All it took for a first-ever visit to Greece was the hubby’s impending milestone birthday. You have no idea how difficult it is to travel anywhere near the actual date of October 7th. Between the Jewish holiday calendar, tax deadlines (Sept 15 and Oct 15) and, of course, the MLB postseason, scheduling is such a nightmare that I needn’t even try. If I do inquire as to what he wants to do, the answer is always the same: “Go to a baseball game.”
Then the calendar gods cooperated and there was a window … so I grabbed it and off we went. Athens is the jumping-off city for most everyone as it was for us. It is something seeing the Acropolis for the first time, perched high above the city and visible from many spots. We heeded advice from friends and were in line for the 8 am opening and made a beeline for the top to get unobstructed photos, meaning the least number of people around.
One wonders what it is like at the height of summer, both in terms of crowds but also heat! We were appreciative of the late September temps in the 80’s and manageable crowds. We were likewise grateful that the driver who met us at the airport was such an engaging personality (and very knowledgeable) that we hired him to be our guide for the two days of sightseeing — first the city sights and then outside of Athens on the second day. “Luck of the draw” all the way.
Encountering Americans abroad in a city like Athens is pretty commonplace. “Where are you from?” when you perhaps overhear something familiar or acknowledging someone when their cap or t-shirt provides a clue to shared sports affiliations is typically how conversations begin. Meeting some folks on the first night at a randomly-picked restaurant was the epitome of a chance encounter.
I noticed two couples sit down to dinner. Then I saw that the gentlemen were watching live baseball on a smartphone. Naturally curious as to which game was being viewed, I took the opportunity as we passed by to ask. That simple question led to a big surprise.
“Braves vs. Phillies” he said. “Oh, we were at your new Atlanta stadium and it’s fabulous!” Around this time the hubby joins me, naturally wearing his Dodger cap. “Hey, I grew up in LA — in Inglewood” he tells me. I say “Ladera Heights!” Turns out we went to the same elementary school, although more than a decade apart. And we had been on the same flight the day before from Philadelphia. And on and on.
We’re all so busy at home that encounters like these seem much less frequent. Maybe it’s not being pressed for time — you know, that “vacation mode” — is the key to chatting with others. Regardless of the reason, the outcome is meeting interesting people from all over the world.
Above and below: At the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center — a magnificent compound of theater, library, opera house and more — founded by the other great shipping magnate of Greece (besides Aristotle Onassis). Amazing place. Inside the library below.
Next stop – Mykonos.