I boarded my flight out of Indianapolis at 9:20 on May 24 and arrived in Athens at 9:40 on May 25. It was a smooth trip, but losing seven hours meant that I only saw three hours of night in twenty four hours. I am completely discombobulated. But deliriously happy.
Sakis, the driver my Aunt Renee sent to pick me up, met me with a smile and a “Kalimera”. I replied with my best attempt at the Greek “Good morning”. He gave my heavily packed golf club case an odd glance and I realized that it must look eerily similar to a body bag.
“Those are just my golf clubs,” I quickly explained. “I’m going to work at a golf course all summer.”
“Oh yes, yes,” Sakis replied, with a smile. “We do not play very much here. But of course we hear of the man…” he paused a moment, fumbling for the name. “Who was it with all the women?”
I answered slowly, “You mean… Tiger Woods?”
“Woods, yes!” Sakis announced.”I have heard of him.”
I laughed aloud, then settled back into the seat of his car and took a moment to process the fact that although I was going to work at a golf course, the sport itself had a completely different context here in Greece.
Sakis wove his way through the busy streets of Athens, pointing out museums and shopping districts. I learned all about his family (he has a wife and two children) and I shared a little about my past experience in Greece. He warned me of the increased immigrant population and the corrupt government, two issues which people seem to be extremely concerned about here. We parked our car about a block from Renee’s apartment and he helped me carry my bags up to her small, but elaborately decorated apartment. She opened the door and kissed me on both cheeks before speaking rapidly in Greek to Sakis. He gave me one last smile, and said he hoped he would be able to take me to the airport on Sunday, before taking his leave.
I moved my suitcase into the living room next to the couch (which would double as my bed). The lacy, white panel curtains waved in the breeze from the open windows. Looking out, I had my first clear view of the Acropolis. It was breathtaking.
Renee gave me the “game plan” for the next five days. Essentially, she has meetings all day, but has lined up some wonderful dinners with friends of hers. Now, Renee has more connections than all of LinkedIn combined. So, it really didn’t surprise me that tonight we would eat dinner with her friend Eleni and Eleni’s friend Randy Pfund (who just so happened to 1) coach for the LA Lakers back in the 90s, 2) be the general manager of the Miami Heat til 2008, and 3) go to Wheaton College). Good way to start my trip, eh?
We ran over to the phone store to get me set up with a three-month cell plan. Renee had to meet someone for lunch, so she pointed me in the direction of a neat museum and headed off. In Greece, every museum holds some extraordinary treasure. In this case, however, the building was of more note than its contents. The museum was, in fact, the house of Heinrich Schliemann. Schliemann, for those of you who have never watched the history channel or kept up with archaeological news, was the oft-criticized, yet still widely acclaimed “discoverer of Homer’s Troy”. While he is seen as a notorious figure in the minds of many archaeologists for his painfully destructive excavation methods, his work at both Troy and Mycenae sparked much interest in the truth behind Homer’s narratives.
His house was stunning. Ionic pillars lined the street-side wall, while a grand double staircase led up to the main entrance on the side. The rooms still had their original paintwork: gold, geometric designs were framed by bright red and blue lines that ran parallel to the walls. The floors had the appearance of giant mosaics. I hardly noticed the displays of coins set up around the rooms (apparently, it was the main Numismatic museum in Athens). I left rather wistfully, but was quickly restored to my enthusiastic self by a captivating piece of architecture a few blocks over: Hadrian’s Library.
Well, I’m currently sitting at a little cafe outside Renee’s apartment, enjoying the sunshine and the glorious view of the Temple of Hephaestus (which is currently blocking my view of the Parthenon, but I’m not too disappointed). This cafe will be buzzing in a few hours when the sun goes down, but right now I’m the only customer. The waiters are incredibly friendly, bringing me ice cold bottles of Coke and giving me advice on what archaeological sites to see. The temperature is a perfect 73 degrees, sunny with low humidity. Summer at its very best, in one of the most incredible places in the world. I think I’ve found a new home.