Thursday, June 13, 2013

Snippets from Greece and Bulgaria

Maybe I've been on the road too long (almost four months), but I am slowly but surely losing my mind, as my thoughts become more and more dissociated.  This is evidenced by the following non sequiturs occupying my cerebral space today as I rest at our apartment after a day roaming around Athens.  

It took a really, REALLY long time to buy our bus tickets to Istanbul today.  After two hours of futile online research on the location of the ticket office, followed by about three hours meandering around, inquiring in different travel agencies as to who sold the tickets, being pointed in some general direction, then being pointed in another, and finally ending up at the dilapidated Larissa train station, where the only functioning office (in the midst of the transportation worker strike) was the one selling our tickets!  Hopefully conditions in Greece and Turkey will be safe on Saturday night, when we embark on our longest bus ride yet: a real doozy at 14 to 16 hours.  

Tomorrow I am planning to eat a large Greek ring-shaped Nutella-filled pastry for breakfast and a Greek frappe (who knew the delicious beverage was invented here?), followed by a snack of a spinach and cheese hand pie.  In the evening I will finish off my packed-with-flavor fresh seasonal Greek apricots.  And I need to get some of that Greek yogurt to mix with Greek honey.  I also need to eat souvlaki (a kind of Greek burrito) at some point.

I have got to get a moped or motorcycle when we get back to Canada.  The motorcycle ride to the beach the other day was utterly exhilarating.  Can't wait to see how much we save on gas.  Should research rain covers and protective shells...

What if Greece was spelled "Grease"?  How hilarious would that be!  I'm obsessed with the idea.  

I wish I could read the Greek alphabet and speak Greek....

At what point should I convert my only pair of jeans into cutoffs?

I can't believe we still have our original tube of sunscreen that has accompanied us since we left Canada!   Guess that is evidence that this hasn't been a very "vacation-y" trip so far.  After all, we have just begun to hit the hot weather :)

OK, I will stop now and show you some of our favorite photos of Greece and Bulgaria.  

Here we demonstrate our jubilation at surviving the smelly, sketchy overnight train ride from Belgrade, Serbia to Sofia, Bulgaria.

Our Sofia walking tour guide tells us about this unpopular 20th century Bulgarian leader who gave up his post, but was still mutilated to death three days later by some individuals who thought he was still in power.  Perhaps Twitter would have come in handy in this situation?

This guide provided a really informative, sarcastic two-hour stroll around Sofia in which he informed us that procrastination is the national sport of Bulgaria.  Great ambassador for the free walking tour movement!

The "idiot lion" in front of the Bulgarian parliament building is not so named because of the bird excrement on his face.  Take a closer look at how he is walking.

Saint Sofia, the image of modern Bulgaria.  "A bit sexy for a saint", stated one of our Irish walking tour companions- you be the judge.

 This is a sixth century Catholic church that forms a quadrangle with a mosque, a synagogue, and a Bulgarian Orthodox church.

This future metro stop is the site of one of many of Sofia's excavations of Roman ruins.  

Quite possibly my favorite sculpture ever.  Sofia, Bulgaria.

Changing of the guard, Sofia.

A springtime ritual, with the red and white representing the combination of male and female to produce new life each year.  Hundreds are hung on trees throughout Bulgaria.

We think this charmingly decorated restaurant out-hipsters even some of our favorite Portland, Oregon establishments.

This area in front of the Sofia train station looks like it was supposed to be made into a water park or swimming pool, but was instead converted into a waste area of sorts, filled with suspicious-looking items and liquids.

A romantic (?) street scene in Sofia, Bulgaria.

A taco menu in Cyrillic!!!  Never thought I'd see the day.

One of the many bumbling, adorable trolley cars in the Balkans.  Sofia, Bulgaria.

The condition of the average sidewalk in Sofia.

One of many dilapidated buildings in Sofia.  Granted, most are quite a bit more functional.

Chandelier in the largest Sephardic synagogue in Europe.  Bulgaria has a long history of religious tolerance.  The majority of the population is Bulgarian Orthodox, with Jews, Muslims and Catholics comprising sizable minorities.  The country welcomed Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, and according to our tour guide, "never got around to sending" 500,000 Jews to extermination and labor camps during World War II.

Another beautiful Orthodox church.  I'm obsessed.

Leaving one of the best hostels of our travels so far.  The place attracts amazing travelers and offers a free generous breakfast and light dinner, free guidebooks on loan and a detailed introduction to Sofia.  Now that is hospitality :)

Part of a wedding procession on the day we left Sofia.  We probably saw eight weddings that day.

Our first glimpse of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Our Athens host categorizes this Piraeus-area beach as "okay".  Can you tell we are glad to finally be able to swim in the ocean?  After all, it has been a year since we did so in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The water was warm and wonderful, demonstrating Athens' proximity to the tropics.  Those ancient Greeks had it all!  

The next day, it was time to make the journey up to the Acropolis.  Here is the Theater of Dionysus, constructed around the 3rd century BC.  Unforgettable.  I have earphones in, trying to listen to an audio guide, but realized it was based on a different path up to the Acropolis.  Oh, well.  I borrowed Harold's hat and wore SPF 70 to protect my Pacific Northwest face from all those photons.

Made it to the top and beat the tour groups to the Parthenon!  I was so proud of us for leaving the house before 8am, a super-early start for us these days :)

Temple of Athena Nike: my favorite structure on the Acropolis.

Ascending the marble staircase to the Acropolis, in the tradition of those who attended the yearly festival of Athens in ancient times.

Behold, the Acropolis.  Ta-da!

Ancient graffiti.  If only it could all look this good.

Back down the hill at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, one of our favorite ruins in Athens.

Breaking for lunch with a meat and pita plate and one of our new favorite beers.

We started to explore the ancient Agora, where everyday life took place, but we got overwhelmed and will go back tomorrow.  



View of the Acropolis from the ancient Agora.

As usual, I am finishing a post at 2:30am.  I have to get better about that :)  Wherever you are, have a wonderful day/night and thank you for your attention!

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