11 August 2011

Upward and onward

καλημέρα/Kalimera a.k.a. good morning!  Mom & I were up early because we wanted to milk Greece for all it was worth.  Instead of Athens’ Planetarium – the world’s largest digital one – we opted to tour the National Archaeological Museum.

Again, I purchased a concession ticket thanks to my very outdated college ID.  At the museum we were able to store our luggage for free.  Walking into the first gallery instantly reminded me of my art history class my freshman year of uni a.k.a. college.  In the sculpture area were many reliefs of marble and kouri a.k.a. male statues.  It was amazing to think prehistoric tools made the material look so fluid.  My favorite works in this area were the reliefs from The Acropolis (were you surprised?).  Mom & I moved on to The Bronze Age gallery where the famous Statue of Zeus/Poseidon towered over us in the center of the room.  I analyzed all 360 degrees of the statue -- something no student could do using a textbook.  One of our favorite pieces was a real bronze chariot.  The detail the Greeks put into a war vehicle was impressive. The wheels had small figurines surrounding the rim and various mythical animals -- like a griffin --decorated the entire cart.  No part of the vessel was simple.  Further into the gallery was the pottery collection that housed the well-known black & red, geometric amphorae.  As an added bonus, albeit disjoint, there was an Egyptian gallery.  It was littered with all sorts of gilded jewelry and the highlight was a sarcophagus.  The tomb looked like it was designed for a midget.  Then it dawned on me how old the sarcophagus was and how short people were in the days of old. 

Initially I was sad that we did not have enough time to see the ancient town of Delphi.  However, after seeing the Acropolis, I realized I was in infatuated with the idea of Delphi.  The Acropolis was so dismantled it was sometimes difficult to picture its magnificence.  In hindsight I probably would have been a bit disappointed with Delphi.

Mom & I arrived at Athens' airport 90 minutes prior to departure.  Again, there were rows upon rows of ticketing agents so we tried to check in at an Alitalia kiosk.  We followed all directions but, of course, there was an issue with our itinerary.  So we tried to find booth #178 and speak to an actual person.  There was no one else in line but we still zig-zagged around.  The employee told us we needed to first have our ticket.  This scuffle was beginning to madden Mom and me.  I waited with the luggage at the booth as Mom briskly walked out of sight.  After about 7 minutes, a different employee asked where I was headed.  When I responded "Rome, Italy" she remarked I needed "to hurry".  I told her the issue with the boarding passes.  The lady in green Alitalia uniform told me to step up, place my luggage on the scale, and she began typing furiously... so now I didn't need a ticket or ID!?  She also made a lengthy phone call in Italian.  When she hung up, she tagged my luggage.  I saw Mom jogging toward #178.  The lady warned us "You have to run [to the gate]."  Wonderful.  We had not even passed through security!  I tightened every strap on my backpack and began running through the crowds that milled about.  I passed -- what seemed like -- a bazillion duty free and designer shops but security was nowhere in sight.  Finally, drenched in sweat & panting I reached the queue with Mom not far behind.  I checked my watch... what was going on?  We still had 35 minutes until take-off.  Now I was pissed.  I ranted at Mom "There's no way that plane is leaving this early!"  Still, we were anxious in the security line.  I left my shoes with Mom & ran ahead to the gate, only for the cute, male boarding agent to smile sympathetically and say "We have not yet started boarding."

That airport had some major problems with communication.
Mom & I were relieved to touch down in Roma (as the locals call it) a.k.a. Rome.  Although exhausted from the heat, toting luggage all over Athens, and running a marathon to the gate, we arrived at the Marcella Royal Hotel at 18:00.  The room was exquisitely decorated with stenciled fabric on every wall and all the rails/furniture/crown molding made of wood.  We threw open the thick, dark wood shutters that almost reached the ceiling, and I immediately was spellbound.  The view from our room -- six stories up -- lived up to my mind's expectations of an Italian city's street.  I saw garden terraces, a stately building in the background, and a family preparing dinner in the flats a.k.a. apartments across the street.  Below, I heard tunes from an accordion serenading the passers-by.
We had time to kill since most retaurants did not open until 19:00 for dinner.  Mom & I meandered around the northeast corner of central Rome.  Just a block from the hotel, crammed in between the tall residential buildings, was a quaint white church with dark wood doors and orange trees in the front yard.  A few blocks further we discovered one of the fourteen ancient Aurelian gates to the Eternal City: Porta Pia.  I'm not sure where I got the notion that once I crossed the threshold out of Roma, I'd be immediately in the countryside of Lazio (the state) or falling into the Tiber River.  In actuality, the city simply continued.
Finally, dinner-time arrived.  Mom & I ate at a ristorante a.k.a. restaurant around Piazza dell'Indipendenza a.k.a. Independence Square.  Because Roma's streets are rather narrow, the matrix of tables 3 x 9 spilled onto the street and took up half of the sidewalk.  A young, handsome waiter brought us bread & two squares of butter in a basket.  We split a liter of bottled water since -- unlike in America -- it is not free in Europe.  I had a large swordfish fillet with ambrosia a.k.a. fruit salad soaked in a sweet syrup.  When we received the bill Mom was surprised to see an additional charge.  Although we did not eat all three slices of bread, we were charged for the entire food.  I maybe could have justified paying if it was a focaccia or ciabatta roll, but this was day-old, flavorless Italian bread.  We learned the hard way bread, like water, was not free.

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