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Monday, December 13, 2010

Welcome to Αθήνα!

8:00 pm Eastern European Time (EET)

Today was certainly a whirlwind of insanity, to say the very least. Being up for more than twenty-four hours is not my definition of fun, and it never fails to turn me into a bundle of nerves and negative emotions.

The entire night was spent with SarahJean in the airport watching movies and hanging around. When it came time to check in for my flight, I was grilled by this Israeli security guy. It was going fine until he asked me how long I'd been in Israel. He seemed shocked when I said five days; so shocked, in fact, that he had to call another security guy over to interrogate me about my apparent lack of clothing. Because packing light and not particularly caring to check the weather forecast raises a gigantic red flag. At least, it does to these guys. And, to make matters worse, as the second security guy is flinging inane questions at me, I'm shifting my weight because I'm 1.) pissed off, 2.) impatient, and 3.) absolutely terrified. He stops in the middle of his question and says "are you nervous? Why are you nervous?" Why the hell do you think?!

Following that security disaster, check-in was a complete and total joke. It took 45 minutes; nearly every single person in line before me had a million bags to check in, and I was lucky to make it to the gate in time. Even before I could get to the gate, I had to go through security twice more. I mean, I understand that Israeli security is always on high alert, but this felt like a bit much.

The flight itself from Tel Aviv to Rome was awful, too, with one exception. There were crying children, kvetching jerks who had an issue with everything and everyone, and three people standing in the middle of the aisle to pray for the plane's safety. It seemed that the flight attendants were at their wits' ends dealing with everyone, and I, already exhausted and irritated, was feeling their pain. The woman seated next to me, however, was the only redeeming factor of this flight. She is one of the most interesting people I've ever had the honour of speaking with, and I am rather sad that we never exchanged names. She's a Finnish lady who has been living in France for most of her life. She worked for the French consolate in New York City for six years and has travelled the world with her husband numerous times over. She has spent a month every summer for the last nine years in Budapest and we exchanged adventures and tips. She told me of her trips to South America and Africa and all around Europe, and I recounted my comparatively short list of places. She and her husband were on their way back to Nice where they have an apartment. I really hope that when I'm her age, I'll have the time and money to enjoy a life of globetrotting. That would be so amazing.

Anyway, the flight got in late and I missed my connection to Athens. After freaking out sufficiently from lack of sleep and nerves, I calmed down, got a new ticket, and wandered the airport before I could board the plane. This flight was a breeze; fairly short and thankfully quiet. However, upon landing in Athens, I discovered that--surprise!--the Greek public transportation workers are all on strike. For practically the entire week. The cab fare from the airport to my hostel alone was 60 euros; luckily I've already paid for my three day tours and the hostel is close to nearly all the awesome stuff I want to see while I'm here, so I won't need another cab until I go back to the airport early next Monday morning.

For the most part, I had an awful day. Stressful, emotionally taxing, and altogether not too great. Now that I'm here and mostly settled, though, I'm feeling a lot better and I'm ready to face this new city and explore to my heart's content. The classics nerd in me is going to be in paradise!

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