Sat 28/08/10 05:05
A trip that I had to make

I’m back in Dubai as I write this entry, and unless something changes this will probably be my last entry for the Summer 2010 Blog. I may still do something special here in Dubai before school starts, and if I do I’ll add an entry, but I just feel that it’s time to close this blog out.

I got back to Dubai Thursday night and without really too much to say about the journey. It was long, about thirty hours, but there wasn’t any problems or anything interesting to write about. I guess that is a good thing, better to be a little bored than annoyed or something worse.  I’m better now, but the morning I was leaving up until the cab ride from the airport in Dubai to my apartment I was a little bit bummed out. The cause of these feelings are hard to figure out, but I think it has to do with leaving America and the things that feel comfortable to come to a country that is not my home, but just a place I live. Don’t get me wrong, Dubai, or the UAE, isn’t a bad place and I am comfortable here, it just isn’t my home.

The majority of my trip was decent. I saw a lot of places that I’ve wanted to see for some time now like Loch Ness, London, Stockholm, and the other cities on my journey. The only problem with this year’s vacation was the thing that I had problems with choosing the destination in the first place. There wasn’t a culture shock, I stayed in Western Europe which is very much like the United States. I guess that’s a good thing if you like Starbucks, Pizza Huts, and McDonalds, but if you want to experience strange or unusual cultures it is a little bit of a let down. Regardless of the culture, I think everyone, including myself needs to see the places that I saw this summer especially if you want to say that you are a traveler. Now that I’ve seen these cities I can say that I’ve had a complete “taste” of Europe. My count may be off a little bit but there is only about five countries in Europe that I haven’t seen yet. There’s a lot of culture in Europe that I haven’t experienced, and most of what I have has been just in the cities, so my next time I’ll have to switch my normal traveling and rent an apartment in France or Spain for a month or two or buy a vehicle to travel on my own.

Thanks to anyone who kept up with me on this Summer’s journey.

Tue 16/03/10 11:20

As you may have guessed by the date of this posting, I’m home and have been for a few days. I didn’t really have any time to make my final entry, and actually I don’t really have time right now, but it needs to be written.

Ken Curtis spring break trip to Athens, musicians

The final morning in Athens was very much like all the last days on my trips. I am one of those people who constantly has to be early for everything. Sometimes I end up being early for an early appointment. For example they say that you should arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight, so I make sure that I’m there three hours early… and in one recent case, three and a half. L I had about three hours before I had to be at the airport two hours early, so I decided to wander around the old town for a while and take some pics. The streets were empty and it kind of made me feel like how it may have been centuries before the massive numbers of tourists flocked to the shops lining the narrow streets. It was nice.

Ken's trip to athens  Ken Curtis spring break trip to Athens,narrow streets

At the end of all my trips I like to kind of give a quick summary of my view of the time spent at whatever location I was at. I have to say that Athens was a surprise for me. I went with the expectation that I was going to not enjoy myself because of the comments that I’d heard from others, but I left with a great feeling of the city. For the most part everyone was friendly, there was lots to see, and there were lots of places to go. In general I’d have to say that Athens was one of my favorites, about fourth or fifth on my list. So far, Istanbul is still number one, and I don’t see any city dethroning it anytime soon.

Ken Curtis, wandering the streets of athens  Ken Curtis spring break trip to Athens,looking for souvenirs

I got back to Dubai at about 10 pm and back to work the next morning… oh and I actually stopped and bought beer at the duty free store at the airport. So for the first time in about three years I have beer in the house. So sweet it is.

If you followed my journey this spring, thanks, if not, no worries maybe next time.

Fri 12/03/10 22:47

It’s Saturday morning at about 6:30, and I’ve been up for about an hour mostly drinking coffee and updating this blog on what I did yesterday. In no time though I’ll be headed to the metro for the airport, and ultimately for my trip back to Dubai. My flight leaves at 2:15, so I still have enough time to play a little before I go. What I’d like to do is find some souvenirs somewhere. I’ve been looking but for the most part all I can find is garbage. Not that I expect the souvenirs to be high value items, it’s just that if I’m going to display something that I bought to commemorate my time here, I don’t want to be embarrassed while doing so.

