My Adventures Touring Europe in 1982 (15) Delphi /Athens
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Sunday, July 11
Gayla was already gone when I woke. Her bed was neatly made, and all her clothes put away. The only sign of last night’s storm was that things were too orderly and quiet.
I got up, took a cold shower, and went down to breakfast. Gayla was nowhere to be seen. I sat between Jennifer and Chris. “How was Gayla last night?” Jennifer asked me, and I told her about the storm. “She really acted like that? A grown woman throwing a tantrum?” Jennifer was incredulous.
“I can’t say I blame her,” I answered.
“You let her shove you?” added Robin, who was sitting across from us.
“Well – if I’d shoved back, that would have made it worse.”
“I would have shoved back anyway! All she ever does is complain. I hope she does leave the group!” snapped Robin.
I thought that was heartless of her. At least Gayla wasn’t a snob, like she was! But I decided to keep my thoughts to myself. “Frankly, I’ve noticed nearly everyone has been cranky lately, not just Gayla,” I said.
“Right,” agreed Chris. “I think it’s too much togetherness."
“What’s the matter?” Robin sneered at him. “You don’t have enough privacy for your womanizing?”
“That was way out of line, Robin!” I snapped. “I’ve noticed Chris happens to be the most cheerful person in our group, so maybe he has the right idea!” Several people around us laughed.
Robin glared at me. “What is that to you? I suppose that applies to you as well?”
I sputtered, not knowing what to make of this comment. Chris answered her; “What’s the matter, you’re jealous?” That left me even more puzzled.
“I think we’re moving too fast and not staying in one place long enough,” said Jennifer, getting the conversation back on track.
“I agree,” I told her. “I would love to have spent more time in Austria.”
“At the castle?” Robin asked scoffingly.”
“Yes, that was the best part of the trip so far.” Several others chimed in agreement.
It was mid-morning when we got on the bus; we were going to visit Delphi. The day was already beginning to heat up. It was predicted to be in the 90’s. In Riverside CA, the temperature goes to 110F degrees daily, from May to October, so this didn’t phase me. However, I was grateful for my cold shower earlier that morning.
Once we assembled, I saw Johannes count the number of people. Lakis hadn’t started the engine yet. I realized Johannes should have done this when we left the first Meteora monastery yesterday; if he had, he would have known Gayla was missing before we left. After he finished counting, he announced, “I want to have a talk with everyone, before we set out.
“I understand there have been a lot of complaints and crankiness lately. Some people say we’re moving too fast, others have said negative things about the hotels, and yet others have had issues with the food. However, you should be grateful for this experience; at least you can say you’ve been as far north as Denmark, and as far south as Greece. The hotels are not fancy, but this frees up your money for other things, such as entrance fees to special places and events, like Delphi and the evening which we’ll be enjoying tonight. As for the food, you should have known you would be experiencing cuisine from other countries. In Denmark, they like to pickle their dishes; in Greece, they tend to be heavy with the oil. Since American cuisine includes a variety of foods from Europe, surely you should be able to appreciate the differences.
“As far as moving around is concerned, the past three days have been the worst. Things should improve from now on. So let’s make an effort to be friendly and positive, all right?
“All right,” chorused the bus.
Bruce jumped up. “I’d like to say something to the group, too,” he told Johannes.
“The condition we’ve been leaving this bus has been terrible,” Bruce told the group. “I’ve noticed Lakis seems more and more miserable, as if he’s not being respected. He can’t really say anything, since his English is not that great. Yesterday, he looked as if he was in a better mood, but that was killed fast, especially since the bus was practically trashed last night. So when we get back to the hotel, let’s make an effort to clean it up, OK?
“Sure,” answered everybody.
“Thanks! Now let’s get drunk!”
Everybody laughed, including Lakis. He started up the engine, and we headed towards Delphi.
Looking around, I finally located Gayla at the back of the bus. She sat very quietly, as if last night’s storm had drained the life out of her. I went back there to ask how she was.
“I’m fine,” she answered. “I had a nice long talk with Johannes early this morning. I told him I was going to write a letter to Uncle Roland about this incident, plus all the other mess that has been happening on this tour. Then I asked what he had to say about leaving a girl isolated on top of a rock where no one spoke English, before I saw to it he never worked as a tour guide again.”
“Ooh – what did he say?”
“He apologized, and was really placating; you know how he does.”
