November 2nd, 2010

journey

Big Old Jet Airliner, Don't Carry Me Too Far Away...

After spending the better part of three days with my wonderful Nina girl, I spent Monday morning dotting all the I's and crossing all the T's on my departure (including parking my car and informing Geico that it'll be "in storage" for six months, the expectation being that I'll get a rebate on my insurance coverage when I get back).

Then, after some all-too-short quality time with my Sweetie (including a "last meal" of pork chops at Waffle King's Virginia Kitchen in Herndon - yum!), it was off to Dulles Airport. I did have to do a little bit of last-minute weeding out of non-essentials to get my suitcase down to 50 pounds. I was also concerned that I'd have to check my guitar, and have to pay an additional $50 to do so, but that fear was unfounded: Lufthansa employees were extremely helpful in making sure I could stow my guitar safely away in the cabin on both legs of my flight.

First, it was Dulles to Frankfurt, the first time I've been in Germany. We got there almost 45 minutes early, which helped make sure transferring to the next flight wasn't time-crunched (especially because we had to go through the whole excruciating carry-on baggage screening again).

During the break between flights, I purchased the most expensive soft drink I ever bought - a half liter coke that cost 4 euros (that's about $6 American!) Ouchy ouch ouch.

The second leg of the trip was uneventful - my luggage did not get lost or damaged, and I didn't have any trouble linking up with the fellow who was charged with driving me from the Athens airport to my hotel in Piraeus, where the port is. He had a sign with my name and the name of another person, who failed to show up long after his flight had landed. My driver eventually gave up on the other guy, and drove me to my hotel.

Along the way, I noticed a detail on the top of many, many buildings - a metal tank with some kind of panel beneath it. I eventually determined it was a solar heating setup. Apparently the Greeks have gone in for this in a big way, at least in this region. I was also surprised to see that so much of the signage was in English (including quite a few advertisements and company names). I noticed that at Frankfurt airport as well.

The Piraeus Theoxenia Hotel is a lovely establishment, very comfy and attractive. I especially love the big bathtub and the thick, generously-sized towels. There's internet to be had (for a fee) and I had to go for it (which is why you're reading this). Included with my room was a wonderful dinner at their restaurant of Chicken and Rice with delicious bread rolls and an excellent salad. The staff at the hotel have been friendly, helpful, and fluent in English (thank goodness, since I don't speak a word of Greek).

Before dinner, I took a walk down the street, since the hotel is only blocks from the port itself. The streets of Piraeus are disappointingly dirty and graffiti-riddled, the drivers dangerous and the pedestrians suicidal. However, the city is not without its charms, including an impressively ornate Greek Orthodox church. Along the way, I passed a child playing a red plastic accordion on the sidewalk for change - I rewarded her with a coin left over from the purchase of the Frankfurt Coke (an item that shall become legendary as an icon of over-pricing).

At the wharf, I noticed a large white ship at the other side of the harbor. I got out my binoculars and was able to make out the name on the stern: "Azamara Journey" - my first glimpse of the floating steel city that will be my hometown for the next six months.

They pick me up tomorrow morning at 9am to journey to the Journey.