Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Sky is blue, sea is blue, flag is blue

Can we not be confident in the unknown?
It is the only thing, I think, I am confident in.
Things that become too familiar have a way of letting you down.

So my time on Crete was not how I had expected it to be. That being said, I think it is important to have as little (if possible, zero) regrets in life. I do not regret going to Crete whatsoever. That being said, I think it some sort of dark magic that prevented me from swimming the entire time I spent on a Mediterranean island. A steady stream of bad weather, warnings from locals about certain toxic waters, and poor time management, manifested itself into a short period of time where I ate a lot cheese pies, listened to sad music, and wandered frequently up and down the pier at Koules Castle. I may not have done much on Crete, but you ask me about Koules and I can give you a brick-by-brick description.

This was one meeting at the protest my hosts took me to at the university of Heraklion.  


Koules Castle 

Pixels would not necessarily add any clarity. 

"Knossos Hangout" 

"Shit to the Yuppies/Capitalists" 

 A few hours before this picture was taken, my hosts and I happened to watch the episode of Friends where Phoebe makes her music video for "Smelly Cat"


"Ohi Day" Parade, Oct 28th
The anniversary of the big "No" from then Greek Prime Minister to Mussolini over German occupation in Greece. Oh, also my birthday.

I don't know that I can speak for all parades in Greece...but at least this parade, in Heraklion, was very silly. Yes, the marching band comes. It's very nice. The soldiers come, very regal. Then we wait...we wait...everyone starts hopping the fences and walking around the parade route. This guy rolls out in his electric wheelchair. People are strolling down with their dogs, cutting through the band as they play. I don't know what's going on, and after 20 minutes of no obvious sort of parade-worthy groups passing by, I decide it's time to give up. Something strange happened after I left...I wound up back in Lion's Square, the epicenter of activity in Heraklion and I noticed a small crowd gathered around a man laying flat on his back in the middle of the square. After joining the throngs around this man I realized they were watching this dirty, seemingly helpless creature spout up blood, hacking and rolling his eyes, and no one was making a move to help him. Perhaps someone was calling an ambulance I didn't know. After watching this, growing more and more agitated, I finally grab someone, and ask if they know English. Paired up with my two new friends, two dreadlocked youths my age, I begin rolling this man over on his side so he can safely cough up the blood collecting in his mouth. Someone suggests that I look through his bag for medicine, the man is now conscious enough, as I'm shoving his body around, but he does not speak. I'm uncomfortable about rifling through his backpack in front of him, but he doesnt protest, so I figure why not? So here I am, propping this man up on his side, holding bloody tissues, and digging through this guy's backpack--running the show in front of about fifty locals who, for the most part, I could not communicate with.
It felt a little strange, to say the least.
An ambulance eventually arrived, but the man had seemingly recovered from his episode, and was now staggering around the square. The ambulance left, the crowd dispersed, and it was only me, the two people I asked to help originally, and a few kids playing toy accordions, asking me about California and speaking beginner Spanish to me. My friends bought him a sandwich, they said they knew the man and fits like this were more or less regular for him, after some time observing him, we parted ways.

I don't know what this says!

Koules Castle, and one big flag.
This picture is from the port, while looking for my boat I was catching to Piraeus, on my way to Athens.
I find the port.
I left my passport in the hostel.
I run to the hostel.
I board my boat.

Depart at 4 pm, Sunday

Piraeus, 7:30 am, Monday

Sounion excursion with Hiro, my French couchsurfing host in Alimos, Athens.
Our first day together, I was introduced to his longlost cousin he hadn't seen in 35 years, Alexandra, her daughter Charlotte, and her boyfriend, Ponnos (ehh something to that affect). Sidenote: Ponnos was 18 and Charlotte was 14. I don't know man, that's that iffy age where it's going to happen if it's going to happen, but as her mother maybe I wouldn't be suggesting they take extended strolls off in the ruins.
I'm old-fashioned.
Anyway, we tour the city center, the Monastiraki area, see the Acropolis all lit up at night, we share dinner, I have some delicious vegetarian souvlaki, and some decent conversation, on my end, for not speaking French, being a longlost family member of any sort, or generally being that interesting.

Hiro's Gay Mobile

Temple of Poseidon

The tomb.
Little did I know...

Hiro and I left this place with an unopened jar of Nutella, a bag of chocolate wafers, and a bottle of balsamic vinegar. This hill was littered with abandoned houses, apartment complexes, shacks, and a full resort hotel. This house in particular was just completely abandoned in mid-life. Posters and magazines in the children's room, food in the kitchen, curtains in the windows. Very curious.