“Where were you at breakfast?”
“I went out and bought my own. I’m so sick of coffee and rolls. That’s one of the things I’m going to complain about.”
“Uh – are you going to leave the tour?”
“No, I’ll finish. I going to attend a 5 day seminar in Amsterdam at the end of this month anyway, so I might as well stay.”
“What is this seminar for?”
“ECKANKAR? What’s that?”
It turned out to be some sort of New Age religion. She explained it to me during the rest of the ride to Delphi. I had no understanding of what she said, but I was glad she was staying with the tour, and had overcome yesterday’s trauma to some degree.
We arrived at Delphi. The landscape around the area looked a lot like Riverside, or Palm Springs. As we explored the ruins, our local tour guide explained about the high standard of living enjoyed in the Greco-Roman days. “These houses had central heating,” he told us. “They did this by running heated water through the hollow walls. They cooled the houses in the summer the same way, with cold water instead of hot. They had indoor plumbing, as well. Everyone enjoyed a good quality of life; there wasn’t even slavery.
“Since papyrus was in short supply, people printed their newspapers on stone; here is an example.”
Delphi totally impressed me; I believe I would have enjoyed living here in Greco-Roman times. Greece is really improving!
We bought our lunch at a restaurant near the grounds. While we were eating, Lakis explained to us the tones of various languages.
“Greek sounds like pleading,” he said, putting his hands together. “French is for romancing, Spanish is for socializing, and German is for telling people off.” We laughed as he demonstrated each scene.
“What is English for?” I asked him.
“English is for business,” he answered, miming a transaction.
The mood was cheerful when we returned from Delphi. “Everyone get dressed up,” Johannes told us when our bus pulled up to the hotel, 2 hours later. “We’re going to The Plaka tonight.”
Everyone cheered but me; I had no idea what The Plaka was.
I put on the one dress I’d brought, which was a black pseudo-wool shift. Gayla got decked out in a gypsy blouse which she wore off the shoulder (I squelched my desire to remind her of what she’d said about Donna’s blouse in Hungary), a pleated maxi skirt, and loads of necklaces and bangles. We boarded the bus at sunset, and Lakis drove the short distance to the restaurant.
In front of the dining room was a giant stage. We were served all sorts of exotic Greek foods along with local wine. As we ate, an elaborately-dressed belly dancer came on stage and performed for us. At the end of her first set, she called up six guys from the audience, and one of them was Johannes! She taught them all how to belly dance; it was hilarious.
Next, a male belly dancer came up and put on a show. Afterwards, he called up six women. I was pleased to be one of them; perhaps what I found even more pleasing is that Gayla was called, too! I expected her to decline, but she calmly got up there with the rest of us.
The man taught us to dance. I felt funny in my small dress which barely moved, but I focused on enjoying myself. Gayla already knew how; her pleated maxi skirt swirled dramatically around her.
The rest of the evening consisted of a variety of dancers and music. Gayla actually drank a whole glass of wine! “I didn’t know you drank!” I told her.
“I do; just not like this crazy group,” she told me. “Hey – this is The Plaka! I’m here to celebrate!” I was totally stunned; this wasn’t the Gayla I knew!
We were all in the best of moods, riding back on the bus. I saw Gayla actually talking with Donna. I conversed with Chris while we rode back.
“Why are you leaning against me?” he asked flirtatiously. “You need to show more subtlety than that!” I realized I had been; apparently, I was too giddy from the wine.
“I’m from California,” I answered him saucily. “Californians are never subtle!”
That’s right, he didn’t have a date tonight, one of the few instances where this was so. When we got back to the hotel, he invited me to his room! I sputtered, then went along; after all, what about his roommates? When we got there, they grabbed some sheets and headed out again. “We’re going to a toga party,” they told us, and left.
So we were alone. Chris waited for me to put a move on him, but I stood there frozen. “Hey, what’s going on?” he asked me.
“Uh – what are you talking about?” I stammered.
“According to everyone on this tour, you’ve been making it with a guy in every country, just like I’ve been with the girls.”
I stood there, my mouth gaping, probably for well over a minute. “I – I – j-just can’t believe this! They’re really saying that about me?”
“Well – you were, weren’t you? That’s why we were so shocked when you made out with that old man at the castle ruin. Everyone here sees you as a man-eater, but that was taking things too far.” I remembered Robin’s snide remark earlier in the day, and realized now what she meant.
