November 9, 2017. Athens, Greece.
Here’s where I’m sitting right now, as I type this.
It’s a coffee shop next to my hostel that, as far as I can tell, is based on Neil Gaiman’s house after a recession. They’re pretending that 5 euros for a coffee is reasonable. I assume you’re paying for the… ambiance. Though the slightly out of tune violin-and-organ spooky halloween CD they have playing is a nice touch, what really emphasizes the element of danger is the old man on top of latter outside the entrance, grinding away at the upper metal balcony and throwing a shower of sparks you have to time your way through like a Koopa Keep in Super Mario World.
The bus ride over was uneventful, but I stood up for an hour and it gave me time to come to terms with the fact that I really don’t understand Greek at all.
I got off into a monsoon, of course, but I have an umbrella now and it’s not like Zeus is gonna do me any dirtier than Jehova did in the Vatican. The first thing I saw was another protest.
I didn’t know what it was about, and it was too early and soggy for me to ask. Is it me? Do they gravitate to where I go, like parents with screaming toddlers, or is all of Europe just presently in unrest? I forged ahead.
I crossed the street and found a large sign that advertised “George’s Breakfast”. George knows how to live; an omelette with bacon, toast, tomatoes and cucumbers, coffee with refills, and “free juice”. Juice is a big deal in Greece. I walked in and asked the lady at the counter how I can get the breakfast on the sign.
“Go upstairs and order!” she said. “Is nice!”
I went upstairs and tried to order. The waitress told me that sign was for another store, but they have omelettes here.
I bitterly ordered an omelette and was pleasantly surprised to find it enormous.
I ate this enormous egg pancake and the little scooch of balsamic salad and headed off to the hostel, where I passed out briefly before returning to wander the modern day Agora: a constant flea market that’s right outside.
I’d say I was walking through for about 5 minutes when I was ambushed by a lithe Greek girl in a pencil skirt with very red lips, thrusting a long-stemmed rose at me.
“Here!” she said. “A gift for you!”
“Thank you, but I’m okay,” I said, trying to push it away.
“I really don’t have any place to put a rose right now, but I really do appreciate it,”
“Is a gift for you! There is festival right now, this is part of it!” she said. “Here, take!”
I was holding the rose now, uncertainly.
“Thank you, but-”
“Is a rose for you because you are very sexy,” she explained. “Very sexy boy, have rose. Here, have two.” And she thrust another rose at me.
“While I agree, I really can’t,” I said, trying to dodge away. “Thank you though.”
“Can I have something for roses?” she asked. “Just one Euro. So hungry.”
“Ah, there it is,” I said. I handed the rose back to her, having to physically close her hand around it. “Thank you. But I don’t want it. Best of luck.”
“Not even one Euro?” she said, outraged, and I was impressed by the range of emotion that played across her face. She was certainly the most convincing actress I’d encountered since the dude in Italy who asked for change and then stared at the side of my head in crestfallen disbelief for thirty seconds when I said I didn’t have any.
“Bastardo!” she hissed as she sashayed away. I called, “Hey, how did you know?” after the unsubtle swaying of her hips, sort of like an angry pendulum, but I wasn’t the mark she was after and we were done conversing.
Roseless and exposed, I drifted like the dude from Firewater into a peynirli place. Pedi peynirli is Turkish (whoops) for “bread with cheese), but sweet Athena, it was so much more than that. I ordered the Bolognese because meat has been hard to come by for most of my stay in Europe, and they packed this huge pizza boat full of mincemeat, goat cheese, vegables and an over real-easy egg. Like, potentially raw easy. I was not ascared though, I’m of barbarian stock, I’ve permitted the masquerade of raw eggs in a glass as “breakfast” before.
I finished and paid for the 6 euro monstrosity with a 20, and the shifty-eyed waitress gave me back 4, which allowed me to finally understand why her eyes had been so shifty. I rolled up to her at the counter and gently explained her “mistake”, too softly for her coworkers to hear, yet. She returned the 10 euros to the stupid, lone American tourist without making a scene.
Back to the hostel, a long-deserved shower and a quick nap. When I woke up I decided to go up to the roof bar for the daily Happy Hour, which I was, of course, an hour late for. A pint of local Greek lager was still only 4 Euros, and two of those were enough to get even my unreasonable Constitution modifier feeling pretty good.
I made friends with a Chilean medica, a student/soldier from South Korea, and a graffiti artist from Austria. We poisoned our bodies extensively and proceeded into the streets to find a dance club the little 25-year-old doctor had read about — or rather, read the tags about. We knew it played “alternative rock” and “electronica”, but everything else was in Greek.
The artist told us that a lot of the graffiti in Athens was really good, although Berlin was sort of the epicenter for the arts in Europe as of now. He pointed out a lot of pieces that I would’ve missed otherwise.
His own were excellent, but I forgot to grab his details. We made plans to meet up again tonight, though, so I’ll try to get some samples of his work for you tomorrow.
In our bastard travels, we discovered the salvation of the Greek economy: Handle Row. Five consecutive stores down one particular alley, all showcasing the most beautiful doorknobs, sinks, and cupboard handles you had ever seen. Competition was alive and well in Handle Row, and at a glance, the economic Darwinism was evident. Truly a triumph of capitalism.
“There are the most incredible handles I have ever seen,” the artist said.
“We’re witnessing history right now,” I confirmed, nodding. “This is the new Renaissance.”
“I think I’m going to buy one tomorrow,” he said. “For a souvenir.”
“You’ll want to have proof. You’ll want to show your grandkids the artisan Greek handle one day, and tell them, ‘I was there’.”
“It’ll be worth thousands of Euros, one day.”
We slunk back to the hostel at 1 AM and went our separate ways.
All right, that’s enough chronicle for now. I’ve got to go see all these temples.