When I asked people in Heraklion about Athens, almost everyone I spoke to said that I wasn't going to like it, it was chaos, it was this, it was that. I felt completely safe walking around the city at night, it was hardly chaotic, even in the most tourist places, and I feel as if I'm finally getting the expected experience I had in mind for what Greece would be like. Speaking mainly of natural beauty, which Crete can't be blamed for the rain, but staying in Alimos--about 40 minutes by tram from the center of Athens--is just perfect. I am right next to the beach, to the park, to a swimming pool, to the tram.
Today's trip was all along the coast and I finally thought, THIS is why I came to Greece.
My time in Crete was very integrated. I spent time with local Greeks, got to see some inner workings of student life, politics, parties, which was great, but I don't think I fully enjoyed the physical beauty of Greece like I have in just this first day here on the mainland.
Rejuvenated, excited, ready to explore.
And I mean it doesn't hurt Hiro's a homosexual retiree with nothing better to do than drive me around all day.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Park Life, Ciao Italia

And so we carry on. 
I'm writing from Heraklion, Crete now, reflecting on my time in Rome and in Naples, it's been, as always, an interesting last couple of days. Rome had some big reflection time, Naples was some great atmosphere, made some friends from Israel I got to sludge around the city with for a day or two, got to do the typical tourist exploring of Vesuvius, Pompeii, and Ercolano. The train to Pompeii was just a nightmare. Looking at us all; shorts, cameras, Yankees hats, guide books...disgusting. I like to think, traveling by myself now especially, that I could pass for a local. My backpack is discreet, I am moody looking and solitary, but I am blonde. Have also been told by a couple traveling friends along the way I look like a typical German/Anglo-Saxon/European. Whatever. As long as I don't look American. As me and the other sunburned sheep herded ourselves off the crowded train, I had already planned to hike my way to the top of Vesuvius. I don't need a 10 euro ride on some obscene, air-conditioned bus with thirty retiree couples from Minnesota, I am the real deal people, (cheap). So I walk. The road was very long, very windy, and I start cutting some corners--who likes to walk on pavement that long anyways? Long story short, I wind up inching up the gravel slope of an active volcano at about a 70 degree angle, very high up in the air. People began to notice me from the observation deck at the top, where they were conveniently dropped off by those buses I mentioned, and start snapping their cameras away at me, the sweaty, shirtless dot of a man scrabbling his way up the slope. 
"Where are you from?" California "So that's why you're crazy. I'm very surprised you're alive" (-New York)
"You are very courageous" (-France)
"I thought you were trying to kill yourself" (-Italy)

Perched up on the slope though, gravel sliding out from underneath me, looking out over the view of the bay, it was easily the highlight of Italy for me. 
So here is the rest of Rome, which I dedicate to my couchsurfing Queen, Giorgia. My best Roman friend, we scootered around the city, went to some concerts at the local punk house, ate, drank and made merry, and discussed the problems of the universe. 
My week with Giorgia.

Villa Borghese

Piazza del Popolo

Jewish Ghetto.

Campo dei Fiori. Historical site for witch burning.

"Man on drugs at concert"

Wide Hips


Took a train to Naples, a day later than expected as they were having a train strike at the Napoli station for my intended travel day. Stayed in three different houses for my stay there, some casual, some ultra casual, and some slightly overbearing and prone to babytalk. Napoli was a very beautiful, fun, and off-kilter city. Very much enjoyed my time there. 
I also ate pizza, yes.

Napoli. Mt. Vesuvio.

Piazza Plebiscito

Castel dell'Ovo
Oh wait, there's an art gallery in here?

Karni the Israelite

Electric prayer.

Piazza Gesu Nuovo

On the way up...

Depths of Vesuvio. Just a bit of smoke.

Perched on a cliff...


Ercolano ruins.

Pompeii and Vesuvio.

Shortly after landing on Crete, I remembered I knew not a single word of Greek. No real problems, I'm not too big a talker anyway, and most of the young people know English. A few of the busmen I needed to communicate with getting from the Chania airport to Heraklion were not quite so English inclined, but we managed..."Map? Mapa? No? Nothing like Spanish whatsoever? My bad" 
Magically figured out my host's location, and went off to another squat party that same night. Chatted with some dreaded Greek kids, danced to some ugly dubstep, very pleasant evening. It's agiven that most of the people here are very political, and I can only imagine how it's going to be once I hit Athens in a couple more days. Today I attended a protest at the college of Heraklion held for some students that were arrested in a previous protest against the administration who chose to withhold giving exams for individuals involved in a sit-in. What Crete has been lacking in sunshine so far for my stay here, it has made up for in local immersion and political education.
Photos to come.
Hopefully I can get to the beach soon.