“I – I just flirt with them! They’re all wonderful, not crude like in the US. Besides, no one actually saw me go to bed with any of them!
“Well, you better quit being such a tease, or you’re going to get yourself in trouble someday.”
To give you a little of my background, coming from Oakland, I’m used to feeling threatened. Thuggish guys make lewd come-ons to girls as young as ten. I was taught early on it’s best not to respond to these boorish invitations to romance; no problem for me, since I don't find anything even remotely charming about it. This was what I was used to. So, with the exception of Southern Italy and Greece, it was an extremely pleasant and downright shocking surprise for men to approach me like a lady. Even when they’re drunk, they’re well-behaved, like the Bob Marley fan who helped me out in Venice and those two guys in East Berlin. It was so wonderful to go around and never have to be fearful and suspicious all the time! I didn’t see how that was going to get me in trouble here!
One of Anne Frank’s earliest diary entries describes why she was so interested in boyfriends at her age; they’re just overly friendly. When I first read that, I felt envious of her, thinking she just had natural charm. While she does, I now see it’s also how Europeans interact with each other. Regarding what she said about “asking father”, people do tend to rush into relationships during times of great turmoil; in this case, it was World War II. While they’re not doing it now, they still kindly reach out to people. Maybe I should move to Europe!
"What are you thinking?" Chris asked me.
"I'm thinking maybe I should move here. People relate so differently here from in the US, haven't you noticed?"
"They're a lot friendlier. I was just having fun with the locals, yet Americans assume I'm screwing them. It's like they're saying if I'm not having sex with a guy, I shouldn't give him the time of day. Why not?"
"Because they may think you're going to have sex with them."
"Why would they think that? I mean, is that how you work?"
"Well - uh - not exactly..." he sputtered. "I - uh - do care about some of them - especially the Hungarian girl!"
"Yeah, Hungary was really interesting, wasn't it? I exchanged addresses with one of the waiters; I wonder if he'll write."
"Yeah, I was wondering about the Hungarian girl, too," he said mournfully. "I really hope she does!"
"It's hard to tell, since it's a Soviet Union country, and they may not be allowed to keep in contact with Americans."
Chris came over and gave me a hug, which I didn’t resist. “Do you want to do it?” he asked me.
“Uh – do you have condoms?” I responded.
“I’m afraid I don’t.”
I jumped back, totally flabbergasted. “You mean you’ve been screwing all those women without condoms?! What if you got one pregnant?!”
He cringed. “Actually – I think most of them were on something - aw, nothing's gonna happen. Anyway, we can just fool around, can't we?"
I saw no harm in that. We did a little making out, then heard noises out in the hall, so I decided to go back to my room. Gayla was asleep when I got there, so I prepared for bed quietly, without the light. While drifting off to sleep, I wondered if Chris had figured out I'm actually a virgin. Growing up in a negative environment like Oakland has made me too uptight to try sex; in fact, I'm normally quite antisocial. But being in Europe, this might just be the place and time to relax.
Monday, July 12
Today was the day for exploring ancient Athens, and going to the famous Agora (flea market).
This is when I discovered why ISE mostly hires Greek drivers. Driving in Europe is crazy enough, but Athens makes the rest of the continent look sane! The streets aren’t even organized in a circle; they’re laid out like pick-up sticks!
Somehow, we made it to the site of ancient ruins without getting into an accident. Lakis yelled “Malaka!” and Greek-flipped off so many drivers, I wondered if it was going to have an effect on his voice and arm. The other drivers responded in kind. I cringed; in Los Angeles, such behavior could provoke getting run off the road, followed by a fist fight – or worse.
I heaved a sigh of relief when we finally arrived. I wanted to compliment Lakis for surviving to adulthood in such an atmosphere, and going on to become a professional driver, but I wasn’t sure if that was appropriate, so I said nothing.
The ruins were crowded beyond capacity. I could barely see anything, as I was swept through at top speed by the pressing crowds. I only got a couple of photographs, then I ran out of film. I couldn’t find a shop anywhere that sold it, I was out of luck. But the place was so crowded, I couldn’t have taken many good pictures, anyway.
However, I saw Greece’s old glory! Looking back on the city of Athens, it looks as if it’s made entirely of alabaster buildings.