I think I mentioned this before, but I think that it is time that I leave, Athens has been great but I’ve run out of things for a normal tourist to do while staying in the city. I could visit some islands, or take a trip like I was going to do to the small city outside of Athens, or possibly a lot more of the things that people would do if they have more time. But as for Athens, I think I’ve experienced it sufficiently to say that I like it. As I mentioned more will come later on after I’ve had some time to “digest” my time here.

Fri 12/03/10 21:50
but no beach.

So my spring break in Athens Greece is coming to an end and it’s time to start winding down a little bit. In no time I’ll be heading to the airport for the trip back to Dubai and I think I’m ready. Although I pretty much have summed up my view of Athens in my head, I want some time to look back a little before I write about it.

ken curtis, old greek boat  ken's trip to Athens, touring an old destroyer

Today I headed to the Mediterranean to possibly go for a swim. I took off right after breakfast and made it to the sea in about an hour. I was actually surprised how easily I found it and how quickly I got to it. It’s not like there is a beach in sight or for that matter  you can’t even see the water, you just know the direction and navigate the roads to find it. Where I went was the location of some of the events for the Olympics, at least that’s what it looks like. It’s really quite sad too, there are these huge expanses of spaces or walk ways that one can imagine that when crowded with people would have been incredible to see, but now are pretty much being left to slowly decay. I just checked on google maps and the area I was at appears to be where the gymnastics was held.

ken's athens trip, view from google maps

Here’s an image from google maps of the area. Notice the warships in the lower left corner and the stadium in the upper right

The first thing I did was to go to the maritime museum to check out some old war ships. One was an old battleship and the others were a destroyer and a replica of the ships of the “Homer” era. After that I wandered towards a marina where some activity was going on. It turns out that I think there was some kind of race scheduled, because there were a lot of sailboats and windsurfers getting into the water and heading in the same directions. I was so envious. I really need to find some hobby that I can spend my time in, or around, the water. Anyway, I got some good videos of a couple of the people heading out.

Ken curtis trip to athens, acropolis off in the distance

Athens' crowded streets  Athens streets with lot of cars

After that I spent the rest of the day kind of just killing time. I walked around the marina for a little bit, then headed towards the hostel stopping for lunch. After getting back I decided to take a break before heading out again.

Thu 11/03/10 22:10
My second day in Athens

So I went down to the lobby of the hostel to sign up for a trip to a nearby city. Supposedly this place is very picturesque and worthy of a two-hour journey out of the city, so I had planned for today to be a day outside of Athens. The only problem is that when I went down to the lobby, it turns out that it was canceled due to lack of interest. I asked the guy if he thought that I’d be able to find the tour someplace else and he said that he doubted it because of the general strike that was going on now. Hmmm… a general strike? Apparently so because all the buses and metro weren’t running, the airport was closed and a host of other services were suspended for the day. That being said, I had to find something else to occupy my time. So I headed towards the Acropolis and instead of turning left up the hill, I went straight, straight towards Constitution Square. This is one of those centers that many European cities have, they all usually have historical significance to the city and Constitution Square is no different, it was the place for many of the big political events in Greece’s recent history. When I got there, there were police everywhere, and not just normal police, but police dressed in riot gear. So cool.

a tourist looking at the greek guard, athens  Athens greece, changing of the guard

I waited there for the riot to start, but after about three minutes of waiting and with no rioters showing up I decided that I’d watch it on tv… if it was going to be televised.  For about an hour I just walked around going to different places that I wanted to see. There were so many places that I went, I don’t think that I’ll write about them, but I’ll show you the pics of the day, or a good chunk of it at least. There was one thing that I saw that for some reason really struck me as being cool, it was a street lined with orange trees all full with oranges.

olympic bike racing track, Ken curtis spring break  Ancient ruins, Athens Greece, ken curtis' spring break

Orange trees lining a city street. Athens Greece  Ancient Ruins, Athens. Kenneth curtis' spring break.

About noon the sun came out and showed Athens, and more importantly, the Acropolis in a completely different way. Where it was just okay before now it was stunning to look at, if you’ve ever seen the movie Taps, there’s a part where Tom Cruise in a “psychotic fit” is firing a machine gun out of a window and he looks towards the camera and screams, “It’s beautiful man!” Well, that’s the way I felt with my camera taking photos of the Acropolis; it was absolutely beautiful sitting on the top of the hill being lit up by the sunlight.

beautiful view of Athens. The buildings all just merge into a combed texture.   Ken curtis in front of the acropolis, Athens Greece

Ken curtis posing in front of the acropolis. March 2010 Athens greece

After taking close to a ga-jillian photos I decided to walk to the sea. I had a map and knew which direction to go, but I didn’t know what street I was on. The map said one thing, and the street signs said something else, and since I couldn’t seem to match the names I eventually gave up and decided that I’d do it tomorrow.

