Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002
From: Lee Lady
Subject: Re: Athens
This is certainly a different Athens I'm getting to know now. On the whole, I certainly had a much better time with Eugenia, but I'm glad for the opportunity to get to know the city on my own, although at this point I have to say I've got to know it about as well as I want to. Yes, Athens would have been better in some month other than July, but on the whole, this has not turned out to be one of the cities I will really miss when I look back on it.
The satisfying part has been having spent less than six months studying the basics of a language and then managing to get around a city where people speak that language. It's not true by any means that everybody in Athens speaks English, although certainly many do. And it's also not true, unfortunately, that my knowledge of Greek always enables to communicate successfully. Lots of times people say things to me and I just have to reply, ``I don't understand.'' Or sometimes it's adequate to just smile and nod. So much of conversation just consists of making noises at each other, much like dogs do. It's not really important to understand what is said.
I think it must be a rule that as soon as one visits a foreign country, one forgets half of what one previously knew of its language. So often I understand what somebody was saying, but only ten minutes later.
As to the heat, it's been like Honolulu in August, which is certainly not nice, but without Honolulu's humidity. Only one day did we have real 40 degrees celsius weather (that's 104 farhenheit.) And then the next day, the sky was covered with clouds, which I thought was a good thing. Naive soul that I am!
I was downtown and it started raining, first not very hard but with big fat drops. Then half an hour or an hour later, it started raining really seriously. I thought that the best hope of staying dry would be to retreat to the metro for a while. So I did, and traveled to one of the stations on the newest line I'd never used, and thought to go out and see if it was still raining.
Well, I didn't have to go outside to find out. Water was pouring down the stairs toward the lobby. So I got on board another train and decided it might be good to go to the Larissa Station, which is right next to a train station which has a big lobby and a nice cafe. Good place to wait for it to stop raining.
Well, at the Larissa sation I didn't have to go up to the lobby, because water was starting to come down the escalators to the train platform. There was an announcement made only in Greek, of which I only understood one word: ``amesos,'' which means ``immediately.'' Everbody started evacuating the train and heading up the stairs. I dragged my feet somewhat, and then there was another announcement and some of the few people left got back on the train, so I did too. The next startion coming up, was Attica, my transfer station if I wanted to get to Agio Nicholas, which is the one that gets me home. But Agio Nicholas is an open-air station, so I was hoping I could wait at Attica until the rain stopped.
But Attica turned out to be as bad as Larissa. Water was pouring into the lobby and the workers were trying to sweep it back away from the steps and the escalalors going down to the platforms. That didn't work very long, of course. I stood there at the edge of the lobby for a long time, along with a lot of other people, in the dryest (i.e. least wet) place I could found. I took off my Birkenstocks, because getting them soaked ruins the cork soles. I noticed that very few of the other people took off their shoes. Well, sorry if I violated their sense of propriety, but I'd like my shoes to last at least this entire trip.
I was really starting to panic a bit at this point. Finally I waded through a lot of water in the lobby to take a look outside. It was raining less hard, but there were hordes of people trying to jam into the busses. I didn't know what bus I should be taking anyway. I had only a vague idea of where I was.
So I waded back through the lobby and waited at the second platform, which is an open-air platform, hoping to make the transfer to the Agia Nicholaos station, because I was starting to be really worried about ever managing to get home, wet or not. I did managed to find enough shelter not to get soaked.
There weren't really that many people waiting on this platform (which was not an entirely encouraging sign), and then after a while those people all left. It turned out that all the metro lines were out of service, because, I eventually discovered, there was no electricity. Workers started locking the gates to the station.
So I found a cafe where I could use the bathroom (in the dark) and get a soft drink, but not an espresso, because of the lack of electricity.
Outside every metro station there's a map of the surrounding, area, which I usually find fairly unhelpful, but I did recognize the name of one street, and thought that I should probably be able to walk home in some reasonable amount of time. Which in fact I could have, except that I started walking in the opposite direction. Finally I asked someone where I should be going, and luckly she spoke good English, but unluckily she knew very little about the geography, being new to the city.
This is a general rule, in fact, Usually, if one needs to ask someone for help, one notices that everybody is extremely busy going somewhere, and one hesitates to stop and ask them questions. But then one sees one person who looks like she might have a few moments to spare. But almost invariably, this is a person who knows as little about things as I myself do.
Anyway, at this point, I discovered that I had walked all the way to the Sepolia Station, which was not good news at all. But there weren't a lot of people lined up (as if Greeks ever lined up!) for the busses, and I figured out a bus which would take me downtown. However the bus traveled more slowly than I could have walked, because all the traffic lights were out and traffic was horrendous. Anyway, I did get downtown and discovered that all the metro lines were now running except the one I needed to get me home. So I managed to get onto a very crowded bus (fortunately I was starting at the end of the line) and finally got home about four and a half hours after I first went down into the metro.
Well, I hope that's interesting. It's about the most interesting thing that's happened to me since I left Eugenia's.