We stayed only a short while, then we were taken back into Athens to spend the rest of the day as we wished. The flea market was walking distance from the hotel, so I bought a map and walked over there. Though the city gleamed ivory white from a distance, it was considerably different when you were in it. It was quite dirty, and an offensive odor emanated from the alleys.
The flea market was surprisingly easy to find; it was right in the center of the city Along the way, I got a few propositions from local men; to their credit, they weren’t as crude as the ones in San Benedetto.
“Hi, how would you like to come to my place?”
“No thank you.”
“It’s just for a drink; nothing funny.”
After this happened a few times, my eyes were opened, and I noticed that all the women were wearing black dresses that came down to their knees, with long sleeves. And here I was, in shorts and a t-shirt. Maybe that was why.
I saw a black smock top I fell in love with, and bought that for the equivalent of $4.50 US. The guy at that booth also had sunglasses for sale, so I bought those too, for an additional $4 (overall, I spent 500 Drachmas).
Walking on, I admired the variety of clothing and goods for sale. This was nothing like the flea markets I was used to; it was all top-quality stuff. Passing a store, I saw a white skirt and blouse, heavily embroidered with various shades of olive green, and just had to enter. I went in, and as I was admiring the outfit, I suddenly felt a little tug on my braids. I leaped a mile. It turned out to be an elderly woman, the sales clerk, admiring them.
“Oh, hi – you scared me,” I said. It had been awhile since anyone had regarded me as a novelty, and I’d forgotten about that.
“You like the dress?” she asked me.
“Yes, I love it!”
“You can have it for 3100 Drachmas.” ($45 US)
I counted what I had; it turned out to be 1500 Drachmas, and 10,500 Italian Liras. This added up to less than $30 US. I would be spending another day in Greece, so the Drachmas had to last until then.
“Shucks – I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t have the money.”
“Ok, I’ll sell it to you for 3000 Drachmas.”
“I don’t have that much, either.”
“What do you have?”
I showed her both types of money. “As you see, some of it is Italian,” I explained.
“I’ll take the Italian as well,”
“It’s still not enough – sorry.” Reluctantly, I began to leave the store.
She grabbed my arm! “Do you have more money at your hotel?” she asked. I gawked at her boldness. “Because you can take the dress with you and come back with the money later.”
“Uh – I’m – sorry – I just don’t have it.” Actually, I did have some traveler’s cheques, but her boldness, and willingness to trust I wouldn’t run off with the dress, made me suspicious. I made to leave again, but she blocked the doorway. “Alright, I’ll sell it to you for 2500 Drachmas.”
“You see I don’t even have that much,” I answered. I walked past her through the door, and she grabbed my arm again!
“Don’t you have it at the hotel? I said you can take it, and bring me the money later!” she insisted.
“I just don’t have it,” I protested.
“All right, all right! I’ll sell it to you for what you have! But I’ll let you know, I’m not making any profit off this!” She stormed to the register and started ringing it up.
Wow, I thought to myself, finally leaving the shop, this will make quite a story! None of the haggling I’ve done in Tijuana even approached this!
On the way back to the hotel, I got lost. Good thing I had bought a map! I studied it, but couldn’t make sense of the street layout. At one point, I tried to cross the street, but a bus rounded the corner, nearly blindsiding me. I ran back to the sidewalk just in time to miss it. I looked for a stoplight to cross the street, but it took awhile before I found one.
Seeing a cab, I decided to take the easy way out. I ran and hailed it, but the driver just waved back at me and drove on. Then I remembered I didn’t have money for cab fare, anyway.
Eventually I found my way back to the hotel. We had dinner there that night; it was a disappointing experience. The table was covered with a filthy white sheet. The waiter served everyone half a deviled egg for an appetizer, and he dropped mine on the tablecloth and kept going. I called his attention to it, and he laughed and told me to eat if off the table. Feeling totally disgusted, I swore and snatched up my plate. He sobered up and gave me an egg half.
“Good for you!” Donna told me. The rest of the meal went fine, though I wondered what was going on behind closed doors.
Afterwards, we went to a sound and light show at the Acropolis. We sat in an arena, and far off in the distance sat the Parthenon on a hill. Multicolored lights beamed from the Parthenon as voices spoke, like a radio drama. Though I found the story hard to follow, I really enjoyed the production and music.
Then it was back to the hotel, and to bed. Tomorrow, we would be taking a cruise to ISE's own Greek island, Hydra.
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© 2013 Yoleen Lucas