In search of warmer weather....& olives...& Panos.
Trip Start Oct 15, 2007
17Trip End Dec 20, 2007
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Took a late night flight out of Prague getting to Athens about 3 AM...definitely did not get my fill of Prague....I'd really like to return there sometime...it's a very cool city in many ways...anyway, after the standard bit of maneuvering at the airport (that is, getting currency and figuring out transportation), we get picked up by Panos, the friend we made in Iceland, who deserves all sorts of praise for finding us at 3 AM... Panyiottis Popadopolous is his complete name...no doubt we're in Greece and Panos, our host, is welcoming us into his home for a few days.
Just got back from a veritable feast with friends of Panos. A table full of belly dancing women (and a few others), sharing a late night meal (we get there at 1030 and leave around 130 AM....at least it seemed to me to be late-night) at a Greek restaurant. This group of women has just won a dancing competition and I believe that's what we're celebrating....but food comes in never ending waves...one tasty item after another...it's been ordered for the group so we get a chance to try what seems like everything on the menu...it's all delectable, but of course, my favorite is dessert...flaky pastries, various forms of fresh baklava, cakes and a caramel-like ice cream.... The conversation is as delightful as the food...his friends are very open to us...the people nearest to me are interesting and quite conversant...he is a construction engineer and she is a psychologist and he keeps generously filling my plate, and my wine glass, as we talk. And we cover all sorts of topics but of course, the recurrent question comes up...that being something like...What's up with that George Bush?...
Now I have to say that question in some similar form comes up repeatedly in almost every country I've visited. It started in Iceland where people could not understand why US citizens didn't have more of a voice in directing their leader and his actions...and it has reappeared in Hungary, Romania, Czech Rep. and now Greece... and each time I try to explain that a vast number of people in the US are not necessarily fans of the President or his policies...and always the war in Iraq comes up...and how oil is key to our involvement...the conversations are somewhat predictable but each time the questions are genuine and concern is apparent...and what is particularly interesting is that these questions come from people in all walks of life...not only the Greenpeace types and other fringe activists I spend time with but also from individuals who lead much more mainstream lives... Now whatever your political affiliation or thoughts about Bush or the war might be, it's clear from my experience so far, that people in other countries are looking quite critically at our actions. I have traveled a fair amount in my life and never before have I sensed this strong an anti US policy/US President sentiment.
So we have this discussion over dinner...after which I am apologized to for being held personally responsible for my country even though the questions were gently conveyed. But I have my own concerns about who we are in the world, and it's difficult to find peace with those concerns. Anyway, the dishes continue to arrive, the belly dancers perform, I learn a lot about Greece and the lives of those around the table with me...the evening is incredibly delightful and this is a great welcome to Greece. Although at 10 the next morning, I'm still trying to digest the previous night's meal.
And another thing...I thought I was seeing some pretty old churches and monuments in the countries I've already been in...like 12 century or so...but in Greece we're truly talking ancient....like the Acropolis and such...5th century BC...then there's Sappho...10th century BC...I didn't know she was that old....I'm a little skeptical...