occasionally, the country cop will glance conspiratorially into a cafe and then write a parking ticket. Given that people drive on the sidewalks, never mind park on them, it his hard to imagine what his criterion is for giving tickets. As far as I can tell, the prime directive in the Greek traffic code is:

Keep the vehicle in motion at all times.

Question: What are these men doing?
Answer: Guarding the president.
Bonus Question: From what?

A step down in fashion from traffic cop is presidential guard. These guys get dressed up in kilts and long toed shoes with pom-poms on the tips to stand in the sun all day and guard the parliament building. I think they have guns only to defend themselves from the tourists who are merciless in their jeering and posing.

A step up in armament from presidential guard is that staple of European law enforcement, the 18-year-old with a submachine gun. I found a prime example of one of these while hiking Lykavivittos Hill. I was trying to set up a self-timed picture of myself with the Acropolis in the background. Unfortunately, the cell phone antenna he was guarding was pretty close to my field of view. Although he glared at me, he didn't chew me out in any verbal language. He seemed to lose patience around my third shot though and began rapidly disassembling and reassembling his rather nasty looking gun. I took that as a hint and moved on.

A rare, and hard to observe member of the Greek law enforcement family, is the tourist cop. I still haven't seen one in the wild, so it is a mystery to me if they exist to arrest tourists or assist tourists.

Somewhere around the bacterium level of development is the scooter cop. I don't even want to begin to guess what you have to have had done wrong in a past life end up a cop in Greece assigned a 50cc scooter. Even with my ankle, I think I can outrun that. Scooter cop though demonstrated that he was a step ahead of the country traffic cop. I caught him doing a wheelie, thus proving he is at least self-aware.

At the top of the tree is the elite motorcycle cop. No Ponch & John knockoff uniform for this guy. In addition to a real motorcycle he was issued a fully armored one piece leather suit with an integrated holster. The outfit totally gave him that post-modern, neo Darth Vader look.

In a land where chump-change cops fall from the trees like tired leaves on a windy autumn day, this guy was the vice premier of bad-- ass.

12 Jun 1999
Got spanked windsurfing and had to be rescued (again).

He said to me, "I think you need a bigger board and a smaller sail." Which, I'm pretty sure is windsurferese for, "Wow, you really suck!"

13 Jun 1999
My second consecutive day of getting rescued. But I swear-- this time it wasn't my fault. A cleat broke and the mast came off my board. It is very difficult to sail in that condition.

Of course, post-rescue with a new sail, I did not do markedly better.

14 Jun 1999
Windsurf in the morning. The wind and surf are both milder in the morning and I have my best session yet. On a shorter board with a bigger sail, I almost manage to turn! (If that doesn't sound like much, you probably have never been a beginning windsurfer).

Overnight (4 p.m. to 8 a.m.) ferry back to Athens.
I'll leave Rhodes with fond memories, it was one of my favorite places in Greece.

The Old Town is a maze of winding cobbled streets built within medieval fortifications. The city looks like something put together by a Disney crew, but was really built by the Knights of St John in the 1300s. The walls are huge, 10 to 15 meters thick and 20 meters tall. It even has a moat! I think there should be a rule, that any city with a moat is inherently cool.

Outside of the city, the entire coast of the island is one big beach. and surf on one side, calm on the other. Watersports paradise.

On top of all that, there is an Ipass number in town, so I can actually surf the web instead of just hurriedly downloading my e-mail has yet another phone card ticks away.

I easily could have spent more time here, but a plane to Egypt awaits me back in Athens.

15 Jun 1999
Errands in Athens, bills, laundry, etc...

I'd hoped to have dinner with Elizabeth, leader of the bikini terrorists. But alas, she was in a car accident yesterday and wasn't able to make it. Novel excuse though. Not many women crash a car just to avoid going out with me.

Instead, I returned to the rooftop cafe where I started my Greek journey. I sipped my wine, gazed at the floodlit Acropolis and wondered how I've changed and what I've learned over the past six weeks. I think things are going to be ok.


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