LYDIA'S BLOG: Greetings from Greece!

Mar 19, 2012

As is reflected in my photo of the day, I didn't do much today other than get here.

I woke up and showered at 6:45 a.m. I actually packed almost everything last night. It was nice to not have to rush around too much. All I had to do was throw in a tanktop and a pair of yoga pants that decided they needed three days to dry.

We shared a suitcase cause we thought it would be the smart way to travel. Turns out two girls' can pack a lot. It took us a few minutes to drag the thing down the stairs.

We met Amy and Bethany at the Duomo at 8 a.m. and caught a taxi to the airport. It was €25. Split between the four of us, it wasn't too bad.

We checked in and just what I feared would happen did: our bag was too heavy. We had to pay €60 for the overweight fee. It mainly made me mad because we could have just brought two separate bags, and we would have been fine. But there was nothing we could do at that point other than fork over €30 each.

As far as travel mishaps go, that was pretty minor. I've run into far fewer problems than other CCI kids. Out of 15 of us, there have been three cases of pickpocketing, two lost wallets and one debit card theft that resulted in a loss of $5,000. I can deal with €30. I couldn't let it get to me. However, because we have four flights over break, we decided we're going to split the cost of a new suitcase and travel with two for the rest of the trip. It'll be far cheaper than three more overweight fees.

I digress. After that, we didn't have any problems. Our flight to Frankfurt was on time and smooth. We tore through Frankfurt, scared we wouldn't be able to find our gate in the massive labyrinth of an airport. Our layover was an hour and a half. We got to our gate in 15 minutes. Glad we half ran all the way there. The second flight was just as flawless as the first. Lufthansa is seriously the best airline in the world. Everyone is so kind, the planes are comfortable, the food is delicious and most importantly, I got to have apple juice twice today (one on each flight). On our first flight we had a hummus, cheese and pepper sandwich for a snack. The second had a full meal: a roll and butter, rice, peas, carrots, potatoes and beef, which I gave to Bethany. They gave us a full chocolate bar for dessert and came around multiple times to ask if we wanted more drinks. Everyone was genuinely happy to serve us. It was wonderful.

Bethany and Amy sat next to a woman who lives in Athens. She took Bethany's notebook and wrote down a huge list of what we should do, see and eat. She even said to tell a couple of restaurants that she sent us, so I guess we have the hook-up now.

We landed in Athens a little after 5 p.m. local time. Greece is an hour ahead of Italy. We grabbed our suitcases — ours is kindly labeled "heavy," which cracked us up — and headed outside.

After some incredibly rude and unpleasant people sold us €8 tickets, we boarded the metro. It was a long, cramped ride with one transfer, but we made it. We rode up a series of escalators to the street. I didn't realize it was already night time. We stepped off the escalator and looked up to see the Acropolis towering over us, lit up in all its glory.

"So there's Greece, guys."

We pulled out a map to try to navigate our way to the hostel. I could hardly see it in the dark, but even if I'd had light, it's all Greek to me. A man approached us and said we looked like we needed help. After a couple of confused, nervous glances to each other, we told him the street we were looking for. Bethany was sure he would ask for money for his help as most everyone else does, but it was worth a shot.

"Are you staying in Backpackers? Backpackers hostels or studios?"

We were staying in the studios. They're the most popular two hostels in Athens on hostelworld.com and I'm guessing the only ones on that street. I nodded, but he evidently didn't see me or would have preferred a verbal answer.

"Backpackers? Backpackers? Which hostel? Why aren't you looking it up? Why aren't you looking at your reservation? What are you doing? Why? Backpackers?"

He continued to ask us with such fervency. He was practically frantic. It was as if we had asked him for help and were now wasting his time.

"Studios! Studios!" I insisted.

"Ah! Ah! OK OK," he said before giving us quick and simple directions to the hostel.

We thanked him, and he scurried off as quickly as he had appeared. It was really strange, but we found our way right to the hostel.

Caitlin and Kate were already here. Because they booked after us, their flight was from Rome. We got our key and joined them upstairs in our apartment! After a lot of poor security ratings and negative reviews of nearly every hostel in Athens, I managed to find an apartment hostel. We have a living room connected to a small kitchen. Three bunk beds take up the only bedroom. And then there's our tiny, tiny bathroom with a toilet that refuses to flush and a shower that overflows onto the tiled floor. But what place doesn't have its quirks, right?

Kate wasn't feeling well, but everyone else went downstairs to get food in the restaurant conveniently located beneath us. It's actually a really nice setup. There's a bar, laundromat, restaurant and lobby area on the first level with a patio connecting them all. The lobby has computers and printers for guests to use. The next several floors are all apartments.

When researching for hostels here, nearly every review warned us to stay inside at night and don't walk around unless you're a group of at least 10 or have a couple of men with you. So it worked out that we could get dinner right downstairs. I ordered a veggie burger. I was so excited! I've missed them way more than I expected. After waiting for what seemed like forever, they brought me my food. It wasn't a burger. Instead, there were tomatoes, lettuce, mushrooms, eggplant, onions and some sort of sauce sandwiched inside a thick bun. I was disappointed in my lack of burger until I took my first bite. It was fantastic. Easily in the top Bethany and I split the last slice of banana walnut cake for dessert. I never thought I'd say this, but it's really nice to have a break from Italian food.  I could get used to this for the week.

Editor’s note: Former Grand Haven Tribune intern Lydia Coutré is spending a semester in Italy. She is a junior at Kent State University, studying journalism. Her blogs during her stay in Italy will be posted here and at http://lydiaislost.blogspot.com. All photos by Lydia Coutré.

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