Beautiful view of the Acropolis lit up by the sun. March 2010

I got back to the hotel at around 1:00 and rested a bit before going out again.

Small observatory Athens greece  Acropolis from a distance. Ken curtis' spring break. 2010

At this point I spent the rest of the day just wandering the souvenir shops and walking around the Acropolis. Not very many photos the second part of the day, but all told I walked about 15 miles today (according to my gps), and took about 143 photos…

Wed 10/03/10 23:12
with a couple of museums too.

Day two started out on the same vein as the trip here, everything just seems to be going smoothly. The apartment/room in the hostel is great and although I requested a dorm room to save money I have been the only person here. So basically I’ve got a furnished one-bedroom apartment in Athens, Greece for about $20 a night. Not bad, I get free breakfast in the morning and as much coffee as I can drink all day long. About the only thing that makes it difficult is that there isn’t anyone else staying in the room. I know, that last statement conflicts with the one above, but the benefit of not sharing the apartment also means that there’s no one to talk to.

Spring Break, 2010 Athens packed streetsAthens Greece too congested.

The first thing on my agenda this morning was to see the Acropolis, it is after all, the reason that I considered Athens a “must see” location. So right after breakfast I headed up the mountain to get a look at the “must see” item on my list. Because of the time difference between Greece and Dubai I’m getting up about 2 hours earlier here, about 5am. This is kind of nice in that it gives me a lot of time in the morning to get prepared for the days events, such as going to the Acropolis. I was probably the tenth person to go through the gates this morning, and although it was quite chilly on the top of the mountain, it was very nice to not fight with the crowds that would eventually arrive.

Ken curtis standing in front of the parthenon  Ken curtis posing in front of the parthenon, march 2010

From the Acropolis you can see most of Athens, the blurred building lapping against the sides of the distant hills. If you squint the city looks very much like Amman, Jordan. Most of the buildings on the Acropolis are in pretty bad shape and those areas that seem to be in fair to okay shape are being restored, so although it was great seeing for myself what most people only see in textbooks, it lacked the grandeur that I expected. Not that it wasn’t great to see the Parthenon, it just wasn’t quite as awesome as I thought it would be.

Ancient temple from above, part of the Ancient Agora.

After thoroughly exploring the acropolis, a job that took about 2 hours, I headed for what I think was the old part of Athens know as the Ancient Agora. I spent probably two hours just wandering around, sometimes retracing the same route that I took earlier. All in all, it was nice to see what remained of the old city. There were plaques set up to give you some detail as to what was there originally, for example knowing what a building was used for or what lined a street. I even was occasionally yelled at by some of the guards for being in places that I wasn’t supposed to be in. The Greeks really take the security thing seriously. There must have been as many guards as tourists at this place. Now when I say guards, they’re not armed or even uniformed guards, they’re just people that have a lawn chair strategically staked out within the walls of this ruined city.

security guard getting the nerve to tell me not to take a picture. Ken curtis, Athens Greece 2010 The back of the acropolis. Athens Greece 2010

After my trek through the Ancient Agora, I headed in the direction of my hostel, wandering the narrow streets that are lined with souvenir shops. My objective was to get something to eat, take a break and then head out later for a trip to the Acropolis Museum.

The Acropolis Museum was created just for the Acropolis, which pretty much makes sense, but if you consider all the other historical sights in Athens and you realize how specialized this museum actually is. It’s a new building and you really get a good sense of what the acropolis must have been like “back in the day.”  Unfortunately though they don’t allow photos to be taken so no photos here. It was very informative and I thoroughly enjoyed learning more. I can’t help think about Galina Mcguire, my art history professor from undergrad, when I think about the Acropolis.

Some repairmen working on a roof. Athens Greece March 2010 Long street in Athens Greece

I ended the day back in the apartment with a bag of chips, two beers, and the computer, in preparation for telling you what I did today.